Article 1, Section 10, Clause 2

Document 7

Debate in Virginia Ratifying Convention

15 June 1788Elliot 3:481--83

Mr. George Mason. Mr. Chairman, if gentlemen attend to this clause, they will see we cannot make any inspection law but what is subject to the control and revision of Congress. Hence gentlemen who know nothing of the business will make rules concerning it which may be detrimental to our interests. For forty years we have laid duties on tobacco, to defray the expenses of the inspection, and to raise an incidental revenue for the state. Under this clause, that incidental revenue which is calculated to pay for the inspection, and to defray contingent charges, is to be put into the federal treasury. But if any tobacco-house is burnt we cannot make up the loss. I conceive this to be unjust and unreasonable. When any profit arises from it, it goes into the federal treasury. But when there is any loss or deficiency from damage, it cannot be made up. Congress are to make regulations for our tobacco. Are men, in the states where no tobacco is made, proper judges of this business? They may perhaps judge as well, but surely no better than our own immediate legislature, who are accustomed and familiar with this business. This is one of the most wanton powers of the general government. I would concede any power that was essentially necessary for the interests of the Union; but this, instead of being necessary, will be extremely oppressive.

Mr. George Nicholas. Mr. Chairman, I consider this clause as a good regulation. It will be agreed to that they will impose duties in the most impartial manner, and not throw the burdens on a part of the community. Every man who is acquainted with our laws must know that the duties on tobacco were as high as sixteen shillings a hogshead. The consequence was, that the tobacco-makers have paid upwards of twenty thousand pounds, annually, more than the other citizens; because they paid every other kind of tax, as well as the rest of the community. We have every reason to believe that this clause will prevent injustice and partiality. Tobacco-makers will be benefited by it. But the gentleman says that our tobacco regulations will be subject to the control of Congress, who will be unacquainted with the subject. The clause says that all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of Congress. What laws are meant by this? It means laws imposing duties on the exports of tobacco. But it does not follow that laws made for the regulation of the inspection shall be subject to the revision of Congress. He may say that the laws for imposing duties on the exports of tobacco, and laws regulating the inspection, must be blended in the same acts. Give me leave to say that they need not be so; for the duties on exports might be in one law, and the regulation of the inspection in another. The states may easily make them separately. But, he says, we shall lose the profit. We shall, then, find equity in our legislature which we have not found heretofore; for, as they will lay it not for their own exclusive advantages, but partly for the benefit of others, they will not be interested in laying it partially. As to the effect of warehouses being burnt, I differ from him. A tax may be laid to make up this loss. Though the amount of the duties go into the federal treasury, yet a tax may be laid for that purpose. Is it not necessary and just, if the inspection law obliges the planter to carry his tobacco to a certain place, that he should receive a compensation for the loss, if it be destroyed? The legislature must defray the expenses and contingent charges by laying a tax for that purpose; for such a tax is not prohibited. The net amounts only go into the federal treasury after paying the expenses. Gentlemen must be pleased with this part, especially those who are tobacco-makers.

Mr. George Mason replied, that the state legislatures could make no law but what would come within the general control given to Congress; and that the regulation of the inspection, and the imposition of duties, must be inseparably blended together.

Mr. Madison. Mr. Chairman, let us take a view of the relative situation of the states. Some states export the produce of other states. Virginia exports the produce of North Carolina; Pennsylvania, that of New Jersey and Delaware; and Rhode Island, that of Connecticut and Massachusetts. The exporting states wished to retain the power of laying duties on exports, to enable them to pay the expenses incurred. The states whose produce is exported by other states were extremely jealous, lest a contribution should be raised of them by the exporting states, by laying heavy duties on their commodities. If this clause be fully considered, it will be found to be more consistent with justice and equity than any other practicable mode; for, if the states had the exclusive imposition of duties on exports, they might raise a heavy contribution from other states, for their own exclusive emolument. The honorable member who spoke in defence of the clause had fairly represented it. As to the reimbursement of the loss that may be sustained by individuals, a tax may be laid on tobacco, when brought to the warehouses, for that purpose. The sum arising therefrom may be appropriated to it consistently with the clause; for it only says that "the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States," which necessarily implies that all contingent charges shall have been previously paid.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 3, Article 1, Section 10, Clause 2, Document 7
The University of Chicago Press

Elliot, Jonathan, ed. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. . . . 5 vols. 2d ed. 1888. Reprint. New York: Burt Franklin, n.d.

Easy to print version.