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POLITICAL RIGHTS AND SOVEREIGNTY. - Jonathan Elliot, The Debates in the Several State Conventions of the Adoption of the Federal Constitution vol. 1 
The debates in the several state conventions on the adoption of the federal Constitution, as recommended by the general convention at Philadelphia, in 1787. Together with the Journal of the federal convention, Luther Martin’s letter, Yates’s minutes, Congressional opinions, Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of ‘98-‘99, and other illustrations of the Constitution … 2d ed., with considerable additions. Collected and rev. from contemporary publications, by Jonathan Elliot. Pub. under the sanction of Congress. (1836), 5 vols.
Part of: The Debates in the Several State Conventions of the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, 5 vols.
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POLITICAL RIGHTS AND SOVEREIGNTY.
Respecting the political rights and sovereignty of the several colonies, and of the union which was thus spontaneously formed by the people of the United Colonies, by the declaration of independence, Judge Story, in his Commentaries on the Constitution, remarks: —
In the first place, antecedent to the declaration of independence, none of the colonies were, or pretended to be, sovereign states, in the sense in which the term “sovereign” is sometimes applied to the states. The term “sovereign,” or “sovereignty,” is used in different senses, which often leads to a confusion of ideas, and sometimes to very mischievous and unfounded conclusions. By “sovereignty,” in its largest sense, is meant supreme, absolute, uncontrollable power, the jus summi imperii. the absolute right to govern. A state or nation is a body politic, or society of men, united together for the purpose of promoting their mutual safety and advantage by their combined strength. By the very act of civil and political association, each citizen subjects himself to the authority of the whole; and the authority of all over each member essentially belongs to the body politic. A state which possesses this absolute power, without any dependence upon any foreign power or state, is in the largest sense a sovereign state. And it is wholly immaterial what is the form of the government, or by whose hands this absolute authority is exercised. It may be exercised by the people at large, as in a pure democracy; or by a select few, as in an absolute aristocracy; or by a single person, as in an absolute monarchy. But “sovereignty” is often used, in a far more limited sense than that of which we have spoken, to designate such political powers as, in the actual organization of the particular state or nation, are to be exclusively exercised by certain public functionaries, without the control of any superior authority. It is in this sense that Blackstone employs it, when he says that it is of “the very essence of a law, that it is made by the supreme power. Sovereignty and legislature are, indeed, convertible terms; one cannot subsist without the other.” Now, in every limited government, the power of legislation is, or at least may be, limited at the will of the nation; and therefore the legislature is not in an absolute sense sovereign. It is in the same sense that Blackstone says, “the law ascribes to the king of England the attribute of sovereignty or preeminence,” because, in respect to the powers confided to him, he is dependent on no man, and accountable to no man, and subjected to no superior jurisdiction. Yet the king of England cannot make a law; and his acts, beyond the powers assigned to him by the constitution, are utterly void.
In like manner, the word “state” is used in various senses. In its most enlarged sense, it means the people composing a particular nation or community. In this sense, the “state” means the whole people, united into one body politic; and the state, and the people of the state, are equivalent expressions. Mr. Justice Wilson, in his Law Lectures, uses the word “state” in its broadest sense. “In free states,” says he, “the people form an artificial person, or body politic, the highest and noblest that can be known. They form that moral person, which, in one of my former lectures, I described as a complete body of free, natural persons, united together for their common benefit; as having an understanding and a will; as deliberating, and resolving, and acting; as possessed of interests which it ought to manage; as enjoying rights which it ought to maintain; and as lying under obligations which it ought to perform. To this moral person we assign, by way of eminence, the dignified appellation of State.” But there is a more limited sense, in which the word is often used, where it expresses merely the positive or actual organization of legislative, executive, or judicial powers. Thus the actual government of a state is frequently designated by the name of the state. We say, the state has power to do this or that; the state has passed a law, or prohibited an act; meaning no more than that the proper functionaries, organized for that purpose, have power to do the act, or have passed the law, or prohibited the particular action. The sovereignty of a nation or state, considered with reference to its association, as a body politic, may be absolute and uncontrollable in all respects, except the limitations which it chooses to impose upon itself. But the sovereignty of the government, organized within the state, may be of a very limited nature. It may extend to a few, or to many objects. It may be unlimited, as to some; it may be restrained, as to others. To the extent of the power given, the government may be sovereign, and its acts may be deemed the sovereign acts of the state. Nay, the state, by which we mean the people composing the state, may divide its sovereign powers among various functionaries, and each, in the limited sense, would be sovereign in respect to the powers confided to each, and dependent in all other cases. Strictly speaking, in our republican forms of government, the absolute sovereigny of the nation is in the people of the nation; and the residuary sovereignty of each state, not granted to any of its public functionaries, is in the people of the state.*
There is another mode in which we speak of a state as sovereign, and that is in reference to foreign states. Whatever may be the internal organization of the government of any state, if it has the sole power of governing itself, and is not dependent upon any foreign state, it is called a sovereign state; that is, it is a state having the same rights, privileges, and powers, as other independent states. It is in this sense that the term is generally used in treatises and discussions on the law of nations.
Now, it is apparent that none of the colonies, before the revolution, were, in the most large and general sense, independent or sovereign communities. They were all originally settled under, and subjected to, the British crown. Their powers and authorities were derived from, and limited by, their respective charters. All, or nearly all, of these charters controlled their legislation by prohibiting them from making laws repugnant, or contrary, to those of England. The crown, in many of them, possessed a negative upon their legislation, as well as the exclusive appointment of their superior officers, and a right of revision, by way of appeal, of the judgments of their courts. In their most solemn declarations of rights, they admitted themselves bound, as British subjects, to allegiance to the British crown; and, as such, they claimed to be entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities, of free-born British subjects. They denied all power of taxation, except by their own colonial legislatures; but at the same time they admitted themselves bound by acts of the British Parliament for the regulation of external commerce, so as to secure the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members. So far as respects foreign states, the colonies were not, in the sense of the law of nations, sovereign states, but mere dependencies of Great Britain. They could make no treaty, declare no war, send no ambassadors, regulate no intercourse or commerce, nor, in any other shape, act as sovereigns, in the negotiations usual between independent states. In respect to each other, they stood in the common relation of British subjects; the legislation of neither could be controlled by any other; but there was a common subjection to the British crown. If in any sense they might claim the attributes of sovereignty, it was only in that subordinate sense to which we have alluded, as exercising within a limited extent certain usual powers of sovereignty. They did not even affect to claim a local allegiance.
In the next place, the colonies did not severally act for themselves, and proclaim their own independence. It is true that some of the states had previously formed incipient governments for themselves; but it was done in compliance with the recommendations of Congress. Virginia, on the 29th of June, 1776, by a convention of delegates, declared “the government of this country, as formerly exercised under the crown of Great Britain, totally dissolved,” and proceeded to form a new constitution of government. New Hampshire also formed a government, in December; 1775, which was manifestly intended to be temporary, “during (as they said) the unhappy and unnatural contest with Great Britain.” New Jersey, too, established a frame of government, on the 2d of July, 1776; but it was expressly declared that it should be void upon a reconciliation with Great Britain. And South Carolina, in March, 1776, adopted a constitution of government; but this was, in like manner, “established until an accommodation between Great Britain and America could be obtained.” But the declaration of the independence of all the colonies was the united act of all. It was “a declaration by the representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled;” “by the delegates appointed by the good people of the colonies,” as in a prior declaration of rights they were called. It was not an act done by the state governments then organized; nor by persons chosen by them. It was emphatically the act of the whole people of the United Colonies, by the instrumentality of their representatives, chosen for that among other purposes. It was an act not competent to the state governments, or any of them, as organized under their charters, to adopt. Those charters neither contemplated the case, nor provided for it. It was an act of original, inherent sovereignty by the people themselves, resulting from their right to change the form of government, and to institute a new government, whenever necessary for their safety and happiness. So the Declaration of Independence treats it. No state had presumed of itself to form a new government, or to provide for the exigencies of the times, without consulting Congress on the subject; and when they acted, it was in pursuance of the recommendation of Congress. It was, therefore, the achievement of the whole for the benefit of the whole. The people of the United Colonies made the United Colonies free and independent states, and absolved them from allegiance to the British crown. The Declaration of Independence has accordingly always been treated as an act of paramount and sovereign authority, complete and perfect per se, and ipso facto working an entire dissolution of all political connection with, and allegiance to, Great Britain; and this, not merely as a practical fact, but in a legal and constitutional view of the matter by courts of justice.
In the debates in the South Carolina legislature, in January, 1788, respecting the propriety of calling a convention of the people to ratify or reject the Constitution, a distinguished statesman used the following language: “This admirable manifesto (i. e. the Declaration of Independence) sufficiently refutes the doctrine of the individual sovereignty and independence of the several states. In that Declaration the several states are not even enumerated; but after reciting, in nervous language, and with convincing arguments, our right to independence, and the tyranny which compelled us to assert it, the Declaration is made in the following words: ‘We, therefore, the representatives of the United States, &c., do, in the name, &c., of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish, &c., that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.’ The separate independence and individual sovereignty of the several states were never thought of by the enlightened band of patriots who framed this Declaration. The several states are not even mentioned by name in any part, as if it was intended to impress the maxim on America, that our freedom and independence arose from our union, and that without it we could never be free or independent. Let us then consider all attempts to weaken this union, by maintaining that each state is separately and individually independent, as a species of political heresy, which can never benefit us, but may bring on us the most serious distresses.”
OCCURRENCES INCIDENT TO ACT OF CONFEDERATION
During the time that the Declaration of Independence was under consideration, Congress took the necessary measures for the formation of a constitutional plan of union. On the 11th of June, 1776, it was resolved, that a committee should be appointed to prepare and digest the form of a confederation to be entered into between the colonies; and on the day following, after it had been determined that the committee should consist of a member from each colony, the following persons were appointed to perform that duty, to wit: Mr. Bartlett, Mr. S. Adams, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Sherman, Mr. R. R. Livingston, Mr. Dickinson, Mr. M’Kean, Mr. Stone, Mr. Nelson, Mr. Hewes, Mr. E. Rutledge, and Mr. Gwinnett. Upon the report of this committee, the subject was from time to time debated, until the 15th of November, 1777, when a copy of the Confederation being made out, and sundry amendments made in the diction, without altering the sense, the same was finally agreed to. Congress, at the same time, directed that the Articles should be proposed to the legislatures of all the United States, to be considered; and, if approved of by them, they were advised to authorize their delegates to ratify the same in the Congress of the United States; which being done, the same should become conclusive. Three hundred copies of the Articles of Confederation were ordered to be printed for the use of Congress; and on the 17th of November, the form of a circular letter, to accompany them, was brought in by a committee appointed to prepare it, and, being agreed to, thirteen copies of it were ordered to be made out, to be signed by the president, and forwarded to the several states, with copies of the Confederation. On the 29th of November ensuing, a committee of three was appointed, to procure a translation of the Articles to be made into the French language, and to report an address to the inhabitants of Canada, &c.
On the 26th of June, 1778, the form of a ratification of the Articles of Confederation was adopted; and it was ordered that the whole should be engrossed on parchment, with a view that the same should be signed by the delegates, in virtue of the powers furnished by the several states. On the 20th of June, 1778, Congress resolved, that the delegates of the states, beginning with New Hampshire, should be called upon for the report of their constituents upon the Confederation, and the powers committed to them, and that no amendments should be proposed but such as came from a state. Upon subsequent examination, it appeared that New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, and North Carolina, accepted the Articles as they stood, with a proviso, on the part of New York, that the same should not be binding on the state until all the other states in the Union should ratify the same. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and South Carolina, proposed alterations, additions, or amendments, which, upon their being considered by the Congress, were all rejected. The delegate from Georgia, when called on, stated, that he had not received any instructions from his constituents respecting the Articles of Confederation; but that, his state having shown so much readiness to ratify them, even in an imperfect form, and it being so much for their interest that the Confederation should be ratified, he had no doubt of their agreeing to the Articles as they stood. Delaware and North Carolina having no delegates present in Congress, no report was received from them; but North Carolina had signified her unanimous accession, by a letter from Governor Caswell, of the 26th of April, 1778. On the 9th of July of that year, the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, having been engrossed on a roll of parchinent, was examined, the blanks filled up, and it was signed, on the part and in behalf of their respective states, by the delegates of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina, agreeably to the powers vested in them. The delegates of the states of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, informed Congress that they had not yet received powers to ratify and sign. North Carolina and Georgia were not at that time represented in Congress. A committee was appointed to prepare a circular letter to such states as had not authorized their delegates to ratify the Confederation, which was brought in and adopted, as follows:—
Sir: Congress, intent upon the present and future security of these United States, has never ceased to consider a confederacy as the great principle of union, which can alone establish the liberty of America, and exclude forever the hopes of its enemies. Influenced by considerations so powerful, and duly weighing the difficulties which oppose the expectation of any plan being formed that can exactly meet the wishes and obtain the approbation of so many states, differing essentially in various points, Congress have, after mature deliberation, agreed to adopt, without amendments, the Confederation transmitted to the several states for their approbation. The states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, have ratified the same, and it remains only for your state, with those of —, to conclude the glorious compact, which, by uniting the wealth, strength, and councils of the whole, may bid defiance to external violence and internal dissensions, whilst it secures the public credit both at home and abroad. Congress is willing to hope that the patriotism and good sense of your state will be influenced by motives so important; and they request, sir, that you will be pleased to lay this letter before the legislature of —, in order that, if they judge it proper, their delegates may be instructed to ratify the Confederation with all convenient despatch; trusting to future deliberations to make such alterations and amendments as experience may show to be expedient and just.
I have the honor to be, &c.
On the 21st of July, 1778, the delegates of North Carolina, being then empowered, signed the ratification; those of Georgia, being also authorized, signed it on the 24th of the same month. The delegates of New Jersey, in virtue of full powers, affixed their signatures on the 26th of November following. On the 5th of May, 1779, Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Vandyke signed the Articles of Confederation in behalf of the state of Delaware, Mr. M’Kean having previously signed them in February, at which time he produced a power to that effect. Maryland did not ratify until the year 1781. She had instructed her delegates, on the 15th of December, 1778, not to agree to the Confederation, until matters respecting the western lands should be settled on principles of equity and sound policy; but, on the 30th of January, 1781, finding that the enemies of the country took advantage of the circumstance to disseminate opinions of an ultimate dissolution of the Union, the legislature of the state passed an act to empower their delegates to subscribe and ratify the Articles, which was accordingly done by Mr. Hanson and Mr. Carroll, on the 1st of March of that year, which completed the ratifications of the act; and Congress assembled on the 2d of March under the new powers.
OFFICIAL LETTER ACCOMPANYING ACT OF CONFEDERATION.
In Congress, Yorktown, November 17, 1777.
Congress having agreed upon a plan of confederacy for securing the freedom, sovereignty, and independence of the United States, authentic copies are now transmitted for the consideration of the respective legislatures.
This business, equally intricate and important, has, in its progress, been attended with uncommon embarrassment and delay, which the most anxious solicitude and persevering diligence could not prevent. To form a permanent union, accommodated to the opinion and wishes of the delegates of so many states, differing in habits, produce, commerce, and internal police, was found to be a work which nothing but time and reflection, conspiring with a disposition to conciliate, could mature and accomplish.
Hardly is it to be expected that any plan, in the variety of provisions essential to our union, should exactly correspond with the maxims and political views of every particular state. Let it be remarked, that, after the most careful inquiry, and the fullest information, this is proposed as the best which could be adapted to the circumstances of all, and as that alone which affords any tolerable prospect of general ratification.
Permit us, then, earnestly to recommend these Articles to the immediate and dispassionate attention of the legislatures of the respective states. Let them be candidly reviewed under a sense of the difficulty of combining in one general system the various sentiments and interests of a continent divided into so many sovereign and independent communities; under a conviction of the absolute necessity of uniting all our councils, and all our strength, to maintain and defend our common liberties; let them be examined with a liberality becoming brethren and fellow-citizens surrounded by the same imminent dangers, contending for the same illustrious prize, and deeply interested in being forever bound and connected together by ties the most intimate and indissoluble; and, finally, let them be adjusted with the temper and magnanimity of wise and patriotic legislators, who, while they are concerned for the prosperity of their own more immediate circle, are capable of rising superior to local attachments, when they may be incompatible with the safety, happiness, and glory, of the general confederacy.
We have reason to regret the time which has elapsed in preparing this plan for consideration: with additional solicitude we look forward to that which must be necessarily spent before it can be ratified. Every motive loudly calls upon us to hasten its conclusion.
More than any other consideration, it will confound our foreign enemies, defeat the flagitious practices of the disaffected, strengthen and confirm our friends, support our public credit, restore the value of our money, enable us to maintain our fleets and armies, and add wight and respect to our councils at home and to our treaties abroad.
In short, this salutary measure can no longer be deferred. It seems essential to our very existence as a free people; and, without it, we may soon be constrained to bid adieu to independence, to liberty, and safety — blessings which, from the justice of our cause, and the favor of our Almighty Creator, visibly manifested in our protection, we have reason to expect, if, in an humble dependence on his divine providence, we strenuously exert the means which are placed in our power.
To conclude: If the legislature of any state shall not be assembled, Congress recommend to the executive authority to convene it without delay; and to each respective legislature it is recommended to invest its delegates with competent powers, ultimately, in the name and behalf of the state, to subscribe Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union of the United States, and to attend Congress for that purpose on or before the 10th day of March next.
JEFFERSON’S NOTES OF DEBATE ON CONFEDERATION
On Friday, July 12, the committee appointed to draw the Articles of Confederation reported them, and on the 22d the house resolved themselves into a committee to take them into consideration. On the 30th and 31st of that month, and 1st of the ensuing, those articles were debated which determined the proportion, or quota, of money which each state should furnish to the common treasury, and the manner of voting in Congress. The first of these articles was expressed, in the original draft, in these words: —
“Art. XI. All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence, or general welfare, and allowed by the United States assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several colonies in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex, and quality, except Indians not paying taxes, in each colony, — a true account of which, distinguishing the white inhabitants, shall be triennially taken, and transmitted to the Assembly of the United States.”
Mr. CHASE moved that the quotas should be fixed, not by the number of inhabitants of every condition, but by that of the “white inhabitants.” He admitted that taxation should be always in proportion to property; that this was, in theory, the true rule; but that, from a variety of difficulties, it was a rule which could never be adopted in practice. The value of the property in every state could never be estimated justly and equally. Some other measures for the wealth of the state must therefore be devised, some standard referred to, which would be more simple. He considered the number of inhabitants as a tolerably good criterion of property, and that this might always be obtained. He therefore thought it the best mode which we could adopt, with one exception only: he observed that negroes are property, and, as such, cannot be distinguished from the lands or personalties held in those states where there are few slaves; that the surplus of profit which a northern farmer is able to lay by, he invests in cattle, horses, &c., whereas a southern farmer lays out the same surplus in slaves. There is no more reason, therefore, for taxing the Southern States on the farmer’s head, and on his slave’s head, than the Northern ones on their farmers’ heads and the heads of their cattle; that the method proposed would, therefore, tax the Southern States according to their numbers and their wealth conjunctly, while the Northern would be taxed on numbers only; that negroes, in fact, should not be considered as members of the state, more than cattle, and that they have no more interest in it.
Mr. JOHN ADAMS observed, that the numbers of people are taken, by this article, as an index of the wealth of the state, and not as subjects of taxation; that, as to this matter, it was of no consequence by what name you called your people, whether by that of freemen or of slaves; that, in some countries, the laboring poor are called freemen, in others they were called slaves; but that the difference as to the state was imaginary only. What matters it whether a landlord, employing ten laborers on his farm, give them annually as much money as will buy them the necessaries of life, or give them those necessaries at short hand? The ten laborers add as much wealth to the state, increase its exports as much, in the one case as the other. Certainly five hundred freemen produce no more profits, no greater surplus for the payment of taxes, than five hundred slaves. Therefore the state in which are the laborers called freemen, should be taxed no more than that in which are those called slaves. Suppose, by an extraordinary operation of nature or of law, one half the laborers of a state could, in the course of one night, be transformed into slaves; would the state be made the poorer, or the less able to pay taxes? That the condition of the laboring poor in most countries — that of the fishermen, particularly, of the Northern States — is as abject as that of slaves. It is the number of laborers which produces the surplus for taxation; and numbers, therefore, indiscriminately, are the fair index to wealth; that it is the use of the word “property” here, and its application to some of the people of the state, which produce the fallacy. How does the southern farmer procure slaves? Either by importation, or by purchase from his neighbor. If he imports a slave, he adds one to the number of laborers in his country, and, proportionably, to its profits, and ability to pay taxes. If he buys from his neighbor, it is only a transfer of a laborer from one farm to another, which does not change the annual produce of the state, and therefore should not change its tax; that if a northern farmer works ten laborers on his farm, he can, it is true, invest the surplus of ten men’s labor in cattle; but so may the southern farmer, working ten slaves; that a state of one hundred thousand freemen can maintain no more cattle than one of one hundred thousand slaves. Therefore they have no more of that kind of property. That a slave may, indeed, from the custom of speech, be more properly called the wealth of his master, than the free laborer might be called the wealth of his employer; but as to the state, both were equally its wealth, and should therefore equally add to the quota of its tax.
Mr. HARRISON proposed, as a compromise, that two slaves should be counted as one freeman. He affirmed that slaves did not do as much work as freemen, and doubted if two effected more than one; that this was proved by the price of labor — the hire of a laborer in the southern colonies being from £8 to £12, while in the northern it was generally £24.
Mr. WILSON said that, if this amendment should take place, the southern colonies would have all the benefit of slaves, whilst the northern ones would bear the burden; that slaves increase the profits of a state, which the Southern States mean to take to themselves; that they also increase the burden of defence, which would of course fall so much the heavier on the Northern; that slaves occupy the places of freemen, and eat their food. Dismiss your slaves, and freemen will take their places. It is our duty to lay every discouragement on the importation of slaves; but this amendment would give the jus trium liberorum to him who would import slaves; that other kinds of property were pretty equally distributed through all the colonies; — there were as many cattle, horses, and sheep, in the north as the south, and south as the north; but not so as to slaves; — that experience has shown that those colonies have been always able to pay most which have the most inhabitants, whether they be black or white; and the practice of the southern colonies has always been to make every farmer pay poll taxes upon all his laborers, whether they be black or white. He acknowledges, indeed, that freemen work the most; but they consume the most also. They do not produce a greater surplus for taxation. The slave is neither fed nor clothed so expensively as a freeman. Again, white women are exempted from labor generally, but negro women are not. In this, then, the Southern States have an advantage, as the article now stands. It has sometimes been said that slavery is necessary, because the commodities they raise would be too dear for market if cultivated by freemen; but now it is said that the labor of the slave is the dearest.
Mr. PAYNE urged the original resolution of Congress, to proportion the quotas of the states to the number of souls.
Dr. WITHERSPOON was of opinion that the value of lands and houses was the best estimate of the wealth of a nation, and that it was practicable to obtain such a valuation. This is the true barometer of wealth. The one now proposed is imperfect in itself, and unequal between the states. It has been objected that negroes eat the food of freemen, and therefore should be taxed: horses also eat the food of freemen; therefore they also should be taxed. It has been said, too, that, in carrying slaves into the estimate of the taxes the state is to pay, we do no more than those states themselves do, who always take slaves into the estimate of the taxes the individual is to pay. But the cases are not parallel. In the southern colonies slaves pervade the whole colony; but they do not pervade the whole continent. That, as to the original resolution of Congress, to proportion the quotas according to the souls, it was temporary only, and related to the moneys heretofore emitted; whereas we are now entering into a new compact, and therefore stand on original ground.
August 1. — The question being put, the amendment proposed was rejected by the votes of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, against those of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina. Georgia was divided.
The other article was in these words: “Art. XVII. In determining questions, each colony shall have one vote.”
July 30, 31, August 1. — Present forty-one members. Mr. CHASE observed, that this article was the most likely to divide us, of any one proposed in the draft then under consideration. That the larger colonies had threatened they would not confederate at all, if their weight in Congress should not be equal to the numbers of people they added to the confederacy; while the smaller ones declared against a union, if they did not retain an equal vote, for the protection of their rights. That it was of the utmost consequence to bring the parties together; as, should we sever from each other, either no foreign power will ally with us at all, or the different states will form different alliances, and thus increase the horrors of those scenes of civil war and bloodshed, which, in such a state of separation and independence, would render us a miserable people. That our importance, our interests, our peace, required that we should confederate, and that mutual sacrifices should be made to effect a compromise of this difficult question. He was of opinion the smaller colonies would lose their rights, if they were not in some instances allowed an equal vote; and, therefore, that a discrimination should take place among the questions which would come before Congress. That the smaller states should be secured in all questions concerning life or liberty, and the greater ones, in all respecting property. He therefore proposed that, in votes relating to money, the voice of each colony should be proportioned to the number of its inhabitants.
Dr. FRANKLIN thought, that the votes should be so proportioned in all cases. He took notice that the Delaware counties had bound up their delegates to disagree to this article. He thought it very extraordinary language to be held by any state, that they would not confederate with us, unless we would let them dispose of our money. Certainly, if we vote equally, we ought to pay equally; but the smaller states will hardly purchase the privilege at this price. That, had he lived in a state where the representation, originally equal, had become unequal by time and accident, he might have submitted rather than disturb government; but that we should be very wrong to set out in this practice, when it is in our power to establish what is right. That, at the time of the union between England and Scotland, the latter had made the objection which the smaller states now do; but experience had proved that no unfairness had ever been shown them; that their advocates had prognosticated that it would again happen, as in times of old, that the whale would swallow Jonah; but he thought the prediction reversed in event, and that Jonah had swallowed the whale; for the Scotch had in fact got possession of the government, and gave laws to the English. He reprobated the original agreement of Congress to vote by colonies, and, therefore, was for their voting, in all cases, according to the number of taxables.
Dr. WITHERSPOON opposed every alteration of the article. All men admit that a confederacy is necessary. Should the idea get abroad that there is likely to be no union among us, it will damp the minds of the people, diminish the glory of our struggle, and lessen its importance; because it will open to our view future prospects of war and dissension among ourselves. If an equal vote be refused, the smaller states will become vassals to the larger; and all experience has shown that the vassals and subjects of free states are the most enslaved. He instanced the helots of Sparta and the provinces of Rome. He observed that foreign powers, discovering this blemish, would make it a handle for disengaging the smaller states from so unequal a confederacy. That the colonies should, in fact, be considered as individuals; and that, as such, in all disputes they should have an equal vote; that they are now collected as individuals making a bargain with each other, and, of course, had a right to vote as individuals. That in the East India Company they voted by persons, and not by their proportion of stock. That the Belgic confederacy voted by provinces. That in questions of war the smaller states were as much interested as the larger, and therefore should vote equally; and, indeed, that the larger states were more likely to bring war on the confederacy, in proportion as their frontier was more extensive. He admitted that equality of representation was an excellent principle, but then it must be of things which are coördinate; that is, of things similar, and of the same nature; that nothing relating to individuals could ever come before Congress; nothing but what would respect colonies. He distinguished between an incorporating and a federal union. The union of England was an incorporating one; yet Scotland had suffered by that union; for that its inhabitants were drawn from it by the hopes of places and employments; nor was it an instance of equality of representation; because, while Scotland was allowed nearly a thirteenth of representation, they were to pay only one fortieth of the land tax. He expressed his hopes that, in the present enlightened state of men’s minds, we might expect a lasting confederacy, if it was founded on fair principles.
JOHN ADAMS advocated the voting in proportion to numbers. He said, that we stand here as the representatives of the people; that in some states the people are many, in others they are few; that therefore their vote here should be proportioned to the numbers from whom it comes. Reason, justice, and equity, never had weight enough, on the face of the earth, to govern the councils of men. It is interest alone which does it, and it is interest alone which can be trusted; that therefore the interests within doors should be the mathematical representatives of the interests without doors; that the individuality of the colonies is a mere sound. Does the individuality of a colony increase its wealth or numbers? If it does, pay equally. If it does not add weight in the scale of the confederacy, it cannot add to their rights, nor weigh in argument. A has £50, B £500, C £1000, in partnership. Is it just they should equally dispose of the moneys of the partnership? It has been said we are independent individuals, making a bargain together. The question is not what we are now, but what we ought to be when our bargain shall be made. The confederacy is to make us one individual only; it is to form us, like separate parcels of metal, into one common mass. We shall no longer retain our separate individuality, but become a single individual, as to all questions submitted to the confederacy. Therefore all those reasons which prove the justice and expediency of equal representation in other assemblies hold good here. It has been objected that a proportional vote will endanger the smaller states. We answer, that an equal vote will endanger the larger. Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, are the three greater colonies. Consider their distance, their difference of produce, of interests, and of manners, and it is apparent they can never have an interest or inclination to combine for the oppression of the smaller; that the smaller will naturally divide on all questions with the larger. Rhode Island, from its relation, similarity, and intercourse, will generally pursue the same objects with Massachusetts; Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, with Pennsylvania.
Dr. RUSH took notice, that the decay of the liberties of the Dutch republic proceeded from three causes — 1. the perfect unanimity requisite on all occasions; 2. their obligation to consult their constituents; 3. their voting by provinces. This last destroyed the equality of representation; and the liberties of Great Britain, also, are sinking from the same defect. That a part of our rights is deposited, in the hands of our legislatures. There, it was admitted, there should be an equality of representation. Another part of our rights is deposited in the hands of Congress. Why is it not equally necessary there should be an equal representation there? Were it possible to collect the whole body of the people together, they would determine the questions submitted to them by their majority. Why should not the same majority decide, when voting here by their representatives? The larger colonies are so providentially divided in situation, as to render every fear of their combining visionary. Their interests are different, and their circumstances dissimilar. It is more probable they will become rivals, and leave it in the power of the smaller states to give preponderance to any scale they please. The voting by the number of free inhabitants will have one excellent effect — that of inducing the colonies to discourage slavery and to encourage the increase of their free inhabitants.
Mr. HOPKINS observed, there were four larger, four smaller, and four middle-sized colonies. That the four largest would contain more than half the inhabitants of the confederating states, and therefore would govern the others as they should please. That history affords no instance of such a thing as equal representation. The Germanic body votes by states; the Helvetic body does the same; and so does the Belgic confederacy. That too little is known of the ancient confederations to say what was their practice.
Mr. WILSON thought that taxation should be in proportion to wealth, but that representation should accord with the number of freemen. That government is a collection or result of the wills of all; that if any government could speak the will of all, it would be perfect; and that, so far as it departs from this, it becomes imperfect. It has been said that Congress is a representation of states, not of individuals. I say, that the objects of its care are all the individuals of the states. It is strange that annexing the name of “state” to ten thousand men, should give them an equal right with forty thousand. This must be the effect of magic, not of reason. As to those matters which are referred to Congress, we are not so many states; we are one large state. We lay aside our individuality whenever we come here. The Germanic body is a burlesque on government, and their practice on any point is a sufficient authority and proof that it is wrong. The greatest imperfection in the constitution of the Belgic confederacy is their voting by provinces. The interest of the whole is constantly sacrificed to that of the small states. The history of the war in the reign of Queen Anne sufficiently proves this. It is asked, Shall nine colonies put it into the power of four to govern them as they please? I invert the question, and ask, Shall two millions of people put it into the power of one million to govern them as they please? It is pretended, too, that the smaller colonies will be in danger from the greater. Speak in honest language, and say, the minority will be in danger from the majority. And is there an assembly on earth where this danger may not be equally pretended? The truth is, that our proceedings will then be consentaneous with the interests of the majority, and so they ought to be. The probability is much greater that the larger states will disagree than that they will combine. I defy the wit of man to invent a possible case, or to suggest any one thing on earth, which shall be for the interests of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and which will not also be for the interests of the other states.
These articles, reported July 12, ’76, were debated from day to day, and time to time, for two years; were ratified July 9, ’78, by ten states; by New Jersey, on the 26th of November of the same year; and by Delaware, on the 23d of February following. Maryland, alone, held off two years more, acceding to them March 1, ’81, and thus closing the obligation.
ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION
We, the undersigned, Delegates of the States affixed to our names, send greeting:
Whereas the delegates of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, did, on the fifteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven, and in the second year of the Independence of America, agree to certain Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, in the words following, viz.: —
Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Article 1. The style of this confederacy shall be, “The United States of America.”
Art. 2. Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.
Art. 3. The said states hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other for their common defence, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare; binding themselves to assist each other against all force offered to, or attacks made upon, them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretence whatever.
Art. 4. The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different states in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these states — paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice, excepted — shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several states; and the people of each state shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other state, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions, as the inhabitants thereof, respectively, provided that such restrictions shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any state from any other state, of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided also, that no imposition, duty, or restriction, shall be laid by any state on the property of the United States, or either of them.
If any person, guilty of, or charged with, treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor, in any state, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall, upon demand of the governor or executive power of the state from which he fled, be delivered up, and removed to the state having jurisdiction of his offence.
Full faith and credit shall be given, in each of these states, to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings, of the courts and magistrates of every other state.
Art. 5. For the more convenient management of the general interests of the United States, delegates shall be annually appointed in such manner as the legislature of each state shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November, in every year, with a power reserved to each state, to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead for the remainder of the year.
No state shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor by more than seven members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or another for his benefit, receives any salary, fees, or emolument of any kind.
Each state shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the states, and while they act as members of the committee of the states.
In determining questions in the United States in Congress assembled, each state shall have one vote.
Freedom of speech and debate in Congress shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Congress; and the members of Congress shall be protected in their persons from arrests and imprisonments, during the time of their going to and from, and attendance on, Congress, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace.
Art. 6. No state, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, shall send any embassy to, or receive any embassy from, or enter into any conference, agreement, alliance, or treaty, with any king, prince, or state; nor shall any person holding any office of profit or trust under the United States, or any of them, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state; nor shall the United States in Congress assembled, or any of them, grant any title of nobility.
No two or more states shall enter into any treaty, confederation, or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, specifying accurately the purposes for which the same is to be entered into, and how long it shall continue.
No state shall lay any imposts or duties, which may interfere with any stipulations in treaties entered into, by the United States in Congress assembled, with any king, prince, or state, in pursuance of any treaties already proposed by Congress to the courts of France and Spain.
No vessel of war shall be kept up in time of peace by any state, except such number only as shall be deemed necessary, by the United States in Congress assembled, for the defence of such state, or its trade: nor shall any body of forces be kept up by any state, in time of peace, except such number only as, in the judgment of the United States in Congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defence of such state; but every state shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutred, and shall provide, and have constantly ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field-pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition, and camp equipage.
No state shall engage in any war without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, unless such state be actually invaded by enemies, or shall have received certain advice of a resolution being formed by some nation of Indians to invade such state, and the danger is so imminent as not to admit of a delay till the United States in Congress assembled can be consulted; nor shall any state grant commissions to any ships or vessels of war, nor letters of marque or reprisal, except it be after a declaration of war by the United States in Congress assembled, and then only against the kingdom or state, and the subjects thereof, against which war has been so declared, and under such regulations as shall be established by the United States in Congress assembled, unless such state be infested by pirates; in which case, vessels of war may be fitted out for that occasion, and kept so long as the danger shall continue, or until the United States in Congress assembled shall determine otherwise.
Art. 7. When land forces are raised by any state for the common defence, all officers of or under the rank of colonel shall be appointed by the legislature of each state, respectively, by whom such forces shall be raised, or in such manner as such state shall direct; and all vacancies shall be filled up by the state which first made the appointment.
Art. 8. All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states, in proportion to the value of all land, within each state, granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land, and the buildings and improvements thereon, shall be estimated, according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled shall, from time to time, direct and appoint.
The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the several states, within the time agreed upon by the United States in Congress assembled.
Art. 9. The United States in Congress assembled shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, except in the cases mentioned in the sixth article — of sending and receiving ambassadors — entering into treaties and alliances; provided that no treaty of commerce shall be made whereby the legislative power of the respective states shall be restrained from imposing such imposts and duties on foreigners as their own people are subjected to, or from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any species of goods or commodities whatsoever — of establishing rules for deciding, in all cases, what captures, on land or water, shall be legal, and in what manner prizes taken by land or naval forces in the service of the United States shall be divided or appropriated — of granting letters of marque and reprisal in times of peice — appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and establishing courts for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of capture; provided that no member of Congress shall be appointed a judge of any of the said courts.
The United States in Congress assembled shall also be the last resort on appeal in all disputes and differences now subsisting, or that hereafter may arise, between two or more states, concerning boundary, jurisdiction, or any other cause whatever; which authority shall always be exercised in the manner following: Whenever the legislative or executive authority, or lawful agent, of any state in controversy with another, shall present a petition to Congress, stating the matter in question, and praying for a hearing, notice thereof shall be given by order of Congress to the legislative or executive authority of the other state in controversy, and a day assigned for the appearance of the parties, by their lawful agents, — who shall then be directed to appoint, by joint consent, commissioners or judges to constitute a court for hearing and determining the matter in question; but if they cannot agree, Congress shall name three persons out of each of the United States, and from the list of such persons each party shall alternately strike out one, the petitioners beginning, until the number shall be reduced to thirteen; and from that number not less than seven nor more than nine names, as Congress shall direct, shall, in the presence of Congress, be drawn out by lot; and the persons whose names shall be so drawn, or any five of them, shall be commissioners or judges, to hear and finally determine the controversy, so always as a major part of the judges, who shall hear the cause, shall agree in the determination; and if either party shall neglect to attend at the day appointed, without showing reasons which Congress shall judge sufficient, or being present shall refuse to strike, the Congress shall proceed to nominate three persons out of each state, and the secretary of Congress shall strike in behalf of such party absent or refusing; and the judgment and sentence of the court, to be appointed in the manner before prescribed, shall be final and conclusive; and if any of the parties shall refuse to submit to the authority of such court, or to appear or defend their claim or cause, the court shall nevertheless proceed to pronounce sentence or judgment, which shall, in like manner, be final and decisive, — the judgment or sentence, and other proceedings, being in either case transmitted to Congress, and lodged among the acts of Congress for the security of the parties concerned; provided that every commissioner, before he sits in judgment, shall take on oath, to be administered by one of the judges of the supreme or superior court of the state, where the cause shall be tried, “well and truly to hear and determine the matter in question, according to the best of his judgment, without favor, affection, or hope of reward:” provided, also, that no state shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States.
All controversies concerning the private right of soil, claimed under different grants of two or more states, whose jurisdiction, as they may respect such lands, and the states which passed such grants, are adjusted, the said grants, or either of them, being at the same time claimed to have originated antecedent to such settlement of jurisdiction, shall, on the petition of either party to the Congress of the United States, be finally determined, as near as may be, in the same manner as is before prescribed for deciding disputes respecting territorial jurisdiction between different states.
The United States in Congress assembled shall also have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of the respective states; fixing the standard of weights and measures throughout the United States; regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians not members of any of the states, provided that the legislative right of any state within its own limits be not infringed or violated; establishing and regulating post-offices from one state to another throughout all the United States, and exacting such postage on the papers passing through the same as may be requisite to defray the expenses of the said office; appointing all officers of the land forces in the service of the United States, excepting regimental officers; appointing all the officers of the naval forces, and commissioning all officers whatever in the service of the United States; making rules for the government and regulation of the said land and naval forces, and directing their operations.
The United States in Congress assembled shall have authority to appoint a committee to sit in the recess of Congress, to be denominated “a committee of the states,” and to consist of one delegate from each state; and to appoint such other committees and civil officers as may be necessary for managing the general affairs of the United States under their direction — to appoint one of their number to preside, provided that no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years — to ascertain the necessary sums of money to be raised for the service of the United States, and to appropriate and apply the same for defraying the public expenses — to borrow money or emit bills on the credit of the United States, transmitting, every half year, to the respective states, an account of the sums of money so borrowed or emitted — to build and equip a navy — to agree upon the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each state for its quota, in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such state; which requisitions shall be binding; and thereupon the legislature of each state shall appoint the regimental officers, raise the men, and clothe, arm, and equip them in a soldier-like manner, at the expense of the United States; and the officers and men so clothed, armed, and equipped, shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled: but if the United States in Congress assembled shall, on consideration of circumstances, judge proper that any state should not raise men, or should raise a smaller number than its quota, and that any other state should raise a greater number of men than the quota thereof, such extra number shall be raised, officered, clothed, armed, and equipped, in the same manner as the quota of such state, unless the legislature of such state shall judge that such extra number cannot be safely spared out of the same; in which case they shall raise, officer, clothe, arm, and equip, as many of such extra number as they judge can be safely spared. And the officers and men so clothed, armed, and equipped, shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled.
The United States in Congress assembled shall never engage in a war; nor grant letters of marque and reprisal in time of peace; nor enter into any treaties or alliances; nor coin money; nor regulate the value thereof, nor ascertain the sums and expenses necessary for the defence and welfare of the United States, or any of them; nor emit bills; nor borrow money on the credit of the United States; nor appropriate money; nor agree upon the number of vessels of war to be built or purchased, or the number of land or sea forces to be raised; nor appoint a commander-in-chief of the army or navy, — unless nine states assent to the same; nor shall a question on any other point, except for adjourning from day to day, be determined, unless by the votes of a majority of the United States in Congress assembled.
The Congress of the United States shall have power to adjourn to any time within the year, and to any place within the United States, so that no period of adjournment be for a longer duration than the space of six months; and shall publish the journal of their proceedings monthly, except such parts thereof, relating to treaties, alliances, or military operations, as in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the delegates of each state on any question shall be entered on the journal, when it is desired by any delegate; and the delegates of a state, or any of them, at his or their request, shall be furnished with a transcript of the said journal, except such parts as are above excepted, to lay before the legislatures of the several states.
Art. 10. The committee of the states, or any nine of them, shall be authorized to execute, in the recess of Congress, such of the powers of Congress as the United States in Congress assembled, by the consent of nine states, shall, from time to time, think expedient to vest them with; provided that no power be delegated to the said committee, for the exercise of which, by the Articles of Confederation, the voice of nine states in the Congress of the United States assembled is requisite.
Art. 11. Canada, acceding to this Confederation, and joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into, and entitled to, all the advantages of this union; but no other colony shall be admitted into the same unless such admission be agreed to by nine states.
Art. 12. All bills of credit emitted, moneys borrowed, and debts contracted, by or under the authority of Congress, before the assembling of the United States in pursuance of the present Confederation, shall be deemed and considered as a charge against the United States, for payment and satisfaction whereof the said United States, and the public faith, are hereby solemnly pledged.
Art. 13. Every state shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which, by this Confederation, are submitted to them. And the articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every state, and the union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration, at any time hereafter, be made in any of them, unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislature of every state.
And whereas it has pleased the Great Governor of the world to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union: Know ye, That we, the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do, by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained; and we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which, by the said Confederation, are submitted to them; and that the articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the states we respectively represent; and that the union shall be perpetual.
In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hands, in Congress. Done at Philadelphia, in the state of Pennsylvania, the ninth day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, and in the third year of the Independence of America.
ABSTRACT OF PROCEEDINGS IN CONGRESS
Monday,June 22, 1778. — That the objections from the state of MARYLAND to the Confederation be immediately taken up and considered by Congress, that the delegates from Maryland may transmit to that state with all possible despatch, the determination of Congress on those objections.
Question put — resolved in the affirmative.
A motion was then made in behalf of Maryland.
In article 4, strike out the word “paupers;” and after the words “or either of them,” insert “that one state shall not be burdened with the maintenance of the poor who may remove into it from any of the others in the Union.”
Question put — passed in the negative, one state only answering Ay.
Another amendment was moved in behalf of Maryland.
Article 8, after the words “granted to or surveyed for,” insert, “or which shall hereafter be granted to or surveyed for any person.”
Question put — passed in the negative; 4 ayes, 8 noes.
A third amendment was moved in behalf of Maryland.
Article 9, after the words “shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States,” insert, “the United States in Congress assembled shall have the power to appoint commissioners, who shall be fully authorized and empowered to ascertain and restrict the boundaries of such of the confederated states which claim to extend to the River Mississippi or South Sea:” after debate,
Resolved, That the consideration thereof be postponed till to-morrow.
Tuesday,June 23, 1778. — Congress proceeded to consider the amendment of the Articles of Confederation moved in behalf of Maryland, —
And it passed in the negative.
The delegates of MASSACHUSETTS BAY, being called on, read sundry objections, transmitted to them by their constituents, to the Artiticles of Confederation, and thereupon moved, in behalf of their state, —
1st. That the 8th article be reconsidered, so far as relates to the criterion fixed on for settling the proportion of taxes to be paid by each state; that an amendment may be made, so that the rule of apportionment may be varied, from time to time, by Congress, until experience shall have shown what rule of apportionment will be most equal, and, consequently, most just.
Question put — passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 8 noes.
2d. That the 5th section of the 9th article be reconsidered, so far as relates to the rule of apportioning the number of forces to be raised by each state on the requisition of Congress.
Question put — passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 7 noes.
3d. That the 6th section of the 9th article be reconsidered, so far as it makes the assent of nine states necessary to exercise the powers with which Congress are thereby invested.
Question put — passed in the negative.
The delegates from RHODE ISLAND, being called on, produced instructions from their constituents, and thereupon moved the following amendments: —
1st. In the 5th article, after the word “two,” insert “members, unless by sickness, death, or any other unavoidable accident, but one of the members of a state can attend Congress in which case such state may be represented in Congress by one member for the space of — months.”
Question put — passed in the negative; 1 ay, 9 noes.
2d. In the 8th article, after the word “appoint,” add “such estimate to be taken and made once in every five years.”
Question put — passed in the negative; 4 ayes, 6 noes.
3d. In the 9th article, at the end of the 2d paragraph, after the words “for the benefit of the United States,” add “provided, nevertheless, that all lands within these states, the property of which, before the present war, was vested in the crown of Great Britain, or out of which revenues from quitrents arise, payable to the said crown, shall be deemed, taken, and considered, as the property of these United States, and be disposed of and appropriated by Congress for the benefit of the whole confederacy—reserving, however, to the states, within whose limits such crown lands may be the entire and complete jurisdiction thereof.”
Question put — passed in the negative; 1 ay, 9 noes.
The delegates from CONNECTICUT, being called on, produced instructions, and thereupon moved the following amendments: —
1st. In the 8th article, after the words “in proportion to,” strike out what follows, to the end of the sentence, and in lieu thereof insert “the number of inhabitants in each state.”
Question put — passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 9 noes.
2d. In the 9th article, at the end of the 5th paragraph, add the words following: “provided, that no land army shall be kept up by the United States in time of peace; nor any officers or pensioners kept in pay by them, who are not in actual service, except such as are or may be rendered unable to support themselves, by wounds received in battle, in the service of the said states, agreeably to the provisions already made by a resolution of Congress.”
Question put — passed in the negative; 1 ay, 11 noes.
Thursday,June 25, 1778. — Congress took into consideration the representation from NEW JERSEY, on the Articles of Confederation, which was read as follows: —
“To the United States in Congress assembled, the representation of the Legislative Councils and General Assembly of the state of New Jersey showeth, —
“That the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, proposed by the honorable Congress of the said states, severally, for their consideration, have been by us fully and attentively considered, on which we beg leave to remark as follows: —
“1st. In the 5th article, where, among other things, the qualifications of the delegates from the several states are described, there is no mention of any oath, test, or declaration, to be taken or made by them previous to their admission to seats in Congress. It is indeed to be presumed, the respective states will be careful that the delegates they send to assist in managing the general interests of the Union take the oaths to the government from which they derive their authority; but as the United States, collectively considered, have interests as well as each particular state, we are of opinion that some test or obligation, binding upon each delegate, while he continues in the trust, to consult and pursue the former as well as the latter, and particularly to assent to no vote or proceeding which may violate the general confederation, is necessary. The laws and usages of all civilized nations evince the propriety of an oath on such occasions, and the more solemn and important the deposit, the more strong and explicit ought the obligation to be.
“2d. By the 6th and 9th articles, the regulation of trade seems to be committed to the several states within their separate jurisdiction, in such a degree as may involve many difficulties and embarrassments and be attended with injustice to some states in the Union. We are of opinion that the sole and exclusive power of regulating the trade of the United States with foreign nations ought to be clearly vested in the Congress, and that the revenue arising from all duties and customs imposed thereon ought to be appropriated to the building, equipping, and manning a navy, for the protection of the trade and defence of the coasts, and to such other public and general purposes as to the Congress shall seem proper, and for the common benefit of the states. This principle appears to us to be just; and it may be added, that a great security will, by this means, be derived to the Union, from the establishment of a common and mutual interest.
“3d. It is wisely provided, in the 6th article, that no body of forces shall be kept up by any state in time of peace, except such number only as, in the judgment of the United States in Congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defence of such states. We think it ought also to be provided, and clearly expressed, that no body of troops be kept up by the United States in time of peace, except such number only as shall be allowed by the assent of nine states. A standing army, a military establishment, and every appendage thereof, in time of peace, is totally abhorrent from the ideas and principles of this state. In the memorable act of Congress, declaring the United Colonies free and independent states, it is emphatically mentioned, as one of the causes of separation from Great Britain, that the sovereign thereof had kept up among us, in time of peace, standing armies, without the consent of the legislatures. It is to be wished the liberties and happiness of the people may, by the Confederation, be carefully and explicitly guarded in this respect.
“4th. On the 8th article we observe, that, as frequent settlements of the quotas for supplies and aids, to be furnished by the several states, in support of the general treasury, will be requisite, so they ought to be secured. It cannot be thought improper or unnecessary to have them struck once at least in every five years, and oftener if circumstances will allow. The quantity or value of real property in some states may increase much more rapidly than in others, and therefore the quota which is at one time just will, at another, be disproportionate.
“5th. The boundaries and limits of each state ought to be fully and finally fixed and made known. This, we apprehend, would be attended with very salutary effects, by preventing jealousies as well as controversies, and promoting harmony and confidence among the states. If the circumstances of the times would not admit of this previous to the proposal of the Confederation to the several states, the establishment of the principles upon which, and the rule and mode by which, the determination might be conducted, at a time more convenient and favorable for despatching the same, at an early period, (not exceeding five years from the final ratification of the Confederation,) would be satisfactory.
“6th. The 9th article provides that no state shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States. Whether we are to understand that by territory is intended any land, the property of which was heretofore vested in the crown of Great Britain, or that no mention of such land is made in the Confederation, we are constrained to observe, that the present war, as we always apprehended, was undertaken for the general defence and interest of the confederating colonies, now the United States. It was ever the confident expectation of this state, that the benefits derived from a successful contest were to be general and proportionate; and that the property of the common enemy, filling in consequence of a prosperous issue of the war, would belong to the United States, and be appropriated to their use. We are therefore greatly disappointed in finding no provision made in the Confederation for empowering the Congress to dispose of such property, but especially the vacant and impatented lands commonly called the crown lands, for defraying the expenses of the war, and for such other public and general purposes. The jurisdiction ought, in every instance, to belong to the respective states within the charter or determined limits of which such lands may be seated; but reason and justice must decide, that the property which existed in the crown of Great Britain previous to the present revolution ought now to belong to the Congress, in trust for the use and benefit of the United States. They have fought and bled for it, in proportion to their respective abilities, and therefore the reward ought not to be predilectionally distributed. Shall such states as are shut out by situation from availing themselves of the least advantage from this quarter, be left to sink under an enormous debt, whilst others are enabled, in a short period, to replace all their expenditures from the hard earnings of the whole confederacy?
“7th. The 9th article also provides that the requisition for the land forces, to be furnished by the several states, shall be proportioned to the number of white inhabitants in each. In the act of independence we find the following declaration: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident — that all men are created equal; that they are endued by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Of this doctrine it is not a very remote consequence, that all the inhabitants of every society, be the color of their complexion what it may, are bound to promote the interest thereof, according to their respective abilities. They ought, therefore, to be brought into the account, on this occasion. But admitting necessity or expediency to justify the refusal of liberty, in certain circumstances, to persons of a particular color, we think it unequal to reckon upon such in this case. Should it be improper, for special local reasons, to admit them in arms for the defence of the nation, yet we conceive the proportion of forces to be imbodied ought to be fixed according to the whole number of inhabitants in the state, from whatever class they may be raised. If the whole number of inhabitants in a state, whose inhabitants are all whites, both those who are called into the field and those who remain to till the ground and labor in mechanical arts and otherwise, are reckoned in the estimate for striking the proportion of forces to be furnished by that state, ought even a part of the latter description to be left out in another? As it is of indispensable necessity, in every war, that a part of the inhabitants be employed for the uses of husbandry and otherwise at home, while others are called into the field, there must be the same propriety that owners of a different color, who are employed for this purpose in one state, while whites are employed for the same purpose in another, be reckoned in the account of the inhabitants in the present instance.
“8th. In order that the quota of troops to be furnished in each state, on occasion of a war, may be equitably ascertained, we are of opinion that the inhabitants of the several states ought to be numbered as frequently as the nature of the case will admit, and once, at least, every five years. The disproportioned increase in the population of different states may render such provision absolutely necessary.
“9th. It is provided, in the 9th article, that the assent of nine states out of the thirteen, shall be necessary to determine in sundry cases of the highest concern. If this proportion be proper and just, it ought to be kept up, should the states increase in number, and a declaration thereof be made, for the satisfaction of the Union.
“That we think it our indispensable duty to solicit the attention of Congress to these considerations and remarks, and to request that the purport and meaning of them be adopted as part of the general confederation; by which means we apprehend the mutual interests of all the states will be better secured and promoted, and that the legislature of this state will then be justified in ratifying the same.”
Whereupon it was moved that the several articles in the Confederation, referred to in the foregoing representation, be so far reconsidered as to admit the purport and meaning of the additions, alterations, and amendments, proposed in the said representation.
Question put — passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 6 noes, 1 divided.
The delegates of PENNSYLVANIA, being called on, moved the following amendments, in behalf of their state: —
1st. In the 1st paragraph of the 5th article, dele the words “for the remainder of the year.”
Question put — passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 8 noes, 1 divided.
2d. That such part of the 9th article as respects the post-office be altered or amended, so as that Congress be obliged to lay the accounts annually before the legislatures of the several states.
Question put — passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.
3d. In the 5th paragraph of the 9th article, expunge the word “white.”
Question put — passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 7 noes, 1 divided.
4th. In the last section of the 9th article, after the word “delegates,” add “respectively.”
Question put — passed in the negative; 1 aye, 10 noes.
The delegates from SOUTH CAROLINA, being called on, moved the following amendments, in behalf of their state: —
1st. In article 4, between the words “free inhabitants,” insert “white.”
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 8 noes, 1 divided.
2d. In the next line, after the words “these states,” insert “those who refuse to take up arms in defence of the confederacy.”
Passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 8 noes.
3d. After the words “the several states,” insert “according to the law of such states respectively for the government of their own free white inhabitants.”
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 8 noes, 1 divided.
4th. After the words “of which the owner is an inhabitant,” insert “except in cases of embargo.”
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.
5th. In the 1st paragraph of the 5th article, strike out “first Monday in November,” and insert “nineteenth day of April.”
Passed in the negative; 1 ay, 9 noes, 1 divided.
6th. In the 2d paragraph of the 5th article, substitute “three” in the place of “two,” and “two” in the place of “three,” and “four” in the place of “six.”
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.
7th. In the 3d paragraph, for “committee,” read “grand council.”
Passed in the negative; 1 ay, 9 noes, 1 divided.
8th. In the 1st paragraph of the 6th article, for “prince or state, read “prince or foreign state, except the same be upon the subject of commerce, nor then so as to interfere with any treaty or alliance of the United States made, or treaty proposed, by Congress.”
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.
9th. In the 2d paragraph of the 6th article, strike out “by some nation of Indians,” and after the words “to invade such state,” insert “or upon requisition to assist a sister state actually invaded or threatened with an invasion.”
Passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 8 noes.
10th. In the 1st paragraph of the 7th article, strike out “of or under the rank of colonel,” and after “shall be appointed,” insert “and commissioned.”
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 8 noes, 1 divided.
11th. At the end of the 7th article, add, “The troops to be raised shall be deemed the troops of that state by which they are raised. The Congress, or grand council of the states, may, when they think proper, make requisition to any state for two thirds of the troops to be raised; which requisition shall be binding upon the said states respectively; but the remaining third shall not be liable to be drawn out of the state in which they are raised, without the consent of the executive authority of the same. When any forces are raised, they shall be under the command of the executive authority of the state in which they are so raised, unless they be joined by troops from any other state, in which the Congress, or grand council of the states, may appoint a general officer to take the command of the whole; and until the same can be done, the command shall be in the senior officer present, who shall be amenable for his conduct to the executive authority of the state in which the troops are, and shall be liable to be suspended thereby. The expenses of the troops so to be raised shall be defrayed by the state to which they belong; but when called into service by the United States, they shall be fed and paid at the expense of the United States.”
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.
12th. In the 1st line of the 8th article, strike out “charges of war and all other.”
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 8 noes, 1 divided.
13th. In the same article strike out “according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled shall from time to time direct and appoint;” and instead of “and improvements thereon shall be estimated,” read “and improvements thereon shall, by periods of years not exceeding ten, as often as may be required by Congress, be generally estimated by persons to be appointed by the legislatures of the respective states to value the same upon oath.”
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.
14th. In the 1st paragraph of the 9th article, strike out “appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas,” and in lieu thereof, insert “declaring what acts committed on the high seas shall be deemed piracies or felonies.
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.
15th. In the 2d paragraph of the 9th article, for “be the last resort on appeal,” read “decide and determine,” and strike out “all that relates to the mode of settling differences between states and controversies concerning private right of soil.”
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.
16th. In the 5th paragraph of the 9th article, after the words “in any term of,” strike out “three,” and insert “two.”
Passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 7 noes, 1 divided.
17th. In the 6th paragraph of the 9th article, for “unless nine states,” read “unless eleven states.”
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.
18th. At the end of the same paragraph, strike out the words “in Congress assembled.”
Passed in the negative; 1 ay, 10 noes.
19th. In the last paragraph of the 9th article, after the words “and the yeas and nays of the delegates of each state on,” for “any,” read “every,” and strike out the words “when it is desired by any delegate.”
Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.
20th. In the same sentence, strike out “a state or,” and also “at his or their request;” and after the words “and the,” insert “respective states of the,” and after “shall,” insert “upon requisition.”
Passed in the negative; 1 ay, 10 noes.
21st. Amend the last clause of the 13th article, so as to read “unless such alteration be agreed to by eleven of the United States in Congress assembled, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of eleven of the United States.”
Passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 6 noes, 2 divided.
PROCEEDINGS WHICH LED TO THE ADOPTION OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
Saturday,February 3, 1781. — The order of the day (being a report concerning the laying a duty of five per cent.) was called for, when a motion was made by Mr. Witherspoon, seconded by Mr. Burke, —
“That it is indispensably necessary that the United States in Congress assembled should be vested with a right of superintending the commercial regulations of every state, that none may take place that shall be partial or contrary to the common interest; and that they should be vested with the exclusive right of laying duties upon all imported articles; no restriction to be valid, and no such duty to be laid, but with the consent of nine states; provided, that all duties and imposts laid by the United States in Congress assembled, shall always be a certain proportion of the value of the article or articles on which the same shall be laid; and the same articles shall bear the same duty and impost throughout the said states without exemption; and provided, that all such duties and imposts shall be for the perfecting of certain specified purposes, which purposes being perfected, the said duties and imposts so appropriated shall cease; provided also, that the United States in Congress assembled shall not be empowered to appropriate any duties or imposts for perpetual annuities, or other perpetual or indefinite interests, or for annuities for more than three lives at the same time in being, or for a longer term than — years.”
On the question to agree to this, the yeas and nays being required by Mr. Mathews, it passed in the negative.
Congress resumed the consideration of the report of the committee of the whole, (for laying a duty of five per cent.;)
And on the question to insert the words [to transfer the power to lay the duty from the states to Congress] moved to be inserted, the yeas and nays were required; and it was resolved in the affirmative.
The report of the committee of the whole, being amended, was agreed to, as follows: —
Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states, as indispensably necessary, that they vest a power in Congress to levy, for the use of the United States, a duty of five per cent. ad valorem, at the time and place of importation, upon all goods, wares, and merchandise, of foreign growth and manufacture, which may be imported into any of the said states from any foreign port, island, or plantation, after the 1st day of May, 1781; except arms, ammunition, clothing, and other articles imported on account of the United States, or any of them; and except wool cards and cotton cards, and wire for making them; and also except salt, during the war.
Also a like duty of five per cent. on all prizes and prize goods, condemned in the court of admiralty of any of these states as lawful prize.
That the moneys arising from the said duties be appropriated to the discharge of the principal and interest of the debts already contracted, or which may be contracted, on the faith of the United States, for supporting the present war.
That the said duties be continued until the said debts shall be fully and finally discharged.
Friday,April 18, 1783. — Congress proceeded in the consideration of the report, (concerning duties and revenues;) and sundry amendments being made, —
Resolved, by nine states, That it be recommended to the several states, as indispensably necessary to the restoration of public credit, and to the punctual and honorable discharge of the public debts, to invest the United States in Congress assembled with a power to levy, for the use of the United States, the following duties upon goods imported into the said states from any foreign port, island, or plantation: —
Provided, That none of the said duties shall be applied to any other purpose than the discharge of the interest or principal of the debts contracted, on the faith of the United States, for supporting the war, agreeably to the resolution of the 16th day of December last, nor be continued for a longer term than twenty-five years; and provided, that the collectors of the said duties shall be appointed by the states within which their offices are to be respectively exercised; but when so appointed, shall be amenable to, and removable by, the United States in Congress assembled, alone; and in case any state shall not make such appointment within one month after notice given for that purpose, the appointment may be made by the United States in Congress assembled.
That it be further recommended to the several states to establish, for a term limited to twenty-five years, and to appropriate to the discharge of the interest and principal of the debts contracted on the faith of the United States for supporting the war, substantial and effectual revenues, of such nature as they may judge most convenient, for supplying their respective proportions of one million five hundred thousand dollars, annually, exclusive of the afore-mentioned duties, which proportion shall be fixed and equalized from time to time, according to the rule which is, or may be, prescribed by the Articles of Confederation; and in case the revenues established by any state shall at any time yield a sum exceeding its actual proportion, the excess shall be refunded to it; and in case the revenues of any state shall be found to be deficient, the immediate deficiency shall be made up by such state with as little delay as possible, and a future deficiency guarded against by an enlargement of the revenues established; provided, that, until the rule of the Confederation can be carried into practice, the proportions of the said one million five hundred thousand dollars shall be as follows, viz.:—
The said last-mentioned revenues to be collected by persons appointed as aforesaid, but to be carried to the separate credit of the states within which they shall be collected.
That an annual account of the proceeds and application of all the afore-mentioned revenues shall be made out and transmitted to the several states, distinguishing the proceeds of each of the specified articles, and the amount of the whole revenue received from each state, together with the allowances made to the several officers employed in the collection of the said revenues.
That none of the preceding resolutions shall take effect until all of them shall be acceded to by every state; after which unanimous accession, however, they shall be considered as forming a mutual compact among all the states, and shall be irrevocable by any one or more of them, without the concurrence of the whole, or a majority of the United States in Congress assembled.
That, as a further mean, as well of hastening the extinguishment of the debts, as of establishing the harmony of the United States, it be recommended to the states which have passed no acts towards complying with the resolutions of Congress of the 6th of September, and 10th of October, 1780, relative to the cession of territorial claims, to make the liberal cessions therein recommended, and to the states which may have passed acts complying with the said resolutions in part only, to revise and complete such compliance.
That, as a more convenient and certain rule of ascertaining the proportions to be supplied by the states respectively to the common treasury, the following alteration in the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between these states, be, and the same is hereby agreed to in Congress; and the several states are advised to authorize their respective delegates to subscribe and ratify the same, as part of the said instrument of union, in the words following, to wit: —
So much of the 8th of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, between the thirteen states of America, as is contained in the words following, to wit, “All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states, in proportion to the value of all land within each state, granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land, and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated, according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled shall from time to time direct and appoint,” is hereby revoked and made void; and in place thereof, it is declared and concluded, the same having been agreed to in a Congress of the United States, that all charges of war, and all other expenses, that have been, or shall be, incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, except so far as shall be otherwise provided for, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states in proportion to the whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants, of every age, sex, and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians not paying taxes, in each state; which number shall be triennially taken and transmitted to the United States in Congress assembled, in such mode as they shall direct and appoint.
On the question to agree to the foregoing act, the yeas and nays being required by Mr. Arnold:
So it was resolved in the affirmative.
Saturday,April 26, 1783. — The committee, consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Ellsworth, and Mr. Hamilton, appointed to prepare an address to the states, to accompany the act of the 18th of this month, reported a draft, which, being read and amended, was agreed to, as follows: —
ADDRESS TO THE STATES, BY THE UNITED STATES IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED.
To accompany the Act of April 18, 1783.
The prospect which has for some time existed, and which is now happily realized, of a successful termination of the war, together with the critical exigencies of public affairs, has made it the duty of Congress to review and provide for the debts which the war has left upon the United States, and to look forward to the means of obviating dangers which may interrupt the harmony and tranquillity of the confederacy. The result of their mature and solemn deliberations, on these great objects, is contained in their several recommendations of the 18th inst., herewith transmitted. Although these recommendations speak themselves the principles on which they are founded, as well as the ends which they propose, it will not be improper to enter into a few explanations and remarks, in order to place in a stronger view the necessity of complying with them.
The first measure recommended is, effectual provision for the debts of the United States. The amount of these debts, as far as they can now be ascertained, is 42,000,375 dollars. To discharge the principal of this aggregate debt at once, or in any short period, is evidently not within the compass of our resources; and, even if it could be accomplished, the ease of the community would require that the debt itself should be left to a course of gradual extinguishment, and certain funds be provided for paying, in the mean time, the annual interest. The amount of the annual interest is computed to be 2,415,956 dollars. Funds, therefore, which will certainly and punctually produce this annual sum, at least, must be provided.
Observations on Revenue.
In devising these funds, Congress did not overlook the mode of supplying the common treasury, provided by the Articles of Confederation: but, after the most respectful consideration of that mode, they were constrained to regard it as inadequate, and inapplicable to the form into which the public debt must be thrown. The delays and uncertainties incident to a revenue to be established and collected, from time to time, by thirteen independent authorities, is, at first view, irreconcilable with the punctuality essential in the discharge of the interest of a national debt. Our own experience, after making every allowance for transient impediments, has been a sufficient illustration of this truth. Some departure, therefore, in the recommendation of Congress, from the Federal Constitution, was unavoidable; but it will be found to be as small as could be reconciled with the object in view, and to be supported, besides, by solid considerations of interest and sound policy.
The fund which presented itself on this, as it did on a former occasion, was a tax on imports. The reasons which recommended this branch of revenue have heretofore been stated in an act, of which a copy, No. 2, is now forwarded, and need not be here repeated. It will suffice to recapitulate, that taxes on consumption are always least burdensome, because they are least felt, and are borne too by those who are both willing and able to pay them; that, of all taxes on consumption, those on foreign commerce are most compatible with the genius and policy of free states; that, from the relative positions of some of the more commercial states, it will be impossible to bring this essential resource into use without a concerted uniformity; that this uniformity cannot be concerted through any channel so properly as through Congress, nor for any purpose so aptly as for paying the debts of a revolution, from which an unbounded freedom has accrued to commerce.
In renewing this proposition to the states, we have not been unmindful of the objections which heretofore frustrated the unanimous adoption of it. We have limited the duration of the revenue to the term of twenty-five years; and we have left to the states themselves the appointment of the officers who are to collect it. If the strict maxims of national credit alone were to be consulted, the revenue ought manifestly to be coexistent with the object of it, and the collection placed in every respect under that authority which is to dispense the former, and is responsible for the latter. These relaxations will, we trust, be regarded, on one hand, as the effect of a disposition in Congress to attend, at all times, to the sentiments of those whom they serve, and, on the other hand, as a proof of their anxious desire that provision may be made, in some way or other, for an honorable and just fulfilment of the engagements which they have formed.
To render this fund as productive as possible, and, at the same time, to narrow the room for collusions and frauds, it has been judged an improvement of the plan, to recommend a liberal duty on such articles as are most susceptible of a tax according to their quantity, and are of most equal and general consumption; leaving all other articles, as heretofore proposed, to be taxed according to their value.
The amount of this fund is computed to be 915,956 dollars. Accuracy, in the first essay, on so complex and fluctuating a subject, is not to be expected. It is presumed to be as near the truth as the defect of proper materials would admit.
The residue of the computed interest is 1,500,000 dollars, and is referred to the states to be provided for by such funds as they may judge most convenient. Here, again, the strict maxims of public credit gave way to the desire of Congress to conform to the sentiments of their constituents. It ought not to be omitted, however, with respect to this portion of the revenue, that the mode in which it is to be supplied varies so little from that pointed out in the Articles of Confederation, and the variations are so conducive to the great object proposed, that a ready and unqualified compliance on the part of the states may be the more justly expected. In fixing the quotas of this sum, Congress, as may be well imagined, were guided by very imperfect lights, and some inequalities may consequently have ensued. These, however, can be but temporary, and, as far as they may exist at all, will be redressed by a retrospective adjustment, as soon as a constitutional rule can be applied.
The necessity of making the two foregoing provisions one indivisible and irrevocable act, is apparent. Without the first quality, partial provision only might be made where complete provision is essential; nay, as some states might prefer and adopt one of the funds only, and the other states the other fund only, it might happen that no provision at all would be made: without the second, a single state, out of the thirteen, might at any time involve the nation in bankruptcy, the mere practicability of which would be a fatal bar to the establishment of national credit. Instead of enlarging on these topics, two observations are submitted to the justice and wisdom of the legislatures. First, the present creditors, or rather the domestic part of them, having either made their loans for a period which has expired, or having become creditors, in the first instance, involuntarily, are entitled, on the clear principles of justice and good faith, to demand the principal of their credits, instead of accepting the annual interest. It is necessary, therefore, as the principal cannot be paid to them on demand, that the interest should be so effectually and satisfactorily secured, as to enable them, if they incline, to transfer their stock at its full value. Secondly, if the funds be so firmly constituted as to inspire a thorough and universal confidence, may it not be hoped that the capital of the domestic debt, which bears the high interest of six per cent., may be cancelled by other loans obtained at a more moderate interest? The saving by such an operation would be a clear one, and might be a considerable one.
Thus much for the interest of the national debt: for the discharge of the principal within the term limited, we rely on the natural increase of the revenue from commerce, on requisitions to be made from time to time for that purpose, as circumstances may dictate, and on the prospect of vacant territory. If these resources should prove inadequate, it will be necessary, at the expiration of twenty-five years, to continue the funds now recommended, or to establish such others as may then be found more convenient.
With a view to the resource last mentioned, as well as to obviate disagreeable controversies and confusions, Congress have included in their present recommendations a renewal of those of the 6th day of September, and of the 10th day of October, 1780. In both these respects, a liberal and final accommodation of all interfering claims of vacant territory is an object which cannot be pressed with too much solicitude.
The last object recommended is a constitutional change of the rule by which a partition of the common burdens is to be made. The expediency, and even necessity, of such a change, has been sufficiently enforced by the local injustice and discontents which have proceeded from valuations of the soil in every state where the experiment has been made. But how infinitely must these evils be increased, on a comparison of such valuations among the states themselves! On whatever side, indeed, this rule be surveyed, the execution of it must be attended with the most serious difficulties. If the valuations be referred to the authorities of the several states, a general satisfaction is not to be hoped for. If they be executed by officers of the United States traversing the country for that purpose, besides the inequalities against which this mode would be no security, the expense would be both enormous and obnoxious. If the mode taken in the act of the 17th day of February last, which was deemed, on the whole, least objectionable, be adhered to, still the insufficiency of the data to the purpose to which they are to be applied must greatly impair, if not utterly destroy, all confidence in the accuracy of the result; not to mention that, as far as the result can be at all a just one, it will be indebted, for that advantage, to the principle on which the rule proposed to be substituted is founded. This rule, although not free from objections, is liable to fewer than any other that could be devised. The only material difficulty which attended it in the deliberations of Congress, was to fix the proper difference between the labor and industry of free inhabitants and of all other inhabitants. The ratio ultimately agreed on was the effect of mutual concessions; and if it should be supposed not to correspond precisely with the fact, no doubt ought to be entertained that an equal spirit of accommodation among the several legislatures will prevail against little inequalities which may be calculated on one side or on the other. But notwithstanding the confidence of Congress, as to the success of this proposition, it is their duty to recollect that the event may possibly disappoint them, and to request that measures may still be pursued for obtaining and transmitting the information called for in the act of the 17th of February last, which, in such event, will be essential.
The plan thus communicated and explained by Congress must now receive its fate from their constituents. All the objects comprised in if are conceived to be of great importance to the happiness of this confederated republic — are necessary to render the fruits of the revolution a full reward for the blood, the toils, the cares, and the calamities which have purchased it. But the object, of which the necessity will be peculiarly felt, and which it is peculiarly the duty of Congress to inculcate, is the provision recommended for the national debt. Although this debt is greater than could have been wished, it is still less, on the whose, than could have been expected; and, when referred to the cause in which it has been incurred, and compared with the burdens which wars of ambition and of vain glory have entailed on other nations, ought to be borne not only with cheerfulness; but with pride. But the magnitude of the debt makes no part of the question. It is sufficient that the debt has been fairly contracted, and that justice and good faith demand that it should be fully discharged. Congress had an option between different modes of discharging it. The same option is the only one that can exist with the states. The mode which has, after long and elaborate discussion, been preferred, is, we are persuaded, the least objectionable of any that would have been equal to the purpose. Under this persuasion, we call upon the justice and plighted faith of the several states to give it its proper effect, to reflect on the consequences of rejecting it, and to remember that Congress will not be answerable for them.
If other motives than that of justice could be requisite on this occasion, no nation could ever feel stronger; for to whom are the debts to be paid?
To an ally, in the first place, who, to the exertion of his arms in support of our cause, has added the succors of his treasure; who, to his important loans, has added liberal donations; and whose loans themselves carry the impression of his magnanimity and friendship.
To individuals in a foreign country, in the next place, who were the first to give so precious a token of their confidence in our justice, and of their friendship for our cause, and who are members of a republic which was second in espousing our rank among nations.
Another class of creditors is that illustrious and patriotic band of follow-citizens, whose blood and whose bravery have defended the liberties of their country; who have patiently borne, among other distresses, the privation of their stipends, whilst the distresses of their country disabled it from bestowing them; and who, even now, ask for no more than such a portion of their dues as will enable them to retire from the field of victory and glory into the bosom of peace and private citizenship, and for such effectual security, for the residue of their claims, as their country is now unquestionably able to provide.
The remaining class of creditors is composed partly of such of our fellow-citizens as originally lent to the public the use of their funds, or have since manifested most confidence in their country, by receiving transfers from the lenders; and partly of those whose property has been either advanced or assumed for the public service. To discriminate the merits of these several descriptions of creditors, would be a task equally unnecessary and invidious. If the voice of humanity plead more loudly in favor of some than of others, the voice of policy, no less than of justice, pleads in favor of all. A wise nation will never permit those who relieve the wants of their country, or who rely most on its faith, its firmness, and its resources, when either of them is distrusted, to suffer by the event.
Let it be remembered, finally, that it has ever been the pride and boast of America, that the rights for which she contended were the rights of human nature. By the blessings of the Author of these rights on the means exerted for their defence, they have prevailed against all opposition, and form the basis of thirteen independent states. No instance has heretofore occurred, nor can any instance be expected hereafter to occur, in which the unadulterated forms of republican government can pretend to so fair an opportunity of justifying themselves by their fruits. In this view, the citizens of the United States are responsible for the greatest trust ever confided to a political society. If justice, good faith, honor, gratitude, and all the other qualities which ennoble the character of a nation, and fulfil the ends of government, be the fruits of our establishments, the cause of liberty will acquire a dignity and lustre which it has never yet enjoyed, and an example will be set which cannot but have the most favorable influence on the rights of mankind. If, on the other side, our governments should be unfortunately blotted with the reverse of these cardinal and essential virtues, the great cause which we have engaged to vindicate will be dishonored and betrayed, the last and fairest experiment in favor of the rights of human nature will be turned against them, and their patrons and friends exposed to be insulted and silenced by the votaries of tyranny and usurpation.
By order of the United States in Congress assembled.
PAPER NO. II.
REPLY TO THE RHODE ISLAND OBJECTIONS, TOUCHING IMPORT DUTIES.
“By the United States in Congress assembled, December 16, 1782.
“The committee, consisting of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Fitzsimmons, to whom was referred the letter of 30th November, from the Honorable William Bradford, speaker of the lower house of Assembly of the state of Rhode Island, containing, under three heads, the reasons of that state for refusing their compliance with the recommendation of Congress for a duty on imports and prize goods, report, —
“That they flatter themselves the state, on a reconsideration of the objections they have offered, with a candid attention to the arguments which stand in opposition to them, will be induced to retract their dissent, convinced that the measure is supported on the most solid grounds of equal justice, policy, and general utility. The following observations, contrasted with each head of the objections, successively, will furnish a satisfactory answer to the whole:—
“First Objection. — ‘That the proposed duty would be unequal in its operation, bearing hardest upon the most commercial states, and so would press peculiarly hard upon that state which draws its chief support from commerce.’
“The most common experience, joined to the concurrent opinions of the ablest commercial and political observers, has established, beyond controversy, this general principle, ‘that every duty on imports is incorporated with the price of the commodity, and ultimately paid by the consumer, with a profit on the duty itself, as a compensation to the merchant for the advance of his money.’
“The merchant considers the duty demanded by the state on the imported article in the same light with freight, or any similar charge, and, adding it to the original cost, calculates his profit on the aggregate sum. It may happen that, at particular conjunctures, where the markets are overstocked, and there is a competition among the sellers, this may not be practicable; but in the general course of trade, the demand for consumption preponderates, and the merchant can with ease indemnify himself, and even obtain a profit on the advance. As a consumer, he pays his share of the duty: but it is no further a burden upon him. The consequence of the principle laid down is, that every class of the community bears its share of the duty in proportion to its consumption, which last is regulated by the comparative wealth of the respective classes, in conjunction with their habits of expense or frugality. The rich and luxurious pay in proportion to their riches and luxury; the poor and parsimonious, in proportion to their poverty and parsimony. A chief excellence of this mode of revenue is, that it preserves a just measure to the abilities of individuals, promotes frugality, and taxes extravagance. The same reasoning, in our situation, applies to the intercourse between two states; if one imports and the other does not, the latter must be supplied by the former. The duty, being transferred to the price of the commodity, is no more a charge on the importing state for what is consumed in the other, than it is a charge on the merchant for what is consumed by the farmer or artificer. Either state will only feel the burden in a ratio to its consumption, and this will be in a ratio to its population and wealth. What happens between the different classes of the same community, internally, happens between the two states; and as the merchant, in the first case, so far from losing the duty himself, has a profit on the money he advances for that purpose, so the importing state, which, in the second case, is the merchant with respect to the other, is not only reimbursed by the non-importing state, but has a like benefit on the duty advanced. It is, therefore, the reverse of a just position, that the duty proposed will bear hardest on the most commercial states: it will, if any thing, have a contrary effect, though not in a sufficient degree to justify an objection on the part of the non-importing states; for it is as reasonable they should allow an advance on the duty paid as on the first cost, freight, or any incidental charge. They have also other advantages in the measure fully equivalent to this disadvantage. Over-nice and minute calculations, in matters of this nature are inconsistent with national measures, and, in the imperfect state of human affairs, would stagnate all the operations of government. Absolute equality is not to be obtained; to aim at it, is pursuing a shadow at the expense of the substance; and in the event we should find ourselves wider of the mark than if, in the first instance, we were content to approach it with moderation.
“Second Objection. — ‘That the recommendation proposes to introduce into that and the other states officers unknown and unaccountable to them, and so is against the Constitution of the state.’
“It is not to be presumed that the constitution of any state could mean to define and fix the precise numbers and descriptions of all officers to be permitted in the state, excluding the creation of any new ones, whatever might be the necessity derived from that variety of circumstances incident to all political institutions. The legislature must always have a discretionary power of appointing officers, not expressly known to the Constitution, and this power will include that of authorizing the federal government to make the appointments in cases where the general welfare may require it. The denial of this would prove too much; to wit, that the power given by the Confederation to Congress, to appoint all officers in the post-office, was illegal and unconstitutional.
“The doctrine advanced by Rhode Island would perhaps prove, also, that the federal government ought to have the appointment of no internal officers whatever — a position that would defeat all the provisions of the Confederation, and all the purposes of the union. The truth is, that no federal constitution can exist without powers that, in their exercise, affect the internal police of the component members. It is equally true that no government can exist without a right to appoint officers for those purposes which proceed from and concentre in itself; and therefore the Confederation has expressly declared that Congress shall have authority to appoint all such ‘civil officers as may be necessary for managing the general affairs of the United States under their direction.’ All that can be required is, that the federal government confine its appointments to such as it is empowered to make by the original act of union, or by the subsequent consent of the parties. Unless there should be express words of exclusion in the constitution of a state, there can be no reason to doubt that it is within the compass of legislative discretion to communicate that authority.
“The propriety of doing it, upon the present occasion, is founded on substantial reasons.
“The measure proposed is a measure of necessity. Repeated experiments have shown that the revenue to be raised within these states is altogether inadequate to the public wants. The deficiency can only be supplied by loans. Our applications to the foreign powers, on whose friendship we depend, have had a success far short of our necessities. The next resource is to borrow from individuals. These will neither be actuated by generosity nor reasons of state. It is to their interest alone we must appeal. To conciliate this, we must not only stipulate a proper compensation for what they lend, but we must give security for the performance. We must pledge an ascertained fund, simple and productive in its nature, general in its principle, and at the disposal of a single will. There can be little confidence in a security under the constant revisal of thirteen different deliberatives. It must, once for all, be defined and established on the faith of the states solemnly pledged to each other, and not revocable by any without a breach of the general compact.
“It is by such expedients that nations, whose resources are understood, whose reputations and governments are erected on the foundation of ages, are enabled to obtain a solid and extensive credit. Would it be reasonable in us to hope for more easy terms, who have so recently assumed our rank among the nations? Is it not to be expected that individuals will be cautious in lending their money to a people in our circumstances and that they will at least require the best security we can give?
“We have an enemy vigilant, intriguing, well acquainted with our defects and embarrassments. We may expect that he will make every effort to instil diffidences into individuals; and in the present posture of our internal affairs, he will have too plausible ground on which to tread. Our necessities have obliged us to embrace measures, with respect to our public credit, calculated to inspire distrust. The prepossessions on this article must naturally be against us, and it is therefore indispensable we should endeavor to remove them, by such means as will be the most obvious and striking.
“It was with these views Congress determined on a general fund; and the one they have recommended must, upon a thorough examination, appear to have fewer inconveniences than any other.
“It has been remarked, as an essential part of the plan, that the fund should depend on a single will. This will not be the case, unless the collection, as well as the appropriation, is under the control of the United States; for it is evident that, after the duty is agreed upon, it may, in a great measure, be defeated by an ineffectual mode of levying it. The United States have a common interest in a uniform and equally energetic collection; and not only policy, but justice to all parts of the Union, designates the utility of lodging the power of making it where the interest is common. Without this, it might, in reality, operate as a very unequal tax.
“Third Objection. — ‘That, by granting to Congress a power to collect moneys from the commerce of these states, indefinitely as to time and quantity, and for the expenditure of which they are not to be accountable to the states, they would become independent of their constituents: and so the proposed impost is repugnant to the liberty of the United States.
“Admitting the principle of this objection to be true, still it ought to have no weight in the present case, because there is no analogy between the principle and the fact.
“First. The fund proposed is sufficiently definite as to time, becauss it is only coëxtensive with the existence of the debt contracted, and to be contracted, in the course of the war. Congress are persuaded that it is as remote from the intention of their constituents to perpetuate that debt, as to extinguish it at once by a faithless neglect of providing the means to fulfil the public engagements. Their ability to discharge it in a moderate time can as little be doubted as their inclination; and the moment that debt ceases, the duty, so far as respects the present provision, ceases with it.
“The resolution recommending the duty specifies the object of it to be the discharge of the principal and interest of the debts already contracted, or which may be contracted, on the faith of the United States, for supporting the present war.
“Secondly. The rate per cent. is fixed, and it is not at the option of the United States to increase it. Though the product will vary according to the variations in trade, yet, as there is this limitation of the rate, it cannot be properly said to be indefinite as to the quantity.
“By the Confederation, Congress have an absolute discretion in determining the quantum of revenue requisite for the national expenditure. When this is done, nothing remains for the states, separately, but the mode of raising. No state can dispute the obligation to pay the sum demanded without a breach of the Confederation: and when the money comes into the treasury, the appropriation is the exclusive province of the foderal government. This provision of the Confederation (without which it would be an empty form) comprehends in it the principle in its fullest latitude, which the objection under consideration treats as repugnant to the liberties of the United States; to wit, an indefinite power of prescribing the quantity of money to be raised, and of appropriating it when raised.
“If it be said that the states individually, having the collection in their own hands, may refuse a compliance with exorbitant demands, the Confederation will answer, that this is a point of which they have no constitutional liberty to judge. Such a refusal would be an exertion of power, not of right, and the same power which could disregard a requisition made on the authority of the Confederation might at any time arrest the collection of the duty.
“The same kind of responsibility which exists with respect to the expenditure of the money furnished in the forms hitherto practised, would be equally applicable to the revenue from the imports.
“The truth is, the security intended to the general liberty in the Confederation, consists in the frequent election, and in the rotation of the members of Congress, by which there is a constant and effectual check upon them. This is the security which the people in every state enjoy against the usurpations of their internal governments, and it is the true source of security in a representative republic. The government, so constituted, ought to have the means necessary to answer the end of its institution. By weakening its hands too much, it may be rendered incapable of providing for the interior harmony, or the exterior defence, of the state.
“The measure in question, if not within the letter, is within the spirit, of the Confederation. Congress, by that, are empowered to borrow money for the use of the United States, and, by implication, to concert the means necessary to accomplish the end. But without insisting upon this argument, if the Confederation has not made proper provision for the exigencies of the states, it will be at all times the duty of Congress to suggest further provisions; and when their proposals are submitted to the unanimous consent of the states, they can never be charged with exceeding the bounds of their trust. Such a consent is the basis and sanction of the Confederation, which expressly, in the 13th article, empowers Congress to agree to and propose such additional provisions.
“The remarks hitherto made have had reference principally to the future prosecution of the war. There still remains an interesting light, in which the subject ought to be viewed.
“The United States have already contracted a debt in Europe, and in this country, for which their faith is pledged. The capital of this debt can only be discharged by degrees; but a fund for this purpose, and for paying the interest annually, on every principle of policy and justice, ought to be provided. The omission will be the deepest ingratitude and cruelty to a large number of meritorious individuals, who, in the most critical periods of the war, have adventured their fortunes in supporting our independence. It would stamp the national character with indelible disgrace.
“An annual provision for the purpose will be too precarious. If its continuance and application were certain, it would not afford complete relief. With many, the regular payment of interest, by occasional grants, would suffice; but with many more it would not. These want the use of the principal itself, and they have a right to it; but since it is not in our power to pay off the principal, the next expedient is to fund the debt: and render the evidences of it negotiable.
“Beside the advantage to individuals from this arrangement, the active stock of the nation would be increased by the whole amount of the domestic debt, and of course the abilities of the community to contribute to the public wants; the national credit would revive, and stand hereafter on a secure basis.
“This was another object of the proposed duty.
“If it be conceded that a similar fund is necessary, it can hardly be disputed that the one recommended is the most eligible. It has been already shown that it affects all parts of the community in proportion to their consumption, and has therefore the best pretensions to equality. It is the most agreeable tax to the people that can be imposed, because it is paid insensibly, and seems to be voluntary.
“It may, perhaps, be imagined that it is unfavorable to commerce; but the contrary can easily be demonstrated. It has been seen that it does not diminish the profit of the merchant, and of course can be no diminution of his inducements to trade. It is too moderate in its amount to discourage the consumption of imported goods, and cannot, on that account, abridge the extent of importations. If it even had this effect, it would be an advantage to commerce by lessening the proportion of our imports to our exports, and inclining the balance in favor of this country.
“The principal thing to be consulted for the advancement of commerce, is to promote exports. All impediments to these, either by way of prohibiting, or by increasing the prices of native commodities, decreasing, by that means, their sale and consumption at foreign markets, are injurious. Duties on exports have this operation. For the same reason, taxes on possessions, and the articles of our own growth or manufacture, whether in the form of a land tax, excise, or any other, are more hurtful to trade than impost duties. The tendency of all such taxes is to increase the prices of those articles which are the objects of exportation, and to enable others to undersell us abroad. The farmer, if he pays a heavy land tax, must endeavor to get more for the products of his farm. The mechanic and laborer, if they find the necessaries of life grow dearer by an excise, must endeavor to exact higher wages; and these causes will produce an increase of prices within, and operate against foreign commerce.
“It is not, however, to be inferred that the whole revenue ought to be drawn from imports; all extremes are to be rejected. The chief thing to be attended to is, that the weight of the taxes fall not too heavily, in the first instance, upon particular parts of the community. A judicious distribution to all kinds of taxable property is a first principle in taxation. The tendency of these observations is only to show that taxes on possessions, on articles of our own growth and manufacture, are more prejudicial to trade than duties on imports.
“The observations which conclude the letter on which these remarks are made, naturally lead to reflections that deserve the serious attention of every member of the Union. There is a happy mean between too much confidence and excessive jealousy, in which the health and prosperity of a state consist. Either extreme is a dangerous vice: the first is a temptation to men in power to arrogate more than they have a right to; the latter enervates government, prevents system in the administration defeats the most salutary measures, breeds confusion in the state, disgusts and discontents among the people, and may eventually prove as fatal to liberty as the opposite temper.
“It is certainly pernicious to leave any government in a situation of responsibility disproportioned to its power.
“The conduct of the war is intrusted to Congress, and the public expectation turned upon them, without any competent means at their command to satisfy the important trust. After the most full and solemn deliberation, under a collective view of all the public difficulties, they recommend a measure which appears to them the corner-stone of the public safety: they see this measure suspended for near two years; partially complied with by some of the states; rejected by one of them, and in danger, on that account, to be frustrated; the public embarrassments every day increasing; the dissatisfaction of the army growing more serious; the other creditors of the public clamoring for justice; both irritated by the delay of measures for their present relief or future security; the hopes of our enemies encouraged to protract the war; the zeal of our friends depressed by an appearance of remissness and want of exertion on our part; Congress harassed; the national character suffering, and the national safety at the mercy of events.
“This state of things cannot but be extremely painful to Congress, and appears to your committee to make it their duty to be urgent to obviate the evils with which it is pregnant.”
Resolved, That Congress agree to the said report.
POWERS OF CONGRESS TO REGULATE COMMERCE.
Friday,April 30, 1784. — Congress took into consideration the report of a committee, consisting of Mr. Gerry, Mr. Reed, Mr. Williamson, Mr. Chase, and Mr. Jefferson, to whom were referred sundry letters and papers relative to commercial matters; and the following paragraph being under debate, —
“That it be recommended to the legislatures of the several states to vest the United States in Congress assembled, for the term of fifteen years, with a power to prohibit any goods, wares, or merchandise, from being imported into any of the states, except in vessels belonging to, and navigated by, citizens of the United States, or the subjects of foreign powers with whom the United States may have treaties of commerce,” —
A motion was made by Mr. Howell, seconded by Mr. Ellery, to postpone the consideration thereof, in order to take up the following: —
“That it be recommended to the legislatures of the several states to restrain, by imposts or prohibitions, any goods, wares, or merchandise, from being imported into them respectively, except in vessels belonging to, and navigated by, citizens of the United States, or the subjects of foreign powers with whom the United States may have treaties of commerce, or the subjects of such foreign powers as may admit of a reciprocity in their trade with the citizens of these states. That it be recommended to the legislatures of the several states to prohibit the subjects of any foreign state, kingdom, or empire, from importing into them, respectively, any goods, wares, or merchandise, unless such as are the produce or manufacture of that state, kingdom, or empire, whose subjects they are.”
And on the question to postpone, for the purpose above mentioned the yeas and nays being required by Mr. Ellery, —
So it passed in the negative.
The report, being amended, was agreed to as follows: —
“The trust reposed in Congress renders it their duty to be attentive to the conduct of foreign nations, and to prevent or restrain, as far as may be, all such proceedings as might prove injurious to the United States. The situation of commerce at this time claims the attention of the several states, and few objects of greater importance can present themselves to their notice. The fortune of every citizen is interested in the success thereof; for it is the constant source of wealth and incentive to industry; and the value of our produce and our land must ever rise or fall in proportion to the prosperous or adverse state of trade.
“Already has Great Britain adopted regulations destructive of our commerce with her West India Islands. There was reason to expect that measures so unequal, and so little calculated to promote mercantile intercourse, would not be persevered in by an enlightened nation. But these measures are growing into a system. It would be the duty of Congress, as it is their wish, to meet the attempts of Great Britain with similar restrictions on her commerce; but their powers on this head are not explicit, and the propositions made by the legislatures of the several states render it necessary to take the general sense of the Union on this subject.
“Unless the United States in Congress assembled shall be vested with powers competent to the protection of commerce, they can never command reciprocal advantages in trade; and without these, our foreign commerce must decline, and eventually be annihilated. Hence it is necessary that the states should be explicit, and fix on some effectual mode by which foreign commerce not founded on principles of equality may be restrained.
“That the United States may be enabled to secure such terms, they have
“Resolved, That it be, and it hereby is, recommended to the legislatures of the several states, to vest the United States in Congress assembled, for the term of fifteen years, with power to prohibit any goods, wares, or merchandise, from being imported into, or exported from, any of the states, in vessels belonging to, or navigated by, the subjects of any power with whom these states shall not have formed treaties of commerce.
“Resolved, That it be, and it hereby is, recommended to the legislatures of the several states, to vest the United States in Congress assembled, for the term of fifteen years, with the power of prohibiting the subjects of any foreign state, kingdom, or empire, unless authorized by treaty, from importing into the United States any goods, wares, or merchandise, which are not the produce or manufacture of the dominions of the sovereign whose subjects they are.
“Provided, That to all acts of the United States in Congress assembled, in pursuance of the above powers, the assent of nine states shall be necessary.”
REPORT OF THE STATES ON THE REGULATION OF COMMERCE, &c.
Friday,March 3, 1786. — The committee, consisting of Mr. Kean, Mr. Gorham, Mr. Pinckney, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Grayson, to whom were recommended sundry papers and documents relative to commerce, and the acts passed by the states in consequence of the recommendations of Congress of the 30th of April, 1784, report, —
“That, in examining the laws passed by the states, in consequence of the act of 30th April, 1784, they find that four states — namely, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia — have enacted laws conformable to the recommendations contained in the act, but have restrained their operation until the other states shall have substantially complied.
“That three states — namely, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland — have passed laws conforming to the same, but have determined the time from which they are to commence; the first, from the time of passing their act in May, 1785; and the two latter, from the 30th of April, 1784.
“That New Hampshire, by an act passed the 23d of June, 1785, has granted full powers to regulate their trade, by restrictions or duties, for fifteen years, with a proviso that the law shall be suspended until the other states have substantially done the same.
“That Rhode Island, by acts passed in February and October, 1785, has granted power, for the term of twenty-five years, to regulate trade between the respective states, and of prohibiting, restraining, or regulating, the importation only of all foreign goods in any ships or vessels other than those owned by citizens of the United States, and navigated by a certain proportion of citizens, and also with a proviso restrictive of its operation until the other states shall have substantially complied.
“That North Carolina, by an act passed the 2d June, 1784, has granted powers similar to those granted by Rhode Island, relative to foreign commerce, but unrestrained in duration, and clogged with a clause, that, when all the states shall have substantially complied therewith, it shall become an article of confederation and perpetual union.
“That they cannot find that the three other states — namely, Delaware, South Carolina, and Georgia — have passed any laws in consequence of the recommendations. The result is, that four states have fully complied; three others have also complied, but have determined the time of commencement, so that there will be a dissimilarity in the duration of the power granted; that three other states have passed laws in pursuance of the recommendations, but so inconsonant to them, both in letter and spirit, that they cannot be deemed compliances; and that three other states have passed no acts whatever.
“That, although the powers to be vested by the recommendations, do not embrace every object which may be necessary in a well-formed system, yet, as many beneficial effects may be expected from them, the committee think it the duty of Congress again to call the attention of the states to this subject, the longer delay of which must be attended with very great evils; whereupon,
“Resolved, That the recommendations of the 30th April, 1784, be again presented to the view of the states of Delaware, South Carolina, and Georgia, and that they be most earnestly called upon to grant powers conformable thereto.
“Resolved, That the states of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and North Carolina, be solicited to reconsider their acts, and to make them agreeable to the recommendations of the 30th April, 1784.
“Resolved, That the time for which the power under the recommendations of the 30th April, 1784, is to continue, ought to commence on the day that Congress shall begin to exercise it; and that it be recommended to the states of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maryland, to amend their acts accordingly.”
Friday,September 29, 1786. — The delegates for Georgia laid before Congress an act of that state, in pursuance of the recommendations of the 30th April, 1784, passed the 2d of August, 1786, vesting the United States in Congress assembled, for the term of fifteen years, commencing on the day Congress shall begin to exercise the powers, with a power to prohibit the importation or exportation of goods, wares, or merchandise, in ships belonging to, or navigated by, subjects of powers with whom the United States shall not have formed treaties of commerce, and to prohibit the subjects of foreign states, unless authorized by treaty, from importing goods, wares, or merchandise, which shall not be the produce or manufacture of the dominion of the sovereign whose subjects they are; provided, that nine states agree in the exercise of this power, and that it do not extend to prohibit the importation of negroes, and that the act shall not have force until the other twelve states have substantially complied with the recommendation above mentioned.
Monday,October 23, 1786. — The committee, consisting of Mr. Pinckney, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Henry, to whom was referred an act of the legislature of the state of Georgia, passed in consequence of the resolutions of the 30th of April, 1784, respecting commerce, and the subject of the said recommendation, having reported, —
“That it appears, by the said resolutions, the United States in Congress assembled recommended to the legislatures of the several states to vest them, for the term of fifteen years, with powers to prohibit any goods, wares, or merchandise, from being imported into, or exported from, any of the states, in vessels belonging to, or navigated by, the subjects of any power with whom these states shall not have formed treaties of commerce; that they also recommended to the legislatures of the said states to vest the United States in Congress assembled, for the term of fifteen years, with the power of prohibiting the subjects of any foreign state, kingdom, or empire, unless authorized by treaty, from importing into the United States any goods, wares, or merchandise, which are not the produce or manufacture of the dominions of the sovereign whose subjects they are, provided, that to all acts of the United States in Congress assembled, in pursuance of the above powers, the assent of nine states shall be necessary. The committee have carefully examined the acts passed by the several states, in pursuance of the above recommendation, and find that the state of Delaware has passed an act in full compliance with the same; that the act of the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Georgia, are in conformity to the said recommendation, but restrained in their operation until the other states should have granted powers equally extensive; that the states of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, have passed laws agreeable to the said resolutions, but have fixed the time at which the powers thereby invested shall begin to operate, and not left the same to commence at the time at which Congress shall begin to exercise it, which your committee conceive to have been the intention of the same; that South Carolina, by an act passed the 11th March, 1786, has invested the United States in Congress assembled with the power of regulating the trade of the United States with the West Indies, and all other external or foreign trade of the said states, for the term of fifteen years from the passing of the said act; that New Hampshire, by their act of the 23d of June, 1785, invested the United States in Congress assembled with the full power of regulating trade for fifteen years, by restrictions or duties, with a proviso suspending its operation until all the other states shall have done the same; that North Carolina, by their act of the 2d of June, 1784, has authorized their delegates to agree to and ratify an article or articles by which Congress shall be empowered to prohibit the importation of all foreign goods, in any other than vessels owned by citizens of the United States, or navigated by such a proportion of seamen, citizens of the United States, as may be agreed to by Congress, which, when agreed to by all the states, shall be considered as a part of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.
“From the above review of the acts passed by the several states, in consequence of the said recommendation, it appears that though, in order to make the duration of the powers equal, it will be necessary for the states of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and South Carolina, so far to amend their acts as to permit the authorities therein granted to commence their operation at the time Congress shall begin to exercise them, yet still the powers granted by them, and by the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Georgia, are otherwise in such compliance with the recommendation, that if the states of New Hampshire and North Carolina had conformed their acts to the said resolution, agreeably to the urgent recommendation of Congress of the 3d of March last, the powers therein requested might immediately begin to operate. The committee, however are of opinion that the acts of the states of New Hampshire and North Carolina manifest so liberal a disposition to grant the necessary powers upon this subject, that their not having complied with the recommendation of March last must be attributed to other reasons than a disinclination in them to adopt measures similar to those of their sister states. The committee, therefore, conceive it unnecessary to detail to them the situation of our commerce, languishing under the most ruinous restrictions in foreign ports, or the benefits which must arise from the due and equal use of powers competent to its protection and support, by that body which can alone beneficially, safely, and effectually, exercise the same — whereupon —
“Resolved, That it be again earnestly recommended to the legislatures of the states of New Hampshire and North Carolina, at their next session, to reconsider their acts, and pass them in such conformity with the resolutions of the 20th April, 1784, as to enable, on their part, the United States in Congress assembled to exercise the powers thereby invested, as soon as possible.
“Resolved, That, as the extent and duration of the powers to be exercised by the United States in Congress assembled, under the recommendation above mentioned, ought to be equal, it be recommended to the legislatures of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and South Carolina, so far to amend their acts as to vest the powers therein contained for the term of fifteen years, from the day on which Congress shall begin to exercise the same.”
Wednesday,July 13, 1785.—Congress took into consideration the report of a committee, consisting of Mr. Monroe, Mr. Spaight, Mr. Houstoun, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. King, on motion of Mr. Monroe, for vesting the United States in Congress assembled with the power of regulating trade; and the same being read,—
Ordered, That it be referred to a committee of the whole.
Congress was then resolved into a committee of the whole. Mr. Holten was elected to the chair.
The president resumed the chair, and Mr. Holten reported that the committee of the whole have had under consideration the subject referred to them, but, not having come to a conclusion, desire leave to sit again to-morrow.
Resolved, That leave be granted.
[The following is the report referred to. It was afterwards further considered; but Congress did not come to any final determination with respect to the constitutional alteration which it proposed. It was deemed most advisable, at the time, that any proposition for perfecting the Act of Confederation should originate with the state legislatures.]
“The committee, consisting of Mr. Monroe, Mr. Spaight, Mr. Houstoun, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. King, to whom was referred the motion of Mr. Monroe, submit the following report: —
“That the 1st paragraph of the 9th of the Articles of Confederation be altered, so as to read thus, viz.: —
“The United States in Congress assembled shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, except in the cases mentioned in the 6th article — of sending and receiving ambassadors — entering into treaties and alliances — of regulating the trade of the states, as well with foreign nations as with each other, and of laying such imposts and duties, upon imports and exports, as may be necessary for the purpose; provided, that the citizens of the states shall in no instance be subjected to pay higher imposts and duties that those imposed on the subjects of foreign powers; provided, also, that the legislative power of the several states shall not be restrained from prohibiting the importation or exportation of any species of goods or commodities whatever; provided, also, that all such duties as may be imposed shall be collected under the authority and accrue to the use of the state in which the same shall be payable; and provided, lastly, that every act of Congress, for the above purpose, shall have the assent of nine states in Congress assembled — of establishing rules for deciding, in all cases, what captures on land or water shall be legal, and in what manner prizes taken by land or naval forces in the service of the United States shall be divided or appropriated — of granting letters of marque and reprisal in time of peace — appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and establishing courts for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of captures; provided, that no member of Congress shall be appointed judge of any of the said courts.
“That the following letter be addressed to the legislatures of the several states, showing the principles on which the above alteration is proposed: —
“ ‘The United States having formed treaties of commerce with the most Christian king, the king of Sweden, and the States-General of the United Netherlands; and having appointed ministers with full authority to enter into treaties with other powers, upon such principles of reciprocity as may promote their peace, harmony, and respective interests; it becomes necessary that such internal arrangements should be made as may strictly comport with the faith of those treaties, and insure success to their future negotiations. But in the pursuit of the means necessary for the attainment of these ends, considerable difficulties arise. If the legislature of each state adopts its own measures, many and very eminent disadvantages must, in their opinion, necessarily result therefrom. They apprehend it will be difficult for thirteen different legislatures, acting separately and distinctly, to agree in the same interpretation of a treaty, to take the same measures for carrying it into effect, and to conduct their several operations upon such principles as to satisfy those powers, and at the same time to preserve the harmony and interests of the Union; or to concur in those measures which may be necessary to counteract the policy of those powers with whom they shall not be able to form commercial treaties, and who avoid it merely from an opinion of their imbecility and indecision. And if the several states levy different duties upon their particular produce, exported to the ports of those powers, or upon the produce and manufactures of those powers imported into each state, either in vessels navigated by and belonging to the citizens of these states, or the subjects of those powers, it will, they apprehend, induce, on their part, similar discriminations in the duties upon the commercial intercourse with each state, and thereby defeat the object of those treaties, and promote the designs of those who wish to profit from their embarrassment.
“ ‘Unless the United States in Congress assembled are authorized to make those arrangements which become necessary under their treaties, and are enabled to carry them into effect, they cannot complain of a violation of them on the part of other powers. And unless they act in concert, in the system of policy which may be necessary to frustrate the designs of those powers who lay injurious restraints on their trade, they must necessarily become the victims of their own indiscretion.
“ ‘The common principle upon which a friendly commercial intercourse is conducted between independent nations, is that of reciprocal advantages: and if this is not obtained, it becomes the duty of the losing party to make such further regulations, consistently with the faith of treaties, as will remedy the evil, and secure its interests. If, then, the commercial regulations of any foreign power contravene the interests of any particular state,—if they refuse admittance to its produce into its ports upon the same terms that the state admits its manufactures here—what course will it take to remedy the evil? If it makes similar regulations to counteract those of that power, by reciprocating the disadvantages which it feels, by impost or otherwise, will it produce the desired effect? What operation will it have upon the neighboring states? Will they enter into similar regulations, and make it a common cause? On the contrary, will they not, in pursuit of the same local policy, avail themselves of this circumstance, to turn it to their particular advantage? Thus, then, we behold the several states taking separate measures in pursuit of their particular interests, in opposition to the regulations of foreign powers, and separately aiding those powers to defeat the regulations of each other; for, unless the states act together, there is no plan of policy, into which they can separately enter, which they will not be separately interested to defeat, and of course all their measures must prove vain and abortive.
“ ‘The policy of each nation, in its commercial intercourse with other powers, is to obtain, if possible, the principal share of the carriage of the materials of either party; and this can only be effected by laying higher duties upon imports and exports in foreign vessels, navigated by the subjects of foreign powers, than in those which belong to, and are navigated by, those of its own dominions. This principle prevails, in a greater or less degree, in the regulations of the oldest and wisest commercial nations, with respect to each other, and will, of course, be extended to these states. Unless, therefore, they possess a reciprocal power, its operation must produce the most mischievous effects. Unable to counteract the restrictions of those powers by similar restrictions here, or to support the interests of their citizens by discriminations in their favor, their system will prevail. Possessing no advantages in the ports of his own country, and subjected to much higher duties and restrictions in those of other powers, it will necessarily become the interest of the American merchant to ship his produce in foreign bottoms; of course, their prospects of national consequence must decline, their merchants become only the agents and retailers of those of foreign powers, their extensive forests be hewn down and laid waste, to add to their strength and national resources, and the American flag be rarely seen on the face of the seas.
“ ‘But if they act as a nation, the prospect is more favorable to them. The particular interests of every state will then be brought forward, and receive a federal support. Happily for them, no measures can be taken to promote the interests of either which will not equally promote that of the whole. If their commerce is laid under injurious restrictions in foreign ports, by going hand in hand, in confidence, together, by wise and equitable regulations, they will the more easily sustain the inconvenience or remedy the evil. If they wish to cement the Union by the strongest ties of interest and affection; if they wish to promote its strength and grandeur, founded upon that of each individual state; every consideration of local, as well as of federal policy, urges them to adopt the following recommendations: —
“ ‘The situation of the commercial affairs of the Union requires that the several legislatures should come to the earliest decision on the subject which they now submit to their consideration. They have weighed it with that profound attention which is due to so important an object, and are fully convinced of its expediency: a further delay must be productive of inconvenience. The interests which will vest in every part of the Union must soon take root and have their influence. The produce raised upon the banks of those great rivers and lakes, which have their sources high up in the interior parts of the continent, will empty itself into the Atlantic in different directions; and of course, as the states rearing to the westward attain maturity and get admission into the Confederation, their government will become more complicated. Whether this will be the source of strength and wealth to the Union, must, therefore, in a great degree, depend upon the measures which may be now adopted.
“ ‘A temporary power would not, in their opinion, enable the United States to establish the interests, nor attain the salutary object, which they propose; the expectation that it will revert to the states, and remain with them for the future, would lessen its weight with foreign powers; and while the interests of each state, and of the federal government, continue to be the same, the same evils will always require the same correction, and of course the necessary powers should always be lodged in the same hands. They have, therefore, thought proper to propose an efficient and perpetual remedy.’ ”
[The subject was afterwards brought forward, in the House of Delegates of the commonwealth of Virginia, by Mr. Madison, whose proposed resolution, and the proceedings thereupon, are annexed.]
MR. MADISON’S RESOLUTION FOR EMPOWERING CONGRESS TO REGULATE TRADE.
Virginia, to wit: In the House of Delegates, Wednesday, the 30th of November, 1785. — Mr. Alexander White reported, according to order, a resolution agreed to by the committee of the whole house, on Monday last, respecting commerce; and he read the same in his place, and afterwards delivered it in at the clerk’s table, where the same was again read, and is as followeth: —
“Whereas the relative situation of the United States has been found, on trial, to require uniformity in their commercial regulations, as the only effectual policy for obtaining, in the ports of foreign nations, a stipulation of privileges reciprocal to those enjoyed by the subjects of such nations in the ports of the United States; for preventing animosities which cannot fail to arise among the several states from the interference of partial and separate regulations; and whereas such uniformity can be best concerted and carried into effect by the federal councils, which, having been instituted for the purpose of managing the interests of the states in cases which cannot so well be provided for by measures individually pursued, ought to be invested with authority in this case, as being within the reason and policy of their institution, —
“Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, that the delegates representing this commonwealth in Congress be instructed to propose in Congress a recommendation to the states in union, to authorize that assembly to regulate their trade, on the following principles, and under the following qualifications: —
“1st. That the United States in Congress assembled be authorized to prohibit vessels belonging to any foreign nation from entering any of the ports thereof, or to impose any duties on such vessels and their cargoes which may be judged necessary; all such prohibitions and duties to be uniform throughout the United States, and the proceeds of the latter to be carried into the treasury of the state within which they shall accrue.
“2d. That no state be at liberty to impose duties on any goods, wares, or merchandise, imported, by land or by water, from any other state, but may altogether prohibit the importation from any state of any particular species or description of goods, wares, or merchandise, of which the importation is at the same time prohibited from all other places whatsoever.
“3d. That no act of Congress, that may be authorized as hereby proposed, shall be entered into by less than two thirds of the confederated states, nor be in force longer than thirteen years.”
A motion was made, and the question being put, to amend the resolution by adding to the end thereof the following words, to wit: “unless continued by a like proportion of votes within one year immediately preceding the expiration of the said period, or be revived in like manner after the expiration thereof,” it passed in the negative — ayes, 28; noes, 79.
On a motion made by Mr. Turberville, and seconded by Mr. Watkins, —
Ordered, That the names of the ayes and noes, on the question to agree to the said amendment, be inserted in the journal.
And then the said resolution, being again read, was, on the question put thereon, agreed to by the house.
Ordered, That Mr. Alexander White do carry the resolution to the Senate, and desire their concurrence.
Thursday,December 1, 1785. — On a motion made to the following effect — that the resolution reported from a committee of the whole house, and agreed to by the house on yesterday, containing instructions to the delegates of this commonwealth in Congress, respecting commerce, does not, from a mistake, contain the sense of the majority of this house that voted for the said resolution.
Ordered, therefore, That the direction to send the said resolution to the Senate for their concurrence be rescinded, and that this house do immediately resolve itself into a committee of the whole house, to reconsider the said resolution.
It was resolved in the affirmative — ayes, 60; noes, 33.
The house then accordingly resolved itself into a committee of the whole house on the said resolution; and, after some time spent therein, Mr. Speaker resumed the chair, and Mr. Matthews reported that the said committee had, according to order, had the said resolution under their consideration, and had made several amendments thereto, which they had directed him to report when the house should think proper to receive the same.
Ordered, That the said report do lie on the table.
[With the same object in view, the General Assembly of Virginia eventually pursued a different course to attain it, as will be seen by the subjoined resolution.]
PROPOSITION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF VIRGINIA.
Virginia, ss. In the House of Delegates, January 21, 1786.
Resolved, That Edmund Randolph, James Madison, Jun., Walter Jones, St. George Tucker, Meriwether Smith, David Ross, William Ronald and George Mason, Esquires, be appointed commissioners, who, or any five of whom, shall meet such commissioners as may be appointed by the other states in the Union, at a time and place to be agreed on, to take into consideration the trade of the United States; to examine the relative situation and trade of the said states; to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations may be necessary to their common interest and their permanent harmony; and to report to the several states such an act relative to this great object as, when unanimously ratified by them, will enable the United States in Congress assembled effectually to provide for the same that the said commissioners shall immediately transmit to the several states copies of the preceding resolution, with a circular letter requesting their concurrence therein, and proposing a time and place for the meeting aforesaid.
By his excellency, Patrick Henry, Esquire, governor of the commonwealth of Virginia, it is hereby certified that John Beckley, the person subscribing the above resolve, is clerk of the House of Delegates, and that due faith and credit is, and ought to be, paid to all things done by him by virtue of his office.
[l. s.] Given under my hand as governor, and under the seal of the commonwealth, at Richmond, the 6th day of July, 1786.
[Certain other of the states came readily into the measure proposed, and a meeting of commissioners took place at Annapolis, whose proceedings are stated in the following report.]
PROCEEDINGS OF COMMISSIONERS TO REMEDY DEFECTS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
Annapolis, in the State of Maryland,September 11, 1786. — At a meeting of commissioners from the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia:
Mr. Dickinson was unanimously elected chairman.
The commissioners produced their credentials from their respective states, which were read.
After a full communication of sentiments, and deliberate consideration of what would be proper to be done by the commissioners now assembled, it was unanimously agreed that a committee be appointed to prepare a draft of a report to be made to the states having commissioners attending at this meeting.
Adjourned till Wednesday morning.
Wednesday,September 13, 1786. — Met agreeably to adjournment.
The committee appointed for that purpose reported the draft of the report, which being read, the meeting proceeded to the consideration thereof; and, after some time spent therein, adjourned till to-morrow morning.
Thursday,September 14, 1786. — Met agreeably to adjournment.
The meeting resumed the consideration of the draft of the report, and, after some time spent therein, and amendments made, the same was unanimously agreed to, and is as follows, to wit: —
“To the Honorable the Legislatures of Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, the commissioners from the said states respectively, assembled at Annapolis, humbly beg leave to report, —
“That, pursuant to their several appointments, they met at Annapolis in the state of Maryland, on the 11th day of September instant; and having proceeded to a communication of their powers, they found that the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, had, in substance, and nearly in the same terms, authorized their respective commissioners ‘to meet such commissioners as were or might be appointed by the other states in the Union, at such time and place as should be agreed upon by the said commissioners, to take into consideration the trade and commerce of the United States; to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial intercourse and regulations might be necessary to their common interest and permanent harmony; and to report to the several states such an act relative to this great object as, when unanimously ratified by them, would enable the United States in Congress assembled effectually to provide for the same.’
“That the state of Delaware had given similar powers to their commissioners, with this difference only, that the act to be framed in virtue of these powers is required to be reported ‘to the United States in Congress assembled, to be agreed to by them, and confirmed by the legislatures of every state.’
“That the state of New Jersey had enlarged the object of their appointment, empowering their commissioners ‘to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations and other important matters might be necessary to the common interest and permanent harmony of the several states;’ and to report such an act on the subject as, when ratified by them, ‘would enable the United States in Congress assembled effectually to provide for the exigencies of the Union.’
“That appointments of commissioners have also been made by the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and North Carolina, none of whom, however, have attended; but that no information has been received, by your commissioners, of any appointment having been made by the states of Connecticut, Maryland, South Carolina, or Georgia.
“That the express terms of the powers to your commissioners supposing a deputation from all the states, and having for object the trade and commerce of the United States, your commissioners did not conceive it advisable to proceed on the business of their mission under the circumstance of so partial and defective a representation.
“Deeply impressed, however, with the magnitude and importance of the object confided to them on this occasion, your commissioners cannot forbear to indulge an expression of their earnest and unanimous wish, that speedy measures may be taken to effect a general meeting of the states, in a future convention, for the same and such other purposes as the situation of public affairs may be found to require.
“If, in expressing this wish, or in intimating any other sentiment, your commissioners should seem to exceed the strict bounds of their appointment, they entertain a full confidence that a conduct dictated by an anxiety for the welfare of the United States will not fail to receive an indulgent construction.
“In this persuasion your commissioners submit an opinion, that the idea of extending the powers of their deputies to other objects than those of commerce, which has been adopted by the state of New Jersey, was an improvement on the original plan, and will deserve to be incorporated into that of a future convention. They are the more naturally led to this conclusion, as, in the course of their reflections on the subject, they have been induced to think that the power of regulating trade is of such comprehensive extent, and will enter so far into the general system of the federal government, that, to give it efficacy, and to obviate questions and doubts concerning its precise nature and limits, may require a correspondent adjustment of other parts of the federal system.
“That there are important defects in the system of the federal government, is acknowledged by the acts of all those states which have concurred in the present meeting; that the defects, upon a closer examination, may be found greater and more numerous than even these acts imply, is at least so far probable, from the embarrassments which characterize the present state of our national affairs, foreign and domestic, as may reasonably be supposed to merit a deliberate and candid discussion, in some mode which will unite the sentiments and councils of all the states. In the choice of the mode, your commissioners are of opinion that a convention of deputies from the different states, for the special and sole purpose of entering into this investigation, and digesting a plan for supplying such defects as may be discovered to exist, will be entitled to a preference, from considerations which will occur without being particularized.
“Your commissioners decline an enumeration of those national circumstances on which their opinion respecting the propriety of a future convention, with more enlarged powers, is founded; as it would be a useless intrusion of facts and observations, most of which have been frequently the subject of public discussion, and none of which can have escaped the penetration of those to whom they would in this instance be addressed. They are, however, of a nature so serious, as, in the view of your commissioners, to render the situation of the United States delicate and critical, calling for an exertion of the united virtue and wisdom of all the members of the confederacy.
“Under this impression, your commissioners, with the most respectful deference, beg leave to suggest their unanimous conviction, that it may essentially tend to advance the interests of the Union, if the states, by whom they have been respectively delegated, would themselves concur, and use their endeavors to procure the concurrence of the other states, in the appointment of commissioners, to meet at Philadelphia on the second Monday in May next, to take into consideration the situation of the United States, to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the constitution of the federal government adequate to the exigencies of the Union; and to report such an act for that purpose to the United States in Congress assembled, as, when agreed to by them, and afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every state, will effectually provide for the same.
“Though your commissioners could not with propriety address these observations and sentiments to any but the states they have the honor to represent, they have nevertheless concluded, from motives of respect, to transmit copies of this report to the United States in Congress assembled, and to the executive of the other states.
“By order of the Commissioners.
Dated at Annapolis,September 14, 1786.”
Resolved, That the chairman sign the aforegoing report in behalf of the commissioners. Then adjourned without day.
REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS.
In Congress, Wednesday,February 21, 1787. — The report of a grand committee, consisting of Mr. Dane, Mr. Varnum, Mr. S. M. Mitchell, Mr. Smith, Mr. Cadwallader, Mr. Irvine, Mr. N. Mitchell, Mr. Forrest, Mr. Grayson, Mr. Blount, Mr. Bull, and Mr. Few, to whom was referred a letter of 14th September, 1786, from J. Dickinson, written at the request of commissioners from the states of Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, assembled at the city of Annapolis, together with a copy of the report of the said commissioners to the legislatures of the states by whom they were appointed, being an order of the day, was called up, and which is contained in the following resolution, viz.: —
“Congress having had under consideration the letter of John Dickinson, Esq., chairman of the commissioners who assembled at Annapolis during the last year; also the proceedings of the said commissioners; and entirely coinciding with them as to the inefficiency of the federal government, and the necessity of devising such further provisions as shall render the same adequate to the exigencies of the Union, do strongly recommend to the different legislatures to send forward delegates, to meet the proposed convention, on the second Monday in May next, at the city of Philadelphia.”
The delegates for the state of New York thereupon laid before Congress instructions which they had received from their constituents, and, in pursuance of the said instructions, moved to postpone the further consideration of the report in order to take up the following proposition, viz.: —
“That it be recommended to the states composing the Union, that a convention of representatives, from the said states respectively, be held at —, on —, for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between the United States of America, and reporting to the United States in Congress assembled, and to the states respectively, such alterations and amendments of the said Articles of Confederation as the representatives met in such convention shall judge proper and necessary to render them adequate to the preservation and support of the Union.”
On the question to postpone, for the purpose above mentioned, the yeas and nays being required by the delegates for New York:
So the question was lost.
A motion was then made, by the delegates for Massachusetts, to postpone the further consideration of the report, in order to take into consideration a motion which they read in their place. This being agreed to, the motion of the delegates for Massachusetts was taken up, and, being amended, was agreed to, as follows: —
“Whereas there is provision, in the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, for making alterations therein, by the assent of a Congress of the United States, and of the legislatures of the several states; and whereas experience hath evinced that there are defects in the present Confederation; as a mean to remedy which, several of the states, and particularly the state of New York, by express instructions to their delegates in Congress, have suggested a convention for the purposes expressed in the following resolution: and such convention appearing to be the most probable mean of establishing in these states a firm national government, —
“Resolved, That, in the opinion of Congress, it is expedient that, on the second Monday in May next, a convention of delegates, who shall have been appointed by the several states, be held at Philadelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall, when agreed to in Congress, and confirmed by the states, render the federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union.”
The day appointed by this resolution for the meeting of the Convention was the 2d Monday in May, [1787;] but the 25th of that month was the first day upon which a sufficient number of members appeared to constitute a representation of a majority of the states. They then elected George Washington their president, and proceeded to business, at the city of Philadelphia.
On the 29th of May, Mr. Edmund Randolph presented to the Convention fifteen resolutions, and Mr. C. Pinckney laid before them the draft of a federal government, which were referred to a committee of the whole; which debated the resolutions, from day to day, until the 13th of June, when the committee of the whole reported to the Convention a series of nineteen resolutions, founded upon those which had been proposed by Mr. Randolph.
On the 15th of June, Mr. Patterson submitted to the Convention his resolutions, which were referred to a committee of the whole, to whom were also recommitted the resolutions reported by them on the 13th.
On the 19th of June, the committee of the whole reported that they did not agree to Mr. Patterson’s propositions, but reported again the resolutions which had been reported before.
The Convention never afterwards went into committee of the whole; but, from the 19th of June till the 23d of July, were employed in debating the nineteen resolutions reported by the committee of the whole on the 13th of June, some of which were occasionally referred to grand committees of one member from each state, or to select committees of five members.
After passing upon the nineteen resolutions, it was, on the 23d of July, resolved, “That the proceedings of the Convention for the establishment of a national government, except what respects the supreme executive, be referred to a committee for the purpose of reporting a constitution conformably to the proceedings aforesaid.”
This committee, consisting of five members, and called in the journal “the committee of detail,” was appointed on the 24th of July; and, with the proceedings of the Convention, the propositions submitted to the Convention, by Mr. Charles Pinckney, on the 29th of May, and by Mr. Patterson, on the 15th of June, were referred to them.
On the 26th of July, a resolution respecting the executive, and two others, offered for the consideration of the Convention, were referred to the committee of detail; and the Convention adjourned till Monday, the 6th of August, when the committee reported a Constitution for the establishment of a national government. This draft formed the general text of debate from that time till the 8th of September; many additional resolutions being, in the course of the deliberations, proposed, and referred to and reported upon by the same committee of detail, or other committees of eleven, (a member from each state,) or of five.
On the 8th of September, a committee of five was appointed “to revise the style of and arrange the articles agreed to by the house.”
On the 12th of September, this committee reported the Constitution, as revised and arranged, and the draft of a letter to Congress. It was ordered that printed copies of the reported Constitution should be furnished to the members, and they were brought in the next day.
On the 17th day of September, 1787, the Convention dissolved itself, by an adjournment without day, after transmitting the plan of the Constitution, which they had prepared, to Congress, to be laid before conventions, delegated by the people of the several states, for their assent and ratification.
The last act of the Convention was a resolution that their journal and other papers should be deposited with their president, to be retained by him, subject to the order of the Congress, if ever formed under the Constitution.
On the 19th of March, 1796, President Washington deposited in the department of state three manuscript volumes; one containing, in 153 pages, the Journal of the Federal Convention of 1787; one the Journal of the Proceedings of the same Convention, while in committee of the whole, in 28 pages; and one, three pages of lists of yeas and nays, on various questions debated in the Convention; and after an interval of eight blank pages, five other pages of like yeas and nays. There were also two loose sheets, and one half sheet of similar yeas and nays; a printed draft of the Constitution, as reported on the 6th of August, 1787, with erasures and written interlineations of amendments afterwards adopted; two sheets containing copies of the series of resolutions offered to the Convention by Mr. Edmund Randolph, in different stages of amendment, as reported by the committee of the whole; and seven other papers, of no importance, in relation to the proceedings of the Convention.
The volume containing the Journal of the Convention was in an incomplete state. The journal of Friday, September 14, and a commencement of that of Saturday, September 15, filled three fourths of the 153d page; then terminated abruptly, and were, with the exception of five lines crossed out with a pen. President Madison, to whom application for that purpose was made, has furnished, from his own minutes, the means of completing the Journal, as now published.
The yeas and nays were not inserted in the journals, but were entered partly in a separate volume, and partly on loose sheets of paper. They were taken, not individually, but by states. Instead of publishing them as they appear in the manuscript, they are now given immediately after each question upon which they were taken.
General Joseph Bloomfield, executor of David Brearly, one of the members of the Convention, transmitted to the department of state several additional papers, which are included in this publication.
The paper purporting to be Colonel Hamilton’s Plan of a Constitution is not noticed in the journals. It was not offered by him for discussion, but was read by him, as part of a speech, observing that he did not mean it as a proposition, but only to give a more correct view of his ideas.
The return of the members in the several states appears to have been an estimate used for the purpose of apportioning the number of members to be admitted from each of the states to the House of Representatives.
In order to follow, with clear understanding, the course of proceedings of the Convention, particular attention is required to the following papers, which, except the third, successively formed the general text of their debates: —
1. May 29, 1787. The Fifteen Resolutions offered by Mr. Edmund Randolph to the Convention, and by them referred to a committee of the whole.
2. June 13. Nineteen Resolutions reported by this committee of the whole, on the 13th, and again on the 19th of June, to the Convention.
3. July 26. Twenty-three Resolutions, adopted and elaborated by the Convention, in debate upon the above nineteen, reported from the committee of the whole; and on the 23d and 26th of July, referred, together with the plan of Mr. C. Pinckney, and the propositions of Mr. Patterson to a committee of five, to report a draft of a Constitution.
4. August 6. The Draft of a Plan of a Constitution, reported by this committee to the Convention; and debated from that time till the 12th of September.
5. September 13. Plan of a Constitution, brought in by a committee of revision, appointed on the 8th of September, consisting of five members, to revise the style and arrange the articles agreed to by the Convention.
The second and fourth of these papers are among those deposited, by President Washington, at the department of state.
The first, fourth, and fifth, are among those transmitted by General Bloomfield.
The third is collected from the proceedings of the Convention, as they are spread over the Journal from June 19th to July 26th.
This paper, together with the plan of Mr. C. Pinckney, a copy of which has been furnished by him, and the propositions of Mr. Patterson, included among the papers forwarded by General Bloomfield, comprise the materials upon which the first draft was made of the Constitution, as reported by the committee of detail, on the 6th of August.
[* ]Mr. Madison, in his elaborate report in the Virginia legislature, in January, 1800, adverts to the different senses in which the word “state” is used. He says, “It is indeed true that the term ‘states’ is sometimes used in a vague sense, and sometimes in different senses, according to the subject to which it is applied. Thus it sometimes means the separate sections of territory occupied by the political societies within each; sometimes the particular governments established by those societies; sometimes those societies, as organized into those particular governments: and lastly, it means the people composing those political societies, in their highest sovereign capacity.”