Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Annapolis Convention

The Annapolis Convention, which convened on September 11, 1786, set in motion the call for a constitutional convention. That much more famous meeting in Philadelphia the next year created the office of President of the United States. A future president was instrumental in putting together the Annapolis meeting: James Madison.

The formal name of the Annapolis Convention -- which was only five days long -- was a Meeting of Commissioners to Remedy Defects of the Federal Government. That is, the federal government as established by the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, whose defects, according to those who met in Annapolis, were all too obvious.

In Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution (1987), Robert K. Wright Jr. and Morris J. MacGregor Jr. wrote: "In January 1786, Virginia invited all the states to a special meeting at Annapolis in September to discuss commercial issues.

"Madison, who had been a key figure in Virginia's initiative, arrived in Annapolis on 4 September and took up lodging at George Mann's Tavern, which became the site of the Annapolis Convention. He was soon joined by eleven other elected representatives from five states.

"Virtually everyone agreed that the question of trade regulation could not be divorced from larger political issues, an area that the delegates had no authority to discuss.... When the others agreed, Alexander Hamilton prepared a draft with the assistance of Madison and Edmund Jennings Randolph. The full convention then polished the text before adjourning on the afternoon of the 14th. Each delegation carried a copy of the report back to its own legislature, while Dickinson delivered a copy to Congress. On 21 February that body endorsed the call for a convention to meet in Philadelphia on the second Monday in May of 1787 the convention that would write the Constitution."

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