What did James Madison say about taxes and the new government in response to Patrick Henry?

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Patrick Henry objected giving powers to the federal government so that it could tax citizens from different states. He argued that the state governments were doing well with collecting their taxes, and there was no need to give all that power to a general government since it could be dangerous...

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Patrick Henry objected giving powers to the federal government so that it could tax citizens from different states. He argued that the state governments were doing well with collecting their taxes, and there was no need to give all that power to a general government since it could be dangerous in the long run. The federal government would get too big to control. On the other hand, James Madison argued that direct taxes were necessary if the federation was to survive against an external attack. He argued that other countries were riddled with debt after war because they didn't have a proper tax collection system. He urged the states to ratify the Articles of the Confederation and give the general government the power to tax citizens so that the nation would have enough money to fund its military if a war ever broke out.

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James Madison's response to Patrick Henry on taxation in 1788 during a Constitutional debate was that direct taxation faces general objections and that individuals should only be taxed when it's necessary for the government to raise money. He believed that it's not to the advantage of government officials to use taxation as a tool to oppress the people. Madison pointed out that many nations face enormous debts not to run government, but to fight wars. He raised questions as to how else the government would pay for war to defend itself. He suggested that it was necessary to establish funds available to the general government for extraordinary events.

Henry opposed strong central powers of a federal government and was a supporter of states' rights. He wanted amendments to be added to the Constitution that weakened federal power.

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Madison believed that the government should have the power to tax American citizens as much as it wanted because of what those taxes would be used for: national defense, the protection of the people's rights and freedoms, and any other services they might require. In other words, the United States government had a duty to its citizens, and it needed money to fulfill its obligations to the people.

In Federalist Paper 45, written in 1788, Madison addressed the federal government's power of taxation directly:

The change relating to taxation may be regarded as the most important; and yet the present Congress has the complete authority to REQUIRE of the States indefinite supplies of money for the common defense and general welfare, as the future Congress will have to require them of individual citizens.

While both Madison and Henry believed in the importance of individual liberty, Madison thought Henry's take on the concept was too idealistic. Madison was most concerned with how the United States would act on the world stage—and the word "united" for him was key. He felt that the United States needed to present itself as a tight-knit, unified country, not a conglomeration of factions that may or may not be on the same page policy-wise. For Madison, the way to do this was to have a centralized government that would represent all of America and speak on its behalf in global discourse.

Additionally, Madison believed that a representative democracy staffed by a handful of prudent men (and it was all men in those days) would ensure that decisions were made for the common good and not in the interest of only one of the factions being represented.

In the same vein, Madison strongly favored the checks and balances system enabled by the separation of federal power into three distinct yet equal branches. Henry, in contrast, believed power should stay with the states, and the conflict between he and Madison was a hint of the far greater and more brutal civil conflict that lay ahead for the young United States.

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