Annapolis Conference

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The Annapolis Conference was a gathering of delegates from five of the states of the United States, held in Annapolis, Maryland in 1786. The conference, called to discuss the problems and challenges of interstate commerce under the Articles of Confederation, was unable to accomplish much. But it gathered together some of the most notable nationalists of the era, particularly Alexander Hamilton of New York and James Madison of Virginia, two of the three authors of the Federalists Papers, a defense of the yet-to-be-composed Constitution which is viewed today as a political science classic.

In 1785, delegates from Virginia and Maryland met at Mount Vernon to resolve differences over navigation on the Potomac River. The conference was a success, and the two states were able to come to agreement, and in doing so, the value of one-on-one talks was seen. [1] On 21 January, 1786, Virginia invited all 13 states to send delegates to Annapolis, Maryland to discuss interstate commerce issues. Under the Articles of Confederation, each state was more of a sovereign nation than it was a part of a national whole. As such, the states competed with each other and did their best to gain advantage over other states. Other issues included inconsistency in dealings with foreign importers and exporters, and state agreements with nations the United States as a whole had not agreed to a treaty.

Delegates from nine of the 13 states were appointed, but delegates from only five of the states actually attended. [2] The delegates met to compose an act to be passed on to Congress for action (the delegates from Delaware had an additional condition - that anything agreed to by the conference would also be agreed to in each state's legislature).

On 11 September, 1786, the delegates opened the conference and immediately decided to convene a committee to draft a letter to the states that sent delegates. On 14 September, the committee's letter was approved by the conference as a whole. They also decided to send their letter to the Congress and to the executives of the remaining nine states.

In the end, the delegates decided that they could not decide anything, writing in their report, "Your Commissioners did not conceive it advisable to proceed on the business of their mission." [3]

The delegates, however, felt a momentum that they did not want to lose. Additionally, though the interstate commerce issue was important, at the same time news of Shays' Rebellion in Massachusetts had reached the conference, and the deficiencies in the national government under the Articles were even more apparent than before. They, therefore, called for a bigger (and better-attended) conference of the states, to be held the following May, 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." [3]

The Congress received the conference report and on 21 February, 1787, called for a convention of delegates "be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States render the federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government and the preservation of the Union." [4]

That convention went on to compose the U.S. Constitution, which would address the issues of interstate commerce, internal rebellion, and many other deficiencies in the Articles of Confederation.

Signatures

The following persons signed their names to the Report of the Annapolis Conference:

Delaware

New Jersey

New York

Pennsylvania

Virginia

Bibliography

  • Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 (1904). Online edition.
  • Report of the Annapolis Conference (1786). Online copy.
  • Amar, Akhil Reed. America's Constitution: A Biography (2005).
  • Bowen, Catherine Drinker. Miracle at Philadelphia (1986).

References

  1. Bowen, p. 9; Amar, p. 254.
  2. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia were in attendance. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and North Carolina appointed delegates but did not attend.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Report
  4. Journals, Volume 32, p. 74.