The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
MAY 28 1
2 From Massts. Nat: Gorham & Caleb
Strong. From Connecticut Oliver Elseworth. From Delaware, Gunning Bedford. From
Maryland James McHenry. From Penna. B. Franklin, George Clymer, Ths. Mifflin &
Jared Ingersol took their seats.
Mr. WYTHE from the Committee for
preparing rules made a report which employed the deliberations of this day.
Mr. KING objected to one of the rules in
the Report authorising any member to call for the yeas & nays and have them
entered on the minutes. He urged that as the acts of the Convention were not to
bind the Constituents, it was unnecessary to exhibit this evidence of the votes;
and improper as changes of opinion would be frequent in the course of the
business & would fill the minutes with contradictions.
Col. M ASON seconded the objection; adding that such
a record of the opinions of members would be an obstacle to a change of them on
conviction; and in case of its being hereafter promulged must furnish handles to
the adversaries of the Result of the Meeting. The proposed rule was rejected
nem. contradicente. The standing rules *3,
4 agreed to were as follow: [see the Journal &
copy here the printed rules]
5 [viz. 6
A House to do business shall consist of the Deputies of not less than seven
States; and all questions shall be decided by the greater number of these which
shall be fully represented: but a less number than seven may adjourn from day to
day. Immediately after the President shall have taken the chair, and the members
their seats, the minutes of the preceding day shall be read by the Secretary.
Every member, rising to speak, shall address the President; and whilst he shall
be speaking, none shall pass between them, or hold discourse with another, or
read a book, pamphlet or paper, printed or manuscript-and of two members rising
7 at the same time, the President shall
name him who shall be first heard. A member shall not speak oftener than twice,
without special leave, upon the same question; and not the second time, before
every other, who had been silent, shall have been heard, if he choose to speak
upon the subject. A motion made and seconded, shall be repeated, and if written,
as it shall be when any member shall so require, read aloud by the Secretary,
before it shall be debated; and may be withdrawn at any time, before the vote
upon it shall have been declared. Orders of the day shall be read next after the
minutes, and either discussed or postponed, before any other business shall be
introduced. When a debate shall arise upon a question, no motion, other than to
amend the question, to commit it, or to postpone the debate shall be received.]
[A question which is complicated, shall, at the request of any member, be
divided, and put separately on 8 the
propositions, of which it is compounded. The determination of a question, altho'
fully debated, shall be postponed, if the deputies of any State desire it until
the next day. A writing which contains any matter brought on to be considered,
shall be read once throughout for information, then by paragraphs to be debated,
and again, with the amendments, if any, made on the second reading; and
afterwards, the question shall be put on 8
the whole, amended, or approved in its original form, as the case shall be.
9 Committees shall be appointed by ballot;
and 9 the members who have the greatest
number of ballots, altho' not a majority of the votes present, shall
10 be the Committee. When two or more
members have an equal number of votes, the member standing first on the list in
the order of taking down the ballots, shall be preferred. A member may be called
to order by any other member, as well as by the President; and may be allowed to
explain his conduct or expressions supposed to be reprehensible.— And all
questions of order shall be decided by the President without appeal or debate.
Upon a question to adjourn for the day, which may be made at any time, if it be
seconded, the question shall be put without a debate. When the House shall
adjourn, every member shall stand in his place, until the President pass him.]
11 A letter from sundry persons of the
State of Rho. Island addressed to the Honorable 12
The Chairman of the General Convention was presented to the Chair by Mr. G OV r . M ORRIS , and being
read, was ordered to lie on the table for further consideration. [For the letter
see Note in the Appendix] 13
Mr. BUTLER moved that the House provide
agst. interruption of business by absence of members, and against licentious
publications of their proceedings — to which was added by — Mr.
SPAIGHT — a motion to provide that on the one hand
the House might not be precluded by a vote upon any question, from revising the
subject matter of it when they see cause, nor, on the other hand, be led too
hastily to rescind a decision, which was the result of mature discussion. —
Whereupon it was ordered that these motions be referred to
14 the consideration of the Committee
appointed to draw up the standing rules and that the Committee make report
Adjd. till tomorrow 15 10. OClock.
1. The year " 1787" is here
inserted in the transcript.
2. The words "In Convention" are
here inserted in the transcript.
*3. Previous to the arrival of a majority
of the States, the rule by which they ought to vote in the Convention had been
made a subject of conversation among the members present. It was pressed by
Governeur Morris and others from Pennsylvania, that the large States should
unite in firmly refusing to the small states an equal vote, as unreasonable, and
as enabling the small States to negative every good system of Government, which
must in the nature of things, be founded on a violation of that equality. The
members from Virginia, conceiving that such an attempt might beget fatal
altercations between the large & small States, and that it would be easier
to prevail on the latter, in the course of the deliberations, to give up their
equality for the sake of an effective Government, than on taking the field of
discussion to disarm themselves of the right & thereby throw themselves on
the mercy of the large States, discountenanced & stifled the project.
4. Madison's footnote reference mark after
the word "rules" is placed in the transcript after the word "him"
thus placing the footnote at the end of the rules instead of at the beginning.
5. Madison's direction is omitted from the
transcript and the work "Rules" is inserted.
6. The word "viz." is omitted in
7. The words "to speak" are
inserted in the transcript after "rising."
8. The word "upon" is
substituted for "on" in the transcript.
9. The word "that" is here
inserted in the transcript.
10. The word "shall" is omitted
in the transcript.
11. See footnote 4.
12. The words "the Honorable"
are omitted in the transcript.
13. The footnote in the transcript reads
as follows: "For the letter, see Appendix No. blank."
14. The word "for" is
substituted in the transcript for the word "to".
15. The word "at" is here
inserted in the transcript.