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N.H. Addresses Articles of Confederation Flaw: Gives Congress Power to Negotiate Trade & Tariff Deals – if All 13 States Agree
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“the united States in Congress assembled, be, and they hereby are vested, with full power, and authority, in the part, and in the behalf of this State, to make and enter into such general ordinances, and treaties for the due regulation of the trade, and commerce of the united States, as they may judge best calculated to promote the weal, and prosperity thereof…”

Act grants the Confederation Congress the power to negotiate commercial treaties and collect duties to be used to pay down Revolutionary War debt. However, contrary to the Articles of Confederation Congress, N.H. agrees only if every other state agrees, as opposed to the two-thirds vote requested.

NEW HAMPSHIRE. General Court, Manuscript Document Signed by a Clerk, June 23, 1785, [Exeter], New Hampshire. Blindstamped “Archives de Chastellux” at top left. 2 pp., 8 x 13½ in.6/23/1785.

Inventory #25023.02       ON HOLD

Provenance: François-Jean de Beauvoir, Marquis de Chastellux (1734-1788), who served during the American Revolutionary War as a major general in the French expeditionary forces. Chastellux was the principal liaison officer between the respective commanders, Comte de Rochambeau and George Washington. Chastellux was also widely recognized as a man of letters and a member of the Académie Française. He maintained a correspondence with many noteworthy Americans after the war, including Jefferson, Washington, Franklin and others.

Historical Background
The Second Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation in 1777, after sixteen months of debate. It then took until March 1781 to be ratified by the states. The system was inherently flawed; each state, no matter its size, had one vote in Congress; every act of Congress required the approval of nine states; there was no chief executive; Congress could not levy taxes (instead having to beg for requisitions from the states and loans from abroad); Congress lacked the authority to establish uniform regulations for foreign and domestic commerce. 

While the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War was pending in 1783, Great Britain closed its West Indian ports to most American goods. Once the war was officially over, British goods flooded American ports. The Confederation Congress had no power to respond. New York imposed a stiff duty on British West Indian imports, but voted against a 5 percent federal import tax. Massachusetts and Rhode Island passed their own protective tariffs. Inconsistent polices increased tension between the states and damaged already strained financial prospects.

An emerging nationalist bloc, led by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, proposed reforms. In September 1783, a Congressional committee concluded that Congress should ask the states to cede the power to set duties and regulate trade. On April 30, 1784, Congress passed a resolution asking to states to give it the power to regulate trade and negotiate commercial treaties. The resolution also mandated the power to set discriminatory duties or restrictions against trade with countries, such as Great Britain, who would not treat with the United States.

“Unless the United States in Congress assembled shall be vested with powers competent to the protection of commerce, they can never command reciprocal advantages in trade; and without these, our foreign commerce must decline and eventually be annihilated. Hence it is necessary that the states should be explicit, and fix on some effectual mode by which foreign commerce not founded on principles of equality may be restrained....

“Resolved, that it be, and it hereby is recommended to the legislatures of the several states, to vest the United States in Congress assembled, for the term of fifteen years, with power to prohibit any goods, wares or merchandize from being imported into or exported from any of the states, in vessels belonging to or navigated by the subjects of any power with whom these states shall not have formed treaties of Commerce.

Only Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia agreed to give Congress the requested power. Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and North Carolina added various qualifications or provisos.

On March 3, 1786, Congress passed new resolutions, including, “That the states of states of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and North Carolina, be solicited to reconsider their acts, and to make them agreeable to the recommendations of the 30th April, 1784,” and “That the recommendations of the 30th April, 1784, be again presented to the view of the states of Delaware, South Carolina, and Georgia, and that they be most earnestly called upon to grant powers conformable thereto.”

That October, a Congressional committee examined the acts passed by the states, including new ones passed by Delaware and Georgia, finding seven to be in compliance. The committee recommended that New Hampshire and North Carolina be urged to reconsider their provisos, and  urged Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and South Carolina to amend their acts regarding the requested fifteen-year term.

This failure to get the support of enough states to allow effective foreign and commercial relations was a key reason for the calling of the Annapolis Convention, which convened in September 1786. Delegates from only five states participated, without much success. Hamilton and Madison used the occasion to call for a broader convention. Congress concurred, asking the states to send delegates to a convention to amend the Articles. Once the Convention met in Philadelphia, the delegates quickly agreed to draft an entirely new frame of government.

The resulting United States Constitution gave Congress the “Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States [and] … To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States.”

Complete Transcript

State of New Hampshire

            In the year of our Lord, one thousand, seven hundred, and eighty-five.

An Act

To vest the united States in congress assembled with full power

 to regulate trade, and enter into treaties of commerce.

            Whereas treaties of commerce, and a due regulation of trade, thro’ the united States of America, are become absolutely necessary.


            Be it enacted by the Senate, and house of Representatives in General court convened, that the united States in Congress assembled, be, and they hereby are vested, with full power, and

authority, in the part, and in the behalf of this State, to make and enter into such general ordinances, and treaties for the due regulation of the trade, and commerce of the united States, as they may judge best calculated to promote the weal, and prosperity thereof.

            And be it further enacted, that all the fees, profits and emoluments, arising from such regulations of trade, and treaties of commerce, shall be appropriated to the sole use of discharging the publick debt.

            Provided nevertheless, that the power and authority, hereby granted unto, and vested in, the united States in Congress assembled, be, and hereby are suspended, until each, and every

State in the Union, shall have vested the united States in Congress assembled, with power and authority, sufficient for the purposes aforementioned.

            And be it further enacted, that the act shall continue, and be in force for the term of fifteen years, from and after the passing hereof, and no longer.


State of New    {          In the house of Representatives / June 22d 1785.

Hampshire      {           The foregoing bill having been read a third time, voted that it pass to be enacted.

                                                            Sent up for concurrence

                                                                        Christor Tappan  Speaker P.T.


In Senate June 23d 1785 the foregoing bill was read a third time, and voted that the same be enacted.

                                                                        John Langdon  President