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Baw so many difficulties from incorporating this species of tax into the plan, he could not assent to it,
Mr. Nicholas said, he did not understand the objections of the gentleman from New Hampshire, (Mr. J. Smito.) He did not see how he could produce an equal value in land in every part of the Union. The tax, he said, would be apportioned according to the number of persons, and not according to the number of acres in any State.
If the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. GoodRich) would rely upon his information, he might be assured that an annual enumeration of slaves would not cost so much as an assessment of land made once in ten years. With respect to the tax being uncertain, he was totally mistaken. It was the most productive tax in the Southern States. If the tax was laid wholly upon land, it would be laid on a great part which would be unsaleable, and when a report came to be made of the collection, there would be found great deficiencies; but, with respect to slaves, there would be no failure, because they were a species of property which would always find a ready sale in the Southern market.
Mr. S. Smith said, he had heard much on that floor with respect to equality of taxation. It was impossible, he said, to make taxes fall exactly equal; they will fall, in some cases, heavier than in others. He would state a case. When a tax on carriages was under consideration, they found the gentlemen from Connecticut voting without scruple, because that State paid only two or three hundred dollars annually, when Maryland paid five thousand dollars a year to that duty. There was no equality in this; yet those gentlemen winked at the disproportion. He hoped they would do so in the present case.
Mr. Potter said, if this part of the resolution was agreed to, it was to apportion a tax on the personal property of the Southern States, which, no doubt, they would be glad of; and if gentlemen from those States could point out any way by which the personal property of other States conld be come at, he would agree to the present proposition; but he believed this could not be done; and, if not, he saw no reason why the personal property of those States should be made to bear a part of the proposed burden, whilst personal property in other States was suffered to go free. It was a hard case, he said, that a man who possessed three or four hundred dollars in land, should bo made to pay a portion of the direct tax, whilst men of affluence, who possessed many thousands in public securities, or loaned on interest, should pay nothing.
The Speaker reminded the House that the question was very much lost sight of; it was not whether a tax should be laid on carriages or personal property, but whether they would agree to the report of the Committee of the Whole, viz: "that a tax should be laid on slaves, with certain exceptions."
Mr. Henderson said, he should vote against this proposition, because it was a direct tax, as
he should vote against every question of that kind, until every source of indirect taxation was exhausted; and he thought this was not the case at present.
Mr. Claiborne said, he thought, also, that direct taxes should not be resorted to until indirect sources were exhausted; but he believed, they were now exhausted, and that direct taxes were the only means left to them of raising money. As he lived in a country which was unfortunately cursed with negroes, he wished the present motion to pass, for the sake of making the tax bear, in some degree, equally in the Southern States; but if he thought with his colleague (Mr. Jackson) that a tax on slaves bore any affinity to a capitation tax, he should also oppose it; but he had no such idea.
Mr. Gallatin said, he would just notice what had fallen from the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Goodrich) which was the only thing like argument which had been used against the present proposition. As to what had been said about the quantum of tax falling on different States, or what had been said by the gentleman frpm Rhode Island (Mr. Potter) with respect to the personal property of the Eastern States, he did not see how it applied to the present question. If the proposed tax was certain, and the expense of collection would not be greater than would attend the collection of the tax in other States, he did not see any objection to it.
The gentleman from Connecticut had said, that the expense of an annual enumeration of slaves would be great, and that it would full upon the United States. He would inform that gentleman and the House, that when no assessment took place, but merely an enumeration, it would be attended with no expense on the collection of the tax. The distinction which he made was, when a valuation and enumeration were both necessary, and when an enumeration alone was necessary. In the first instance, the value of the property was to be ascertained, and the tax laid accordingly; but where on enumeration was only wanted, (the tax per head, according to age, Ac, having been settled.) no expense would be incurred.
Mr. G. said, he spoke from experience. In Pennsylvania there was a certain tax on personal property, the taking an account of which did not increase the expense. Every three years there was an assessment of personal property, amongst which was slaves; but the enumeration was managed in this way: the collector called twice upon persons—the first time he gave them notice to pay, and took an account of their property, which, consisting of few articles, and the value being already fixed, he could tell them at the time, the amount to be paid at his next call.
As to any degree of uncertainty apprehended from this tax, that might be removed by throwing the deficiency, if there should be any, upon the land. He thought, therefore, the objections which had been urged against this tax would be completely obviated.
Mr. Core allowed, that nothing was more clear than that the manner in which the Sonthern States paid their apportionment of the proposed burden, could make no difference to the Northern and Eastern States; but the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gallatin) allowed there was some weight in the objections, with respect to the assessment and collection of the tax.
If he understood that gentleman, he said that the making an enumeration of slaves would make no difference in the expense. He did not know how this could be. If two objects were to do, viz: to value and assess the land, and to enumerate and value the slave, it was new doctrine to him, if these two things would not cost more than if only one had been done; or, if this business would be done for nothing, it would be one of the first things the United States had bad done upon those terms.
Upon the collection, there would also be an additional expense and a probability of loss; the more detail there was in the business, the greater liability to error and loss to the United States; and in proportion to this loss would these States pay less than others.
Mr. Habtley said, he should at present vote for the proposition; but should feel himself at liberty to vote differently on the bill, if he did not approve it. Difficulties arose in his mind as to the propriety of taxing personal property in one State and not in another, by which means a bounty seemed to be given on land in the Southern States to the amount of the difference of the taxes between the land in those States, and that in othef States, upon which purchasers would naturally calculate. This difficulty nught probably be removed from his mind; and, therefore, in order to give the wholo of the business a fair chance, he should wish the resolutions to go back to the Committee of Ways and Means, to bring in a bill.
Mr. Page did suppose that gentlemen coming from States which were in the habit of collecting direct taxes, would have endeavored to accommodate the business to the situation and circumstances of different States, so as to make the system the most convenient to each. He did suppose that, whenever- it should have been o^termined to enter upon direct taxation, that yams would have been apportioned to each State, and that they would have been left to 'iemselves to have raised the money in the way which they thought most convenient. Insuperable objections, however, it seemed, had been toond against this system, as appeared from the report of the Secretary of the Treasury; but it *M unreasonable that' the Northern States should complain that the Southern States would pay the tax with greater facility than them. They might, he said, as well complain against :ie richness of their soil, or the warmness of theff climate.
With respect to the tax falling lighter on them t&aa on other States, those who held slaves would find it lighter, but those who had none,
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would not. But he thought it extraordinary that, whilst they wore upbraided with holding a species of property peculiar to their country, they should also be upbraided with wishing to pay a duty upon that property.
Mr. P. said, he did not see what difference it could make to other States, that they raised a part of the tax required of them from slaves. The Secretary of the Treasury had recommended this mode, the Committee of Ways and Moans had reported accordingly; and they were ready to pay a tax for their slaves, in addition to the expense they were at for them already; for, it should be recollected, persons holding slaves, contribute largely to the duties colleated from imposts, by the purchase of flannels and cloth, rum, molasses, &c., necessary for their food and clothing.
If a person living in a State where slavery did not exist, paid something more for his land, the difference was certainly not equal to the satisfaction he must enjoy in •reflecting, that his State was free from that evil. His land, on that account, would be worth three times as much as land of the same quality in the Southern States. Why, then, do gentlemen complain I The Southern States themselves might have objected to this tax; they might have doubted the constitutionality of it; indeed, he did doubt it, but he had agreed to it; and he believed there was no better way of making the tax go down in those States, than by the present measure.
For his own part, Mr*P. said, he wished he lived where there was no slavery; and if he could find a climate ho liked as well, he would change his situation on that account.
Mr. Beent said, it was a very extraordinary thing that gentlemen who represented States where there were no slaves, should oppose a tax on that species of property, and that the Southern States where slavery existed, should be advocating that tax.
By the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, there appeared a deficiency of revenue, and in order to supply that deficiency, they had determined to have recourse to direct taxation; and, after tho amount which each State ought to furnish, had been ascertained, he thought it should have been left to the different States to have raised the money from such funds as they judged best, provided they had been secure. This, he thought, would only have been liberal and proper. It had, however, been determined otherwise; but, from a knowledge that, by introducing land and slaves together, as objects of taxation, the tax would be more equally levied in the Southern States, if that plan had been adopted. And, surely, he said, it could have given no satisfaction to any other State, that, by laying a tax on land only, it should have operated in a very oppressive manner in some parts of the Southern States, and scarcely have been felt at all in other parts of those States; and yet, this would appear to be the opinion of the gentleman from New Hampshire; H. Of R.]
for, he said, if this law passed, a person possessing landed property in New Hampshire, of the value of £1,000, would pay more than a landholder to that amount in the Southern States. And was this, he asked, a subject of regret? If the State of Virginia paid the amount required of her in a manner which bore most equally upon the whole of her citizens, ought that to displease the citizens of other States? He thought not. He was of opinion, that it would be a desirable thing that the tax should be found to fall equally on the citizens of every State.
Another objection, produced by the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Goodrich) was that a tax on this species of property would not be so secure as a tax on land. If that gentleman had been acquainted with the situation of the Southern States, he would have known that slaves formed the most certain fund of those States; for, whilst their wide and extensive waste lands would not command any price, slaves were always ready sale. Hence it arose, that the States were not able to raise a tax on land, whilst a tax on slaves had never failed to be productive.
With respect to the inconvenience or expense attending a tax on slaves, in Virginia, he said, no expense would be necessary; because it was the custom of that State to take annually, a list of their slaves, which was regularly recorded in the archives of the State. If gentlemen were, therefore, so economical that they would not expend a few of the public pence to get a list of this property, let them recur to the document he had mentioned, which might be done without expense.
To those who know the situation of the Southern States, the remarks made by the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gallatin) must have been irresistibly impressive. Almost the whole of the lower part of the country possessed property of this kind, whilst the upper parts had scarcely any. If a tax was, therefore, imposed upon land only, the upper part of the country would be extremely aggravated, and would murmur, and they would murmur with justice.
Gentlemen from the Eastern States called upon the Representatives of the Southern States to point out a mode by which they might come at the personal property of their States. But, he would ask them, if, independent of land with its improvements, they possessed any other species of property which could not be eluded? He believed they could not point it out; why, then, call upon gentlemen from the Southern States to do, what they, who certainly knew best their own resources, were unable to do?
The gentlemen from the Southern States, he said, had discovered those objects which they thought best able to bear the burden; and if the Representatives of the other States were not satisfied with the tax on land, let them come forward and say what other property they have equally secure, upon which a tax may be laid.
It was a phenomenon, he would again say, that the Representatives of States where slavery existed, should be contending for a tax upon slaves, and that members from States where slavery was not tolerated, were opposing it. He could not help believing that the real object of gentlemen had not been avowed. It was something hidden and unseen.*
Mr. Kittera said, that the opposers of this part of the resolution were the opposers of a direct tax altogether. It was observable that those upon whom the tax would fall, did not complain. It was extraordinary that the complaints should come from another quarter. As to the objections of his colleague (Mr. Hartley) that part of the tax being laid on slaves in the Southern States, would affect the value of land, it would make no difference whether the tax was on land or slaves, as it affected land, its operation would be the same. It was therefore no solid objection against the resolution.
On the question, that the House do agree to the last part of the said resolution, in the words following, to wit: "A tax on slaves, with certain exceptions;" it was resolved in the affirmative—yeas 68, nays 23, as follows:
Yeas.—Fisher Ames, Abraham Baldwin, Thomas Blount, Theophilus Bradbury, Richard Brent, Daniel Buck, Samuel J. Cabell, Gabriel Christie, Thomas Claiborne, Isaac Coles, William Cooper, William Craik, James Davenport, George Dent, George Ege, William Findlay, Abiel Foster, Jesse Franklin, Albert Gallatin, James Gillespie, Nicholas Oilman, Henry Glenn, Christopher Greennp, Andrew Gregg, William B. Grove, Wade Hampton, George Hancock, Robert Goodloe Harper, Carter B. Harrison, Thomas Hartley, John Hathorn, Jonathan N. Havens, William Hindman, James Holland, Andrew Jackson, John Wilkes Kittera, Matthew Locke, Samuel Lyman, Samuel Maclay, Nathaniel Macon, James Madison, John Milledger Andrew Moore, Frederick A. Muhlenberg, William Vans Murray, Anthony New, John Nicholas, Alexander D. Orr, John Page, Josiah Parker, John Patton, Francis Preston, Robert Rutherford, Samuel Sewall, Samuel Sitgreaves, Israel Smith, Isaac Smith, Samnel Smith, William Smith, Richard Sprigg, Jr., William Strudwick, John Swanwick, John E. Van Allen, Philip Van Cortlaadt, Abraham Venable, Peleg Wodsworth, John Williams, and Richard Winn.
Nats.—Nathan Bryan, Dempsey Burges, Joshua Coit, Samnel W. Dana, Henry Dearborn, Dwight Foster, Nathaniel Freeman, Jr., Chauncey Goodrich, Roger Griswold, Thomas Henderson, George Jackson, William I.ymau, Fronds Malbone, Elisha R. Potter, John Read, John S. Sherburne, Jeremiah Smith, Nathaniel Smith, Zephanioh Swift, George Thatcher, Richard Thomas, Mark Thompson, and Joseph B. Vamum.
* The solution of the enigma was, that those who voted against taxing slaves were opposed to any direct tax whatever, and the members from the slave Suites who supported the tax, did so because the taxation of lands and slaves went together in the slave States—the people were used to the association—and to omit slaves in the direct tax would be unjust and unpopular, as sparine: the rieh and zraking the tax fall heavier upon persons of less property.
And then the main question being taken, that the House do agree to the resolution, as reported by the Committee of the whole House, it was resolved in the affirmative—yeas 49, Mrs 39.
Ordered, That the Committee of "Ways and Means do prepare and bring in a bill or bills, pursuant to the said resolution.
Monday, January 23. Thompson J. Skinner, from Massachusetts, in place of Theodore Sedgwick, appointed a Senator of the United States, appeared, produced his credentials, was qualified, and took his seat indie House.
Friday, January 27.
The House then resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole, on the subject of appropriations for the year 1797, when the article which relates to the contingent expenses of the two branches of the Legislature, amounting to twelve thousand dollars, being read,
Mr. Baldwin said, he had often before made the remark, (and he thought it not unseasonable now to repeat it,) that the House was too apt to be merely formal and superficial in passing on the general estimate for the year. He was sorry to observe that this item had within this year or two been considerably increased; he believed the price of wood, stationery, and other articles purchased for the session, was now much the same as in 1795, though the printer's bill might be higher; yet, as the session would be but three months, he thought the sum allowed for 1795 would be sufficient, ne had always thought this charge for the contingencies of the two Houses, one of tLt strongest instances of that kind of loose economy which it baa been complained, and perhaps with too much justice, pervades all the operations of the Federal Government—we have often been reminded that, to make an expedition into the woods to an Indian town, or to build a frigate, or to coin one hundred tons of copper, costs us a great deal more than it ever did any other Government in this country. If this is a strong instance of that style of economy, let ns begin the reformation with ourselves, and not bo so prodigal this year in our contingent expenses; oar circumstances call on us for greater attention to economy. He was sensible the place fcr correcting these evils was ordinarily on passing the law authorizing the expense, and not on the appropriation for the payment of it; but this item, and many others, depended on no law—changing the sum in the estimate will control the expense. If any one will take the trouble of looking over the vouchers on which these accounts have been settled for past years, be will see that there is room for more economy. One branch of the Legislature consists of about thirty members—four thousand dollars
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is a great sum for the purchase of their wood, quills, and paper, and for furnishing them with copies of business under consideration. Is it possible that twelve thousand dollars can be necessary for the two Houses? The whole yearly expenses of some of the State Governments do not amount to a much greater sum— he hoped this would be struck out, and the sum which was allowed for 1795, and some preceding years, be inserted.
Mr. Smith presumed the estimate was founded upon information received from the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of that House. He did not conceive it would make any difference in the expenditure, whether a larger or smal'er sum be appropriated; as he did not suppose the Senate or that House would print the less because a .ess sum was appropriated. The gentleman, he said, might, by his speech, give an idea to the public, that this would be a saving of so much money; but it would, in reality, make no difference.
After a few observations from other members, the question was put and negatived—87 to 80.
The committee then rose, and had leave to sit again. And the House adjourned till Monday.
Monday, January 80. George Leonard, from Massachusetts, appeared, and took his seat.
[Mr. Swanwick presented the petition of Jacob Nicholson and Jupiter Nicholson, Job Albertson and Thomas Pritchet, dated at Philadelphia, stating that thoy had been the slaves of persons in Perquimans County, North Carolina, who hod manumitted them, and whose surname thoy took—thnt afterwards they had been seized by other persons and sold into slavery under a law of the State—that to escape from this bondage they had tied to Philadelphia, where they had been seized under the fugitive slave act: and pray relief from Congress.]
The petition being read—
Mr. Swanwiok said, he hoped it would be referred to a select committee.
Mr. Blount hoped it would not even be received by the House. Agreeably to a law of the State of North Carolina, he said they were slaves, and could, of course, be seized as such.
Mr. TnATOHER thought the petition ought to be referred to the Committee on the Fugitive Law. He conceived the gentleman much mistaken in asserting these petitioners to be absolute slaves. They state that they were slaves, but that their masters manumitted them, and that their manumissions were sanctioned by a law of that State, but that a subsequent law of the same State, subjected them to slavery; and if even there was a law that allowed them to be taken and sold into slavery again, he could not see any propriety in refusing their petition in H. Of R.]
that House—They Oebtainlt (said Mr. T.) Are Free People. It appeared they were taken under the fugitive act, which he thought ought not to affect them; they now came and prayed the House so to model that fugitive act, as to prevent its affecting persons of their description. He therefore saw great propriety in referring their petition to the committee appointed to amend that act in another part; they could as well consider its relation to the present case. He could not see how there would be a propriety in rejecting their petition; they had an undoubted right to petition the House, and to be heard.
Mr. Swanwicx was surprised at the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Blount) desiring to reject this petition; he could not have thought, nor could he indulge the suspicion now, that the gentleman was so far from acknowledging the rights of man, as to prevent any class of men from petitioning. If men were aggrieved and conceive they have claim to attention, petitioning was their sacred right, and that right should never suffer innovation; whether the House ought to grant, was another question. The subject of their petition had a claim,to the attention of the House. They state they were freed from slavery, but that they were much injured under a law of the United States. If a law was ever made that bore hard on any class of people, Mr. S. hoped that the door would never be shut to their complaints. If the circumstance respecting these people was as they stated, their case was very hard. He animadverted on the atrocity of that reward often dollars offered for one of them if taken alive, but that fifty should be given if found dead, and no questions asked. "Was not this, he said, encouragement to put a period to that man's existence? Horrid reward! Could gentlemen hear it and not shudder?
Mr. Blocnt said, the gentleman last up was mistaken in calling the petitioners free men; the laws of North Carolina, as he observed before, did not suffer individuals to emancipate their slaves, and ho should wish to know what evidence there was to prove these men free, and except that was proved, the House had no right to attend to the petition.
Mr. Sitgreaves, in answer to the gentleman last up, said he would reverse his question, and ask what evidence he had to prove that these men are not freemen; can he prove they are slaves? They have stated that a law has been made in North Carolina with a view to affect their case, and bring them again into a worse slavery than before; they want to know whetherthey cannot obtain relief by their application to the Government of the United States. Under these circumstances, Mr. S. wished to know why their petitions should not be taken into consideration? Was there any thing in these men, he asked, that should prevent every kind of assistance being bestowed on them? Had they not an equal right to be heard with other petitioners? He hoped the House would
not only give them a hearing, but afford them all the consolation of which their unfortunate case was susceptible. If the House -were obliged, through a want of power to extend to the case, to object compliance with the prayers, yet, he hoped it would be done with all" due tenderness; before hearing them, he thooght i; would be exceedingly unjust to decide. These people may produce documents sufficient to obtain favorable attention; therefore, it was impossible before they were heard to conceive whether the House could constitutionally grant relief or not. He could see no impropriety in referring it; the object of referring a case, was to inquire into facts; thus, the committee prepared the way for discussion in the House; and why the House should refuse to deliberate and discuss this case, he knew not.
Mr. Heath was clearly convinced the?e people were slaves, and therefore hoped their petition would lie on the table. He would remind the gentleman that, if they undertook this business, they would soon have petitions enough of the same kind, and public business would be thereby prevented. It appeared to him to be more within the jurisdiction of the Legislature of that State; indeed, the United States had nothing to do with it.
Mr. Madison said, he should be sorry to reject any petition whatever, in which it became the business of the House to attend; but he thought this case had no claim on their attention. Yet, if it did not como within the purview of the Legislative body, he thought, it might be suffered to lie on the table. He thought it a judicial case, and could obtain its due in a Court of Appeal in that State. If they are free by the laws of North Carolina, they ought to apply to those laws, and have their privilege established. If they are slaves, the constitution gives them no hope of being heard here. A law has been passed to prevent the owners of those slaves emancipating them; it is therefore impossible that any relief can be granted. The petitioners are under the laws of North Carolina, and those laws cannot be the interpreters of the laws of the United States.
Mr. SrroBEAVEs said, ho was not prepared to deny that this petition is in the situation the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Madison) states; nor was he prepared to prove that it came under the power of the General Government; but he could see no kind of reason why it should not be sent to a committee who should examine the case and report whether it required Legislative interference, or whether it was a subject of judicial authority in the country whence the petitioners came. Many petitions, he said, were sent to the House, who referred them for investigation to a committee, and many had been reported as being under judicial power only, and as such been rejected here. If this underwent the same order, and should be found to be of a judicial nature, the committee would report so, and the House would honorably refuse it. This he thought the only just method.