-Thursday, Aug. 16, 1787
Yesterday James Madison of Virginia was defeated for the third time in his effort to make all acts passed by Congress subject to joint review by the President and the Supreme Court.
WITHOUT dissent or debate the Convention today granted the new Congress the power to levy and collect taxes and to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. It also gave Congress the sole power to coin money and regulate the value of foreign coin, to fix the standard of weights and measures, and to establish post offices.
By granting Congress the power to tax, the Convention solves a major problem that has hobbled the country under the Articles of Confederation. Currently, the Continental Congress in New York has no power to levy taxes on individual citizens, nor can it force the 13 States to pay the nation's debts through the system of voluntary compliance with requisitions for funds.
Today's decisions imply that the States will be forbidden to tax or to restrain interstate or foreign commerce, which amounts to a fundamental shift of power to the proposed new national government.
The States will also lose the right to coin money other than gold and silver and will be forbidden to issue ``bills of credit'' or paper money. On this issue, the Convention was virtually unanimous, mindful of the savage inflation during the last decade.
Seven States during the Revolution had printed paper currency and refused to raise taxes. The Continental Congress had issued its own paper currency, leading to the widespread statement ``Not worth a continental.''
The memory of the scourge of inflation is so strong that the delegates voted nine States to two prohibiting the new national government from printing paper money. Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania warned: ``The Monied interest will oppose the plan of Government, if paper emissions be not prohibited.''
Col. George Mason of Virginia said that, while he had a ``mortal hatred to paper money,'' he was unwilling to absolutely tie the hands of the government. ``The late war could not have been carried on, had such a prohibition existed,'' Colonel Mason added.
John Mercer of Maryland cautioned that forbidding the new government to emit bills of credit would produce political conflicts between friends and foes of paper money and jeopardize approval of the new government.
Oliver Ellsworth spoke for the majority, however, when he said:
``This [is] a favorable moment to shut and bar the door against paper money. The mischiefs of the various experiments which [have] been made, [are] now fresh in the public mind and [have] excited the disgust of all the respectable part of America. By withholding the power from the new Governt. more friends of influence would be gained to it than by almost any thing else. Paper money can in no case be necessary. The power may do harm, never good.''
The Convention's strong stand today in favor of hard money underscores Rhode Island's refusal to send a State delegation to Philadelphia. That State is currently in the hands of politicians who favor paper money. They may be forced by the new national government to pay Rhode Island's debts in gold and silver and not inflated paper. The Providence government's paper money policy has earned the State the nickname ``Rogue Island.''
These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.