Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

merce in which he was instrumental in the passage of measures for the protection of the interests of the planters of Virginia. He favored the concentration of the export and import trade at one or two ports. The agents of British merchants had been accustomed to trade directly with producers along the rivers, purchasing products at a low price and charging exorbitant rates for all goods they sold. As England would not allow of free trade with her West India possessions it was considered desirable that her trade with the states be curtailed. With this end in view an act was finally passed restraining all foreign vessels from indiscriminate trading, and limiting them to certain ports. Strong efforts were made to concentrate all foreign trade at two ports, but in order to the passage of the act concession was made, allowing of five ports of entry-Norfolk, Alexandria, York, Tappahannock, and Bermuda Hundred. At subsequent sessions of the legislature efforts were made to repeal the act, which, though not successful, caused the addition of other ports of entry, thus dividing the trade of the country, and tending to reduce the value of its products. At this time, few vessels other than those sailing under the British flag, touched at Virginia ports, while in the leading ports of the country— Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore-vessels of all nations were constant traders. In the Philadelphia market, tobacco, the staple product of Virginia, commanded twenty cents more than at ports in the state wherein it was raised. The far-seeing Madison was strongly opposed by local considerations, and it was only by sustained effort that the measure remained on the statute book.

In connection with port regulation, came up the subject of the bound. ary between Virginia and Maryland. The charter to Lord Baltimore defined the boundary of his land as the southern shore of the Potomac river, and in the constitution of 1776, Virginia had released to Maryland all land com. prised in her charter. This might lead to a conflict of interests in the enforcement of commercial restrictions. Mr. Madison early saw the result to be apprehended, and wrote Mr. Jefferson, then a delegate in Congress, to obtain an expression of the opinion of the Maryland delegates in reference to the subject. He claimed Virginia had not given exclusive control of the river to Maryland, but demanded the right of legislation over and occupancy of that half bordering her shore. By priority of title, under the original patent Virginia was entitled to control the entire river adjoining the northern neck. In order to definite action he introduced a resolution, on the 28th of June, providing for the appointment of four commissioners, to meet an equal number of commissioners to be appointed by the state of Maryland, and take into consideration such measures concerning the control of the river as would be advantageous to the two states, and make report thereon to the general assembly. This joint commission met at Mount Vernon, March 28, 1785, and prepared a report to be submitted to the respective state legis. latures for the definite adjustment of jurisdiction over Chesapeake bay and

the Potomac river. The discussion of this subject brought up another the system of duties on imports and exports, and uniform regulations in commerce and currency. A supplementary report was adopted in com. imittee, recommending legislation to these ends. The recommendation was first acted upon by Maryland, and by her legislature was commended to the consideration of the general assemblies of Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Mr. Madison had been one of the commissioners on behalf of Virginia, and the action of the legislature of Maryland in the premises becoming known to him, he was encouraged in the belief that concert of action among the several states might, at that stage, be agreed upon. He had long desired to have Congress invested with more authority in the gove ernment of the confederation, and had previously made efforts to that end; in consequence, he was regarded in an unfavorable light by some members of the state legislature, when matters relating to the powers of Congress came before that body. To avoid this, having prepared a suitable resolution, he prevailed upon his colleague, Mr. Tyler, to present it to the house. Near the close of the session it was taken up, and was passed the 21st of January, 1786. The resolution provided for the appointment of delegates from each of the states, to meet at a time and place to be agreed upon, “in order 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 common interest and permanent harmony; and to report to the several states such an act, relative to this great object, as, when unanimously ratj. fied by them, will enable the United States in Congress effectually to provide for the same.” The commissioners first named were Edmund Randolph, Dr. Walter Jones, James Madison, St. George Tucker, and Meriwether Smith. The Senate added the names of Colonel Mason and David Ross. This movement eventually led to the holding of the convention that framed the Constitution.

Among the early measures taken by the legislature, was the appointment, in 1776, of a commission of five members, for the purpose of a complete revisal of the common law of the state. The labor of revision fell upon Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Pendleton, and Mr. Wythe, and resulted in the compilation of one hundred and twenty-six Hills. Of these a few were brought before the house from time to time, and passed as the need for the regulation they covered became pressing ; by far the greater portion was withheld for the time, owing to accumulation of other business. In the passage of these bills Mr. Madison took a leading part, and deeming it advisable that the people should understand their provisions, he introduced a resolution causing a limited number of copies to be printed and circulated in every county in the state. Further prosecution of the work was deferred until the next meeting of the legislature.

During this session of the legislature numerous petitions were received alleging a decline in public morals, and soliciting a general system of taxation to provide for the settlement of religious teachers, all of which was in the interest of the Episcopal form of religion. Petitions were also received from dissenters-Baptists and Presbyterians, asking that “religious freedom be established upon the broad basis of perfect political equality ;” the Episcopal church asked for the repeal of all laws which interfered with their power of self-government. The committee of religion reported, favoring the incor. poration of the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches, and such other denominations as should apply for incorporation. However, a bill for the incorporation of the Episcopal church was the only one brought in, and it was left over until the ensuing session. In October it was again taken up and championed by Mr. Henry, who claimed that a direct tax for the support of religion should be paid by the people of the state, and a resolution of that import passed the House. Even the Presbyterian church, so long accustomed to Episcopal supremacy, favored the passage of a law for the support of religion. Mr. Madison stood almost alone in opposition ; he had studied the effect of the bill in all its bearings, and had witnessed the oppression already practiced upon the less influential sects in some of the counties.

During the same legislative session a resolution had been passed by a large majority, in favor of the "incorporation of all societies of the Christian religion which may apply for the same." A bill was brought in for the incorporation of “the clergy of the Protestant Episcopal church." This was afterward amended to include the laity. Mr. Madison was opposed to it, but gave it his vote, deeming that the best manner in which to defeat the more objectionable measure proposed. On the day of its passage the bill "establishing a provision for teachers of the Christian religion," was considered in committee of the whole. After three days' discussion, further action was postponed until the fourth Thursday in the following November, which carried it one day beyond the limit of the current term of the legislature. The bill was ordered printed, and copies were sent to all parts of the commonwealth in order to obtain an expression of the opinion of the people. This was an opportunity which was improved by Mr. Madison with zeal and eloquence, and the copies were returned to the legislature with long lists of names registered in opposition. The bill was efíectually disposed of, and taxation in support of religious societies was never again considered.

CHAPTER IV.

MEMBER OF CONGRESS AND OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION.

TH

HE cariier part of the legislative vacation in the spring and summer of

1785, was devoted by Mr. Madison to a continuation of his law studies, and later was relieved by a few weeks of travel in the North, during which he visited Philadelphia and New York. The preceding summer he had passed in the western woods; this year he had received a pressing invitation from Mr. Jefferson, to spend a few months with him in Paris, but various reasons prevented this, chief among which was the break it would produce in his law studies; besides, the time was too limited for such a trip as he would wish to take. During this year he received the compliment of the degree of doctor of laws from the college of William and Mary—an honor as deserved as it was unsought. His correspondence with various friends was continued, and the proceedings in Congress were carefully noted.

The next session of the legislature convened the 17th of October, 1785. To Mr. Madison was again assigned the chairmanship of the commitee on courts of justice; but the regulation of commerce demanded immediate action. Petitions were received from various quarters soliciting relief; it was claimed that the course of England in permitting none but British vessels the privilege of trade with the West Indies, had done much to injure the American merchant marine; no vessels were building, and even the coastwise trade was in the hands of foreigners. The subject was discussed in committee of the whole, Mr. Madison leading in the debate, and delivering a speech of great power, in which he indicated what seemed to him the proper course to pursue. A resolution was adopted declaring that "an act ought to pass to authorize the delegates of this state in Congress to give the assent of the state to a general regulation of the commerce of the United States, under certain qualifications." A supplementary resolution was then adopted, instructing the delegates in Congress to propose such recommendations as would comply with the spirit of the foregoing resolution. After

discussion this was amended, limiting to a period of thirteen years such cominercial restrictions as were deemed necessary. This destroyed the force of the resolution, and it was allowed to remain on the table.

The proposition for a general convention to frame a constitution and erect a permanent form of government, originated in New York in July, 1782, and was again proposed by Massachusetts in 1785; neither of these propositions, however, was productive of the effect sought. It fell to Virginia, and to her eminent statesman, James Madison, to take the initiative. This was done in the presentation of a resolution, through his friend Mr. Tyler, which was then furthered in a well considered speech by its author. A committee of seven was appointed, with Edmund Pendleton as chairman. The other members were Dr. Walter Jones, James Madison, St. George Tucker, Meriwether Smith, David Ross, and Mr. Ronald. The latter declined to serve, leaving the delegation to consist of six members. Of the states in the confederation, but nine appointed delegates; and of these, five only were represented in the convention that assembled in Annapolis, September 11, 1786. Delegates were present from Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. Under these circumstances it was deemed inexpedient to proceed, and a resolution was adopted expressing the wish that “ speedy measures may be taken to effect a general meeting of the states in a future convention for the same and such other purposes as the condition of public affairs may be found to require.” It was suggested that delegates be again appointed, and that another general convention be held at Philadelphia in the following May.

On the 4th of December following, the Virginia legislature appointed a second committee, consisting of George Washington, Patrick Henry, Edmund Randolph, John Blair, James Madison, and George Wythe. Mr. Henry declined to serve, and Dr. James McClurg was appointed in his stead. The second convention having for its object a revisal of the articles of confederation, met in Philadelphia May 9, 1787. The obstacles to be overcome in accomplishing this work were many, and comprised chartered rights; state sovereignties; the rights of corporate companies ; collisions of interests; differences regarding boundaries; beside many other points that occurred to delegates and were brought forward for discussion. It is doubtful if any other plan of union than that then existing, had at the time been entertained. When a change was first suggested in the convention, it was considered preposterous, the greater number of the delegates adhering to the original plan of a simple revision of the existing articles of confederation. Gradually the idea of a more definite and comprehensive union gained adherents, and before the close of the four months' deliberation, was definitely decided upon, and a rough draft of the articles was prepared. Report was then made before the convention, and a committee of five, of which Mr. Madison was one, was appointed to arrange and revise the

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »