James Madison Papers

Amendment to Committee Report on Hartford Convention, [ca. 23 February] 1781

Amendment to Committee Report
on Hartford Convention

MS (NA: PCC, No. 33, fol. 427). Undated. Endorsed by Charles Thomson, “Amend proposd.” The amendment is in JM’s hand.

[ca. 23 February 1781]

to report to Congress thereon, except such as in the opinion of the Committee require order to be taken by the respective departments, which the Committee shall lay before Congress in the first instance with such their Opinion.1

1After commissioners from the four New England states and New York, meeting at Hartford in mid-November 1780, sent a copy of their proceedings to Congress, that body referred them on 12 December 1780 to a committee of five members, composed of John Mathews as chairman, JM, and three others (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 1141). During its deliberations the committee evidently decided to disregard the most provocative recommendations of the Hartford Convention—namely, that, whenever all other expedients had failed, Congress should call upon Washington to use troops to force a state to provide its due quota of soldiers, money, or supplies to the common cause. One recommendation of the committee, included in its report which Congress debated and recommitted on 23 February, was “that for the dispatch of business a committee of three members of Congress, of whom the president shall always be one, be appointed to receive all public dispatches addressed to Congress, and that they be authorized to refer them to such of the departments as are proper to consider them” (ibid., XIX, 155–56, 190). Although the journal is silent, JM probably offered his amendment during that debate as a substitute for the following words, which came immediately after the portion just quoted: “either to report to Congress or take order on them as the case may require. Except such of them as in their opinion demand the immediate and more particular attention of Congress, which shall accordingly be laid before Congress, at their first meeting after receipt of the same.” This section was stricken out by Congress (ibid., XIX, 156). Although the committee remained in existence at least as late as 6 March (ibid., XIX, 235), there is no evidence that it ever submitted a revised report to Congress. As a result of the inauguration of the government under the Articles of Confederation on 1 March, Congress appointed two important committees—one “to revise the rules for conducting business in the United States in Congress assembled” and the other, including JM, to prepare a plan to enable Congress to execute its rightful authority under the Articles of Confederation (ibid., XIX, 225, 236; XX, 469–71, 476 ff.). Their assignments, so similar to those of the committee on the recommendations of the Hartford Convention, may have served to end that committee’s existence.

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