James Madison Papers

Draft of Resolutions on Foreign Trade, [ca. 12 November] 1785

Draft of Resolutions on Foreign Trade

[ca. 12 November 1785]

1. Resd. that to vest Congs. with authority to regulate the foreign trade of the U. S. wd. add energy & dignity to the federal Govt.1

2. Resd. that the unrestrained exercise of the powers possessed by each State over its own commerce may be productive of discord among the parties to the Union; and that Congs. ought to be vested with authority to regulate the same in certain cases.

3. Resd. that in regulating the foreign trade of U. S. Congs. ought to enjoy the right 1. of prohibiting vessels belonging to any foreign nation from entering into any of the ports of the U. S. such prohibition being Uniform through[ou]t the same: and 2. of imposing duties on the vessels, produce or manufactures of foreign nations, & collecting them in such manner, as to Congs. may seem best; to be appropriated to the establishmt. & support of a marine, & to this purpose alone; unless   States in Congress assd. shall concur, on principles of extreme necessity, in any other appropriation. But Congs. shall notwithstanding, have power to grant drawbacks, & shall not change the application of those duties wch. may arise from their recommendations concerning imposts on imported goods.

4. Resd. that no State ought to be at liberty to impose duties on any goods ware or merchandizes imported by land or water from any other State; but each State ought to be free to prohibit altogether the importation from any other State, of any particular species or description of goods wares or merchandizes, which are at the same time prohibited to be imported from all other places whatsoever.2

5. Resd. that to every act of Congs. done in pursuance of the foregoing authorities, and prohibiting foreign vessels, or imposing duties on Cargoes the assent of three fourths3 of the States in Congs shall be necessary; but the power of appropriating to the marine in the first instance shall be exercised with the assent of nine States.

6. Resd. that no Act of Congs. done in pursuance of the foregoing authorities, shall be in force longer than   years, unless continued by 3/4 of the confederated States within one year immediately preceding the expiration of the said period.4

Ms (DLC). Undated. In JM’s hand. This draft was later dated in an unknown hand “[Sept., 1786]” with a note attached: “date uncertain—supposed about the time of Convention at Annapolis.” Brant, however, correctly surmised that the draft is erroneously dated and that it is an early draft of the resolutions instructing the Virginia delegates in Congress to propose that the states “authorise” the regulation of commerce of the Confederation (see Resolution Calling for the Regulation of Commerce, 14 Nov. 1785). Brant points out that the draft contains the four resolves which remained in the final measure (nos. 3–6) (Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , II, 379–80).

1JM was appointed to the committee on 7 Nov. charged with drafting resolutions authorizing the Virginia delegates in Congress to seek greater flexibility in commercial regulation (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. 25). JM wrote this draft, which probably served as starting point in the committee discussions and was particularly acceptable on such points as a discriminatory navigation act and the prohibition of tariffs on interstate imports.

2JM’s purpose in allowing states to prohibit certain interstate importations must have been written with the slave trade in mind. Since 1778 Virginia had prohibited the importation of slaves and had made exception only in extraordinary circumstances (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 , IX, 471–72; X, 307–8).

3In committee the required number of assenting states was reduced from nine to eight.

4JM considered the renewal clause an integral part of the whole plan. When it was rejected during debates in the Committee of the Whole, JM lost patience with his opponents and joined them in a vote tabling the whole resolution (JM to Jefferson, 22 Jan. 1786).

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