Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 (Commerce)
[Volume 2, Page 480]
George Mason to Speaker of Virginia House of Delegates28 Mar. 1785Papers 2:815--16, 823
The Commissioners were of Opinion, these States ought to have Leave from the United States in Congress assembled, to form a Compact for the Purpose of affording in due Time, and in just Proportion between the two States, naval Protection to such Part of Chesapeake Bay and Potomack River, which may at any Time hereafter, be left unprovided for by Congress. The Commissioners did not consider themselves authorised to make any Compact on this Subject, and submit the Propriety of the two Governments making a joint Application to Congress, for their Consent to enter into Compact, for the Purpose aforesaid; such Compact, when made, to be laid before Congress, for their Approbation; and to continue, until mutually dissolved by these States, or Congress shall declare that such Compact shall no longer exist.
It also appeared to the Commissioners, that foreign Gold & Silver Coin received in the two States, as the Current Money thereof, shou'd pass at the same Value, according to it's Fineness & Weight; and if the Species of Coin cou'd be regulated at the same nominal Value; it wou'd be of great Convenience to the Commerce & Dealings between the Citizens of the two States.
The Damage on foreign Bills of Exchange, protested, are very different in the two States, and it is obvious that they ought to be the same, and shou'd be considered in all Cases, & to all Purposes, as of equal Rank with Debts upon Contract in Writing, signed by the Party; and it was suggested that fifteen per Ct. shou'd be allowed, without Regard to the time of Negotiation, & legal Interest on the Principal, from the time of Protest. It was also conceived by the Commissioners, that Drafts by the Merchants of either state, upon those of the other; in the Nature of Inland Bills of Exchange, shou'd be subject, by Law, to official Protest, by a Notary Public; and that the Damages, for non-payment, shou'd be the same in both States; and it was thought, that eight per Ct. shou'd be allowed upon Protest, and legal Interest upon the Principal, from the Time of Protest.
It appeared to the Commissioners to be essential to the Commerce & Revenue of the two Governments, that Duties on Imports or Exports (if laid) shou'd be the same in both States.
If these Subjects shou'd be deemed worthy [of] Notice, it may be proper for the two Legislatures, at their annual Meeting in the Autumn, to appoint Commissioners to meet, & communicate the Regulations of Commerce & Duties proposed by each State, and to confer on such Subjects as may concern the commercial Interests of both States. It was suggested that the Number of the said Commissioners shou'd be equal, and not less than three, nor more than five, from each State; and that they shou'd annually meet in the third Week in September, at such Place as they shou'd appoint.
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[Enclosure: To the President of the Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania]
In Pursuance of Directions from the Legislatures of Virginia and Maryland, respectively to us given, we beg Leave to represent to the State of Pensylvania, that it is in Contemplation of the said two States to promote the clearing & extending the Navigation of Potomack, from tide-Water, upwards, as far as the same may be found practicable; to open a convenient Road, from the Head of such Navigation, to the Waters running into the Ohio, and to render [Volume 2, Page 481] these Waters navigable, as far as may be necessary & proper; that the said works will require great Expence, which may not be repaid, unless a free Use be secured to the said States, & their Citizens, of the water of the Ohio & it's Branches, as far as the same lie within the Limits of Pensylvania: that as essential Advantages will accrue from such Works to a considerable Portion of the said State, it is thought reasonable that the Legislature thereof shou'd by some previous Act engage, that for the Encouragement of the said Works, all Articles of Produce & Merchandize, which may be conveyed to or from either of the said two States, thro' either of the said Rivers, within the Limits of Pensylvania, to or from any Place without the said Limits, shall pass throughout, free from all Duties, or Tolls whatsoever, other than such Tolls as may be established, & be necessary for reimbursing Expences incurred by the State, or it's Citizens, in clearing, or for defraying the Expence of Preserving the Navigation of the said Rivers. And that no Articles imported into Pensylvania thro' the Channel or Channels or any Part thereof to be opened as aforesaid, and vended or used within the said State, shall be subject to any Duties or Imposts, other than such Articles wou'd be subject to, if imported into the said State thro' any other Channel whatsoever.
We request Sir, that you will take the earliest Opportunity of laying this Representation, on Behalf of the two States, before the Legislature of Pensylvania; and that you will communicate the Result to the Executives of Virginia & Maryland.
By Acts of the Legislatures of Virginia & Maryland for opening the Navigation of the River Potomack above tide-Water, the Citizens of the United States have the same Right of trading thro' the said Water, which the Citizens of Maryland & Virginia enjoy; and we have no Doubt but the Legislature of your State will, agreeably to this Principle, give every Encouragement to Measures, which have for their Object, the Interest & Convenience of their Citizens, and those of the other States in the Union.
The Papers of George Mason, 1725--1792. Edited by Robert A. Rutland. 3 vols. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970.
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