Front Page Titles (by Subject) PROCEEDINGS WHICH LED TO THE ADOPTION OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES. - The Debates in the Several State Conventions of the Adoption of the Federal Constitution vol. 1
Return to Title Page for The Debates in the Several State Conventions of the Adoption of the Federal Constitution vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
PROCEEDINGS WHICH LED TO THE ADOPTION OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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.”