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THE ANNAPOLIS CONVENTION OF 1786—THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH PRODUCED IT-THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONERS
HIS convention assembled at Annapolis, Md., in September, 1786, upon the suggestion of Virginia, 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 [might] be necessary to their common interest and permanent harmony; and to report to the several States such an act relative to [that] great object as when unanimously ratified by them [would] enable the United States in Congress effectually to provide for the Same. *
The assembly resulted from measures taken by Virginia and Maryland to adjust their respective claims to the Potomac River and parts of Chesapeake Bay. The two States appointed a joint commission in 1784, to report upon the question * Elliot, vol. i., pp. 115–116; Virginia Journals, 1785, pp. 153, of jurisdiction; and, at about the same time, a memorial from their inhabitants, setting forth the depressed condition of trade, and recommending the improvement of the navigation of the Potomac River under control of both States, and the urgency of Washington with the Governor and members of the Legislature of Virginia, led to the referring to the commission of the question of improved communications with the West. The commissioners reported upon the subjects referred to them, recommending the improvement of several routes to connect the waters flowing into the Atlantic with those of the western country; and since one of these routes lay partly in Pennsylvania, they advised that permission be obtained from that State for the building within her borders of the suggested road.* But beside the questions of jurisdiction and of improved communications with the western settlements, there were numerous matters in the policies of the two States which hindered their prosperity, such as differences in coinage and burdensome tariffs. The commissioners, therefore, going beyond their instructions, presented a supplemental report upon the general trade relations of the two States *:
154 (Richmond Reprint of 1828).
It was [says McMaster] doubtless of great moment that each State should have equal and well defined rights on the waters of the river and the bay. But it was also of much importance that every hundredweight of tobacco that went over the Potomac to Maryland, and every barrel of corn that came from Maryland to Virginia, should be made subject to a uniform system of duties. Nor was it less desirable that all disputes about the currency or the meaning of commercial laws should be settled in accordance with some uniform principles. The commissioners were well aware that however needful these things might be, it did not fall within their instructions to meddle with them. Yet they felt sure, that as good men and true, they might with perfect propriety draw up a supplementary report setting forth how, in the course of their labors, they had been deeply impressed with the want of legislation on the currency, on duties, and on commercial matters in general. This indeed they did, and added the suggestion that each year two commissioners should be appointed to report upon the details of a system for the next year."
* Maryland Journals, 1784, p. 64. 2 Maryland Journals for November 1785, pp. 11, 19.
The report was approved in substance by the Maryland Legislature, which proposed that Pennsylvania and Delaware should be requested to join with Virginia and Maryland in carrying out its recommendations.” The Legislature also recommended that in order to maintain that equality of duties or imports and exports which was considered essential to the commerce and revenue of both States, each should annually appoint an equal number of commissioners to consider the question of duties and also such other subjects as might concern the commercial interests of both.* The report of the commissioners, together with
* McMaster, History of the People of the United States, vol. i.,
the resolutions adopted by the Legislature of
Maryland, were sent to the Legislature of Virginia, where they encountered some opposition, particularly in the Senate. But the opportunity presented by the consideration of the subject was seized by Madison to procure the introduction, and finally the passage, of a resolution proposing a convention of delegates of all the States to consider the condition of the trade of the country, and report such an act to Congress as would enable that body to adequately provide for its regulation; and seven commissioners, among whom were Madison and Randolph, were appointed to meet such delegates as might be named by the other States, at a time and place to be thereafter designated.” The Virginia commissioners met, and named Annapolis, Md., as the place, and the first Monday in September, 1786, as the date of the proposed convention. But owing, in part, to the fears of some that the convention would recommend too great changes in the Articles of Confederation, in part, to the fears of others that it would not go far enough, and that its action would hinder the thorough revision of the Articles which they thought necessary, only five States—New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Delaware —were represented in the convention, which met on September 14, 1786. The assembled delegates, considering themselves too few to enter upon the main business entrusted to them, were content to draw up a report to their respective States, drafted by Hamilton and somewhat toned down upon suggestions of Randolph. It happened that New Jersey, through irritation at New York, had broadened the instructions to her delegates to include the consideration of a uniform system of commercial regulations and other matters, and the report took advantage of these instructions to recommend a general convention of all the States to meet at Philadelphia on the second Monday of May, 1787, “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 Legislature of every State, will effectually provide for the same.” * Works of Alexander Hamilton (Lodge), vol. i., pp. 319-323.
* Maryland Journals, November 1785, pp. 11, 19. • Virginia Journals (Reprint of 1828), pp. 153, 154. See also Madison's accountin Writings of Madison (Hunt), vol. ii.,396 et seq.