Hamilton Rolls His Eyes - Federalist #31

Hamilton Rolls His Eyes - Federalist #31

In Federalist #31, Alexander Hamilton reprimands the Anti-Federalists for thier opposition to the Constitution’s ability to raise taxes.

Hamilton outlines the government’s right to tax in three points, before accusing his enemies of getting lost in their own arguments.

Federalist #31

Alexander Hamilton

January 1, 1788

On the first day of 1788, Alexander Hamilton continues his discussion of the need for a National Government with the ability to collect taxes in Federalist #31.

This Paper was written to dismiss the idea proposed by Anti-Federalists that the United States under the Constitution will create such a burden on the people that the individual States will not be able to raise enough revenue for their own governments.

Hamilton’s tone in this Paper, as it has been before, comes off sounding very much like the intention of the article was: dismissive. He speaks down toward his opponents, opting to imply they are foolish instead of attempting to convince them of his arguments with rational debate.

Threefold Need For Taxation

Hamilton’s argument in Federalist #31 for the Federal Government’s ability to tax comes down to three points:

  1. A government needs to have full power to accomplish the tasks which it has been assigned.

  2. Since it is impossible to predict what tasks a government will need to carry out in the future, the power of that government cannot be limited.

  3. A government’s power is based on the amount of money it has at its disposal.

Therefore, by Hamilton’s assessment, limiting a government’s ability to raise revenue will limit its ability to carry out its assigned tasks.

The Anti-Federalist Point of View

While discussing this issue, Alexander claims that, much like science and math, there are certain unquestionable truths about politics.

His opponents, in his opinion, are either acting maliciously in their fight against the Constitution or have ‘entangle(d) themselves in words’ and become confused by their own logic.

What Hamilton seems to have overlooked is that the Anti-Federalist’s concerns are that the Constitution might limit their State Governments from doing exactly as he said…raising money to carry out the tasks to which they have been assigned.

He also seems to be blinded by his very pro-British attitude. When they were colonists, the Founders did not want to pay taxes to the Mother Country so that their money could be spent elsewhere instead of helping the community they lived in. Only seven years had passed since the Victory at Yorktown and these ideas were still fresh in many people’s minds.

Speaking of Anti-Federalists, if yo’d like to learn about some of them, check out these articles:

Robert Yates Storms Out of the Constitutional Convention

Rawlins Lowndes Overrules the Stamp Act

William Grayson - The First Senator to Die in Office

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