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Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Leffler, Richard; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Carlson, Marybeth (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Virginia (1)
8 (1988)

Introduction,   pp. xxiii-xxxix


Page xxxiii

granted Congress this power on 29 June 1784, the first state to accede.
Three days earlier, the legislature had also ratified an amendment to
the Articles of Confederation, proposed by Congress in April 1783,
that would have changed the basis of apportioning Confederation ex-
penses among the states from land value to population (CDR, 148-
50).
In late 1784 and early 1785 commerce again became a central issue.
Trade had declined significantly, and Congress was only mildly suc-
cessful in negotiating commercial treaties. Some states feuded over
commercial regulations, and there was widespread displeasure with
Congress' lack of commercial power. By the end of 1784, only five
states had agreed to grant Congress the commercial power that it had
requested in April 1784. Congress thus sought an alternative proposal
and in December 1784 appointed a committee on "the general reg-
ulation of trade." On 28 March 1785, the committee, chaired by James
Monroe, proposed an amendment to the Articles of Confederation
giving Congress permanent power to regulate foreign and interstate
commerce and to levy import and export duties, which would "be
collected under the authority and accrue to the use of the State in
which the same shall be payable" (CDR, 154-56). Virginia's congres-
sional delegation split over this proposal. Richard Henry Lee believed
that if the amendment were adopted, the Southern States would be
at the "Mercy" of a "destructive Monopoly" of the Northern States.
Such a situation would probably occur because "The Spirit of Com-
merce thro'out the world is a Spirit of Avarice" (to James Madison,
11 August, Rutland, Madison, VIII, 340). The amendment touched off
a heated sectional debate in Congress and in July 1785 it was dropped.
Virginia and Maryland, acting in the vacuum created by Congress'
lack of power to regulate commerce and seeking to resolve their dif-
ferences, appointed commissioners to confer in March 1785. These
commissioners signed an agreement "to regulate and settle the Juris-
diction and Navigation of Potomack and Pokomoke Rivers and that
part of Chesapeake Bay which lieth within the Territory of Virginia."'
This meeting almost did not take place. Virginia appointed its com-
missioners (George Mason, James Madison, Edmund Randolph, and
Archibald Henderson) on 28 June 1784, while Maryland appointed its
commissioners in the fall. Maryland also proposed the time and place
of the meeting, but Governor Patrick Henry failed to inform the Vir-
ginia commissioners. When the Maryland commissioners arrived in Al-
exandria, Mason and Henderson learned of the scheduled meeting
and decided to confer with the Marylanders. George Washington in-
vited the commissioners to hold their conference at Mount Vernon.
As the commercial depression deepened, the question of revising
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INTRODUCTION


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