The Anti-Federalists Foresaw the Federal Government’s Abuse of Right to Tax

The Anti-Federalists argued against the Federalists that the Constitution gave too much power to the federal government and potentiated “usurpations” of power, “invasions” of the people’s rights, and a “consolidated” government.[1]

The Federalists believed the “Constitution’s exquisite design”[2] would prevent such violations. Also, both Madison and Hamilton argued that the people and militias would prevent that from happening. Unfortunately, the Federalists were wrong and the Anti-Federalists were correct.

“Today, the national government itself arbitrarily decides what the Constitution means. It claims a monopoly of interpreting the very document that was intended to restrain it.”[3]

Jefferson warned in 1798, in the Kentucky Resolutions, “[I]t has become the sole and final judge of the extent of its own powers. And it has used this prerogative to enlarge those powers to monstrous dimensions.”[4]

December 13, 1787, an Anti-Federalist named Brutus warned that the new Congress would one day exercise unlimited taxations thereby making the states dependent upon the federal government for their financial survival. To say this was prophetic is not an overstatement, but rather as precise of a prediction as one could imagine.

In reference to the first article, 8th section of the Constitution, which grants the federal government power to tax, Brutus warned, “We may say then that this clause commits to the hands of the general legislature every conceivable source of revenue within the United States.”[5]

Commenting upon the absolute power this deposits in the federal government, Brutus said, “He that has the purse will have the sword, and they that have both, have everything….The legislature of the United States will have a right to exhaust every source of revenue in every state, and to annul all laws of the states which may stand in the way of effecting it.”[6]

Think public education and direct taxation of individuals of sovereign states!


[1] Bruce Frohnen, ed., The Anti-Federalists: Selected Writings and Speeches, (Washington D.C., Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1999), vii.
[2] Ibid., ix.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., 409.
[6] Ibid., 410-411.