Commerce

Through specialization of labor and application of capital, specific necessities and luxuries can be produced in excess. By trading the surplus, the creators of the excess can make each other more comfortable. The patriots knew the importance of open markets and free trade. In the constitution, they provided for a thirteen state free trade zone. The states gave congress the power to enact laws to regulate interstate commerce. They suspected that greed of folks on one side of a line might make commerce unfair or unavailable to those on the other side of the line. Such had been the case under the Articles of Confederation.

The intent of the commerce clause was not to restrict, but to make free trade regular. Regulations were intended to instruct folks how to best go about commerce. Language elsewhere in the constitution differentiates between “exceptions” and “regulations.” Exceptions clearly covered prohibitions while regulations covered methods. Refer to http://www.bu.edu/rbarnett/Original.htm for elaboration.

The US Constitution gave congress the power to designate “post roads”, the routes by which mail would be carried, and “post offices”, the places at which mail would be gathered and distributed. Thus communication and material could be spread among the several states. Within the various counties, committees were formed to set routes for roads, finance their construction, and assure their maintenance. Local property owners might be fined by the county for failure to maintain their sections of roads. The constitution further gave congress the power to coin money and set its value. This aided commerce both within and among the states by providing currency of consistent value.

The local control expectations of the Whig philosophy is manifest in the counties which established allowable charges for commodities and services. In the 1780’s Washington County Virginia set maximum costs for its taverns and ordinaries. Meals, stables, and lodging charges were controlled in considerable detail. A traveler could know in advance what it would cost for a place to sleep out of the weather. Prices ranged from a spot on the floor through a spot in a bed through a place in a bed alone to a bed with mattress and sheets to the maximum boarding charge for a private bed with “clean sheets.”

In the 1770’s Botetourt County Virginia wrote certificates to its hemp farmers which they could use to facilitate commerce with the port cities where ship builders needed rope.

In 1802, the Commonwealth of Kentucky licensed Samuel Newell to operate a warehouse on the Cumberland River in Pulaski County for the purpose of gathering, inspecting, and storing commodities. His certificates were used by merchants in Nashville to acquire products delivered down the river in barges.

The states and the people exercised their rights which they carefully retained in the tenth amendment. They did not show the chemical and caloric content of their bags of flour and meal in both British and metric measure. Neither did they label their bags in Chinese and Latin terminology.