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what tax or species of duties received ; and distinguishing also the amount of monies paid to the officers in each state.
22. In the passage of these revenue laws, there was but little debate on either side of the house. The principal opposition was directed against the bill laying the direct taxes, and it was contended that it would be better to raise the revenue expected from this source, by an increase of the duty on distilled liquors.
Direct taxes, it was urged, are paid by constraint, indirect by choice. Should the crops of the farmer be cut short, his cattle die, or should he be unfortunate any other way, he can relieve himself from the burthen of indirect taxes, by reducing in his family the consumption of the article taxed. With direct taxes there is no such alternative. It is said that the owner of land can always pay the demands of government : but land taxes sometimes fall upon the poor tenant, and the owner himself is not always able to pay, his land being often mortgaged to the last cent. A vast number of new settlers, who have purchased land on credit, and who have undergone every privation, and have with the utmost difficulty paid the state taxes, and the interest and perhaps instalment of their purchase, would be utterly ruined by the burthen of a new land tax.
The great importance, in a government like ours, of preserving the affections of its citizens was likewise urged. But by a direct tax much discontent would be created ; for while men will suffer much while left to choice, they will endure but little without murmuring, when constrained by the hand of power.
The wisest object of government is to tax the luxuries, and not the necessaries of life, and it is of importance that the laws should curb vice and cherish morality. Both these objects are effected by the tax on spirituous liquors.
It is but justice, it was added, that the burthens as well as the benefits of the union should be equally borne. Those who live on the seaboard pay a heavy tax on their imported liquors, and it is but reasonable that those in the more remote parts of the union should be taxed in their domestic spirits.
On the other hand it was urged, that there was a certain length to which taxation might be carried, and no farther. By an increase of the duty, the amount of the revenue was actually lessened.
That if every one insisted on the system of taxation which he thought best, there never could be any system adopted, and therefore it was necessary for every one to give way a little.
The natural and inherent difficulties of finance, it was stated, are aggravated in America by the diversity of the states, their sovereignty, and dissimilar resources for revenue, and conse
quently the almost impossibility of establishing a system which will press equally on all. A countervailing arrangement of taxes was therefore contemplated by the constitution. There is no objection to a whiskey tax, but there is a serious objection to raising all the revenue from whiskey, a beverage of the poor and of the agricultural states and districts; more especially when it is avowed that this unfair burthen is to be substituted for a land tax, which will fall equally on all real property, and every section of the country.
Taxation, it was urged, is the last experiment of republicanism. If we can tax, it endures; if not, it is high time to be done with it. Without the power of waging war, government is useless; and war cannot be waged without finances. If the country will not be taxed, it is high time we should know it.
On the passage of the bill for the assessment and collection of the direct tax, an amendment was offered, providing that a supervisor should be appointed in each state for the apportionment of the quotas among the counties. In support of this amendment, it was stated, that the apportionment of the quota of taxes among the counties was in many, if not all of the states, unequal, and consequently unjust; and that, with regard to the power left with the state governments of altering the apportionments, it was very uncertain whether the legislatures would interfere ; and be. sides, the correctness of doing injustice, and trusting to others to correct it, was very much doubted.
This amendment was negatived, and the bill passed in its original form.
Mr. Clopton objected to the duty on carriages, on the ground of its being a direct tax, which congress had no power to impose, except in the mode pointed out by the constitution. Carriages he considered to be a very proper subjeci of taxation; but this consideration could never induce him to mould the constitution into a form to suit the tax, or to endeavour to reconcile them by a forced construction. He was aware that the supreme court had sanctioned, by a solemn decision, the constitutionality of this species of tax. He entertained the utmost respect for the characters, talents, and stations of the public functionaries, and this respect would always induce him to examine with the utmost minuteness every subject on which he had to act, in which his conviction was contrary to their decision. But he should consider that he violated his duty, both to his country and his conscience, if he acted as a legislator upon the opinions of any man, however luminous his understanding or exalted his station, until he became convinced of their propriety. After a minute examination it appeared to him clear and unquestionable, that the
duty on carriages was a direct tax according to the meaning of the constitution. The difference between direct and indirect taxation he understood to be, that the direct tax was laid directly on property, the owner or possessor of which is immediately chargeable with the tax, and by which no other person whatever is affected; whereas the indirect tax affected principally the consumer, and not the possessor of the article at the time the tax accrued, the former indirectly paying the tax in the enhanced price. If this distinction were correct, the duty on carriages was certainly a direct tax. It had been stated that the commit. tee of ways and means considered carriages as articles of expence, and as such liable to this species of taxation. But were not slaves (one of the objects of the direct tax), in many instances, articles of expence also ? Was the carriage an article of expence, and not the servant who drives the carriage ?
This objection was overruled on the ground of the tax having been formerly in operation, and solemnly sanctioned by the supreme court; that it was one of the best taxes that could be imposed, as it fell almost exclusively on the wealthy, and was really a tax on luxury.
$ 23. The following is a statement of the votes on the tax-bills on their final passage in the house of representatives : On the bill directing the manner of assessing and collecting the direct taxes
yeas 95 nays 63 On the bill laying a direct tax
97 70 Duty on stills
85 On refined sugars
94 53 Licenses to retailers
84 46 Sales at auction
99 52 Stamps
81 46 $24. In addition to the internal taxes, a law was passed laying a duty of twenty cents per bushel or fifty-six pounds, on the importation of salt, to commence on January 1, 1814. The term of credit on this duty was fixed at nine months.
No drawback is to be allowed, but instead thereof a bounty of twenty cents per barrel on the exportation of pickled fish of the fisheries of the United States, which have been cured with foreign salt on which the duty has been paid. The bounty, however, is not to be allowed, unless it shall amount to ten dollars at least upon each entry.
This act also grants a bounty on the employment of certain fishing vessels, the particulars of which will be given when we come to treat of the law for the regulation of the seamen emplov. ed in those fisheries, in the next chapter.
$ 1. Webster's resolutions. 2. Debate thereon. $ 3. Answer of the
president. 4. Stenographers. 5. Russian embassy. 5 6. Mission to Sweden. § 7. Embargo. $ 8. Massachusetts remonstrance. $9. Debate thereon. 510. Distribution of arms. § 11. Amendments to the constitution. $ 12. Naturalization. S 13. British licenses. $ 14. Girard's memorial. $ 15. Seizure of East Florida. $ 16. Measures for defence. 17. Disabled militia and volunteers. $ 18. Reward of valour. $ 19. Encouragement to privateers. $ 20. Encouragement of the fisheries. $ 21. Loan. $ 22. Appropriations. § 23. Conduct of the war. $ 24. Barbarities of the enemy. S 25. Adjournment.
$ 1. Previous to the tax bills being taken up in the house of representatives, the house was principally occupied with contested elections, the accommodation of stenographers, and a motion of Mr. Webster, relative to the repeal of the Berlin and Milan decrees.
On the 10th of June, the following resolutions were submitted to the house by Mr. Webster, which were read and laid on the table.
Resolved, That the president of the United States be requested to inform this house, unless the public interest should, in his opinion, forbid such communication, when, by whom, and in what manner, the first intelligence was given to this government of the decree of the government of France, bearing date the 28th April, 1811, and purporting to be a definitive repeal of the decrees of Berlin and Milan.
Resolved, That the president of the United States be requested to inform this house whether Mr. Russell, late charge d'affaires of the United States at the court of France, hath ever admitted, or denied, to his government, the correctness of the declaration of the duke of Bassano to Mr. Barlow, the late minister of the United States at that court, as stated in Mr. Barlow's letter of the 12th of May, 1812, to the secretary of state, " that the said decree of April 28, 1811, had been communicated to his (Mr. Barlow's) predecessor there ;” and to lay before this house any correspondence with Mr. Russell, relative to that subject, which it may not be improper to communicate ; and also any correspondence between Mr. Barlow and Mr. Russell on that subject, which may be in possession of the department of state.
Resolved, That the president of the United States be re
quested to inform this house whether the minister of France, near the United States, ever informed this government of the existence of the said decree of the 28th of April, 1813, and to lay before the house any correspondence that may have taken place with the said minister relative thereto, which the president may not think improper to be communicated.
Resolved, That the president of the United States be requested to communicate to this house any other information which may be in his possession, and which he may not deem it injurious to the public interest to disclose, relative to the said decree of the 28th of April, 1811, and tending to show at what time, by whom, and in what manner, the said decree was first made known to this government, or to any of its representatives or agents.
Resolved, That the president be requested, in case the fact be that the first information of the existence of said decree of the 28th of April, 1811, ever received by this government or any of its ministers or agents, was that communicated in May, 1812, by the duke of Bassano to Mr. Barlow, and by him to his government, as mentioned in his letter to the secretary of state of May 12, 1812, and the accompanying papers, to inform this house whether the government of the United States hath ever required from that of France, any explanation of the reasons of that decree being concealed from this government and its ministers for so long a time after its date ; and if such explanation has been asked by this government, and has been omitted to be given by that of France, whether this government has made any remonstrance, or expressed any dissa- • tisfaction to the government of France, at such concealment.
02. On the 16th, at the instance of Mr. Webster, the house proceeded to the consideration of his resolutions.
In the debate that arose out of this subject, a very extensive range was taken on both sides of the house. The opponents of the resolutions objected principally to the novelty of their form, which they contended was disrespectful and unprecedented in such cases. An amendment was proposed, calling for information generally on the subject.
This amendment, however, was withdrawn on its being stated, that a similar call had been made at the end of last session, the answer to which consisted merely of extracts of letters from Mr. Barlow, without any explanation or declaration on the part of the executive, in one of which it was expressly said, that the duke of Bassano stated that the repealing decree had been communicated to our government through two channels, at as early a date as May, 1811.