Top of page

Collection Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774 to 1789

1785 to 1786


  1. 1785

    Congress Lacks Power over Commerce. When American commissioners attempted to make trade arrangements with Britain, the British Ambassador refused, because any state could decline to abide by Congress's trade regulations. The inability of Congress to regulate commerce on a national scale led to the formation of a committee dedicated to appealing to the states to grant Congress enlarged powers over commerce. Despite these attempts, no effective action was taken.

    Conference at Mount Vernon. Several commissioners from Virginia and Maryland met at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, to discuss regulation of trade between the two states. At the meeting's conclusion, the commissioners suggested that all the states meet at a convention in Annapolis to discuss common commercial problems.

    Basic Land Ordinance. Congress arranged for surveys to divide the western territories into townships, with one lot in each town set aside as a site for a public school.

  2. 1786

    Attempts to Revise the Articles of Confederation. In Congress, Charles Pinckney proposed a revision of the Articles of Confederation. A committee debated the question, and recommended several changes, including granting Congress power over foreign and domestic commerce, and enabling Congress to collect money owed by the states. Under the Articles, unanimous approval from all thirteen states would be necessary to pass the suggested changes. Doubting that all the states would ever agree, Congress never acted.

    Annapolis Convention. Nine states agreed to send delegates to Annapolis to discuss commerce, but only five state delegations arrived on time. Because of the poor attendance, the delegates decided to invite the states to another convention. Alexander Hamilton drafted an address to the states, inviting them to a convention to be held in Philadelphia in 1787, to discuss not only commerce, but all matters necessary to improve the federal government. After debate, on February 21, 1787, Congress endorsed the plan to revise the Articles of Confederation.