Skip to comments.Journal of the Federal Convention August 21st 1787
Posted on 08/21/2011 3:30:49 AM PDT by Jacquerie
Grand Committee Report. State Debt & Militias. Article VII Sections 3 & 4. Reconcile Old Requisitions. Article VI Section 12, Origination of Bills and Money Bills. More Commerce Clause. Taxation of Exports. Necessary and Proper Insight. Slave Import Tax.
Governour LIVINGSTON from the Committee of Eleven to whom was referred the propositions respecting the debts of the several States and also the Militia entered on the 18th. inst: delivered the following report:
"The Legislature of the U. S. shall have power to fulfil the engagements which have been entered into by Congress, and to discharge as well the debts of the U. S. as the debts incurred by the several States during the late war, for the common defence and general welfare"
"To make laws for organizing arming and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the U. S. reserving to the States respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by the U. States"
Mr. GERRY considered giving the power only, without adopting the obligation, as destroying the security now enjoyed by the public creditors of the U- States. He enlarged on the merit of this class of citizens, and the solemn faith which had been pledged under the existing Confederation. If their situation should be changed as here proposed great opposition would be excited agst. the plan. He urged also that as the States had made different degrees of exertion to sink their respective debts, those who had done most would be alarmed, if they were now to be saddled with a share of the debts of States which had done least.
Mr. SHERMAN. It means neither more nor less than the confederation as it relates to this subject.
Mr. ELSEWORTH moved that the Report delivered in by Govr. Livingston should lie on the table. [FN1] Agreed to nem. con.
Art: VII. Sect. 3. [FN2] resumed. -Mr. DICKENSON moved to postpone this in order to reconsider Art: IV. Sect. 4. and to limit the number of representatives to be allowed to the large States. Unless this were done the small States would be reduced to entire insignificancy, [FN3] and encouragement given to the importation of slaves.
Mr. SHERMAN would agree to such a reconsideration, but did not see the necessity of postponing the section before the House. -Mr. DICKENSON withdrew his motion. Art: VII. Sect. 3. [FN4] then agreed to 10 ays. Delaware alone being [FN5] no.
Mr. SHERMAN moved to add to Sect. 3. the following clause "and all accounts of supplies furnished, services performed, and monies advanced by the several States to the U. States, or by the U. S. to the several States shall be adjusted by the same rule"
Mr. GOVERNR. MORRIS 2ds. the motion.
Mr. GHORUM, thought it wrong to insert this in the Constitution. The Legislature will no doubt do what is right. The present Congress have such a power and are now exercising it.
Mr. SHERMAN unless some rule be expressly given none will exist under the new system.
Mr. ELSEWORTH. Though The contracts of Congress will be binding, there will be no rule for executing them on the States; and one ought to be provided.
Mr. SHERMAN withdrew his motion to make way for one of Mr. WILLIAMSON to add to Sect. 3. "By this rule the several quotas of the States shall be determined in Settling the expences of the late war."
Mr. CARROL brought into view the difficulty that might arise on this subject from the establishment of the Constitution as intended without the unanimous consent of the States
Mr. WILLIAMSON's motion was postponed nem- con
Art: VI Sect. 12. [FN6] which had been postponed Aug: 15. [FN7] was now called for by Col. MASON, who wished to know how the proposed amendment as to money bills would be decided, before he agreed to any further points.
Mr. GERRY's motion of yesterday that previous to a census, direct taxation be proportioned on the States according to the number of Representatives, was taken up. He observed that the principal acts of Government would probably take place within that period, and it was but reasonable that the States should pay in proportion to their share in them.
Mr. ELSEWORTH thought such a rule unjust. there was a great difference between the number of Represents., and the number of inhabitants as a rule in this case. Even if the former were proportioned as nearly as possible to the latter, it would be a very inaccurate rule. A State might have one Representative only that had inhabitants enough for 1 1/2 or more, if fractions could be applied, &c-. He proposed to amend the motion by adding the words "subject to a final liquidation by the foregoing rule when a census shall have been taken."
Mr. MADISON. The last apportionment of Congs., on which the number of Representatives was founded, was conjectural and meant only as a temporary rule till a Census should be established.
Mr. READ. The requisitions of Congs. had been accomodated to the impoverishments produced by the war; and to other local and temporary circumstances
Mr. WILLIAMSON opposed Mr. Gerry's motion
Mr. LANGDON was not here when N. H. was allowed three members. If [FN8] it was more than her share; he did not wish for them.
Mr. BUTLER contended warmly for Mr. Gerry's motion as founded in reason and equity.
Mr. ELSEWORTH'S proviso to Mr. Gerry's motion was agreed to nem. con.
Mr. KING thought the power of taxation given to the Legislature rendered the motion of Mr. Gerry altogether unnecessary.
On Mr. Gerry's motion as amended
N. H. no. Mas. ay. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. Ci. divd. S. C. ay. Geo. no. [FN9]
On a question, Shall Art: VI Sect. 12. with the amendment to it proposed & entered on the 15 instant, as called for by Col. Mason be now taken up? it passed in the Negative.
N. H. ay. Mas no. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. no [FN10]
Mr. L. MARTIN. The power of taxation is most likely to be criticised by the public. Direct taxation should not be used but in case of absolute necessity; and then the States will be best Judges of the mode. He therefore moved the following addition to Sect: 3. Art: VII "And whenever the Legislature of the U: S: shall find it necessary that revenue should be raised by direct taxation, having apportioned the same, according to the above rule on the several States, requisitions shall be made of the respective States to pay into the Continental Treasury their respective quotas within a time in the said requisitions specified, and in case of any of the States failing to comply with such requisitions, then and then only to devise and pass acts directing the mode, and authorizing the collection of the same" Mr. McHENRY 2ded. the motion-there was no debate, and on the question
N. H. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pena. no. Del. no. Md. divd. (Jenifer & Carrol no). Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. [FN11]
Art. VII. Sect. 4. [FN12], [FN13]-Mr. LANGDON. by this section the States are left at liberty to tax exports. N. H. therefore with other nonexporting States, will be subject to be taxed by the States exporting its produce. This could not be admitted. It seems to be feared that the Northern States will oppress the trade of the Southn. This may be guarded agst. by requiring the concurrence of 2/3 or 3/4 of the legislature in such cases.
Mr. ELSEWORTH. It is best as it stands. The power of regulating trade between the States will protect them agst. each other. Should this not be the case, the attempts of one to tax the produce of another passing through its hands, will force a direct exportation and defeat themselves. There are solid reasons agst. Congs. taxing exports. 1. [FN14] it will discourage industry, as taxes on imports discourage luxury. 2. [FN14] The produce of different States is such as to prevent uniformity in such taxes. There are indeed but a few articles that could be taxed at all; as Tobo. rice & indigo, and a tax on these alone would be partial & unjust. 3. [FN14] The taxing of exports would engender incurable jealousies.
Mr. WILLIAMSON. Tho' N. C. has been taxed by Virga. by a duty on 12,000 Hhs of her Tobo. exported thro' Virga. yet he would never agree to this power. Should it take take place, it would distroy the last hope of an adoption of the plan.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS. These local considerations ought not to impede the general interest. There is great weight in the argument, that the exporting States will tax the produce of their uncommercial neighbours. The power of regulating the trade between Pa. & N. Jersey will never prevent the former from taxing the latter. Nor will such a tax force a direct exportation from N. Jersey. The advantages possessed by a large trading City, outweigh the disadvantage of a moderate duty; and will retain the trade in that channel.- If no tax can be laid on exports, an embargo cannot be laid though in time of war such a measure may be of critical importance. Tobacco, lumber and live-stock are three objects belonging to different States, of which great advantage might be made by a power to tax exports. To these may be added Ginseng and Masts for Ships by which a tax might be thrown on other nations. The idea of supplying the West Indies with lumber from Nova Scotia is one of the many follies of lord Sheffield's pamphlets. The State of the Country also will change, and render duties on exports, as skins, beaver & other peculiar raw materials, politic in the view of encouraging American Manufactures.
Mr. BUTLER was strenuously opposed to a power over exports; as unjust and alarming to the Staple-States.
Mr. LANGDON suggested a prohibition on the States from taxing the produce of other States exported from their harbours.
Mr. DICKENSON. The power of taxing exports may be inconvenient at present; but it must be of dangerous consequence to prohibit it with respect to all articles and for ever. He thought it would be better to except particular articles from the power.
Mr. SHERMAN. It is best to prohibit the National legislature in all cases. The States will never give up all power over trade. An enumeration of particular articles would be difficult invidious and improper.
Mr. MADISON As we aught to be governed by national and permanent views, it is a sufficient argument for giving ye. power over exports that a tax, tho' it may not be expedient at present, may be so hereafter. A proper regulation of exports may & probably will be necessary hereafter, and for the same purposes as the regulation of imports; viz, for revenue-domestic manufactures-and procuring equitable regulations from other nations. An Embargo may be of absolute necessity, and can alone be effectuated by the Genl. authority. The regulation of trade between State and State can not effect more than indirectly to hinder a State from taxing its own exports; by authorizing its Citizens to carry their commodities freely into a neighbouring State which might decline taxing exports in order to draw into its channel the trade of its neighbours. As to the fear of disproportionate burdens on the more exporting States, it might be remarked that it was agreed on all hands that the revenue wd. principally be drawn from trade, and as only a given revenue would be needed, it was not material whether all should be drawn wholly from imports-or half from those, and half from exports. The imports and exports must be pretty nearly equal in every State-and relatively the same among the different States.
Mr. ELSEWORTH did not conceive an embargo by the Congress interdicted by this section.
Mr. McHENRY conceived that power to be included in the power of war.
Mr. WILSON. Pennsylvania exports the produce of Maryd. N. Jersey, Delaware & will by & by when the River Delaware is opened, export for N- York. In favoring the general power over exports therefore, he opposed the particular interest of his State. He remarked that the power had been attacked by reasoning which could only have held good in case the Genl Govt. had been compelled, instead of authorized, to lay duties on exports. To deny this power is to take from the Common Govt. half the regulation of trade. It was his opinion that a power over exports might be more effectual than that over imports in obtaining beneficial treaties of commerce.
Mr. GERRY was strenuously opposed to the power over exports. It might be made use of to compel the States to comply with the will of the Genl. Government, and to grant it any new powers which might be demanded. We have given it more power already than we know how will be exercised. It will enable the Genl. Govt. to oppress the States as much as Ireland is oppressed by Great Britain.
Mr. FITZIMMONS would be agst. a tax on exports to be laid immediately; but was for giving a power of laying the tax when a proper time may call for it. This would certainly be the case when America should become a manufacturing Country. He illustrated his argument by the duties in G. Britain on wool &c.
Col. MASON. If he were for reducing the States to mere corporations as seemed to be the tendency of some arguments, he should be for subjecting their exports as well as imports to a power of general taxation. He went on a principle often advanced & in which he concurred, that "a majority when interested will oppress the minority." This maxim had been verified by our own Legislature [of Virginia]. If we compare the States in this point of view the 8 Northern States have an interest different from the five Southn. States; and have in one branch of the legislature 36 votes agst. 29. and in the other, in the proportion of 8 agst. 5. The Southern States had therefore good ground for their suspicions. The case of Exports was not the same with that of imports. The latter were the same throughout the States: The former very different. As to Tobacco other nations do raise it, and are capable of raising it as well as Virga. &c. The impolicy of taxing that article had been demonstrated by the experiment of Virginia.
Mr. CLYMER remarked that every State might reason with regard to its particular productions, in the same manner as the Southern States. The middle States may apprehend an oppression of their wheat flour, provisions &c. and with more reason, as these articles were exposed to a competition in foreign markets not incident to Tobo. rice &c. They may apprehend also combinations agst. them between the Eastern & Southern States as much as the latter can apprehend them between the Eastern & middle. He moved as a qualification of the power of taxing Exports that it should be restrained to regulations of trade, by inserting after the word "duty" Sect 4 art VII the words, "for the purpose of revenue."
On [FN15] Question on Mr. Clymer's motion
N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. [FN16]
Mr. MADISON. In order to require 2/3 of each House to tax exports-as a lesser evil than a total prohibition moved to insert the words "unless by consent of two thirds of the Legislature."
Mr. WILSON 2ds. and on this question, it passed in the Negative. N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. no [Col. Mason, Mr. Randolph, Mr. Blair no. Genl. Washington & J. M. ay.] N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. [FN17] [FN18] Question on Sect: 4. art VII. as far as to "no tax shl. be laid on exports-It passed in the affirmative.
N. H. no. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay (Genl. W. & J. M. no) N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. [FN19]
Mr. L. MARTIN, proposed to vary the Sect: 4. art VII. so as to allow a prohibition or tax on the importation of slaves. 1. [FN20] as five slaves are to be counted as 3 free men in the apportionment of Representatives; such a clause wd. leave an encouragement to this trafic. 2. [FN21] slaves weakened one part of the Union which the other parts were bound to protect: the privilege of importing them was therefore unreasonable. 3. [FN22] it was inconsistent with the principles of the revolution and dishonorable to the American character to have such a feature in the Constitution.
Mr. RUTLIDGE did not see how the importation of slaves could be encouraged by this Section. He was not apprehensive of insurrections and would readily exempt the other States from the obligation to protect the Southern against them. -Religion & humanity had nothing to do with this question. Interest alone is the governing principle with nations. The true question at present is whether the Southn. States shall or shall not be parties to the Union. If the Northern States consult their interest, they will not oppose the increase of Slaves which will increase the commodities of which they will become the carriers.
Mr. ELSEWORTH was for leaving the clause as it stands. let every State import what it pleases. The morality or wisdom of slavery are considerations belonging to the States themselves. What enriches a part enriches the whole, and the States are the best judges of their particular interest. The old confederation had not meddled with this point, and he did not see any greater necessity for bringing it within the policy of the new one:
Mr. PINKNEY. South Carolina can never receive the plan if it prohibits the slave trade. In every proposed extension of the powers of the Congress, that State has expressly & watchfully excepted that of meddling with the importation of negroes. If the States be all left at liberty on this subject, S. Carolina may perhaps by degrees do of herself what is wished, as Virginia & Maryland have already [FN23] done.
FN1 The words "which was" are here inserted in the transcript.
FN2 The words "was then" are here inserted in the transcript.
FN3 The word "insignificancy" is changed to "insgnificance" in the transcript.
FN4 The word "was" is here inserted in the trancript.
FN5 The word "being" is omitted in the transcripty.
FN6 See ante.
FN7 The words "on the fifiteenth of August" are substituted in the transcript for "Aug: 15."
FN8 The word "if" is omitted in the transcript.
FN9 In the transcript the vote reads "Massachusetts, South Carolina, aye-2; New Hampshire, connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, no-8; North Carolina, divided."
FN10 In the transcript the vote reads: "New Hampshire, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, aye-5; Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, Georgia, no-6."
FN11 In the transcript the vote reads: "New Jersey, aye-1; New Hampshire, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-8; Maryland, divided [Jenifer and Caroll, no]."
FN12 See ante.
FN13 The words "was then taken up" are here inserted in the transcript.
FN14 The figures "1," "2" and "3" are changed in the transcript to "First," "Secondly" and "Thirdly."
FN15 The word "the" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN16 In the transcript the vote reads: "New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Aye-3; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-8."
FN17 In the transcript the vote reads: "New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, aye-5; uConnecticut, Maryland, Virginia [Col. Mason, Mr. Randolph, Mr. Blair, no; General Washington, Mr. Madison, aye] North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-6." FN18 The words "On the" are here inserted in the transcrpt.
FN19 In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia [Genl. Washington and Mr. Madison, no] North Carolina, South Carolina, Georiga, aye-7; New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, no-4."
FN20 The figure "1" is changed in the transcript to "In the first place."
FN21 The figure "2" is changed in the transcript to "In the second place."
FN22 The figure "3" is changed in the transcript to "And in the third place."
FN23 The words "have already" are transposed in the transcript to read "already have."
"The Legislature of the U. S. shall have power to fulfil the engagements which have been entered into by Congress, and to discharge as well the debts of the U. S. as the debts incurred by the several States during the late war, for the common defence and general welfare" (Common defense . . . general welfare appeared three times in the Articles of Confederation. It was not a new term and did not grant open ended powers.)
"To make laws for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the U. S., reserving to the States respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by the U. States"
Elbridge Gerry (MA) spoke against the power to take on State debt without the obligation. (The new government would remove State power to tax imports/exports, the best tax going) It was not only morally imperative to repay the men who loaned money during the war, but they would also be loud and effective opponents to the new plan if their interests were further threatened. OTOH, Mr. Gerry noted that some states had gone much further than others toward debt repayment and would therefore not look favorably at taking on the debt of other States.
Roger Sherman (CN) apparently saw little difference between the new plan and the Confederation when it came to this subject.
Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) motioned to table the report delivered by Governor Livingston, which was agreed to without opposition.
Article VII Section 3 resumed, The proportions of direct taxation shall be regulated by the whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants of every age, sex and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, (except Indians not paying taxes) which number shall, within six years after the first meeting of the Legislature, and within the term of every ten years afterwards, be taken in such manner as the said Legislature shall direct.
John Dickinson (DE) (tossed a stinkbomb) motioned to postpone in order to reconsider Article IV Section 3, The House of Representatives shall, at its first formation, and until the number of citizens and inhabitants shall be taken in the manner herein after described, consist of sixty five Members, of whom three shall be chosen in New-Hampshire, eight in Massachusetts, one in Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, five in Connecticut, six in New-York, four in New-Jersey, eight in Pennsylvania, one in Delaware, six in Maryland, ten in Virginia, five in North- Carolina, five in South-Carolina, and three in Georgia.
Mr. Dickinson wished to reduce the number of Large State representatives who would render Small States to insignificance and promote slave importation. (Given the concession to equal suffrage in the Senate, this was a poke to Large State eyes.)
Roger Sherman (CN) would reconsider, but not postpone the current Section under consideration. Mr. Dickinson withdrew his motion. (What was that all about?)
Article VII Section 3 passed 10-1. (DE opposed)
Roger Sherman (CN) motioned and Governeur Morris (PA) seconded to add to Article VII Section 3, "and all accounts of supplies furnished, services performed, and monies advanced by the several States to the U. States, or by the U. S. to the several States shall be adjusted by the same rule."
(Perhaps Mr. Shermans CN had gone a long way toward war debt repayment.)
Nathaniel Gorham (MA) (whose depressed State had just dealt with rebellion) disagreed that such a clause belonged in the Constitution; Congress would do what is right.
Roger Sherman (CN) knew Mr. Gorham was blowing smoke. Absent a commitment in the Constitution, it would not happen.
Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) (made reference to Congressional contracts I do not adequately understand.)
Roger Sherman (CN) withdrew his motion to make room for Mr. Williamsons, "By this rule the several quotas of the States shall be determined in Settling the expences of the late war."
(So the unpaid State tax requisitions levied by Congress would be reconciled. It sounded like a deal buster if it ever made it to State ratifying conventions. We were too poor then to pay direct taxes.)
Daniel Carroll (MD) brought up in obvious tongue-in-cheek fashion that money would be tough to collect when States declined to ratify the Constitution.
George Mason (VA) wished to decide how money bills and bill origination in general would be handled before going further on settling of war expenses. (These had been deleted or postponed.)
Elbridge Gerry (MA)s motion from yesterday, as an amendment to Article VII Section 3, "That from the first meeting, of the Legislature of the U. S. until a Census shall be taken all monies for supplying the public Treasury by direct taxation shall be raised from the several States according to the number of their Representatives respectively in the first branch," was taken up again. He noted the principle acts of Government would be taken up in this early time.
(It would appear Mr. Gerry found no difficulty using an undefined term, direct taxation. He also resorted to the failed system of tax requisitions as under the Articles of Confederation.)
Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) viewed the rule as unjust. The number of reps per State were an estimate and would (in the case of DE for instance) be an inaccurate rule. He motioned to add, "subject to a final liquidation by the foregoing rule when a census shall have been taken."
(The Convention was wandering way off here. Direct taxation was not defined, requisitions to States did not work, the country was too poor to pay whatever direct taxes actually meant, and States that had done more to pay war debts would not be inclined to bail out the spendthrift States.)
James Madison (VA) for some reason stood up to say that number of reps per State was conjectural and interim until the first census.
Judge George Read (DE) said that requisitions had been tailored to the particular circumstances of the States.
(Well, we know this repayment of taxes per State according to war debt did not end up in the Constitution. This was not the first time delegates headed down a path that could have dissolved the Convention, but pulled back to recover their bearings and press on.)
Hugh Williamson (NC) opposed Mr. Gerrys measure.
John Langdon (NH) (this is somewhat comical) said that NH delegates were not present when his State was assigned its representatives and would now appreciate fewer of them.
Pierce Butler (SC) warmly supported Mr. Gerrys motion.
Judge Oliver Ellsworths (CN) motion to reconsider the debt amounts after a census, was agreed to without opposition.
Rufus King (MA) thought Mr. Gerrys motion unnecessary given the taxation power granted to Congress.
Mr. Gerrys amended motion failed 8-2-1.
On Mr. Masons motion to reconsider Article VI Section 12, it failed 6-5.
Luther Martin (MD) proposed an amendment to Article VII Section 3, VII "And whenever the Legislature of the U: S: shall find it necessary that revenue should be raised by direct taxation, having apportioned the same, according to the above rule on the several States, requisitions shall be made of the respective States to pay into the Continental Treasury their respective quotas within a time in the said requisitions specified, and in case of any of the States failing to comply with such requisitions, then and then only to devise and pass acts directing the mode, and authorizing the collection of the same."
(Mr. Martins voting record suggested a strong defense of State interests. Yet here he motioned to reinstitute and supposedly fix a demonstrably failed tax collection system by authorizing Armed Forces of the US to collect tax revenue in equivalent commodities and plunder. The bad idea of requisitions would not die easily. It reappeared in State Ratifying Conventions.)
James Mc Henry seconded Mr. Martin.
Mr. Martins motion failed 7-1-1.
Article VII Section 4 was next, No tax or duty shall be laid by the Legislature on articles exported from any State; nor on the migration or importation of such persons as the several States shall think proper to admit; nor shall such migration or importation be prohibited.
John Langdon (NH) assumed States would be free to tax the incoming products of other States. Sectional fears also emerged again with the possibility of onerous laws directed at Southern agricultural exports. To prevent this possibility he proffered a two thirds or three quarters Congressional majority requirement.
Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) thought the Section as written was best. The power of regulating trade will protect them from each other. (Reference to the Commerce Clause, where commerce is synonymous with trade) Congress should not tax exports because it would discourage industry, could not reasonably adopt uniform tax rates across a variety of goods, and such taxation would cause jealousies among the States.
Hugh Williamson (NC) (His comment left me somewhat confused) spoke of VA taxes on NC tobacco. (NC did not have adequate ports from which to ship tobacco. VA did.)
(Mr. Morris next comments are worth the read)
Governeur Morris (PA) did not apparently think the power to regulate commerce . . . among the several States allowed Congress to stop for instance, PA from taxing incoming produce from NJ. For Mr. Morris the advantages of export taxes outweighed the negatives. Without an export tax, goods could not be embargoed in time of war. He assumed export taxes would be passed on to importing nations in the form of higher prices. Taxes on raw material will encourage progress in manufactures.
Pierce Butler (SC) found the notion of export taxation alarming.
John Langdon (NH) would prohibit States from taxation of other States exports.
John Dickinson (DE) viewed the tax as inconvenient at the time, but an outright ban was dangerous.
Roger Sherman (CN) did not believe the States would give up all power over trade. He supported a Congressional ban on export taxes.
James Madison (VA) did not support the export tax ban. Such taxes could be part of larger trade agreements with foreign countries. An outright embargo of some goods may be necessary. He did not think the power to regulate commerce between States would especially hinder a State from taxing its own exports. Equality of burden would result from taxation of both imports and exports.
(Mr. Madison also referenced the approach our Framers took toward taxation. Figure out the amount of money needed to accomplish certain tasks and adjust taxes to meet that amount. Today, there is no connection between legitimate expenditures and taxation. Citizens will be fleeced for as much as they will put up with.)
(The following comments by Mr. Ellsworth and Mr. McHenry offer insight into what constitutes necessary and proper law to execute enumerated powers.)
Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) did not regard a ban on export taxes to preclude Congressional power to institute an embargo.
James McHenry (MD) viewed the power to embargo to be within that of declaring war.
(If you are half confused over the issue of export taxation, Mr. Wilsons comments may clarify the confusion.)
James Wilson (PA), despite being an exporting State delegate, supported the option of export taxes. Half of the potential regulation of trade would disappear without the power, which would also hinder foreign trade negotiations.
Elbridge Gerry (MA) (may have been blowing smoke with this one) thought the power may be abused to extort other powers. He feared the powers given would allow the National Government to oppress the States as Great Britain abused Ireland.
Thomas Fitzsimmons (PA) supported the power, but would not enact such a tax any time soon. Great Britain made good use of an export tax on her wool.
George Mason (VA) said that if he wished to reduce the States to mere corporations he would enact export taxes. History has shown majorities will oppress minorities, and that is what he would expect with export taxations. Southern States were in the minority and their products, including tobacco could be and were produced in other areas of the world. A tax on Southern exports would only encourage competition. (Didnt England begin large scale cotton production in Egypt when Southern cotton was cut off by the Union blockade? After the war, King Cotton did not return?)
George Clymer (PA) viewed every State as having exports they would not wish to see taxed. He motioned to add after duty, the words, for the purpose of revenue. (I do not at all understand his logic) The power to tax should be restricted to regulations of trade.
By Mr. Clymers amendment Article VII Section 4 would read, No tax or duty for the purpose of revenue shall be laid by the Legislature on articles exported from any State; nor on the migration or importation of such persons as the several States shall think proper to admit; nor shall such migration or importation be prohibited.
Mr. Clymers amendment failed 8-3.
James Madison (VA) motioned to require 2/3 Congressional vote to tax exports.
James Wilson (PA) seconded, and the motion was defeated 6-5.
On the question to pass the first clause of Article VII Section 4, No tax or duty shall be laid by the Legislature on articles exported from any State, it passed 7-4.
Luther Martin (MD) motioned to allow a tax on imported slaves. To do otherwise would encourage traffic in an institution that weakened one part of the country the other was duty bound to protect. Such a feature was dishonorable to the American character.
John Rutlidge (SC) (flipped the slave issue around from a moral sense to the practical) did not see slave importation encouraged by Section 4. Southern States didnt need Northern protection from slaves. Ignore Religion and Humanity; for the question is will the Southern States join the Union? Northern States should consult their interests, for they profited well from the slave carrying trade.
Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) pressed to leave the clause as is. Let the individual States deal with morality as was done under the Confederation.
Charles Pinckney (SC) said his State would never approve a plan that prohibited the slave trade. He implied that since VA and MD prohibited the trade, someday perhaps SC would as well.
What about these export taxes that consumed much of todays debate? Why does our Constitution prohibit them in Article I Section 9?
According to Christopher Collier in his Decision in Philadelphia, export taxes were common among commercial nations in the 18th Century. It was actually more usual to tax exports than imports since they were paid by foreign consumers.
But the situation of America at the time was perhaps unique. The primary exports of our country before the industrial revolution were agricultural products from Southern States. An export tax on their tobacco, rice and indigo would reduce demand. Southern States would initially be in the minority in both the House and Senate. They could not count on moderation from their Northern brethren and thus pressed for an outright ban on export taxes.
Northern interests were generally in the carrying trade itself. In 1787 they still suffered for lack of business, because under the Articles of Confederation the US could not bargain favorable or even equitable trade agreements with their primary competitor, Great Britain. They were largely cut off from exporting to Great Britain, trade with the West Indies, and without a Navy were easy prey. What the North needed was a government that spoke for all the States and could negotiate for them, with powers sufficient to regulate and protect foreign trade.
Thus, import and export taxes were flip sides to the same coin. Both were part of the arsenal that delegates had to work out foreign commercial deals. To demand an export taxation ban was akin to fighting with one fist.
In a game of political chicken, Southern States held firm. On this and the protection of slavery, they would rest their decision to join the Union. Northern States blinked. Exports would not be taxed. In return, Congress was free to otherwise regulate commerce and enact Navigation Acts, slave importation was protected until 1808, and imported slaves could be taxed up to $10 each.
Benjamin Franklin Requests Prayer in the Constitutional Convention
June 28, 1787
Mr. President [to George Washington]
The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other-our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service-
Mr. [Roger] SHERMAN seconded the motion.
Mr. [Alexander] HAMILTON & several others expressed their apprehensions that however proper such a resolution might have been at the beginning of the convention, it might at this late day, I bring on it some disagreeable animadversions. & lead the public to believe that the embarrassments and dissensions within the Convention, had suggested this measure. It was answered by Docr. F. Mr. SHERMAN & others, that the past omission of a duty could not justify a further omission-that the rejection of such a proposition would expose the Convention to more unpleasant animadversions than the adoption of it: and that the alarm out of doors that might be excited for the state of things within, would at least be as likely to do good as ill.
Mr. WILLIAMSON, observed that the true cause of the omission could not be mistaken. The Convention had no funds.
Mr. RANDOLPH proposed in order to give a favorable aspect to ye. measure, that a sermon be preached at the request of the convention on 4th of July, the anniversary of Independence; & thenceforward prayers be used in ye. Convention every morning. Dr. FRANKn. 2ded. this motion After several unsuccessful attempts for silently postponing the matter by adjourng. the adjournment was at length carried, without any vote on the motion.
Though your -reply — seems somewhat out of place in todays post (for Aug.21) it is an important commentary —one I consider several times each year. I am in debt to Wm. J.Federer fro his America’s God and Country for coloring in those parts of the tapestry I found lacking in my public school memory(perhaps I was leaning against the wall) I relate it to what I intended to reply today in that the Convention did discuss the efficacy of Constitutional recognition of power of Congress in the area of settling debt. ... but seemed to ignore the same Constitutional consideration with regard to Chaplains—and prayer.... an
area or lack noted by both sides. My point being Congress does what it will -and our written Constitution a thing of wax in the hands of men of zeal /small comfort it is when the written contract/law is not reflected in the actions of those chosen to govern.Nevertheless we are assured Sir, in the sacred writings that ,’Except the Lord build the house,they labor in vain that build it .” I firmly believe this. And I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel.” Dr.Franklin cited the authority of Scripture no less than a half dozen times in accepted literary form in this single address. Not bad for one known as a Deist.And I note no political complaint from his fellow Delegates over any purported abuse of the Soviet Communist doctrine separation of church and State.T’anks.