Sir, that part of the proposed Constitution which gives the general government the power of laying and collecting taxes, is indispensable and essential to the existence of any efficient, or well organized system of government: if we consult reason, and be ruled by its dictates, we shall find its justification there: if we review the experience we have had, or contemplate the history of nations, there too we shall find ample reasons to prove its expediency. It would be preposterous to depend for necessary supplies on a body which is fully possessed of the power of withholding them. If a government depends on other governments for its revenues; if it must depend on the voluntary contributions of its members, its existence must be precarious. A government that relies on thirteen independent sovereignties for the means of its existence, is a solecism in theory, and a mere nullity in practice. Is it consistent with reason, that such a government can promote the happiness of any people? It is subversive of every principle of sound policy, to trust the safety of a community with a government totally destitute of the means of protecting itself or its members. Can Congress, after the repeated unequivocal proofs it has experienced of the utter inutility and inefficacy of requisitions, reasonably expect that they would be hereafter effectual or productive?
Will not the same local interests, and other causes, militate against a compliance? Whoever hopes the contrary must for ever be disappointed. The effect, sir, cannot be changed without a removal of the cause. Let each county in this commonwealth be supposed free and independent: let your revenues depend on requisitions of proportionate quotas from them: let application be made to them repeatedly, and then ask yourself, is it to be presumed that they would comply, or that an adequate collection could be made from partial compliances? It is now difficult to collect the taxes from them: how much would that difficulty be enhanced, were you to depend solely on their generosity? I appeal to the reason of every gentleman here, and to his candor, to say whether he is not persuaded that the present confederation is as feeble as the government of Virginia would be in that case; to the same reason I appeal, whether it be compatible with prudence to continue a government of such manifest and palpable weakness and inefficiency.
Constitutional government in the United States began, in its national phase, with the inauguration of Washington, but the experiment was for a long time a doubtful one. Of the two parties, the federal and the anti-federal parties, which had faced one another on the question of the adoption of the Constitution, the latter had disappeared. Its conspicuous failure to achieve the fundamental object of its existence, and the evident hopelessnesss of reversing its failure