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amend the Articles of Confederation to this end." Pursuant to this suggestion, the State Legislature, in July 1785, resolved that “the powers of Congress [were] not fully adequate to the great purposes they were originally designed to effect,” and that Congress be urged to recommend a convention of all the States “to revise the Confederation, and report to Congress how far it might be necessary in their opinion, to alter or enlarge the same, in order to secure and perpetuate the primary objects of the Union.”? This resolution was sent, together with a circular letter from Governor Bowdoin, to the Governors of all the States and to the Massachusetts delegates in Congress, to be submitted to that body. But the delegates (Elbridge Gerry, S. H. Holten, and Rufus King), refused to submit them, and upon their urgency they were rescinded and no further action taken. In the meantime, however, Congress was responding to the public demand, various propositions for enlarging the powers of Congress were being brought forward in that body, to which attention will be directed in the next chapter; the convention at Annapolis met and reported, the disorders of 1786–1787 broke out, the resistance of the conservative element in Congress to a general assembly yielded, and the convention met at Philadelphia determined to accomplish much more than enlargement of the power of Congress over commerce.
* Massachusetts Resolves, 1785–1786, p. 7o. 2 Ibid. 38 and 39.
PROPOSALS IN CONGRESS FOR ENLARGING THE POWER OF THAT BODY OVER COMMERCE—ORIGIN OF THE DEFINITE MOVEMENT FOR ENLARGEMENT OF POWER IN A PROHIBITORY MEASURE–THE REPORT OF MONROE's COMMITTEE IN 1785–THE REPORT OF PINCKNEY's COMMITTEE IN 1786
HE proposals in Congress for enlarging the powers of that body over commerce went through a development from 1781 to 1786, similar to that which we have seen proceeding in the country. In Congress, as out of it, the development virtually began with the representations of New Jersey; for John Witherspoon's motion of February 3, 1781, conformed to the principle of the representations, he being a delegate from that State. His motion recited that it was 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 might take place that shall be partial or contrary to the common interest”; and granted to Congress the exclusive right of laying duties upon all imported articles; no restriction, however, to be valid and no duty to be laid without the consent of at least nine States." The motion was ahead of its time, opinion in Congress had not developed sufficiently to support it, and that body was on this very date occupied with the Report of the Committee of the Whole on the Revenue. The motion was therefore defeated,” and contributed nothing to subsequent efforts to enlarge the powers of Congress. Disregarding Witherspoon's motion and neglecting the revenue measures, the permanent movement for enlarging Congressional control over commerce began in that body with the recommendation of a prohibitory measure, in the report of the committee of which Thomas Jefferson was chairman, in April 1784, advising that the legislatures of the several States vest the United States in Congress assembled for the term of fifteen years with the power to prohibit the importation of goods, wares, or merchandise into, or the exportation thereof from, any of the States, in vessels belonging to the subjects of any power with which the United States had no treaties of commerce, and also advising the vesting in that body, for the same term, of authority to prohibit the subjects of any foreign power with which the United States had no such treaties, from importing into the United States any goods, wares, or merchandise not the produce of the dominion of the sovereign whose subjects they were. The report also recommended that to all acts passed in the exercise of the recommended powers, the assent of nine States should be necessary." The power proposed to be vested in Congress was manifestly a great and positive one; it would be considered to-day a dangerous and tyrannous one. Yet the principle of the recommendation originated in Virginia, in 1783, seems to have aroused little opposition when first suggested in Congress, and to have come into general favor by 1786.” The assent of the several States, however, to the general principle was attended by such various and contradictory provisions as to details, that the proposal failed to become a law, and the movement in its favor became merged in the wider propositions of the Annapolis Convention. But it is significant of the scope which the opinion of the country in 1781 to 1786 assigned to that regulation of commerce which it was then desired should be vested in Congress, that the movement to secure the greater power to that body really began with the recommendation of a prohibitory measure. The proposals in Congress next advanced to the vesting in that body of complete control over both foreign and interstate trade, the report of the committee of which James Monroe was chairman recommending, in the spring of 1785, an amendment to the Articles of Confederation to attain this result. The conviction of the necessity of speedy action upon the recommendation, which characterizes the report, was due principally to the great contemporaneous development of the West, fear of its drifting away from the Union, and anxiety as to the effect its addition to the Confederation might have upon measures favored by the seaboard communities. For men were already realizing somewhat of the great future of the lands beyond the Alleghanies, and were fearful that the interests of that region might conflict with the welfare of the older settlements, and prevent the enactment of the commercial measures which the latter desired. Monroe had recently made a journey into Western New York, and to the Great Lakes, one of his objects being to “take into his view the practicability of communications from Lake Erie down the Potomac.” He also had in mind, about this time, the examination of the route from Fort Pitt to Lake
* Journals of Congress, vii., 25, 26 The motion is in Elliot, i., 92. * Journals of Congress, vii., 26.
* Journals of Congress, ix., 186, 187; Elliot, i., 106, IoS. 2 See the Report of the Congressional Committee of March 31, 1786, on the state of the measure at that time, Journals of
Congress, xi., 31.