FEDERALIST No. 21
Other Defects of the
By Alexander Hamilton
for the Independent Journal
To the People
of the State of New York:
HAVING in the
three last numbers taken a summary review of the principal circumstances
and events which have depicted the genius and fate of other confederate
governments, I shall now proceed in the enumeration of the most
important of those defects which have hitherto disappointed our
hopes from the system established among ourselves. To form a safe
and satisfactory judgment of the proper remedy, it is absolutely
necessary that we should be well acquainted with the extent and
malignity of the disease.
. . . There
is no method of steering clear of this inconvenience, but by authorizing
the national government to raise its own revenues in its own way.
Imposts, excises, and, in general, all duties upon articles of consumption,
may be compared to a fluid, which will, in time, find its level
with the means of paying them. The amount to be contributed by each
citizen will in a degree be at his own option, and can be regulated
by an attention to his resources. The rich may be extravagant, the
poor can be frugal; and private oppression may always be avoided
by a judicious selection of objects proper for such impositions.
If inequalities should arise in some States from duties on particular
objects, these will, in all probability, be counterbalanced by proportional
inequalities in other States, from the duties on other objects.
In the course of time and things, an equilibrium, as far as it is
attainable in so complicated a subject, will be established everywhere.
Or, if inequalities should still exist, they would neither be so
great in their degree, so uniform in their operation, nor so odious
in their appearance, as those which would necessarily spring from
quotas, upon any scale that can possibly be devised.
It is a single
advantage of taxes on articles of consumption, that they contain
in their own nature a security against excess.