In Letter 3, Mr. Smith expressed concern over the power of taxation that would be allotted to a consolidated government. He observed: "Should the general government think it politic, as some administration (if not all) probably will, to look for support in a system of influence, the government will take every occasion to multiply laws and officers to execute them, considering these as so many necessary props for its own support. Should this system of policy be adopted, taxes more productive than the impost duties will, probably, be wanted to support the government, and to discharge foreign demands, without leaving anything for the domestic creditors. The internal sources of taxation must then be called into operation, and internal tax laws and federal assessors and collectors spread over this immense country. All these circumstances considered, is it wise, prudent, or safe, to vest the powers of laying and collecting internal taxes in the general government, while imperfectly organized and inadequate; and to trust to amending it hereafter, and making it adequate to this purpose? It is not only unsafe but absurd to lodge power in a government before it is fitted to receive it? It is confessed that power and representation ought to go together. Why give the power first?" Very good question! What some of these folks seemed to want to do was to give the central government the power that all central governments love to have, and then, afterward, make amendments to restrain that power (supposedly).
It was Patrick Henry, I believe, who once said that if you give too little power to get a job done you can always give more later on, but if you give too much power, the day for getting it back never comes. We live with proof of that today. Anyone ever heard of the "Patriot Act?"
In a later letter, Smith informed his readers that full representation in the various state governments was the only force that would protect the rights of the people (states rights). But, under this new constitution, the states would be unable to prevent federal encroachments on these rights. In other words, from the beginning, the states were not to have the rights they needed to protect their states from federal usurpation. The states rights they should have had weren't.
So, looking at history, what does this say to us today?
In 1861 the governments of the Confederate States sought to regain those rights for their states which they felt had been gradually lost with increasing federal control. What they probably didn't fully realize was that their states had been denied those rights right from the very beginning, as had all the states across the country.
Were the Confederate States wrong to seek to exercise their rights as states? By no means! The overriding idea from the old Articles of Confederation was that these states ought to be free, sovereign, and independent, and not mere appendages to a centralized national government. Their desire for the rights and liberties of their states was a legitimate one, right from the beginning, whether those rights had been denied them in 1860 or in 1787.
Smith's obvious concern for the lack of states rights is shown in his comments when he said: "We ought to enquire if the convention have made the proper use of these essential parts; the state governments then we are told will stand between the arbitrary exercise of power and the people; true they may, but armless and helpless, perhaps with the privilege of making a noise when hurt--this is no more than individuals may do. Does the Constitution provide a single check for a single measure, by which the state governments can constitutionally and regularly check the arbitrary measures of congress? Congress may immediately raise fifty thousand men, and twenty millions of dollars in taxes, build a navy, model the militia &c, and all this constitutionally. Congress may arm on every point, and the state governments can do no more than an individual, by petition to congress, suggest their measures are alarming and not right." In other words, what the states really have is the prerogative of negotiating with the master of the house for "house privileges". And if the master be not so disposed--then tough luck baby!
This concern over the central government's power to tax is a genuine and heart-felt one for Smith. He observes: "Two taxing powers may be inconvenient; but the point is, congress, like the Senate of Rome, will have taxing powers, and the people no check--when the power is abused, the people may complain and grow angry, so may the state governments; they may remonstrate and counteract, by passing laws to prohibit the collection of congressional taxes;" but he seems to feel all this will do little good. Their actions will be frustrated actions of resistance against nationalist tyranny.
Does any of this sound familiar today? What chance do states or individuals have in resisting the federal taxing power? The current administration in Washington is piling up debts that are designed to keep our great, great grandchildren and their children in financial bondage and our leftist congress loves to have it so.
The current resident of the White House (or those in power behind his throne) propose more and more taxes and restrictions on the American people and congress can't get these blatant intrusions into our God-given rights passing as "legislation" enacted fast enough to suit them.
They have to meet behind closed doors at midnight to pass bills they are ashamed to pass in the daylight and then they have the gall to come back and tell us all how wonderful this will be for us. The Scriptures talk of people who prefer to work in the darkness rather than in the light. Check what the Gospels have to say about such.
And where, pray tell, our our constitutional "remedies" for all of this? Let's don't kid ourselves--they don't exist! Mr. Smith has convincingly observed that: "In fact the Constitution provides for the states no check, properly speaking, on the measures of Congress--Congress can immediately enlist soldiers, and apply to the pockets of the people." Congress already has enlisted an "army" to "apply" to the pockets of the people. It's called the Internal Revenue Service, although I must really wonder who gets any "service" out of it, because it surely isn't the average taxpayer.
All of the concerns the Anti-Federalists had about the congressional power to tax have come home to roost, and what have the "checks and balances" in the Constitution accomplished to protect either the average citizens or the states? All they seem to have done is to allow the various branches of the federal government to conspire with each other against the average citizen and against his state of residence as his financial bones are picked clean and his pockets are emptied of any spare change he might have left.
We have replaced King and Parliament with President and Congress. Are we any better off?
To be continued.
Also see the other parts of this series by Al Benson, Jr.:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 |
Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14
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What is States' Rights by Mike Crane
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