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that the nationalists, who were the majority of the convention, contemplated the restriction of this power, through any consideration for the autonomy of the States. To suppose that they did, is to assume a state of mind in them as to the one subject, upon which all were agreed the powers of the general government must be increased, contrary to their general aims, as indicated in the records of the time. The opposite view belongs to a much later date than the year of the convention,--to a time when the emotions and intentions of the constitutional period had been forgotten, or were misrepresented for party purposes. The more reasonable opinion, based upon the contemporary documents, is that the convention intended to vest the general government with that fulness of power over commerce, both foreign and interstate, which is indicated by the broad terms of the clause of the Constitution bestowing it upon Congress; that the men of the convention were at one with the expressed purpose of the reports of Monroe's committee of 1785, and Pinckney's of 1786, in desiring to vest in the general government the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating commerce, as well with foreign nations, as among the several States, except in the few particulars reserved from such general power by the Constitution. We shall find in the debates in the Constitutional Convention, and in the State conventions which ratified the Constitution, evidence of the great scope assigned to the commercial power of Congress by the opinion of that day; and we have a suggestion by Madison before the convention met, of such a power surpassing the extremest range attributed to it in any recent proposal. In 1781 he had already arrived at the principal of using the power of the Confederacy over commerce to coerce a State. In that year, as appears from a letter to Jefferson, a committee of the Continental Congress, of which Madison was a member, reported an amendment to the Articles of Confederation, to enable the Confederacy to compel a State to fulfil its obligations. Among other modes of coercion, the amendment provided particularly for making distraint on any of the effects, vessels, or merchandise of such States, or of any of the citizens thereof, and for prohibiting and preventing their trade and intercourse, as well with any other of the United States and the citizens thereof, as with any foreign states, and as well by land as by sea. As an easy way of enforcing this prohibition, Madison suggests that
two or three vessels of force employed against their trade, will make it the interest of most of the States to yield prompt obedience, and with respect to States which have little or no foreign trade, it was provided that all inland trade with such States as supply them with foreign merchandise might be interdicted, and the concurrence of the latter might be enforced, in case of refusal, by operation on their foreign trade."
In 1787, the power which he intended to bestow upon the general government over commerce was of such extent, that, as he explains its operation:
With the resources of commerce in hand, the national administration might always find means for exerting it [the power of coercion] either by sea or land; but the difficulty and awkwardness of operating by force on the collective will of the State, render it particularly desirable that the necessity of it might be precluded. Perhaps the negative on the laws might create such a mutuality of dependence between the general and particular authorities as to answer this purpose, or perhaps some defined objects of taxation might be submitted along with commerce to the general authority.”
It is clear from this last extract, that the resources over commerce which Madison proposed in 1787 to vest in Congress must have included a complete and positive power of regulation; for nothing short of that could effect the coercion of a State, through prohibitions upon its commerce by land and sea. If a member of Congress should now propose to coerce such a State as New Jersey, into corporate legislation conformable to the Congressman's ideas of dangerous monopolies in interstate trade, by prohibitions upon the foreign and interstate commerce of the citizens of that State, extraordinary as such a project would seem to us, it would not be materially different from Madison's views of the extent of the powers which should be possessed by the general government.
* Writings of Madison (Hunt), vol. i., 131, 132. * Ibid., vol. ii., 348.
Madison's extraordinary proposal was, of course, not made to nor accepted by the convention; but it is one among many indications that the vesting of the general government with a great commercial power was intended by the leaders of opinion, while the Constitution was in process of forming; and we know that the convention was dominated by those who were strongly inclined to nationalist, as distinguished from State rights sentiments.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION.—THE RELATION OF THE POWER OF CONGRESS OVER COMMERCE TO THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE CONVENTION AS A WHOLE –THE PREDOMINANT NATIONALIST SENTIMENT OF THE CONVENTION AND THE GREAT SCOPE OF THE COMMERCIAL POWER AS UNDERSTOOD BY ITS MEMBERS
HE interpretation which the majority of the Constitutional Convention probably gave to the commerce clause can be understood only in connection with the character of the membership of the convention, and its work as a whole. In the Massachusetts Convention of 1788, the Rev. Thomas Thatcher explained the reasons which induced the framers of the Constitution to vest the general government with the great powers then objected to and ever since ardently discussed; and his statement is perhaps as accurate as has ever been made. He was considering the objections that more power than was necessary had been granted to the Union, that the Constitution would tend to destroy the local governments of the States, and that the end would be aristocracy