“In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” Thomas Jefferson
The Constitution is premised on the fact that humans are flawed, that leaders lust for power and that power corrupts. Rather than hoping those in government exercise restraint, the Constitution counts on the self-interest of different sovereigns and divisions within government to obstruct the general government. For this reason, the general government was separated into three branches of government. Congress was subdivided into two houses (the House representing the sovereign people, the Senate representing the sovereign States). And the social contract granted only limited powers to the general government.
But the Constitution contained one last, infallible, “chain” to bind politicians from the mischief of ambition and lust for power. This “chain” was found in Article I, Section 2(3), and Article I, Section 9(4).
The delegates to the Constitutional Convention were in agreement that the general government needed the power to tax. But there were two problems. First, the delegates knew that the power to tax was the power to enslave the People and lead to a ruling political class. So, if the general government was going to be given the power to tax, it needed to be done in a way least likely to enslave. Second, there needed to be a method of taxing that was more just than the system under the Article of Confederation. The Constitution solved both problems.
For example, under the Articles of Confederation, each State had one vote in Congress. To protect the people from the general government, Congress could not tax the people directly. Instead, each State was taxed based on the value of land in each respective State. As a result, larger states paid more in taxes to the general government than did smaller states. This aspect seemed patently unfair to the States paying more since they still only had one vote in Congress.
Just like the Articles of Confederation, the original Constitution only allowed the general government to tax the States, and not the people. Thus it preserved the function of the States as a wall of protection from enslavement by the general government. But it changed the way it taxed the States that was not only more just, but also built in another layer of protection from the growth of, and concentration of power in, the general government.
Instead of taxing the States based on the State’s land value, the Constitution, as originally adopted, taxed each State based on how many seats each State held in the House of Representatives. This was genius. For every spending bill Congress passed, the States knew they would get the bill. And the States with more votes in Congress knew their State would get a larger tax bill. And since the State legislatures would have to figure out how to tax the residents of their respective states to raise the taxes to cover Congressional spending, those legislatures would make certain the U.S. Senator they appointed was keenly aware of the dilemma.
The Constitutional wall that protected the People from direct taxation, and thus prevented the growth and concentration of power in Washington, was destroyed in 1913 by the adoption of the 16th Amendment.