Saturday, August 14, 2010

John Tyler, Sr. Initiates the Annapolis Convention

Thus far - I'm only in early 1787 - Lance Banning's The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic is proving to be a wonderfully detailed, largely chronological examination of the development of Madison's political views, in an attempt to cast light on the so-called James Madison Problem. But since this is a blog, I often like to focus on the trivial.

Banning relates, for example, that none other than John Tyler, Sr. - the father of the tenth president - was the instigator of the call for the meeting of state representatives that became the Annapolis Convention. The Convention itself was pretty much a bust, except that the delegates issued a call for another convention to meet in Philadelphia in May of the following year.

At all events, the Annapolis Convention had its genesis in a resolution that the senior Tyler introduced in the Virginia legislature on December 1, 1785. After the Virginia House defeated resolutions spearheaded by Madison to instruct Virginia's delegates to the Confederation Congress to move for federal power over trade, on the last day of the session the House revived and passed Tyler's resolution "to appoint commissioners to meet with delegates from other states to recommend a federal plan for regulating commerce."

The degree of Madison's involvement in the creation and passage of Tyler's resolution is apparently unclear. Prof. Banning opines that Madison "may . . . have arranged for Tyler to propose the resolution of December 1; and he was probably responsible, at minimum, for the revival of the latter's motion on the session's final day."

Ironically, the Tyler resolution passed by the House was (or at least turned out to be) far more revolutionary than the Madison resolutions that it voted down. Madison was proposing to try to work within the existing Confederation Congress to amend the existing Articles of Confederation to grant that Congress increased powers. Tyler's resolution suggested (and ultimately accomplished) an extra-legal solution outside the Congress and the Articles.

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