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be taken, which will at once support a due supremacy of the national authority, and leave in force the local authorities so far as they can be subordinately useful.” He proposed, therefore, a system which would work“without the intervention of the States," and declared that the national government should have a veto on all acts of the state legislatures like that exercised by the king of England over the colonies; and he may also have thought, though this is not quite plain, that the central authority should have the right to overthrow the decisions of state judges. Thus far had men come in their effort to build up in America a substantial organization preserving local liberty and power, but expressing also the general interests and the common life of the nation.
In this dreary year of 1786, while men were writing and arguing, and the liberal-minded among them were almost in despair, a movement which had results of unexpected magnitude was already under way. It grew out of the need of some sort of understanding between Maryland and Virginia concerning the navigation of the Potomac; and back of the plan of agreement and accommodation were Washington and Madison. As early as 1777 three commissioners had been appointed from each of the two states. Nothing having been accomplished at the first convention, Virginia, in 1784, again appointed commissioners, and in January, 1785, Maryland,
Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), II., 337-339.
willing to co-operate, took like action. On the invitation of Washington, who was then greatly interested in projects for opening up routes of communication between the east and the west, five of the commissioners met in the spring of 1785 at Mount Vernon, drew up resolutions to be submitted to their states, and asked the co-operation of Pennsylvania in their plans. This report was accepted by each of the states, but Maryland was prepared to go further; she asked for a new conference on commercial questions and proposed the concurrence of Pennsylvania and Delaware."
Those who were anxiously scanning the horizon saw hope in the suggestion; if two more states were to come into the conference they would “naturally pay the same compliment to their neighbours." ? Madison, hard at work in the legislature, was ready to do what he could to further the movement; but he had to contend with a vehement anti-nationalist party, who were “bitter and illiberal against Congress beyond example," and in their narrow dread of northern commercial power actually considered whether it would not be well to encourage British shipping in preference to that of the eastern states. When resolutions granting Congress authority to regulate commerce were brought before the legislature, they were long discussed, but were at length so hopelessly mutilated that friends of the measure
Scharf, Hist. of Md., II., 532.
lost interest in their passage; and on the last day of the session another resolution, which had been lying peacefully on the table, was taken up and passed almost without opposition (January, 1786).' This resolution appointed commissioners to meet such commissioners as might be appointed by other states to take into consideration the trade of the Union, and “to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations may be necessary to their common interest and their permanent harmony." The commissioners, of whom, of course, Madison was one, being instructed to make the necessary arrangements, invited the other states to send delegates to a convention at Annapolis to be held the first Monday in September, 1786.
During the summer before the meeting Madison was doing what he could, but had not much hope. “I almost despair of success,"'' he wrote. And yet he believed that something must be done quickly, for delay added to the peril; the introduction of new states might add new elements of uncertainty and perhaps of discord, and there was, moreover, so much selfishness and rascality abroad in the land that any one looking about him might well have feared that the game by which Philip managed the confederacy of the Greeks would be played on the American states.: “I saw eno',” Madison said, during the late Assembly of the influence of the 1 Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), II., 218.
; Ibid., 229.
• Ibid., 229.
desperate circumstances of individuals on their public conduct to admonish me of the possibility of finding in the council of some one of the states fit instruments of foreign machinations."
The convention met at Annapolis, but delegations from only five states were in attendance. Evidently nothing could be done in the way of carrying out the express purpose of the meeting, and it was therefore decided to take another bold step forward and to hope for better results. A report, written by Hamilton, was unanimously adopted. It pointed to the critical situation of the states, which called for the exercise "of the united virtue and wisdom of all the members of the confederacy,” and it proposed a convention of delegates from all the states to meet at Philadelphia the second Monday in May (1787) “ to take into consideration the situation of the United States, 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 legislatures of every state, will effectually provide for the
Although the commissioners declared that they could properly address only the states, “from motives of respect” they transmitted their report to Con
· Elliot, Debates, I., 118.
gress as well as to the governments of all the states. Congress might have been expected to grasp at this opportunity for bettering national conditions, but it hesitated and demurred, and finally, February 21, without mentioning the request of the Annapolis convention, called a convention to meet at the time and place mentioned in the report of the commissioners, "for the sole and express purpose of revising the articles of confederation," and to report such alterations as should "render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the union.” 1
For the men who had been looking for the establishment of respectable institutions the winter was full of activity and interest. In the end twelve states appointed delegates to the convention, Rhode Island alone holding aloof. But the wisest men in the land were not very hopeful of results. Jay pointed out that the great trouble was not merely “want of knowledge,” and that “reason and public spirit” required the aid of virtue. Washington lamented the factious spirit of the state politicians and, above all, the "thirst for power, and the bantling—I had like to have said MONSTER—Sovereignty," which had taken fast hold on the states.?
1 Journals of Congress, February 21, 1787. * Jay, Corresp. and Public Papers, III., 239, 244.