Annapolis Convention

The Annapolis Convention was a meeting at Annapolis, Maryland of 12 delegates from five states (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia) that called for a constitutional convention. The formal title of the meeting was a Meeting of Commissioners to Remedy Defects of the Federal Government. The defects that they were to remedy were those barriers that limited trade or commerce between the largely independent states under the Articles of Confederation.

The convention met from September 11 to September 14, 1786. The commissioners felt that there were not enough states represented to make any substantive agreement. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and North Carolina had appointed commissioners who failed to get to the meeting in time to attend it, while Connecticut, Maryland, South Carolina and Georgia had taken no action at all.

They produced a report which was sent to the Congress and to the states. The report asked support for a broader meeting to be held the next May in Philadelphia. It expressed the hope that more states would be represented and that their delegates or deputies would be authorized to examine areas broader than simply commercial trade.

The direct result of the report was the Philadelphia Convention of 1787.

On 19 September 1786 the Maryland Journal printed the first public notice about the Annapolis Convention. Its author commented, "Should this Address have its Effect, we may hope to see the Federal Union of these States established upon Principles, which will secure the Dignity, Harmony and Felicity of these confederated Republics; and not only rescue them from their present Difficulties, but from that insolent Hauteur and contemptuous Neglect, which they have experienced as a Nation."

Introduction by James Madison:

Having witnessed, as a member of the Revolutionary Congress, the inadequacies of the powers conferred by the "Articles of Confederation," and having become, after the expiration of my term of service there, a member of the Legislature of Virginia, I felt it to be my duty to spare no efforts to impress on that body the alarming condition of the U. States proceeding from that cause, and the evils threatened by delay, in applying a remedy. With this, propositions were made vesting in Congress the necessary powers to regulate trade, then suffering under the monopolizing power abroad, and State collisions at home, and to draw from that source the convenient revenue it was capable of yielding. The propositions, though received with favorable attention, and at one moment agreed to in a crippled form, were finally frustrated, or, rather, abandoned. Such, however, were the impressions which the public discussions had made, that an alternative proposition, which had been kept in reserve, being seasonably brought forward by a highly respected member [of the Virginia legislature], who, having long served in the State [Virginia] councils without participating in the Federal, had more the ear of the Legislature on that account, was adopted with little opposition. The proposition invited the other states to concur with Virginia in a convention of deputies commissioned to devise and report a uniform system of commercial regulations. Commissioners on the part of the State were at the same time appointed, myself of the number. The convention proposed took place at Annapolis, in August, 1786. Being, however, very partially attended, and it appearing to the members that a rapid progress, aided by the experiment on foot, had made in ripening the public mind for a radical reform of the Federal polity, they determined to waive the object for which they were appointed, and recommend a convention, with enlarged powers, to be held the year following, in the city of Philadelphia. The Legislature of Virginia happened to be the first that acted on the recommendation, and being a member [of the Virginia Legislature], the only one of the attending commissioners at Annapolis who was so, my best exertions were used in promoting a compliance with it, and in giving to the example the most conciliating form, and all the weight that could be derived from a list of deputies having the name of Washington at its head.

Sept. 14, 1786

Proceedings of the Commissioners to Remedy Defects of the Federal Government, Annapolis in the State of Maryland. September 14, 1786.

To the Honorable, The Legislatures of Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York - assembled at Annapolis, humbly beg leave to report.

That, pursuant to their several appointments, they met, at Annapolis in the State of Maryland on the eleventh day of September Instant, and having proceeded to a Communication of their Powers; they found that the States of New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, had, in substance, and nearly in the same terms, authorized their respective Commissions "to meet such other Commissioners as were, or might be, appointed by the other States in the Union, at such time and place as should be agreed upon by the said Commissions to take into consideration the trade and commerce of the United States, to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial intercourse and regulations might 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 by them would enable the United States in Congress assembled effectually to proved for the same."...

That the State of New Jersey had enlarged the object of their appointment, empowering their Commissioners, "to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations and other important matters, mighty be necessary to the common interest and permanent harmony of the several States," and to report such an Act on the subject, as when ratified by them, "would enable the United States in Congress assembled, effectually to provide for the exigencies of the Union."

That appointments of Commissioners have also been made by the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and North Carolina, none of whom, however, have attended; but that no information has been received by your Commissioners, of any appointment having been made by the States of Connecticut, Maryland, South Carolina or Georgia.

That the express terms of the powers of your Commissioners supposing a deputation from all the States, and having for object the Trade and Commerce of the United States, Your Commissioners did not conceive it advisable to proceed on the business of their mission, under the Circumstances of so partial and defective a representation.

Deeply impressed, however, with the magnitude and importance of the object confided to them on this occasion, your Commissioners cannot forbear to indulge an expression of their earnest and unanimous wish, that speedy measures 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 may be found to require.

If in expressing this wish, or in intimating any other sentiment, your Commissioners should seem to exceed the strict bounds of their appointment, they entertain a full confidence, that a conduct, dictated by an anxiety for the welfare of the United States, will not fail to receive an indulgent construction.

In this persuasion, your Commissioners submit an opinion, that the Idea of extending the powers of their Deputies, to other objects, than those of Commerce, which has been adopted by the State of New Jersey, was an improvement on the original plan, and will deserve to be incorporated into that of a future Convention; they are the more naturally led to this conclusion, as in the course of their reflections on the subject, they have been induced to think, that the power of regulating trade is of such comprehensive extent, and will enter so far into the general System of the federal government, that to give it efficacy, and to obviate questions and doubts concerning its precise nature and limits, may require a correspondent adjustment of other parts of the Federal System.

That there are important defects in the system of the Federal Government is acknowledged by the Acts of all those States, which have concurred 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 probably, 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 frequently the subject of public discussion, and none of which can have escaped the penetration of those to whom they would in this instance be addressed. They are, 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 untied virtue and wisdom of all the members of the Confederacy.

Under this impression, Your Commissioners, with the most respectful deference, beg leave to suggest their unanimous conviction that it may essentially tend to advance the interests of the union if the States, by whom they have been respectively delegated, would themselves concur, and use their endeavors to procure the concurrence of the other States, in the appointment of Commissioners, to meet at Philadelphia on the second Monday in May next, 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 same.

Though your Commissioners could not with propriety address these observations and sentiments to any but the States they have the honor to represent, they have nevertheless concluded from motives of respect, to transmit copies of the Report to the United States in Congress assembled, and to the executives of the other States.