Article 1, Section 9, Clause 4

Document 11

Hugh Williamson, Cod Fisheries, House of Representatives

3 Feb. 1792Annals 3:378--80

In the Constitution of this Government there are two or three remarkable provisions, which seem to be in point. It is provided, that direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers. It is also provided, that all duties, imposts, and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United States; and it is provided, that no preference shall be given, by any regulation of commerce or revenue, to the ports of one State over those of another. The clear and obvious intention of the articles mentioned was, that Congress might not have the power of imposing unequal burdens; that it might not be in their power to gratify one part of the Union by oppressing another. It appeared possible, and not very improbable, that the time might come, when, by greater cohesion, by more unanimity, by more address, the Representatives of one part of the Union might attempt to impose unequal taxes, or to relieve their constituents at the expense of other people. To prevent the possibility of such a combination, the articles that I have mentioned were inserted in the Constitution.

. . . . .

Perhaps the case I have put is too strong--Congress can never do a thing that is so palpably unjust--but this, sir, is the very mark at which the theory of bounties seems to point. The certain operation of that measure is the oppression of the Southern States, by superior numbers in the Northern interest. This was to be feared at the formation of this Government, and you find many articles in the Constitution, besides those I have quoted, which were certainly intended to guard us against the dangerous bias of interest, and the power of numbers. Wherefore was it provided that no duty should be laid on exports? Was it not to defend the great staples of the Southern States--tobacco, rice and indigo--from the operation of unequal regulations of commerce, or unequal indirect taxes, as another article had defended us from unequal direct taxes?

I do not hazard much in saying, that the present Constitution had never been adopted without those preliminary guards in it.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 3, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 4, Document 11
The University of Chicago Press

Annals of Congress. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States. "History of Congress." 42 vols. Washington, D.C.: Gales & Seaton, 1834--56.

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