It’s always very exciting to find an obscure historical document that backs up one of your political positions, especially when it makes an opposing group look bad. I can imagine that Salon blogger Paul J. O’Rourke experienced that same kind of schadenfreude when he stumbled across “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen”, legislation from 1798 that would appear to back up his position that a individual mandate to carry health insurance is in line with the Constitution. After all, if James Adams approved, how can you argue against original intent?
On the surface, he appears to be correct. Until, that is, you actually take on the chore of reading the entire thing. Or, heck, even just the first paragraph. Take a look for yourself:
That from and after the first day of September next, the master or owner of every ship or vessel of the United States, arriving from a foreign port into any port of the United States, shall, before such ship or vessel shall be admitted to an entry, render to the collector a true account of the number of seamen, that shall have been employed on board such vessel since she was last entered at any port in the United States,-and shall pay to the said collector, at the rate of twenty cents per month for every seaman so employed; which sum he is hereby authorized to retain out of the wages of such seamen. (emphasis mine)
Huh. So, basically, this applied to foreign trade only. And the ability to regulate foreign trade is rather expressly found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
Better luck next time, dude.