Alexander Hamilton Papers

Continental Congress. Report on the Navigation of the Mississippi, [16 September 1788]

Continental Congress. Report on the Navigation
of the Mississippi

[New York, September 16, 1788]

[The Committee to whom was committed the Report of the Secretary for Foreign affairs1 founded on a referred motion of the Delegates of N. Carolina, stating the uneasiness produced by a Report “that Congress are disposed to meet with Spain for the surrender of their claim to the navigation of the River Mississippi” and proposing a resolution intended to remove such apprehensions, submit the following Resolutions]2

Resolved that the said report not being founded in fact the Delegates be at liberty to communicate all such circumstances as may be necessary to contradict the same & to remove misconceptions.

That the free navigation of the River Mississippi is a clear and essential right of the United States and that the same ought to be considered and supported as such.

Resolved that no further progress be made in the negotiations with Spain by the Secretary for foreign affairs but that the subject to which they relate be referred to the Fœderal Government which is to assemble in March next.3

AD, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives.

1The report of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs is printed in JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXXIV, 530–34. Its recommendations were incorporated in the resolution written by H.

As thousands of Americans settled in Tennessee and Kentucky during the seventeen-eighties, the question of the navigation of the Mississippi River became an urgent one. The treaty between the United States and Great Britain had stipulated that both countries should enjoy free navigation of the river, but in 1784 a proclamation by the Spanish king ended the right of free navigation, and Spanish officials at New Orleans proceeded to tax American goods. To the western settlers this was a crippling restriction; and North Carolina and Virginia, whose citizens had settled in the regions of Tennessee and Kentucky, demanded that Congress secure the right to navigate the Mississippi from its source to the sea.

2The bracketed material is not in the writing of H.

3According to the endorsement on the report, it was passed on September 16, 1788.

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