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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/294

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

both the wisdom and the weight of their findings, they ended by arranging an interstate conference in Annapolis in 1786. Here opinion took shape as to the use of interstate and other waterways (then the sole lines of commercial movement) and as to the interdependence of the states; yet so many collateral questions arose, and so decided need was felt for larger authority, that no final action was taken beyond arranging for a joint convention of delegates from the several states to be held in Philadelphia in 1787. This convention, designed primarily to consider interstate commerce and waterways, took up also other relations between the states; the delegates found themselves confronted by the gravest possible questions affecting the prosperity and perpetuity of their respective communities and commonwealths; they deliberated and gradually adjusted these with intelligence and integrity unsurpassed in assemblages of men—and the outcome was the American Constitution, which made the infant commonwealths a nation.[1]

The work of the first waterways commission is significant in its bearing on later conditions and events—even to-day. In a sense the world was young in 1785; the sum of knowledge was but half, the knowledge of North America hardly a hundredth part, of that now prevailing—yet the original commissioners and first conferees and final delegates all took stock, so well as might be, of state and national possessions as affecting the conditions and prospects for the perpetuity of a growing country. To them and to the people who later adopted their findings land was the primary value, minerals a casual adjunct, forests an obstruction to travel and settlement yet a convenience, water an incident though a means of commerce, riparian rights an abstract albeit obstructive inheritance; and in the light of these views of fundamental values (the essential factors of national growth), certain powers were expressly granted by the people to the federal government, certain rights were expressly given or denied to the states, and any inchoate powers and rights were implicitly reserved for future division in accordance with the eternal principles recognized and set down—and without which were the constitution, in the words of Marshall, "a splendid bauble" (McCulloch v. Maryland et al.; Dillon's compilation, 1903, p. 277). Perhaps because it was what the great jurist afterward described as the "oppressed and degraded state of commerce" (Brown v. Maryland; ibid., p. 539) that led to the creation of the commission and so to the conference and convention, the "commerce clause" of the constitution is notably condensed and comprehensive—so condensed that even within the lifetime of many of its framers the genius of Marshall was invoked to define it in opinions demonstrating that

  1. The chain of events is conveniently summarized by Woodrow Wilson, "History of the American People," Vol. III., p. 60, et seq.