A Government for Free
Shows how the Federalists responded to the Antifederalist objections to a stronger national government in the “fiscal‐military” sphere, thereby creating an understanding of the kind of state that was proper to American conditions. In the debate over ratification of the US Constitution there was little discussion about the exact way in which the Federalists intended to organize the revenue administration, but nevertheless, it is the argument of this chapter that with the important exception of the assumption of the state debts, the general outline of Hamiltonian public finance was in place in 1787, and widely shared by the supporters of the Constitution. Thus, the idea that the least oppressive tax was also the most productive, the claim that adoption of the Constitution would mean a change in the structure of taxation from direct to indirect taxes and a reliance on the impost (customs duties), and the ideal of the federal government as a “waterfront state” hardly noticed by the people, were all among the most important points made in Federalist rhetoric on the fiscal powers of the Constitution. In the ratifying debate, the Federalists presented a solution to the equation of how to create a sufficiently powerful government without making unacceptable demands on society: the federal government had the right to mobilize the full resources of society at will, but in peacetime it would keep a very low profile while assuming the payment of the union's debts and the cost of defense using money raised by taxation. This federal assumption of expenses that had earlier been carried by the states, and the mode of raising the taxes to pay for it ensured that overall taxation would not increase, as the Antifederalists claimed, but would become less burdensome to the majority of the people.
Keywords: Antifederalism, defense, direct taxation, federal assumption of expenses, federal government, Federalism, fiscal powers, Hamiltonian public finance, impost, indirect taxation, public debts, public finance, ratification, revenue administration, tax burden, taxation, US Constitution, USA
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