This section is from the book "Popular Law Library Vol1 Introduction To The Study Of Law Legal History", by Albert H. Putney. Also see: Popular Law-Dictionary.
It is not intended to treat of the general history and condition of the country while under the Articles of Confederation.7 The government proved itself entirely inadequate for the existing circumstances. A government without the power of taxation and without the power to enforce its laws against any individual citizen, a government which could only treat conditionally with foreign powers, and whose foreign policy could be thwarted by that of any State, could command neither obedience at home nor respect abroad. An attempt was made to remedy the lack of power of Congress to raise a revenue by an amendment to the Articles of Confederation, allowing Congress, under strict limitations, the power to lay import duties. Such amendment was twice defeated by the action of a single State.
The chain of events which culminated in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 began with a conference between the Commissioners of the States of Virginia and Maryland, held at Washington's house at Mount Vernon, early in 1785, to discuss the navigation of the Potomac.
During this meeting, Washington took occasion to suggest that Pennsylvania should be invited to meet with the two states already represented at a future meeting, and that also while these states were together, it might be well to discuss other matters of common interest to the states, such as a uniform system of duties and other commercial relations. These suggestions were acted upon by the Maryland Legislature.
For the general history of this period read Fiske's "The Critical Period of American History."
This State, in sending its ratification of the compact as to the jurisdiction over the Potomac to Virginia, accompanied it with the suggestion that if Pennsylvania was to be consulted on this matter, then Delaware should also be consulted, and that while these states were together, they might as well also consult together regarding a uniform system of duties, and then going still further, the Maryland Legislature suggested that instead of having a conference of three or four states, they have one of thirteen, and invite each State to send delegates to a meeting for a mere informal discussion of the questions agitating the United States at that time. Upon the receipt of this communication from Maryland, Virginia issued a general invitation to the other states to send commissioners to a meeting to be held at Annapolis on the first Monday of September, 1786.
The Annapolis gathering proved to be a failure; only five states being represented - Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.8 The states represented were too few to take any action on the question of governmental reform. Rather than adjourn, however, without doing anything, they adopted an address prepared by Alexander Hamilton which they sent to the several states. In this address the states were urged to assemble at Philadelphia on the second Monday of the following May, 1787, "to devise such further provisions as shall appear to then be necessary to render the Constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union, and to report to Congress such an act as when agreed to by them, and confirmed by the legislatures of every State, would effectually provide for the same." An effort was made in October, to secure the endorse-ment of Congress for this convention, but without avail. The evils of the Articles of Confederation, however, were manifested during the winter of 1786-87, as never before, and early in 1787, Congress receded from its position and issued a call for a convention, identical as to the time and place of its assembling with the one called by the Annapolis Convention.