Elliot’s Debates: Volume 1

Proceedings Which Led to the Adoption of the Federal Constitution

SATURDAY, February 3, 1781.—The order of the day (being a report concerning the laying a duty of five per cent.) was called for, when a motion was made by Mr. Witherspoon, seconded by Mr. Burke,—

“That it is indispensably necessary that the United States in Congress assembled should be vested with a right of superintending the commercial regulations of every state, that none may take place that shall be partial or contrary to the common interest; and that they should be vested with the exclusive right of laying duties upon all imported articles; no restriction to be valid, and no such duty to be laid, but with the consent of nine states; provided, that all duties and imposts laid by the United States in Congress assembled, shall always be a certain proportion of the value of the article or articles on which the same shall be laid; and the same articles shall bear the same duty and impost throughout the said states without exemption; and provided, that all such duties and imposts shall be for the perfecting of certain specified purposes, which purposes being perfected, the said duties and imposts so appropriated shall cease; provided also, that the United States in Congress assembled shall not be empowered to appropriate any duties or imposts for perpetual annuities, or other perpetual or indefinite interests, or for annuities for more than three lives at the same time in being, or for a longer term than—years.”

On the question to agree to this, the yeas and nays being required by Mr. Mathews, it passed in the negative.

Congress resumed the consideration of the report of the committee of the whole, (for laying a duty of five per cent.;)

And on the question to insert the words [to transfer the power to lay the duty from the states to Congress] moved to be inserted, the yeas and nays were required; and it was resolved in the affirmative.

The report of the committee of the whole, being amended, was agreed to, as follows:—

Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states, as indispensably necessary, that they vest a power in Congress to levy, for the use of the United States, a duty of five per cent. ad valorem, at the time and place of importation, upon all goods, wares, and merchandise, of foreign growth and manufacture, which may be imported into any of the said states from any foreign port, island, or plantation, after the 1st day of May, 1781; except arms, ammunition, clothing, and other articles imported on account of the United States, or any of them; and except wool cards and cotton cards, and wire for making them; and also except salt, during the war.

Also a like duty of five per cent. on all prizes and prize goods, condemned in the court of admiralty of any of these states as lawful prize.

That the moneys arising from the said duties be appropriated to the discharge of the principal and interest of the debts already contracted, or which may be contracted, on the faith of the United States, for supporting the present war.

That the said duties be continued until the said debts shall be fully and finally discharged.

FRIDAY, April 18, 1783.—Congress proceeded in the consideration of the report, (concerning duties and revenues;) and sundry amendments being made,—

Resolved, by nine states, That it be recommended to the several states, as indispensably necessary to the restoration of public credit, and to the punctual and honorable discharge of the public debts, to invest the United States in Congress assembled with a power to levy, for the use of the United States, the following duties upon goods imported into the said states from any foreign port, island, or plantation:—

Upon all rum of Jamaica proof, per gallon, …… 4-90ths of a dollar.
Upon all other spirituous liquors, …… 3-90ths ditto.
Upon Madeira wine, …… 12-90ths ditto.
Upon all other wines, …… 6-90ths ditto.
Upon common Bohea ten, per lb., …… 6-90ths ditto.
Upon all other teas, …… 24-90ths ditto.
Upon pepper, per lb., …… 3-90ths ditto.
Upon brown sugar, per lb., …… ½-90th ditto.
Upon loaf sugar, …… 2-90ths ditto.
Upon all other sugars, …… 1-90th ditto.
Upon molasses, per gallon, …… 1-90th ditto.
Upon cocoa and coffee, per lb., …… 1-90th ditto.
Upon all other goods, a duty of five per cent. ad valorem, at the time and place of importation.

Provided, That none of the said duties shall be applied to any other purpose than the discharge of the interest or principal of the debts contracted, on the faith of the United States, for supporting the war, agreeably to the resolution of the 16th day of December last, nor be continued for a longer term than twenty-five years; and provided, that the collectors of the said duties shall be appointed by the states within which their offices are to be respectively exercised; but when so appointed, shall be amenable to, and removable by, the United States in Congress assembled, alone; and in case any state shall not make such appointment within one month after notice given for that purpose, the appointment may be made by the United States in Congress assembled.

That it be further recommended to the several states to establish, for a term limited to twenty-five years, and to appropriate to the discharge of the interest and principal of the debts contracted on the faith of the United States for supporting the war, substantial and effectual revenues, of such nature as they may judge most convenient, for supplying their respective proportions of one million five hundred thousand dollars, annually, exclusive of the afore-mentioned duties, which proportion shall be fixed and equalized from time to time, according to the rule which is, or may be, prescribed by the Articles of Confederation; and in case the revenues established by any state shall at any time yield a sum exceeding its actual proportion, the excess shall be refunded to it; and in case the revenues of any state shall be found to be deficient, the immediate deficiency shall be made up by such state with as little delay as possible, and a future deficiency guarded against by an enlargement of the revenues established; provided, that, until the rule of the Confederation can be carried into practice, the proportions of the said one million five hundred thousand dollars shall be as follows, viz.:—

New Hampshire, …… 52,708
Massachusetts, …… 224,427
Rhode Island, …… 32,318
Connecticut, …… 132,091
New York, …… 128,243
New Jersey, …… 83,358
Pennsylvania, …… 205,189
Delaware, …… 22,443
Maryland, …… 141,517
Virginia, …… 256,487
North Carolina, …… 109,006
South Carolina, …… 96,183
Georgia, …… 16,030

The said last-mentioned revenues to be collected by persons appointed as aforesaid, but to be carried to the separate credit of the states within which they shall be collected.

That an annual account of the proceeds and application of all the afore-mentioned revenues shall be made out and transmitted to the several states, distinguishing the proceeds of each of the specified articles, and the amount of the whole revenue received from each state, together with the allowances made to the several officers employed in the collection of the said revenues.

That none of the preceding resolutions shall take effect until all of them shall be acceded to by every state; after which unanimous accession, however, they shall be considered as forming a mutual compact among all the states, and shall be irrevocable by any one or more of them, without the concurrence of the whole, or a majority of the United States in Congress assembled.

That, as a further mean, as well of hastening the extinguishment of the debts, as of establishing the harmony of the United States, it be recommended to the states which have passed no acts towards complying with the resolutions of Congress of the 6th of September, and 10th of October, 1780, relative to the cession of territorial claims, to make the liberal cessions therein recommended, and to the states which may have passed acts complying with the said resolutions in part only, to revise and complete such compliance.

That, as a more convenient and certain rule of ascertaining the proportions to be supplied by the states respectively to the common treasury, the following alteration in the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between these states, be, and the same is hereby agreed to in Congress; and the several states are advised to authorize their respective delegates to subscribe and ratify the same, as part of the said instrument of union, in the words following, to wit:—

So much of the 8th of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, between the thirteen states of America, as is contained in the words following, to wit, “All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states, in proportion to the value of all land within each state, granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land, and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated, according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled shall from time to time direct and appoint,” is hereby revoked and made void; and in place thereof, it is declared and concluded, the same having been agreed to in a Congress of the United States, that all charges of war, and all other expenses, that have been, or shall be, incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, except so far as shall be otherwise provided for, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states in proportion to the whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants, of every age, sex, and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians not paying taxes, in each state; which number shall be triennially taken and transmitted to the United States in Congress assembled, in such mode as they shall direct and appoint.

On the question to agree to the foregoing act, the yeas and nays being required by Mr. Arnold:

New Hampshire,… Mr. White, Ay.
Massachusetts,… Mr. Holten, Ay.
Mr. Osgood, Ay.
Mr. Gorham, Ay.
Mr. Higginson, Ay.
Rhode Island,… Mr. Collins, No.
Mr. Arnold, No.
Connecticut,… Mr. Ellsworth, Ay.
Mr. Dyer, Ay.
New York,… Mr. Floyd, Ay.
Mr. Hamilton, No.
New Jersey,… Mr. Boudinot, Ay.
Mr. Clarke, Ay.
Mr. Condict, Ay.
Pennsylvania,… Mr. Fitzsimmons, Ay.
Mr. Peters, Ay.
Delaware,… Mr. M’Comb, Ay.
Mr. Bedford, Ay.
Maryland,… Mr. T.S. Lee, Ay.
Mr. Carroll, Ay.
Virginia,… Mr. Jones, Ay.
Mr. Madison, Ay.
Mr. Mercer, Ay.
Mr. Bland, Ay.
North Carolina,… Mr. Hawkins, Ay.
Mr. Williamson, Ay.
South Carolina,… Mr. Rutledge, Ay.
Mr. Gervais, Ay.
Mr. Izard, Ay.

So it was resolved in the affirmative.

SATURDAY, April 26, 1783.—The committee, consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Ellsworth, and Mr. Hamilton, appointed to prepare an address to the states, to accompany the act of the 18th of this month, reported a draft, which, being read and amended, was agreed to, as follows:—

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Contents

General Overview

In 1787 and 1788, following the Constitutional Convention, a great debate took place throughout America over the Constitution that had been proposed.

In-Doors Debate

View in-depth studies of the Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York state ratifying conventions.

The Federal Pillars

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The Stages of Ratification: An Interactive Timeline

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Interactive Ratification Map

View interactive maps showing the breakdown of Federalist-Antifederalist strength at the state level during the Ratification debate.

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