Elliot’s Debates: Volume 1

Amendments to Articles of Confederation

ABSTRACT OF PROCEEDINGS IN CONGRESS

ON CERTAIN PROPOSED ALTERATIONS, AMENDMENTS, OR ADDITIONS, PROPOSED BY CERTAIN STATES TO THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION.

MONDAY, June 22, 1778.—That the objections from the state of MARYLAND to the Confederation be immediately taken up and considered by Congress, that the delegates from Maryland may transmit to that state, with all possible despatch, the determination of Congress on those objections.

Question put—resolved in the affirmative.

A motion was then made in behalf of Maryland.

In article 4, strike out the word “paupers;” and after the words “or either of them,” insert “that one state shall not be burdened with the maintenance of the poor who may remove into it from any of the others in the Union.”

Question put—passed in the negative, one state only answering Ay.

Another amendment was moved in behalf of Maryland.

Article 8, after the words “granted to or surveyed for,” insert, “or which shall hereafter be granted to or surveyed for any person.”

Question put—passed in the negative; 4 ayes, 8 noes.

A third amendment was moved in behalf of Maryland.

Article 9, after the words “shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States,” insert, “the United States in Congress assembled shall have the power to appoint commissioners, who shall be fully authorized and empowered to ascertain and restrict the boundaries of such of the confederated states which claim to extend to the River Mississippi or South Sea:” after debate,

Resolved, That the consideration thereof be postponed till to-morrow.

TUESDAY, June 23, 1778.—Congress proceeded to consider the amendment of the Articles of Confederation moved in behalf of Maryland,—

And it passed in the negative.

The delegates of MASSACHUSETTS BAY, being called on, read sundry objections, transmitted to them by their constituents, to the Articles of Confederation, and thereupon moved, in behalf of their state,—

1st. That the 8th article be reconsidered, so far as relates to the criterion fixed on for settling the proportion of taxes to be paid by each state; that an amendment may be made, so that the rule of apportionment may be varied, from time to time, by Congress, until experience shall have shown what rule of apportionment will be most equal, and, consequently, most just.

Question put—passed in the negative: 2 ayes, 8 noes.

2d. That the 5th section of the 9th article be reconsidered, so far as relates to the rule of apportioning the number of forces to be raised by each state on the requisition of Congress.

Question put—passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 7 noes.

3d. That the 6th section of the 9th article be reconsidered, so far as it makes the assent of nine states necessary to exercise the powers with which Congress are thereby invested.

Question put—passed in the negative.

The delegates from RHODE ISLAND, being called on, produced instructions from their constituents, and thereupon moved the following amendments:—

1st. In the 5th article, after the word “two,” insert “members, unless by sickness, death, or any other unavoidable accident, but one of the members of a state can attend Congress in which case such state may be represented in Congress by one member for the space of—months.”

Question put—passed in the negative; 1 ay, 9 noes.

2d. In the 8th article, after the word “appoint,” and “such estimate to be taken and made once in every five years.”

Question put—passed in the negative; 4 ayes, 6 noes.

3d. In the 9th article, at the end of the 2d paragraph, after the words “for the benefit of the United States,” add “provided, nevertheless, that all lands within these states, the property of which, before the present war, was vested in the crown of Great Britain, or out of which revenues from quitrents arise, payable to the said crown, shall be deemed, taken, and considered, as the property of these United States, and be disposed of and appropriated by Congress for the benefit of the whole confederacy—reserving, however, to the states, within whose limits such crown lands may be, the entire and complete jurisdiction thereof.”

Question put—passed in the negative; 1 ay, 9 noes.

The delegates from CONNECTICUT, being called on, produced instructions, and thereupon moved the following amendments:—

1st. In the article, after the words “in proportion to,” strike out what follows, to the end of the sentence, and in lieu thereof insert “the number of inhabitants in each state.”

Question put—passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 9 noes.

2d. In the 9th article, at the end of the 5th paragraph, add the words following: “provided, that no land army shall be kept up by the United States in time of peace; nor any officers or pensioners kept in pay by them, who are not in actual service, except such as are or may be rendered unable to support themselves, by wounds received in battle, in the service of the said states, agreeably to the provisions already made by a resolution of Congress.”

Question put—passed in the negative; 1 ay, 11 noes.

THURSDAY, June 25, 1778.—Congress took into consideration the representation from NEW JERSEY, on the Articles of Confederation, which was read as follows:—

“To the United States in Congress assembled, the representation of the Legislative Councils and General Assembly of the state of New Jersey showeth

“That the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, proposed by the honorable Congress of the said states, severally, for their consideration, have been by us fully and attentively considered, on which we beg leave to remark as follows:—

“1st. In the 5th article, where, among other things, the qualifications of the delegates from the several states are described, there is no mention of any oath, test, or declaration, to be taken or made by them previous to their admission to seats in Congress. It is indeed to be presumed, the respective states will be careful that the delegates they send to assist in managing the general interests of the Union take the oaths to the government from which they derive their authority; but as the United States, collectively considered, have interests as well as each particular state, we are of opinion that some test or obligation, binding upon each delegate, while he continues in the trust, to consult and pursue the former as well as the latter, and particularly to assent to no vote or proceeding which may violate the general confederation, is necessary. The laws and usages of all civilized nations evince the propriety of an oath on such occasions, and the more solemn and important the deposit, the more strong and explicit ought the obligation to be.

“2d. By the 6th and 9th articles, the regulation of trade seems to be committed to the several states within their separate jurisdiction, in such a degree as may involve many difficulties and embarrassments, and be attended with injustice to some states in the Union. We are of opinion that the sole and exclusive power of regulating the trade of the United States with foreign nations ought to be clearly vested in the Congress, and that the revenue arising from all duties and customs imposed thereon ought to be appropriated to the building, equipping, and manning a navy, for the protection of the trade and defence of the coasts, and to such other public and general purposes as to the Congress shall seem proper, and for the common benefit of the states. This principle appears to us to be just; and it may be added, that a great security will, by this means, be derived to the Union, from the establishment of a common and mutual interest.

“3d. It is wisely provided, in the 6th article, that no body of forces shall be kept up by any state in time of peace, except such number only as, in the judgment of the United States in Congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defence of such states. We think it ought also to be provided, and clearly expressed, that no body of troops be kept up by the United States in time of peace, except such number only as shall be allowed by the assent of nine states. A standing army, a military establishment, and every appendage thereof, in time of peace, is totally abhorrent from the ideas and principles of this state. In the memorable act of Congress, declaring the United Colonies free and independent states, it is emphatically mentioned, as one of the causes of separation from Great Britain, that the sovereign thereof had kept up among us, in time of peace, standing armies, without the consent of the legislatures. It is to be wished the liberties and happiness of the people may, by the Confederation, be carefully and explicitly guarded in this respect.

“4th. On the 8th article we observe, that, as frequent settlements of the quotas for supplies and aids, to be furnished by the several states, in support of the general treasury, will be requisite, so they ought to be secured. It cannot be thought improper or unnecessary to have them struck once at least in every five years, and oftener if circumstances will allow. The quantity or value of real property in some states may increase much more rapidly than in others, and therefore the quota which is at one time just will, at another, be disproportionate.

“5th. The boundaries and limits of each state ought to be fully and finally fixed and made known. This, we apprehend, would be attended with very salutary effects, by preventing jealousies as well as controversies, and promoting harmony and confidence among the states. If the circumstances of the times would not admit of this previous to the proposal of the Confederation to the several states, the establishment of the principles upon which, and the rule and mode by which, the determination might be conducted, at a time more convenient and favorable for despatching the same at an early period, (not exceeding five years from the final ratification of the Confederation,) would be satisfactory.

“6th. The 9th article provides that no state shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States. Whether we are to understand that by territory is intended any land, the property of which was heretofore vested in the crown of Great Britain, or that no mention of such land is made in the Confederation, we are constrained to observe, that the present war, as we always apprehended, was undertaken for the general defence and interest of the confederating colonies, now the United States. It was ever the confident expectation of this state, that the benefits derived from a successful contest were to be general and proportionate; and that the property of the common enemy, falling in consequence of a prosperous issue of the war, would belong to the United States, and be appropriated to their use. We are therefore greatly disappointed in finding no provision made in the Confederation for empowering the Congress to dispose of such property, but especially the vacant and impatented lands, commonly called the crown lands, for defraying the expenses of the war, and for such other public and general purposes. The jurisdiction ought, in every instance, to belong to the respective states within the charter or determined limits of which such lands may be seated; but reason and justice must decide, that the property which existed in the crown of Great Britain previous to the present revolution ought now to belong to the Congress, in trust for the use and benefit of the United States. They have fought and bled for it, in proportion to their respective abilities, and therefore the reward ought not to be predilectionally distributed. Shall such states as are shut out by situation from availing themselves of the least advantage from this quarter, be left to sink under an enormous debt, whilst others are enabled, in a short period, to replace all their expenditures from the hard earnings of the whole confederacy?

“7th. The 9th article also provides that the requisition for the land forces, to be furnished by the several states, shall be proportioned to the number of white inhabitants in each. In the act of independence we find the following declaration: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident—that all men are created equal; that they are endued by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Of this doctrine it is not a very remote consequence, that all the inhabitants of every society, be the color of their complexion what it may, are bound to promote the interest thereof, according to their respective abilities. They ought, therefore, to be brought into the account, on this occasion. But admitting necessity or expediency to justify the refusal of liberty, in certain circumstances, to persons of a particular color, we think it unequal to reckon upon such in this case. Should it be improper, for special local reasons, to admit them in arms for the defence of the nation, yet we conceive the proportion of forces to be imbodied ought to be fixed according to the whole number of inhabitants in the state, from whatever class they may be raised. If the whole number of inhabitants in a state, whose inhabitants are all whites, both those who are called into the field and those who remain to till the ground and labor in mechanical arts and otherwise, are reckoned in the estimate for striking the proportion of forces to be furnished by that state, ought even a part of the latter description to be left out in another? As it is of indispensable necessity, in every war, that a part of the inhabitants be employed for the uses of husbandry and otherwise at home, while others are called into the field, there must be the same propriety that owners of a different color, who are employed for this purpose in one state, while whites are employed for the same purpose in another, be reckoned in the account of the inhabitants in the present instance.

“8th. In order that the quota of troops to be furnished in each state, on occasion of a war, may be equitably ascertained, we are of opinion that the inhabitants of the several states ought to be numbered as frequently as the nature of the case will admit, and once, at least, every five years. The disproportioned increase in the population of different states may render such provision absolutely necessary.

“9th. It is provided, in the 9th article, that the assent of nine states, out of the thirteen, shall be necessary to determine in sundry cases of the highest concern. If this proportion be proper and just, it ought to be kept up, should the states increase in number, and a declaration thereof be made, for the satisfaction of the Union.

“That we think it our indispensable duty to solicit the attention of Congress to these considerations and remarks, and to request that the purport and meaning of them be adopted as part of the general confederation; by which means we apprehend the mutual interests of all the states will be better secured and promoted, and that the legislature of this state will then be justified in ratifying the same.”

Whereupon it was moved that the several articles in the Confederation, referred to in the foregoing representation, be so far reconsidered as to admit the purport and meaning of the additions, alterations, and amendments, proposed in the said representation.

Question put—passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 6 noes, 1 divided.

The delegates of PENNSYLVANIA, being called on, moved the following amendments, in behalf of their state:—

1st. In the 1st paragraph of the 5th article, dele the words “for the remainder of the year.”

Question put—passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 8 noes, 1 divided.

2d. That such part of the 9th article as respects the post-office be altered or amended, so as that Congress be obliged to lay the accounts annually before the legislatures of the several states.

Question put—passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.

3d. In the 5th paragraph of the 9th article, expunge the word “white.”

Question put—passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 7 noes, 1 divided.

4th. In the last section of the 9th article, after the word “delegates,” add “respectively.”

Question put—passed in the negative; 1 aye, 10 noes.

The delegates from SOUTH CAROLINA, being called on, moved the following amendments, in behalf of their state:—

1st. In article 4, between the words “free inhabitants,” insert “white.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 8 noes, 1 divided.

2d. In the next line, after the words “these states,” insert “those who refuse to take up arms in defence of the confederacy.”

Passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 8 noes.

3d. After the words “the several states,” insert “according to the law of such states respectively for the government of their own free white inhabitants.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 8 noes, 1 divided.

4th. After the words “of which the owner is an inhabitant,” insert “except in cases of embargo.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.

5th. In the 1st paragraph of the 5th article, strike out “first Monday in November,” and insert “nineteenth day of April.”

Passed in the negative; 1 ay, 9 noes, 1 divided.

6th. In the 2d paragraph of the 5th article, substitute “three” in the place of “two,” and “two” in the place of “three,” and “four” in the place of “six.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.

7th. In the 3d paragraph, for “committee,” read “grand council.”

Passed in the negative; 1 ay, 9 noes, 1 divided.

8th. In the 1st paragraph of the 6th article, for “prince or state,” read “prince or foreign state, except the same be upon the subject of commerce, nor then so as to interfere with any treaty or alliance of the United States made, or treaty proposed, by Congress.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.

9th. In the 2d paragraph of the 6th article, strike out “by some nation of Indians,” and after the words “to invade such state,” insert “or upon requisition to assist a sister state actually invaded or threatened with an invasion.”

Passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 8 noes.

10th. In the 1st paragraph of the 7th article, strike out “of or under the rank of colonel,” and after “shall be appointed,” insert “and commissioned.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 8 noes, 1 divided.

11th. At the end of the 7th article, add, “The troops to be raised shall be deemed the troops of that state by which they are raised. The Congress, or grand council of the states, may, when they think proper, make requisition to any state for two thirds of the troops to be raised; which requisition shall be binding upon the said states respectively; but the remaining third shall not be liable to be drawn out of the state in which they are raised, without the consent of the executive authority of the same. When any forces are raised, they shall be under the command of the executive authority of the state in which they are so raised, unless they be joined by troops from any other state, in which the Congress, or grand council of the states, may appoint a general officer to take the command of the whole; and until the same can be done, the command shall be in the senior officer present, who shall be amenable for his conduct to the executive authority of the state in which the troops are, and shall be liable to be suspended thereby. The expenses of the troops so to be raised shall be defrayed by the state to which they belong; but when called into service by the United States, they shall be fed and paid at the expense of the United States.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.

12th. In the 1st line of the 8th article, strike out “charges of war and all other.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 8 noes, 1 divided.

13th. In the same article strike out “according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled shall from time to time direct and appoint;” and instead of “and improvements thereon shall be estimated,” read “and improvements thereon shall, by periods of years not exceeding ten, as often as may be required by Congress, be generally estimated by persons to be appointed by the legislatures of the respective states to value the same upon oath.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.

14th. In the 1st paragraph of the 9th article, strike out “appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas,” and in lieu thereof, insert “declaring what acts committed on the high seas shall be deemed piracies or felonies.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.

15th. In the 2d paragraph of the 9th article, for “be the last resort on appeal,” read “decide and determine,” and strike out “all that relates to the mode of settling differences between states and controversies concerning private right of soil.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.

16th. In the 5th paragraph of the 9th article, after the words “in any term of,” strike out “three,” and insert “two.”

Passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 7 noes, 1 divided.

17th. In the 6th paragraph of the 9th article, for “unless nine states,” read “unless eleven states.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.

18th. At the end of the same paragraph, strike out the words “in Congress assembled.”

Passed in the negative; 1 ay, 10 noes.

19th. In the last paragraph of the 9th article, after the words “and the yeas and nays of the delegates of each state on,” for “any,” read “every,” and strike out the words “when it is desired by any delegate.”

Passed in the negative; 2 ayes, 9 noes.

20th. In the same sentence, strike out “a state or,” and also “at his or their request;” and after the words “and the,” insert “respective states of the,” and after “shall,” insert “upon requisition.”

Passed in the negative; 1 ay, 10 noes.

21st. Amend the last clause of the 13th article, so as to read “unless such alteration be agreed to by eleven of the United States in Congress assembled, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of eleven of the United States.”

Passed in the negative; 3 ayes, 6 noes, 2 divided.

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