The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis of Essay 35

Summary

Hamilton defends the unfettered ability of the national government to levy taxes from the perspective of equality and fairness. He asserts that if the union were only allowed to levy certain taxes, then the tax burden would be unequally distributed among the population. For example, if only imports could be taxed, then merchant classes and states that rely primarily on imports would suffer disproportionately.

Hamilton also answers the claim that the constitution ought to ensure that the house of representatives have representatives from all classes of people, such laborers, merchants, learned professionals, etc. Hamilton responds that such a provision is unnecessary since people from certain classes can still represent those from other classes. For example, merchants have an interest in protecting the interests of manufacturers since they provide the items that merchants trade. Hamilton predicts that the house will mostly be composed of landholders, merchants, and learned professionals (such as lawyers); however, this will not be a problem, since these classes of men are still accountable to voters of all classes and will therefore be motivated to understand their constituents’ diverse needs.

Analysis

Hamilton plays on the particular fears of New York voters, whose livelihoods depend heavily on commerce. He warns that restricting the powers of the union to tax only certain items would ultimately lead to an unequal distribution of the tax burden. Hamilton uses the example of an import tax, which would fall disproportionately on states like New York that depend heavily on imports for economic growth.

Hamilton furthermore engages in an interesting discussion on class relations in the United States. Hamilton advances the hypothesis that it is not necessary for the Constitution to impose class-based quotas on the membership of the House of Representatives. He argues essentially that economic and political interests transcend social class. For example, a merchant has an interest in protecting the interests of manufacturers. It is important to note that while this is a widely held view in America’s meritocratic society and market-based economy, other civilizations have throughout history adopted very different perspectives. In particular, the 19th and 20th centuries saw the rise of Marxism, which contends that classes have distinct and irreconcilable economic interests.