Creating the United States Constitution


Delegates feared the imposition of "taxation without representation" and the inability of a national government to support itself independently of the states. Although they wanted the federal government to have the power to raise taxes to "provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States," they established limitations that would prevent the national government from using the power of taxation to destroy states or institutions, such as slavery. The delegates created a compromise between nationalists who wanted to disembowel the state governments and state rightists and supporters of the Confederation government, who wanted the federal government to be a weak instrument of states' authorities controlled by the power of the purse. Where did this idea come from? »

Report of the Committee of Style, Taxation section

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to servitude service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.

Report of the Committee of Style, Taxation section

Sect. 8. The Congress may by joint ballot appoint a treasurer. They shall have power To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises; to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States: but all duties, imports, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.

Report of the Committee of Style, Taxation section

The migration or importation of such persons as the several any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person . . .

No capitation tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumerations herein before directed to be taken.

No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the Port of one State over those of another, nor shall vessels bound to or from one State be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another.

No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.