17 October 2012

Robert Morris – Increase Taxes

The Whiskey Rebellion by William Hodgeland, 2006, Excerpts

Creditors wondered how Congress could reliably fund such bills. Robert Morris showed them how. He was fat; his financial presence was fatter. He owned ships and warehouses and ran his own networking of trading partners, connecting Philadelphia to New Orleans, Europe, and the West Indies; soon he’d be investing in the China trade. He hadn’t favored American independence, but given a fait accompli, Morris would find opportunities. Exploiting the potential of a war economy, he hoped to unleash high finance, turn America into a commercial empire, and make the merchant class fabulously rich.

In Morris’s view, Congress wasn’t collecting the necessary taxes from the mass of ordinary people. He therefore became intent on imposing on all people, throughout the states, direct federal taxes, payable by the people to Congress – in coin. These taxes would be collected not by weak state governments but by a powerful cadre of federal officers. Once people were inured to direct federal taxation, Morris told Hamilton, cash poll taxes, cash land taxes, and cash excise taxes would soon follow. To ensure payment to the creditors, Morris intended to open, as he put it, the purses of the people. That those purses were almost always empty of the metal he wanted did not faze him.

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