James Madison Papers

Resolutions Appointing Virginia Members of a Potomac River Commission, 28 June 1784

Resolutions Appointing Virginia Members
of a Potomac River Commission

Monday the 28th. of June 1784.

Whereas great inconveniences are found to result from the want of some concerted regulations, between this State, and the State of Maryland touching the jurisdiction & navigation of the River Potowmack:1

Resolved that George Mason, Edmund Randolph, James Madison jr & Alexander Henderson Esqrs. be appointed Commissioners & that they or any three of them do meet such Commissioners, as may be appointed on the part of Maryland, and in concert with them, frame such liberal & equitable regulations concerning the said River as may be mutually advantageous to the two States, and that they make report thereof to the General Assembly.

Resolved, that the Executive be requested to notify the above appointment with the object of it to the State of Maryland, and desire it’s concurrence in the proposition.

Ms (Vi). In a copyist’s hand and endorsed by clerks John Beckley and Will Drew. Dated and docketed: “Reso appointing Commissioners on the part of this State to concert with Commissioners from the State of Maryland respecting the Jurisdiction & Navigation of the River Potowmack 28th. June 1784   Cd. for Govr & 2 others.”

1JM’s anxiety regarding jurisdiction over the lower Potomac was explicit in his letter to Jefferson of 16 Mar. 1784. Jefferson followed through and in his reply of 25 Apr. expressed the belief that the best way to solve the problem was through appointment of a joint commission—JM’s preferred plan. Possibly the seed for the conference originated in Jefferson’s earlier remark to JM (20 Feb. 1784) that a scheme was afoot to annex the Northern Neck of Virginia to Maryland, and that Arthur Lee favored such a measure (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (8 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VII, 424).

JM must have been the author of these resolutions (he was directed to carry them 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 , May 1784, p. 84]), but through a circumstance of bureaucratic ineptness, he and Randolph were not notified that the meeting was scheduled for Mar. 1785. Thus JM was absent when the commissioners met at Mount Vernon and learned of the proceedings only from personal letters (Mason to JM, 9 Aug., 7 Dec. 1785).

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