Act Ratifying the Chesapeake Compact with Maryland
[ca. 24–26 December 1785]1
I. Whereas, at a meeting of the commissioners appointed by the general assembly of the state of Maryland and Virginia, to wit: Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, Thomas Stone, and Samuel Chase, esquires, on the part of the state of Maryland, and George Mason and Alexander Henderson, esquires, on the part of the state of Virginia, at Mount-Vernon, in Virginia, on the 28th day of March, in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty-five, the following compact was mutually agreed to by the said commissioners:
First. The commonwealth of Virginia disclaims all right to impose any toll, duty, or charge, prohibition or restraint, on any vessel whatever sailing through the capes of Chesapeake bay to the state of Maryland, or from the said state through the said capes outward bound; and agrees that the waters of Chesapeake bay, and the river Pocomoke, within the limits of Virginia, be forever considered as a common highway, free for the use and navigation of any vessel belonging to the said state of Maryland, or any of its citizens, or carrying on any commerce to or from the said state, or with any of its citizens; and that every such vessel inward or outward bound, may freely enter any of the rivers within the commonwealth of Virginia as a harbour, or for safety against an enemy, without the payment of port duties, or any other charge; and also, that the before mentioned parts of Chesapeake bay, and Pocomoke river, be free for the navigation of vessels from one part of the state of Maryland to another.
Second. The state of Maryland agrees that any vessel belonging to the commonwealth of Virginia, or any of its citizens, or carrying on commerce to or from the said commonwealth, or with any of its citizens, may freely enter any of the rivers of the said state of Maryland as a harbour, or for safety against an enemy, without the payment of any port duty, or other charge.
Third. Vessels of war, the property of either state, shall not be subject to the payment of any port duty or other charge.
Fourth. Vessels not exceeding forty feet keel, nor fifty tons burthen, the property of any citizen of Virginia or Maryland, or of citizens of both states, trading from one state to the other only, and having on board only the produce of the said states, may enter and trade in any part of either state, with a permit from the naval-officer of the district from which such vessel departs with her cargo, and shall be subject to no port charges.
Fifth. All merchant vessels (except such as are described in the fourth article) navigating the river Potowmack, shall enter and clear at some naval office on the said river, in one or both states, according to the laws of the state in which the entry shall be made. And where any vessel shall make an entry in both states, such vessel shall be subject to tonnage in each state only in proportion to the commodities carried to, or taken from, such state.
Sixth. The river Potowmack shall be considered as a common highway, for the purpose of navigation and commerce to the citizens of Virginia, and Maryland, and of the United States, and to all other persons in amity with the said states, trading to or from Virginia or Maryland.
Seventh. The citizens of each state respectively shall have full property in the shores of Potowmack river adjoining their lands, with all emoluments and advantages thereunto belonging, and the privilege of making and carrying out wharves and other improvements, so as not to obstruct or injure the navigation of the river; but the right of fishing in the river shall be common to, and equally enjoyed by the citizens of both states. Provided, That such common right be not exercised by the citizens of the one state, to the hindrance or disturbance of the fisheries on the shores of the other state; and that the citizens of neither state shall have a right to fish with nets or seines on the shores of the other.
Eighth. All laws and regulations which may be necessary for the preservation of fish, or for the performance of quarantine, in the river Potowmack, or for preserving and keeping open the channel and navigation thereof, or of the river Pocomoke, within the limits of Virginia, by preventing the throwing out ballast, or giving any other obstruction thereto, shall be made with the mutual consent and approbation of both states.
Ninth. Light houses, beacons, buoys, or other necessary signals, shall be erected, fixed, and maintained upon Chesapeake bay, between the sea and the mouths of the rivers Potowmack and Pocomoke, and upon the river Potowmack, at the expence of both states. If upon Potowmack river, at the joint and equal charge of both states; and if upon the before mentioned part of Chesapeake bay, Virginia shall defray five parts, and Maryland three parts of such expence; and if this proportion shall in future times be found unequal, the same shall be corrected. And for ascertaining the proper places, mode, and plans for erecting and fixing light houses, buoys, beacons and other signals, as aforesaid, both states shall upon the application of either to the other, appoint an equal number of commissioners, not less than three nor more than five from each state, to meet at such times and places as the said commissioners or a major part of them, shall judge fit, to fix upon the proper places, mode, and plans for erecting and fixing such light houses, beacons, or other signals, and report the same, with an estimate of the expence, to the legislatures of both states, for their approbation.
Tenth. All piracies, crimes or offences committed on that part of Chesapeake bay which lies within the limits of Virginia, or that part of the said bay where the line of division from the south point of Potowmack river (now called Smith’s Point) to Watkins’s Point, near the mouth of Pocomoke river, may be doubtful; and on that part of Pocomoke river, within the limits of Virginia, or where the line of division between the two states upon the said river, is doubtful, by any persons not citizens of the commonwealth of Virginia, against the citizens of Maryland, shall be tried in the court of the state of Maryland which hath legal cognizance of such offence. And all piracies, crimes, and offences committed on the before mentioned parts of Chesapeake bay and Pocomoke river, by any persons not citizens of Maryland, against any citizen of Virginia, shall be tried in the court of the commonwealth of Virginia which hath legal cognizance of such offence. All piracies, crimes, and offences committed on the said parts of Chesapeake bay and Pocomoke river, by persons not citizens of either state, against persons not citizens of either state, shall be tried in the court of the commonwealth of Virginia having legal cognizance of such offences: And all piracies, crimes, and offences committed on the said parts of Chesapeake bay and Pocomoke river, by any citizen of the commonwealth of Virginia, or of the state of Maryland, either against the other, shall be tried in the court of that state of which the offender is a citizen. The jurisdiction of each state over the river Potowmack, shall be exercised in the same manner as is prescribed for the before mentioned parts of Chesapeake bay and Pocomoke river, in every respect, except in the case of piracies, crimes, and offences committed by persons not citizens of either state, upon persons not citizens of either state, in which case the offenders shall be tried by the court of the state to which they shall first be brought. And if the inhabitants of either state shall commit any violence, injury, or tresspass, to or upon the property or lands of the other, adjacent to the said bay or rivers, or to any person upon such lands, upon proof of due notice to the offender to appear and answer, any court of record, or civil magistrate of the state where the offence shall have been committed, having jurisdiction thereof, may enter the appearance of such person, and proceed to trial and judgment, in the same manner, as if legal process had been served on such offender; and such judgment shall be valid and effectual against the person and property of such offender, both in the state where the offence shall have been committed, and also in the state where the said offender may reside, and execution may be issued by the court, or magistrate, giving such judgment, in the same manner as upon judgments given in other cases; or upon a transcript of such judgment, properly authenticated, being produced to any court; or magistrate, of the state where such offender may reside, having jurisdiction within the state, or county where the offender may reside, in cases of a similar nature, such court, or magistrate, shall order execution to issue upon such authenticated judgment in the same manner, and to the same extent, as if the judgment had been given by the court, or magistrate, to which such transcript shall be exhibited.
Eleventh. Any vessel entering into any port on the river Potowmack, may be libelled, or attached for debt, by process from the state in which such vessel entered. And if the commercial regulations of either state shall be violated by any person carrying on commerce in Potowmack or Pocomoke rivers, the vessel owned or commanded by the person so offending, and the property on board, may be seized, by process from the state whose laws are offended, in order for trial. And if any person shall fly from justice, in a civil or criminal case, or shall attempt to defraud creditors by removing his property, such person, or any property so removed, may be taken on any part of Chesapeake bay, or the rivers aforesaid, by process of the state from which such person shall fly, or property be removed; and process from the state of Virginia may be served on any part of the said rivers, upon any person, or property of any person not a citizen of Maryland, indebted to any citizen of Virginia, or charged with injury having been by him committed; and process from the state of Maryland may be served on any part of the said rivers, upon any person, or property of any person, not a citizen of Virginia, indebted to a citizen of Maryland, or charged with injury by him committed. And in all cases of trial in pursuance of the jurisdiction settled by this compact, citizens of either state shall attend as witnesses in the other, upon a summons from any court, or magistrate, having jurisdiction, being served by a proper officer of the county where such citizen shall reside.
Twelfth. The citizens of either state having lands in the other, shall have full liberty to transport to their own state, the produce of such lands, or to remove their effects, free from any duty, tax, or charge whatsoever, for the liberty to remove such produce or effects.
Thirteenth. These articles shall be laid before the legislatures of Virginia and Maryland, and their approbation being obtained, shall be confirmed and ratified by a law of each state, never to be repealed, or altered, by either, without the consent of the other.
II. And whereas this general assembly are of opinion that the said compact is made on just and mutual principles for the true interest of both governments, and the same having been confirmed by the general assembly of the state of Maryland: Be it therefore enacted, That the said compact is hereby approved, confirmed, and ratified by the general assembly of Virginia, and that every article, clause, matter and thing therein contained, shall be obligatory on this state and the citizens thereof, and shall be forever faithfully and inviolably observed and kept by this government and all its citizens, according to the true intent and meaning of the said compact; and the faith and honour of this state is hereby solemnly pledged and engaged to the general assembly of the state of Maryland, and the government and citizens thereof, that this law shall never be repealed, or altered, by the legislature of this commonwealth, without the consent of the state of Maryland.
Printed copy (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XII, 50–55). A Ms of the bill has not been found. The full title is, “An act to approve, confirm, and ratify the compact made by certain commissioners appointed by the general assembly of the state of Maryland and commissioners appointed by this commonwealth.”
1. The date when a bill bearing this designation was first read in the House of Delegates is uncertain, but on 27 Dec. JM was appointed chairman of a special committee appointed to revise legislation then before the House (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1785, p. 114). The compact grew out of the proceedings of the Mount Vernon convention of Mar. 1785, which JM was supposed to attend but did not because of a communications breakdown. He learned of the conference from a Virginia commissioner’s report (George Mason to JM, 9 Aug. 1785). Probably JM offered the initial legislation a few days before the second reading on 27 Dec. and on 29 Dec. he presented a revised version, which was amended and passed the same day. After final passage of the bill, JM then carried the measure to the Senate (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1785, pp. 118–19). The Maryland General Assembly also ratified the proceedings and the cooperative spirit thus evidenced was an encouraging factor in passage of the Resolution Authorizing a Commission to Examine Trade Regulations, 21 Jan. 1786.