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The Mount Vernon Conference was a meeting of delegates from Virginia and Maryland at George Washington's home at Mount Vernon, Virginia in March 1785. It preceded the Annapolis Convention of the following year and was a precursor of the 1787 Philadelphia Convention that saw the drafting of the United States Constitution.

The conference was a meeting of Samuel Chase, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, and Thomas Stone of Maryland and Alexander Henderson and George Mason of Virginia. James Madison and Edmund Randolph were also appointed as Virginia delegates but were not informed by Virginia governor Patrick Henry and did not attend. The delegates initially met in Alexandria, Virginia but George Washington invited all five delegates to his nearby house at Mount Vernon. They convened there on 25 March 1785 with Washington presiding.

They were charged with dealing with issues of commerce, fishing, and navigation in the waters of the Potomac and Pocomoke Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay which were not addressed directly by the Articles of Confederation that regulated the 13 largely independent American states at the time or by the authorization of the Potomac Company a year earlier which was to regulate the Potomac above the Great Falls.

The conference was a success and a report was prepared for the two state legislatures on 18 March 1785. The report contained 13 proposals known as the Mount Vernon Compact ratified by both Maryland and Virginia. It declared the Potomac, which was under Maryland's sole jurisdiction, to be a common waterway for use by Virginia as well. It also provided for reciprocal fishing rights, dividing the costs of constructing navigation aids, cooperation on defense and cases of piracy. It also called for commissioners to deal with any future problems that might arise. The Mount Vernon delegates encouraged Pennsylvania and Delaware to join the agreement as well.

The conference was significant as a model of interstate cooperation outside the framework of the weak Articles of Confederation. Its success encouraged James Madison to advocate further discussion of constitutional issues facing the states. He had little to show for efforts to get Virginia's delegates in the Continental Congress to seek expanded powers to deal with trade issues so he instead introduced a proposal in the Virginia General Assembly to act on the suggestion of the Compact commissioners for further debate of interstate issues.

On 21 January 1786, Virginia invited all the states to attend a meeting on commercial issues that would be the ground-breaking Annapolis Convention. In 1787, the Philadelphia Convention further expanded cooperation to include all of the states in an effort to reform or replace the Confederation. There, Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania made oblique reference to the success of the Mount Vernon Conference.




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