Hamilton: Resolution for a General Convention of the States

Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America’s first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury.

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Alexander Hamilton: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Volume 1, 1774: Resolution for a General Convention of the States

Passed by the Legislature of New York,
Sunday, July 21, 1782.

Resolved, That it appears to this Legislature—after full and solemn consideration of the several matters communicated by the Honorable the Committee of Congress relative to the present posture of our affairs, foreign and domestic, and contained in a letter from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs respecting the former, as well as of the representations from time to time made by the Superintendent of the Finances of the United States relative to his particular department—that the situation of these States is in a peculiar manner critical, and affords the strongest reason to apprehend, from a continuance of the present constitution of the Continental Government, a subdivision of the public credit, and consequences highly dangerous to the safety and independence of these States.

Resolved, That, while this Legislature are convinced by the before-mentioned communications that, notwithstanding the generous intentions of an ally from whom we have experienced and doubtless shall still experience all possible support, exigencies may arise to prevent our receiving pecuniary succors hereafter in any degree proportioned to our necessities; they are also convinced, from facts within their own knowledge, that the provisions made by the respective States for carrying on the war are not only inadequate to the end, but must continue to be so while there is an adherence to the principles which now direct the operation of public measures.

Resolved, That it is also the opinion of this Legislature, that the present plan instituted by Congress for the administration of their finances is founded in wisdom and sound policy; that the salutary effects of it have already been felt in an extensive degree; and that after so many violent shocks sustained by the public credit, a failure in this system, for want of the support which the States are able to give, would be productive of evils too pernicious to be hazarded.

Resolved, That it appears to this Legislature, that the present British ministry, with a disposition not less hostile than that of their predecessors, taught by experience to avoid their errors, and assuming the appearance of moderation are pursuing a scheme calculated to conciliate in Europe and seduce in America; that the economical arrangements they appear to be adopting are adapted to enlarging the credit of their government, and multiplying its resources, at the same time that they serve to confirm the prepossessions and confidence of the people; and that their plan of a defensive war on this continent, while they direct all their attention and resources to the augmentation of their navy, is that which may be productive of consequences ultimately dangerous to the United States.

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Legislature, that the present system of these States exposes the common cause to a precarious issue, and leaves us at the mercy of events over which we have no influence,—a conduct extremely unwise in any nation and at all times, and to a change of which we are impelled at this juncture by reasons of peculiar and irresistible weight; and that it is the natural tendency of the weakness and disorders in our national measures to spread diffidence and distrust among the people, and prepare their minds to receive the impressions the enemy wish to make.

Resolved, That the general state of European affairs, as far as they have come to the knowledge of this Legislature, affords, in their opinion, reasonable ground of confidence, and assures us that with judicious, vigorous exertion on our part we may rely on the final attainment of our object; but far from justifying indifference and security, calls upon us by every motive of honor, good faith, and patriotism, without delay, to unite in some system more effectual for producing energy, harmony, and consistency of measures than that which now exists, and more capable of putting the common cause out of the reach of contingencies.

Resolved, That in the opinion of this Legislature the radical source of most of our embarrassments is the want of sufficient power in Congress to effectuate that ready and perfect co-operation of the different States on which their immediate safety and future happiness depend; that experience has demonstrated the Confederation to be defective in several essential points, particularly in not vesting the Federal Government either with a power of providing revenue for itself, or with ascertained and productive funds, secured by a sanction so solemn and general as would inspire the fullest confidence in them and make them a substantial basis of credit—that these defects ought to be without loss of time repaired, the powers of Congress extended, a solid security established for the payment of debts already incurred, and competent means provided for future credit and for supplying the current demands of the war.

Resolved, That it appears evident to this Legislature, that the annual income of these States, admitting the best means were adopted for drawing out their resources, would fall far short of the annual expenditure, and that there would be a large deficiency to be supplied on the credit of the States, which, if it should be inconvenient for those powers to afford on whose friendship we justly rely, must be sought for from individuals, to engage whom to lend, satisfactory securities must be pledged for the punctual payment of interest and the final redemption of the principal.

Resolved, That it appears to this Legislature, that the foregoing important ends can never be attained by partial deliberations of the States separately, but that it is essential to the common welfare that there should be as soon as possible a conference of the whole on the subject, and that it would be advisable for this purpose to propose to Congress to recommend, and to each State to adopt, the measure of assembling a General Convention Of The States, specially authorized to revise and amend the Confederation, reserving a right to the respective Legislatures to ratify their determinations.

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The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. The copyright for the original of this document is held in the Public Domain. Font, formatting, spelling modernizations, typo/transcription corrections, and explanatory footnotes for this version of  ”The Works of Alexander Hamilton” Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell and The Moral Liberal.