On the eve of Independence Day, many Americans are still digesting last Thursday’s ruling in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared that Congress has the authority to tax the free and independent people of the United States for the offense of not following orders Congress has given. Moreover, the content of those orders is limited only by the imaginations of the 535 members of Congress.
What might the Founders of this nation, the men who risked death to secure for posterity the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, think of such a turn of events?
As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his ruling, “the Government’s logic would justify a mandatory purchase to solve almost any problem.” However, he wrote, although Congress may not impose such mandates under the Commerce Clause, it may pass them and then tax anyone who disobeys. That calls to memory the colonial reaction to the little-remembered Declaratory Act of 1766.
Parliament’s attempt to tax Americans without representation via the Stamp Act of 1765 was a dismal failure. To temper the calls for rebellion, Parliament repealed the act. But in its place it passed the Declaratory Act, which asserted “the king’s Majesty… had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.”