Monday, March 10, 2014

Anti-Federalist Warned of Tyranny Enforced by Taxation

When I encounter a source and a point derived from that source, I both appreciate being stumped by something that I had never thought to read and am sobered by the realization that I  failed to have even thought about reading that same subject.

Many of us have read The Federalist, often referred to at The Federalist Papers. These are the collections of writings of Alexander  Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay that were made with the purpose of convincing New York citizens to support the document that could come to be our Constitution. They are typical of their time in that the writers were able to express themselves in a far more articulate manner than any of us could approach today. They also indicative of being the products of a deep knowledge of history and of the works of great political thinkers such as Montesquieu. One cannot but appreciate the efforts and abilities of the writers. Reading these works engenders a deep appreciation for both our struggle for our inherited rights and the document that was designed to protect them. Those who supported the proposed Constitution were as well-organized as they were driven to ensure its adoption.

Supporters of the then-proposed Constitution made a strategic move early on that would prove to be a brilliant one; they took the name "Federalist" for themselves even though our Constitution provides for a national government* rather than a true federal one  It forced those who opposed the proposed new form of government - who generally desired an actual federal-type government, to argue from the position of being against something. It was an harbinger of the pro-choice/anti abortion arguments to which we are witnesses today, with the latter (my side) having to work overtime to label themselves as "pro-life".

*(Tocqueville makes greats notes on this fact in Democracy in America).

Today I was hit by the equivalent of a baseball ball. I realized that I had never given any time to the side of the anti-federalist works other than the most cursory reading of excerpts of their writings. These individuals had many of the same concerns as do we about a national government that would steadily assume more and greatest powers while those of the states would be conversely eroded. Here was a valuable source that I didn't ignore - that would be bad enough, but somehow never even considered to study. Included in this camp were honorable and well-known patriots such as  Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry, George Mason, Samuel Adams, and James Monroe. They made sacrifices just as did the federalists, but we seem to act that, once the Declaration of Independence and the Continental Congress had served their purposes, their opinions were no longer necessary nor of any value. We must note that it was Richard Henry Lee's unbelievably bold act to advance the resolution on the floor of the Congress that few at the time were willing to even utter in whispers in private -

Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Shame on me.

Barnes and Noble has this book in digital format. After I finish Frederic Bastiat's works I will (albeit long after I should have), redeem myself.

This is what gave the me shock back into reality:

"Last week, two events occurred that had us looking back at history: (i) Lois Lerner’s testimony (or lack thereof) on the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, and (ii) the news that Georgia had become the first state to pass a resolution calling for an Article V Convention of the States in order to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Lo and behold, in the annals of history it turns out there was an Anti-Federalist paper, number VI, published by “Brutus” writing on December 27, 1787 that foretold of a central government whose tyranny would manifest itself through the power of taxation. The government would grow replete with an army of officers — including tax collectors — controlling and regulating everything we hold dear, while subsuming the power of state governments (and ultimately the people), that citizens today are in part trying to restore.
In the below passage, “Brutus,” likely New York judge Robert Yates, ominously and presciently sums up his concerns on the power of federal taxation and what it will do to the states:...........

Read these quotes in context of the below fuller excerpt from Anti-Federalist VI, and you won’t be able to say that we weren’t warned about taxation, its threat to states’ rights and the danger of the general welfare clause of the Constitution [emphasis added]:

What will render this power in Congress effectual and sure in its operation is, that the government will have complete judicial and executive authority to carry all their laws into effect, which will be paramount to the judicial and executive authority of the individual states: in vain therefore will be all interference of the legislatures, courts, or magistrates of any of the states on the subject; for they will be subordinate to the general government, and engaged by oath to support it, and will be constitutionally bound to submit to their decisions.

The general legislature will be empowered to lay any tax they chuse, to annex any penalties they please to the breach of their revenue laws; and to appoint as many officers as they may think proper to collect the taxes.
They will have authority to farm the revenues and to vest the farmer general, with his subalterns, with plenary powers to collect them, in any way which to them may appear eligible. And the courts of law, which they will be authorized to institute, will have cognizance of every case arising under the revenue laws, the conduct of all the officers employed in collecting them; and the officers of these courts will execute their judgments. There is no way, therefore, of avoiding the destruction of the state governments,whenever the Congress please to do it, unless the people rise up, and, with a strong hand, resist and prevent the execution of constitutional laws. The fear of this, will, it is presumed, restrain the general government, for some time, within proper bounds; but it will not be many years before they will have a revenue, and force, at their command, which will place them above any apprehensions on that score..................

Cider is an article that most probably will be one of those on which an excise will be laid, because it is one, which this country produces in great abundance, which is in very general use, is consumed in great quantities, and which may be said too not to be a real necessary of life. An excise on this would raise a large sum of money in the United States. How would the power, to lay and collect an excise on cider, and to pass all laws proper and necessary to carry it into execution, operate in its exercise? It might be necessary, in order to collect the excise on cider, to grant to one man, in each county, an exclusive right of building and keeping cider-mills, and oblige him to give bonds and security for payment of the excise; or, if this was not done, it might be necessary to license the mills, which are to make this liquor, and to take from them security, to account for the excise; or, if otherwise, a great number of officers must be employed, to take account of the cider made, and to collect the duties on it.

Porter, ale, and all kinds of malt-liquors, are articles that would probably be subject also to an excise. It would be necessary, in order to collect such an excise, to regulate the manufactory of these, that the quantity made might be ascertained or otherwise security could not be had for the payment of the excise. Every brewery must then be licensed, and officers appointed, to take account of its product, and to secure the payment of the duty, or excise, before it is sold. Many other articles might be named, which would be objects of this species of taxation, but I refrain from enumerating them. It will probably be said, by those who advocate this system, that the observations already made on this head, are calculated only to inflame the minds of the people, with the apprehension of dangers merely imaginary. That there is not the least reason to apprehend, the general legislature will exercise their power in this manner.........

This power, exercised without limitation, will introduce itself into every comer of the city, and country It will wait upon the ladies at their toilett, and will not leave them in any of their domestic concerns; it will accompany them to the ball, the play, and the assembly; it will go with them when they visit, and will, on all occasions, sit beside them in their carriages, nor will it desert them even at church; it will enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook in the kitchen, follow the servants into the parlour, preside over the table, and note down all he eats or drinks; it will attend him to his bed-chamber, and watch him while he sleeps; it will take cognizance of the professional man in his office, or his study; it will watch the merchant in the counting-house, or in his store; it will follow the mechanic to his shop, and in his work, and will haunt him in his family, and in his bed; it will be a constant companion of the industrious farmer in all his labour, it will be with him in the house, and in the field, observe the toil of his hands, and the sweat of his brow; it will penetrate into the most obscure cottage; and finally, it will light upon the head of every person in the United States. To all these different classes of people, and in all these circumstances, in which it will attend them, the language in which it will address them, will be GIVE! GIVE!

A power that has such latitude, which reaches every person in the community in every conceivable circumstance, and lays hold of every species of property they possess, and which has no bounds set to it, but the discretion of those who exercise it[,] I say, such a power must necessarily, from its very nature, swallow up all the power of the state governments............

It is as absurd to say, that the power of Congress is limited by these general expressions, “to provide for the common safety, and general welfare,” as it would be to say, that it would be limited, had the constitution said they should have power to lay taxes, &c. at will and pleasure. Were this authority given, it might be said, that under it the legislature could not do injustice, or pursue any measures, but such as were calculated to promote the public good, and happiness. For every man, rulers as well as others, are bound by the immutable laws of God and reason, always to will what is right. It is certainly right and fit, that the governors of every people should provide for the common defence and general welfare; every government, therefore, in the world, even the greatest despot, is limited in the exercise of his power. But however just this reasoning may be, it would be found, in practice, a most pitiful restriction. The government would always say, their measures were designed and calculated to promote the public good; and there being no judge between them and the people, the rulers themselves must, and would always, judge for themselves."

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