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dependent States”-not as a free and independent state, or a free and independent people—they had “full power to levy war, conclude peace, and contract alliances." It was as individual States and at different times that they authorized this declaration to be made; and it was in right of their individual power “to contract alliances” that they coöperated in the war of independence, and adopted, while the war was being waged, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Yet, without one thought of consolidation, was there ever a more perfect union than existed when the colonies, conscious of their mutual independence, “appealed to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of their intentions," and "for the support of their declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors "? It is true that an attempt was made by Mr. Adams and others, as we have already seen, to effect a consolidation of the States into one state. “It has been said,” he remarked, “that we are independent individuals making a bargain with each other. The question is not what we are now, but what we ought to be when our bargain shall be made. The confederacy is to make us one individual only; it is to form us, like separate pieces of metal, into one common mass. We shall no longer retain our separate indi. viduality, but become a single individual,” &c. Mr. Adams was mistaken. The States, under the confederation, did not " become a single individual;" on the contrary, they did retain their separate individuality ;” and the very article—the most important iu the draft of confederation—which he was so energetically opposing, was triumphantly upheld. The truth is, that the Union was never weaker or more in danger of dissolution than under its first formal bond of confederation. The first Congress assembled under its provisions in 1781. In 1784, one year after peace was proclaimed between England and the United States, the army of the latter was reduced to eighty men; and there was no means of providing for their support. “ Each State,” says Madison, “yielding to the voice of immediate interest or convenience, withdrew its support from the confederation, till the frail and tottering edifice was ready to fall upon our heads, and crush us beneath its ruins.”
The chief difficulty experienced by Congress and the confedereration was that they had received no powers to regulate com
The States had consequently retained the right to impose such duties on exports and imports as their several legislatures might think proper. From this a twofold embarrassment resulted. Congress had no means of sustaining the public credit by levying duties for the liquidation of the public debt, or defraying the public expenses. They could only apportion the quota to be paid by each State; and the States failing in their duty of replenishing the treasury, there was no way of compelling them. Coercion of States, however justifiable in the case of a repudiation of pecuniary obligations voluntarily entered into, was not within the powers of Congress. On the other hand, a serious embarrassment was felt by Congress in making commercial treaties with foreign states; for unless the States of the Union chose severally through their legislatures to ratify the acts of Congress in this regard, by adopting such commercial regulations in their ports as might be necessary, treaties made by Congress might be utterly inoperative; and in practice it was found that, with the best intention on the part of the States to carry out the recommendations of Congress, certain inconvenient irregularities, inseparable from the distinct action of thirteen different bodies, interfered with the efficiency of government and prevented its consistent action. In 1785 this important matter was under the consideration of Congress, and it was proposed that the first paragraph of the ninth of the Articles of Confederation should be altered so as to read thus :
“ The United States in Congress assembled shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, except in the cases mentioned in the sixth article—of sending and receiving ambassadors-entering into treaties and alliances—of regulating the trade of the States, as well with foreign nations as 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 than 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 capture; provided, that no member of Congress shall be appointed judge of any of the said courts.”
A letter was also prepared to be sent to the States, setting forth the advantages to be expected from committing these powers to Congress. It was felt, however, that any proposition for amending the act of confederation ought to emanate from the State legislatures rather than from Congress; and so the matter dropped in Congress.
After various movements in the same direction, the State of Virginia appointed a commission to "meet such commissioners as might 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 cominon 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 eftectually to provide for the same." The commissioners were also directed to transmit to the several States copies of the resolution under which their appointment had been made, with a circular requesting their concurrence, and proposing a time and place for the meeting
Only four States, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, at first supported the proposal of Virginia. Commissioners from these met with the Virginia commission at Annapolis on the 11th of September, 1786, and remained in session till the 14th of the same month, when they made a joint report to their several legislatures. They set forth that they had felt it to be unadvisable to proceed with the business of their mission with so partial and defective a representation of the States as bad assembled, a circumstance the more important as it appeared that commissioners had been appointed from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and North Carolina, though they had not attended at Annapolis. They nevertheless expressed an earnest and unanimous wish that speedy measures might 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 might be found to require. They also suggested that the commissioners to be appointed should be clothed with somewhat larger powers than had at first-except in the instance of New Jersey-been confided to them. The commissioners from New Jersey had been empowered" to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial reg. ulations and other important matters might be necessary to the common interest and permanent harmony of the several States;" and the convention urged the States to issue similar commissions to their representatives. The reason of this recommendation they gave in these words : “That there are important defects in the system of the federal government is acknowledged by the acts of all those States which have convened 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 subjects of public discussion, and none of which can have escaped the penetration of those to whom they would in this instance be addressed.
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."
On the 21st of Febuary, 1787, Congress resumed the consideration of this weighty matter, and the following preamble and resolution was adopted :
“ 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 purpose expressed in the following resolution; and such convention appearing to be the most probable means 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 Phil. adelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall, when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States, render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union."
The language of the foregoing preamble and resolution is important to be observed, as showing at once what was and what was not contemplated in the proposed convention. The object was to “establish in these States a firm national government” by “revising" and making“ alterations” in the existing Articles of Confed