Elliot’s Debates: Volume 1

Madison’s Resolution for Empowering Congress to Regulate Trade

Virginia, to wit: In the House of Delegates, Wednesday, the 30th of November, 1785.—Mr. Alexander White reported, according to order, a resolution agreed to by the committee of the whole house, on Monday last, respecting commerce; and he read the same in his place, and afterwards delivered it in at the clerk’s table, where the same was again read, and is as followeth:—

“Whereas the relative situation of the United States has been found, on trial, to require uniformity in their commercial regulations, as the only effectual policy for obtaining, in the ports of foreign nations, a stipulation of privileges reciprocal to those enjoyed by the subjects of such nations in the ports of the United States; for preventing animosities which cannot fail to arise among the several states from the interference of partial and separate regulations; and whereas such uniformity can be best concerted and carried into effect by the federal councils, which, having been instituted for the purpose of managing the interests of the states in cases which cannot so well be provided for by measures individually pursued, ought to be invested with authority in this case, as being within the reason and policy of their institution,—

“Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, that the delegates representing this commonwealth in Congress be instructed to propose in Congress a recommendation to the states in union, to authorize that assembly to regulate their trade, on the following principles, and under the following qualifications:—

“1st. That the United States in Congress assembled be authorized to prohibit vessels belonging to any foreign nation from entering any of the ports thereof, or to impose any duties on such vessels and their cargoes which may be judged necessary; all such prohibitions and duties to be uniform throughout the United States, and the proceeds of the latter to be carried into the treasury of the state within which they shall accrue.

“2d. That no state be at liberty to impose duties on any goods, wares, or merchandise, imported, by land or by water, from any other state, but may altogether prohibit the importation from any state of any particular species or description of goods, wares, or merchandise, of which the importation is at the same time prohibited from all other places whatsoever.

“3d. That no act of Congress, that may be authorized as hereby proposed, shall be entered into by less than two thirds of the confederated states, nor be in force longer than thirteen years.”

A motion was made, and the question being put, to amend the resolution by adding to the end thereof the following words, to wit: “unless continued by a like proportion of votes within one year immediately preceding the expiration of the said period, or be revived in like manner after the expiration thereof,” it passed in the negative—ayes, 28; noes, 79.

On a motion made by Mr. Turberville, and seconded by Mr. Watkins,—

Ordered, That the names of the ayes and noes, on the question to agree to the said amendment, be inserted in the journal.

And then the said resolution, being again read, was, on the question put thereon, agreed to by the house.

Ordered, That Mr. Alexander White do carry the resolution to the Senate, and desire their concurrence.

Thursday, December 1, 1785.—On a motion made to the following effect—that the resolution reported from a committee of the whole house, and agreed to by the house on yesterday, containing instructions to the delegates of this commonwealth in Congress, respecting commerce, does not, from a mistake, contain the sense of the majority of this house that voted for the said resolution.

Ordered, therefore, That the direction to send the said resolution to the Senate for their concurrence be rescinded, and that this house do immediately resolve itself into a committee of the whole house, to reconsider the said resolution.

It was resolved in the affirmative—ayes, 60; noes, 33.

The house then accordingly resolved itself into a committee of the whole house on the said resolution; and, after some time spent therein, Mr. Speaker resumed the chair, and Mr. Matthews reported that the said committee had, according to order, had the said resolution under their consideration, and had; made several amendments thereto, which they had directed him to report when the house should think proper to receive the same.

Ordered, That the said report do lie on the table.

[With the same object in view, the General Assembly of Virginia eventually pursued a different course to attain it, as will be seen by the subjoined resolution.]

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