[The Anti-Federalist Papers] contain warnings of dangers from tyranny that weaknesses in the proposed Constitution did not adequately provide against, and while some of those weaknesses were corrected by adoption of the Bill of Rights, others remained, and some of these dangers are now coming to pass.
Both the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers are writings with which every student of the American political system should be familiar. Among my favorites are Brutus V and Brutus VI in which Robert Yates, who wrote in the New York Journal under the pseudonym "Brutus", logically analyzes the "general welfare" clause as well as the likely consequences of granting the federal government the power to levy excise taxes . Yates' prescience should not be surprising. His work illustrates the enormous power of thinking in principle, a concept totally foreign to modern intellectuals and their dimwitted albeit loyal offspring - modern politicians. Some excellent context on Brutus by Professor Gary Galles can be found here. As Professor Galles states:
The anti-federalists opposed the Constitution on the grounds that its checks on federal power would be undermined by expansive interpretations of promoting the "general welfare" (which would be claimed for all laws) and the "all laws necessary and proper" clause (which would expand limited federal power to all-inclusive), leading to a federal government so powerful that its powers were bound to be abused.
One particular concern was that it gave the national government almost unlimited taxing discretion.
In Brutus V, Yates writes:
1st. To detail the particulars comprehended in the general terms, taxes, duties, imposts and excises, would require a volume, instead of a single piece in a news-paper. Indeed it would be a task far beyond my ability, and to which no one can be competent, unless possessed of a mind capable of comprehending every possible source of revenue; for they extend to every possible way of raising money, whether by direct or indirect taxation. Under this clause may be imposed a poll-tax, a land-tax, a tax on houses and buildings, on windows and fire places, on cattle and on all kinds of personal property: -- It extends to duties on all kinds of goods to any amount, to tonnage and poundage on vessels, to duties on written instruments, newspapers, almanacks, and books: -- It comprehends an excise on all kinds of liquors, spirits, wines, cyder, beer, etc. and indeed takes in duty or excise on every necessary or conveniency of life; whether of foreign or home growth or manufactory. In short, we can have no conception of any way in which a government can raise money from the people, butwhat is included in one or other of three general terms. We may say then that this clause commits to the hands of the general legislature every conceivable source of revenue within the United States. Not only are these terms very comprehensive, and extend to a vast number of objects, but the power to lay and collect has great latitude; it will lead to the passing a vast number of laws, which may affect the personal rights of the citizens of the states, expose their property to fines and confiscation, and put their lives in jeopardy: it opens a door to the appointment of a swarm of revenue and excise officers to pray [sic] upon the honest and industrious part of the community, eat up their substance, and riot on the spoils of the country.
Yates continues in Brutus VI with one of my favorite passages:
This power, exercised without limitation, will introduce itself into every comer of the city, and country — It will wait upon the ladies at their toilett, and will not leave them in any of their domestic concerns; it will accompany them to the ball, the play, and the assembly; it will go with them when they visit, and will, on all occasions, sit beside them in their carriages, nor will it desert them even at church; it will enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook in the kitchen, follow the servants into the parlour, preside over the table, and note down all he eats or drinks; it will attend him to his bed-chamber, and watch him while he sleeps; it will take cognizance of the professional man in his office, or his study; it will watch the merchant in the counting-house, or in his store; it will follow the mechanic to his shop, and in his work, and will haunt him in his family, and in his bed; it will be a constant companion of the industrious farmer in all his labour, it will be with him in the house, and in the field, observe the toil of his hands, and the sweat of his brow; it will penetrate into the most obscure cottage; and finally, it will light upon the head of every person in the United States. To all these different classes of people, and in all these circumstances, in which it will attend them, the language in which it will address them, will be GIVE! GIVE!
I agree with Professor Galles conclusion:
If Brutus was here to witness our current tax tab, he would conclude that he had been far too optimistic. A federal government, grown orders of magnitudes larger than he could ever have imagined, guarantees tax burdens beyond his worst nightmare.