Page images
PDF
EPUB

nation should the occasion require it. It pro- Chap. vn. hibited the condemnation and sale within the 1794. United States of prizes made from the citizens or subjects of nations with whom they were at peace.

Necessary as was this measure, the whole strength of the opposition in the senate was exerted to defeat it. Motions to strike out the most essential clause were successively repeated, and each motion was negatived by the casting vote of the vice president. It was only by his voice that the bill finally passed.*

In the house of representatives also, this bill encountered a serious opposition. The sections which prohibited the sale of prizes in the United States, and that which declared it to be a misdemeanor to accept a commission from a foreign power within the territory of the United States, to serve against a nation with whom they were at peace, were struck out; but that which respected the acceptance of commissions was afterwards reinstated. A motion was also made to strike out that section which declared it to be a misdemeanor for citizens to enlist within the United States to serve against any friendly power, but this motion did not prevail.

• Previous to taking the question on this bill a petition had been received against Mr. Gallatin, a senator from the state of Pennsylvania, who was determined not to have been a citizen a sufficient time to qualify him under the constitution for a seat in the senate. This casual circumstance divided the senate, or the bill would probably have been lost.

Chap, Vii. In the course of the session, several other party 1794. questions were brought forward, which demonstrated, at the same time, the strength and the zeal of the opposition. The subject of amending the constitution was revived, and a resolution was agreed to in both houses, for altering that instrument so far as to exempt states from the suits of individuals. While this resolution was before the senate, it was also proposed to render the officers of the bank, and the holders of stock, ineligible to either branch of the legislature; and this proposition, so far as respected officers in the bank, was negatived by a majority of only one vote.* A bill to sell the shares of the United States in the bank was negatived by the same majority.

A motion was also made by colonel Monroe, after the appointment of an envoy to Great Britain, to suspend the fourth article of the treaty of peace;but this motion was not supported by the party.

irnniryinto In both houses inquiries were set on foot res

■he conduct L ^

Mi'rtar of peering the treasury department,! which obvi

the treasury, —. , —-—— .——

terminates

honourably * A clause in the resolution as proposed, which was understood to imply that the act for incorporating the bank was unconstitutional, was previously struck out by the same majority.

t The resolutions which were moved on this subject in the senate seem not to have been acted on. Those which were moved in the house of representatives by Mr. Giles, for the purpose of reviving the inquiry which had resulted so unfavourably to the accusations brought against the head of the treasury department before the preceding congress, were agreed to without opposition. Indeed the inquiry was courted by the secretary himself. A committee, at the head of which was Mr. Giles, entered into a most laborious investigation of the rules established for the government of the department, and of the conduct of its chief, in regard to the loans which had been made on account of the foreign debt, and in aid of the sinking fund. The result of this inquiry was the more honourable to the secretary, because it was conducted by those who were not his friends.

ously originated in the hope of finding some Chap. vn. foundation for censure of that officer; and in a 1794. similar hope, the senate passed a vote requesting the president to lay before them the correspondence between the minister of the United States at Paris, and the French republic, as also his correspondence with the department of state.*

The preparations for an eventual war, which the aspect of public affairs rendered it imprudent to omit, and a heavy appropriation of a million, which under the title of foreign intercourse was made for the purpose of purchasing peace from Algiers, and liberating the Americans who were in captivity, created demands upon the treasury which the ordinary revenues were insufficient to satisfy.

That the imposition of additional taxes had become indispensable, was a truth too obvious to be controverted with the semblance of reason; but the subjects of taxation afforded at all times an ample field for discussion.

The committee of ways and means reported several resolutions for extending the internal duties to various objects which were supposed

See Note, No. XIII. at the end of the volume.

Chap. vu. capable of bearing them, and also proposed an 1794. augmentation of the impost on foreign goods imported into tht United States, and a direct tax. It was proposed to lay a tax on licences to sell wines and spirituous liquors, on sales at auction, on pleasure carriages, on snuff manufactured, and on sugar refined within the United States, and also to lay a stamp duty.

The direct tax was not even supported by the committee. Only thirteen members voted in its favour. The augmentation of the duty on imposts

internal met with no opposition. The internal duties were

rues laid.

introduced in separate bills, that each might encounter only those objections which could be made to itself; and that the loss of one might not involve the loss of others. The resolution in favour of stamps was rejected: the others were carried after repeated and obstinate debates. The members of the opposition were in favour of raising the whole sum required by additional burdens on trade, and by direct taxes.* The principle of raising revenue by taxing consumption was openly reprobated. A direct tax was said to be another term for a just tax, and to be almost the only one proper in a free country. The duty on foreign merchandise imported into the United States was a necessary exception to this general Chap, Vm, rule, and formed the only case in which a depar- 1794, ture from it would be justifiable. Particular objections too were urged with warmth and persevering vehemence, to the justice, the general policy, and, in some instances, to the* constitutionality of the particular taxes proposed.

* Those who spoke in favour of direct taxes contended, that the rejection of the resolution reported by the committee was no evidence of the sense of the house against the system. It proved only their disapprobation of the particular form of that resolution. That a direct tax ought to be imposed on all visible property according to its value; and such a tax would be just and productive.

While these measures were depending before congress, memorials and resolutions against them were presented by the manufacturers, which were expressed in terms of disrespect that evidenced the sense in which numbers understood the doctrine, that the people were sovereign, and the con~ itituted authorities their servants. This opportu* nity for charging the government with tyranny and oppression, with partiality and injustice, was too favourable not to be embraced by the democratic societies, those self proclaimed watchful sentinels over the rights of the people. A person unacquainted with those motives which, in the struggle of party, too often influence the conduct of men, would have supposed a direct tax to be not only in itself more eligible, but to be more acceptable to the community than those which were proposed. To the more judicious observers of the springs of human action, the reverse was known to be the fact.

• The tax on carriages especially was alleged to be uiv, constitutional. In Virginia, its payment was refused until the question was decided by the supreme court of the United States.

VOL. v. 4 3

« PreviousContinue »