Article 1, Section 8, Clause 2

[Volume 2, Page 475]

Document 8

St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries 1:App. 246--47


2. Congress have power to borrow money on the credit of the United States; a power inseparably connected with that of raising a revenue, and with the duty of protection which that power imposes upon the federal government. For, though in times of profound peace, it may not be necessary to anticipate the revenues of a state, yet the experience of other nations, as well as our own, must convince us that the burthen and expence of one year, in time of war, may be more than equal to the revenues of ten years. Hence a debt is almost unavoidable, whenever a nation is plunged into a state of war. The least burthensome mode of contracting a debt is by a loan: in case of a maritime war, the revenues arising from duties upon merchandize imported, and upon tonnage, must be greatly diminished. Had not congress a power to borrow money, recourse must be had to direct taxes in the extreme, or to impressments, lotteries, and other miserable and oppressive expedients. A system of revenue being once organized, and the ability of the states to pay their debts, being known, money may easily be procured on loan, to be repaid when all the sources of revenue shall have regained their operation, and flow in their proper channel.

But while we contend for the power, let it not be supposed that it is meant to contend for the abuse of it. When [Volume 2, Page 476] used as a means of necessary defence, it gives energy, vigour and dispatch to all the measures of government; inspires a proper confidence in it, and disposes every citizen to alacrity and promptitude, in the service of his country. By enabling the government punctually to comply with all it's engagements, the soldier is not driven to mutiny for want of his subsistence, nor the officer to resign his commission to avoid the ruin of himself, and his family. By this means also, the pressure and burthen of a war, undertaken for the benefit of posterity, as well as the present generation, may be in some degree alleviated, and a part of the burthen transferred to those who are to share the advantage. On the other hand, where loans are voluntarily incurred, upon the principle that a public debt is a public blessing, or to serve the purposes of aggrandizing a few at the expence of the nation, in general, or of strengthening the hands of government, (or more properly those of a party grasping at power, influence and wealth,) nothing can be more dangerous to the liberty of the citizen, nor more injurious to remotest posterity, as well as to present generations.

Congress had power, under the former articles of confederation, to borrow money upon the credit of the United States, and to pledge their faith for the re-payment. But not possessing any revenue independent of the states, their loans were obtained with difficulty, and, very rarely in time to answer the purposes for which they were intended. The consequences of these, and other corresponding defects in the system, have been too frequently noticed to require a repetition of them in this place.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 2, Document 8
The University of Chicago Press

Tucker, St. George. Blackstone's Commentaries: With Notes of Reference to the Constitution and Laws of the Federal Government of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Virginia. 5 vols. Philadelphia, 1803. Reprint. South Hackensack, N.J.: Rothman Reprints, 1969.

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