The Federalist Papers has posted a PDF copy of an Elementary Catechism on the Constitution from 1828 written by Arthur J. Stansbury. I’m publishing it on Mondays in a series of posts. Because the date of publication was 1828, some content has been changed by later Constitutional amendments. There are no sections in the book, so I’m dividing it into any natural breaks of topics and the posts will vary in length. Any emphases within the text are Stansbury’s.
There’s a clear gap between the way things are, and the way things are supposed to be.
XII. Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises
Q. What power is given to Congress, by the Constitution?
A. Congress has power to do the following things: — It may “lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises.”
Q. What do you mean by these different terms? What is a Tax ?
A. A Tax means a sum of money which the people are directed to pay, to support the Government, and defence of the Country.
Q. What are Duties?
A. Duties are sums of money, which must be paid by persons who bring goods of any kind from another country, into the United States, and which are in proportion to the quantity or value of such goods. It is paid at certain places called Custom-houses, and is sent from these to the Treasury of the United States.
Q. What are Imposts?
A. Imposts are sums of money which must be paid to the Government, by persons owning vessels, which enter the harbors of the United States, in proportion to the size of the vessels. An Impost is a duty on vessels.
Q. What are Excises?
A. Excises are sums of money which must be paid to the Government, by persons who make certain articles within the United States, in proportion to the quantity or value of the articles manufactured.
Q. What do you mean by laying these, and what by collecting them?
A. Laying a Tax, &c. is determining how much it shall be; and collecting a Tax, &c. is obliging the people to pay it.
Q. Could any Government long exist without this power?
A. No. Every Government must have large sums of money, to use for the public good, and this is the proper way of getting it.
Q. Ought the people to complain of having to pay Taxes and Duties?
A. Certainly not; because they all receive the benefit. If nobody would pay Taxes, nobody could be defended by armies, fleets, or forts ; nobody could be paid for making or for executing the laws; the whole country would soon be without law, safety, or order; and we should all be miserable. Whoever, therefore, cheats the Government of its duties, does in reality cheat himself and his neighbor, and acts like the enemy of his country.
Q. May one part of the United States be required to pay at a greater rate than the rest?
A. No; “all Duties, Imposts, and Excises must be uniform throughout the United States.”
Elementary Catechism on the Constitution posts:
Elementary Catechism on the Constitution (Preface)
I. The Necessity of Government and Its Forms
II. The American Revolution
III. The Occasion and Purpose of the Constitution
IV. State and National Laws
V. The House of Representatives
VI. The Senate
VIII. Impeachment of the President & The Rule of Law
IX. Meetings of Congress
X. Members of Congress
XI. The Making of Federal Laws
Book image from The Federalist Papers. Other reading formats of the Elementary Catechism on the Constitution can be found here.