James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Daniel Carroll, 13 March 1786

From Daniel Carroll

Annapolis March 13th. 1786

Dear Sir,

Our General Assembly adjournd this day after a Session of 4 Months. The proposition from yr. Assembly, for a meeting of Commissioners, from all the States, to adjust a general commercial System, reach’d us not long before the conclusion of the Session.1 Our House of Delegates propos’d Commissioners for that purpose. The measure appear’d to the Senate, tho’ undoubtedly adopted by yr. Assembly with the best intentions, to have a tendency to weaken the authority of Congress, on which the Union, & consequently the Liberty, & Safety of all the States depend. We had just receiv’d the Act of Congress of the 15 of Feby last, by which it appears that Body relyes solely on the States complying with their Act of the 10th of Apl. 1783. I am afraid the Idea of Commsrs. meeting from all the States, on the regulation of Trade, will retard the Act of Congress from being carry’d into execution, if not entirely distroy it. The reluctant States are very willing to lay hold of anything which will procrastinate that measure. There are many other considerations, which I need not suggest to you. I shall only observe, that sound policy, if not the Spirit of the Confederation dictates, that all matters of a general tendency, shou’d be in the representative Body of the whole, or under its authority.

Our Assembly have granted the 5 P Cent compleatly, on 12 States complying including Maryland—& have granted 10/ on every £100 property for 25 years for their proportion of the internal fund riquir’d.

It gave me pleasure to hear from Col. Mercer that you enjoy’d yr. health & I request you will believe me to be Dear Sr. with great esteem, Yr affte & Obt Servt

Danl. Carroll

PS If you shoud favour me with a few lines direct to me at George Town by post.

RC (DLC). Cover missing. Docketed by JM.

1The “proposition” from the Virginia General Assembly was the resolution of 21 Jan. 1786 calling for a conference of all the states to consider strengthened commercial regulations. Without being explicit, Carroll explained the lukewarmness of the upper chamber in Maryland toward the convention call. Indeed, that body rejected the proposal, which meant that the convened delegates met in Annapolis without any representation from Maryland itself. JM probably shared some of Carroll’s reservations, which Burnett did not take into account when he wrote of JM’s lack of enthusiasm for the forthcoming meeting. “It seems rather a remarkable state of affairs that Madison should have deemed it politically unwise to intimate … that his wishes in promoting the Annapolis Convention extended farther from a commercial reform” (Burnett, The Continental Congress, p. 666). Burnett’s hindsight caused him to assume that JM was pushing for vigorous action by the convention, an assumption that flies in the face of JM’s guarded statements of 22 Jan. 1786 to Jefferson and Monroe regarding the proposed convention. JM’s recollection that he moved circumspectly at this time to avoid raising “the suspicion of a bias in favor” of the convention was made forty years later (JM to Noah Webster, 10 Mar. 1826, Madison, Writings [Hunt ed.] description begins Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison (9 vols.; New York, 1900–1910). description ends , IX, 246–47). After thinking about the matter for seven weeks, JM’s view was more benign, as he told Monroe “on the whole I cannot disapprove of the experiment” (JM to Monroe, 14 Mar. 1786).

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