The Constitution which replaced the Articles of Confederation was a New England-inspired initiative intended to have a centralized government better protect its commercial and maritime interests. Had the South not compromised on that Constitution, it is likely New England would have seceded from the Confederation to form their own commercial union with its neighboring States.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
New England Contemplates Secession in 1786
“In view of the sectional troubles which arose during the War of Independence and continued into the period of the [Articles of] Confederation, it is not surprising that the proposed admission of new States also caused sectional dissention. Southern opposition helped prevent the admission of Vermont; and Northerners became concerned as it became ever more likely that Kentucky would seek to be recognized as a State.
If, in the years 1785-1786, when economic depression afflicted the entire Confederation, Southerners were unhappy because Northerners were lukewarm or hostile to Southern expansion, Northerners were discontented because Southerners were neutral toward or opposed to measures which would have benefited the maritime trade of the North.
Merchants of New England and the Middle States wanted protection for their shipping against British competition, especially after Parliament decided to treat the Americans as foreigners and applied the British navigation laws to them. Accordingly, New England sought to amend the Articles of Confederation so as to give Congress powers to regulate interstate and foreign commerce and to levy import and export duties toward that end.
Even though the proceeds of these taxes were to go to the States in which they were collected and power to cut off commerce was expressly reserved to them, Southerners in Congress, especially Virginians, objected strenuously. Members of the Virginia legislature also evidently protested.
They feared that Congress would use these powers to prevent British ships from coming to Southern shores and so to confer upon Northern shipowners a monopoly of the Southern overseas traffic. Certainly the Yankees wished to get as much of that business as they could; and American shipping was concentrated in the Northern ports, being relatively scarce in the Southern ones.
Indeed, by 1786, it had become seemingly impossible to make changes in the Articles of Confederation, these requiring both action by Congress and the sanction of all thirteen State legislatures. In August of that year when James Monroe reported that New Englanders were considering the formation of a separate union, he was not entirely in error. Wrote Yankee Theodore Sedgwick on the 6th of that month:
“It well becomes the [north]eastern and middle States, who are in interest one, seriously to consider what advantages result to them from their connection with the Southern States. They can give us nothing, as an equivalent for the protection which they desire from us but a participation in their commerce. Even the appearance of a union cannot in the way we now are long to be preserved. It becomes us seriously to contemplate a substitute.”
(The First South, John Richard Alden, LSU Press, 1961, excerpt, pp. 69-72)