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Congress Begs the States for the Power to Regulate Trade and Negotiate Treaties
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Available as part of The Alexander Hamilton Collection

“The fortune of every citizen is interested in the success thereof [of trade]; for it is the constant source of wealth and incentive to industry; and the value of our produce and our land must ever rise or fall in proportion to the prosperous or adverse state of trade.…”

CHARLES THOMSON. Document Signed as Secretary of Congress. Resolutions Concerning Foreign Commerce. April 30, 1784, [Annapolis, Maryland]. 1 p., 7¾ x 12¾ in.

Inventory #20874      

“The situation of commerce at this time claims the attention of the several states and few objects of greater importance can present themselves to their notice. The fortune of every citizen is interested in the success thereof; for it is the constant source of wealth and incentive to industry; and the value of our produce and our land must ever rise or fall in proportion to the prosperous or adverse state of trade. Already had Great Britain adopted regulations destructive of our commerce with her West-India Islands. There was reason to expect that measures so unequal and so little calculated to promote mercantile intercourse, would not be persevered in by an enlightened nation. ... It would be the duty of Congress, as it is their wish, to meet the attempts of Great-Britain with familiar restrictions on her commerce. ... is recommended to the legislatures of the several states, to vest the Unites States in Congress assembled, for the term of fifteen years, with power to prohibit any goods ... from being imported into or exported ... in vessels belonging to or navigated by the subjects of any power with whom these states shall not have formed rates of commerce. ...

After the Revolution, Great Britain continued its enforcement of trade embargoes against the United States in the West Indies. In early 1784, the Continental Congress assigned a committee to investigate and compile a report on effective measures America might take. This committee, which included Thomas Jefferson, submitted their report on April 30, recommending retaliatory non-importation measures against British goods and merchant vessels in America. The report, while aimed at punishing Britain, was also highly favorable to France, with whom America had signed a perpetual treaty of alliance in 1778. The confederation Congress’s inability to raise money for defense or to enforce non-importation measures, however, made this resolution unenforceable. The failure of non-importation after the war proved the need for the extensive changes to the structure and strength of the central government advocated by Alexander Hamilton.

Charles Thomson (1729-1824) was an Irish-born American patriot, unanimously elected first Secretary of the Continental Congress in 1774, a post he held until 1789. He was selected to notify Washington of his election to the Presidency.


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