The difficulties encountered by the central government in securing funds to carry on the Revolutionary War warranted some express provisions in the Federal Constitution in regard to revenues. The underlying difficulty was that the Continental Congress had no compelling power, neither had it any independent source of revenue. Its sole course was to make requisitions upon the colonies, but it could not enforce payment. The Colonial revenue systems were simple, and had never been strained by heavy demands, since the governmental functions were comparatively few and inexpensive. To expect them to respond to such a need as a national war would have been to expect entirely too much. Indeed, the results were even better than such a loose arrangement might warrant, for more than 50 per cent of the paper money requisitions were paid, and about 15 per cent of the specie demands.

The fiscal provisions in* the Articles of Confederation illustrate the lack of power of the central government. No state was expected to levy duties that would interfere with any treaties into which Congress might enter. All the general expenses were to be met from a common fund, which was to be supplied by the various states in proportion to the value of land and improvements. The levies and collections were to be made by state authorities.

The lack of any power to enforce these provisions resulted in a dearth of funds. An attempt was made in 1781 to get the consent of the states to a rather general 5 per cent tax on imports. In spite of many protests and much coercion, Rhode Island remained firm against the measure and its adoption failed. Two years later an attempt was made to secure import duties on certain specific articles, the collection to be made by state officials. Less interest was shown in this than in the previous proposition, and the continued opposition of New York kept the proposal from becoming active.