The revolutionary Government of '76 could not, we believe, lay taxes.
That power was reserved by the States.
Of course, when they created a currency they had nothing better to make it out of than their simple promise to pay. Backed by no substantial means to redeem this promise, it is not wonderful that the currency thus created should speedily decay.
Our own Provisional Congress had greatly the advantage of that of '76.
the power to tax, but did not do it. They had, also, the power to purchase, at peace prices or at a very small advance upon peace prices, all the cotton in the Confederacy
We have heard that they were besieged by petitions from immense numbers of planters, praying them to take their cotton at twenty cents; but they turned a deaf ear to the prayer.
Their proceedings were secret, and therefore we cannot know whether this was so or not. We suppose they will one day be made public.
History has a right to know who was foremost in opposing these petitions, and what was the prevailing motive.
If any man, or set of men, opposed their reception because he hoped that the existence of the war would enhance the value of cotton and put money in his or their pockets, the fact should be transmitted to posterity for the benefit of mankind.
It should be understood how aptself-interest is to mar schemes of the highest patriotism and the most profound wisdom.
Be all this as it may, the Congress
laid no tax, and did not take the cotton.
It did, however, authorize the issue of an enormous number of promises to pay without providing any means of payment.
It was compared to the old Congress, and it seemed determined to make the likeness as complete as possible.
In process of time these promises to pay have become a source of serious trouble to the country and no small vexation to Congress.
What is to be done with them.--Their sum total shows the figure of $700,000,000 or thereabouts.
We can learn nothing from the secret proceedings of the House
It is rumored out of doors, however, that this sum is to be funded, and that a heavy tax is to be laid to pay the interest on it.--At the same time another heavy tax is to be laid to support the Government
The tax for the payment of interest must produce at least $40,000,000. The tax in support of Government must produce a great deal more.
The fear is that the people will become discontented under the weight of the heavy taxation necessary to obtain both these objects at the same time.
We made a proposition the other day — or perhaps it is more correct to say we suggested a plan — for obviating these difficulties.
It is to postpone the payment of the interest of the debt until after the war.
We are aware that this will be called a proposal to repudiate.
We do not regard it as such.
On the contrary, we look upon it as a conservative proposition, intended to obviate the necessity
of repudiating at a future day. It is a mere postponement of payment, the result of a stringent necessity, which is common enough in the transactions of every day life.
Congress itself — or, if not Congress, at least the State Legislatures
— have passed laws prohibiting the compulsory collection of debts during the present state of affairs.
Nobody complains of these laws, so far as we can understand, and they are not understood to encourage the least approach to repudiation.
Why not place the public and the private debtor on the same footing, and compel both to wait for their money until the termination of these troubles?
Relieved from this burthen for the present, at a time when her energies are most required for the prosecution of the war, the country could put forth ten-fold strength in the support of the Government
it has chosen.
Nor do we conceive that the public faith will in the slightest degree be impugned, or the public credit called in question by the act. The people know that the Government
is embarrassed — that it is carrying on a tremendous war — that it requires the earnest support of every citizen — and that if it fail, subjugation follows as a necessary consequence, when the payment of this debt will not only be postponed, but postponed indefinitely.
They will acquiesce cheerfully in the postponement, if they can thereby assist in escaping the terrible catastrophe.