Article 1, Section 9, Clause 4

[Volume 3, Page 356]

Document 7

Thomas Davies, Massachusetts Ratifying Convention

18 Jan. 1788Elliot 2:42

Some gentlemen have said, that Congress may draw their revenue wholly by direct taxes; but they cannot be induced so to do; it is easier for them to have resort to the impost and excise; but as it will not do to overburden the impost, (because that would promote smuggling, and be dangerous to the revenue,) therefore Congress should have the power of applying, in extraordinary cases, to direct taxation. War may take place, in which case it would not be proper to alter those appropriations of impost which may be made for peace establishments. It is inexpedient to divert the public funds; the power of direct taxation would, in such circumstances, be a very necessary power. As to the rule of apportioning such taxes, it must be by the quantity of lands, or else in the manner laid down in the paragraph under debate. But the quantity of lands is an uncertain rule of wealth. Compare the lands of different nations of Europe, some of them have great comparative wealth and less quantities of lands, whilst others have more land and less wealth. Compare Holland with Germany. The rule laid down in the paragraph is the best that can be obtained for the apportionment of the little direct taxes which Congress will want.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 3, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 4, 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.

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