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competency to pay their debts was unquestionable, Chap, H. could not be negotiated but at a discount of 1783 thirty, forty, and fifty per centum: real property Hm, was scarcely vendible; and sales of any article for ready money could be made only at a ruinous loss. The prospect of extricating the country from these embarrassments was by no means flattering. Whilst every thing else fluctuated, some of the causes which produced this calamitous state of things were permanent. The hope and fear still remained, that the debtor party would obtain the victory at the elections; and instead of making the painful effort to obtain relief by industry and economy, many rested all their hopes on legislative interference. The mass of national labour, and of national wealth, was consequently diminished. In every quarter were found those who asserted it to be impossible for the people to pay their public or private debts; and in some instances, threats were uttered of suspending the administration of justice by private violence.
By the enlightened friends of republican government, this gloomy state of things was viewed with infinite chagrin; and many became apprehensive that those plans from which so much happiness to the human race had been anticipated, would produce only real misery; and would maintain but a short and a turbulent existence. Meanwhile, the wise and thinking part of the community, who could trace evils to their source, laboured unceasingly to inculcate opinions favourable to the incorporation of some principles into
Vol. v. N
Chap.il the political system, which might correct the ob1783 vious vices, without endangering the free spirit of 1787. the existing institutions.
While the advocates for union exerted themselves to impress its necessity on the public mind, measures were taken in Virginia, which, though they had originated in different views, terminated in a proposition for a general convention to revise the state of the union.
To form a compact relative to the navigation of the rivers Potomac and Pocomoke, and of part of the bay of Chesapeak, by the citizens of Virginia and Maryland, commissioners were appointed by the legislatures of those states respectively, who assembled at Alexandria in March 1785. While at Mount Vernon on a visit, they agreed to propose to their respective governments, the appointment of other commissioners, with power to make conjoint arrangements, to which the assent of congress was to be solicited, for maintaining a naval force in the Chesapeak. The commissioners were also to be empowered to establish a tariff of duties on imports, to which the laws of both states should conform. When these propositions received the assent of the legislature of Virginia, an additional resolution was passed, directing that which respected the duties on imports to be communicated to all the states in the union, who were invited to send deputies to the meeting.
On the 21st of January 1786, a few days after the passage of these resolutions, another was adopted appointing certain commissioners, "who were to meet such as might be appointed by the other states in the union, at a time and place to Chap.u. be agreed on, to take into consideration the trade 1783 of the United States; to examine the relative sit- i^7 uation and trade of the said states; to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial re. lations may be necessary to their common interest, and their permanent harmony; and to report to the several states such an act relative to this great object, as when unanimously ratified by them, will enable the United States in congress assembled effectually to provide for the same."
In the circular letter transmitting these resolutions to the respective states, Annapolis in Maryland was proposed as the place, and the ensuing September as the time of meeting.
Before the period at which these commissioners were to assemble had arrived, the idea was carried by those who saw and deplored the complicated calamities which flowed from the inefficacy of the general government, much further than was avowed by the resolution of Virginia. "Although," said one of the most conspicuous patriots* of the revolution, in a letter to general Washington dated the 16th of March 1786, "you have wisely retired from public employments, and calmly view from the temple of fame, the various exertions of that sovereignty and independence which Providence has enabled you to be so greatly and gloriously instrumental in securing to your country, yet I am persuaded you cannot view them with the eye of an unconcerned spectator.
* Mr. Jay.
chaP.n. "Experience has pointed out errors in our 1783 national government which call for correction, and 1787. wn'ch threaten to blast the fruit we expected from, our tree of liberty. The convention proposed by Virginia may do some good, and would perhaps do more, if it comprehended more objects....An opinion begins to prevail that a general convention for revising the articles of confederation would be expedient. Whether the people are yet ripe for such a measure, or whether the system proposed to be attained by it is only to be expected from calamity and commotion, is difficult to ascertain.
"I think we are in a delicate situation, and a variety of considerations and circumstances give me uneasiness. It is in contemplation to take measures for forming a general convention. The plan is not matured. If it should be well connected and take effect, I am fervent in my wishes that it may comport with the line of life you have marked out for yourself, to favour your country with your councils on such an important and single occasion. I suggest this merely as a hint for consideration."
In the moment of tranquillity, and of real or imaginary security, the mind delights to retrace the intricate path by which this point of repose has been attained. Even to him who was not an actor in the busy scene, who enjoys the fruits of the labour without participating in the toils or the fears of the patriots who have preceded him, the sentiments entertained by the most enlightened and virtuous of America at the eventful period which followed the restoration of peace, cannot be uninteresting. "Our affairs," said the same gentle- Chap.h. man in a letter of the 27th of June, also addressed 1733 to general Washington, "seem to lead to some ^°67. crisis, some revolution,...something that I cannot foresee or conjecture. I am uneasy and apprehensive, more so than during the war. Then, we had a fixed object, and though the means and time of obtaining it were often problematical, yet I did firmly believe that we should ultimately succeed, because I did firmly believe that justice was with us. The case is now altered...we are going, and doing wrong, and therefore I look forward to evils and calamities, but without being able to guess at the instrument, nature, or measure of them.
"That we shall again recover, and things again go well, I have no doubt. Such a variety of circumstances would not, almost miraculously, have combined to liberate and make us a nation, for transient and unimportant purposes....I therefore believe we are yet to become a great and respectable people...but when or how, only the spirit of prophecy can discern.
"There doubtless is much reason to think and to say that we are wofully, and, in many instances, wickedly misled. Private rage for property suppresses public considerations, and personal rather than national interests have become the great objects of attention. Representative bodies will ever be faithful copies of their originals, and generally exhibit a chequered assemblage of virtue and vice, of abilities and weakness. The mass of men are neither wise nor good, and the