Elliot’s Debates: Volume 1

Journal of the Federal Convention

Monday, May 28, 1787

The Convention met agreeably to adjournment.

The Hon. Nathaniel Gorham, and Caleb Strong, Esqrs., deputies from the state of Massachusetts; the Hon. Oliver Ellsworth, Esq., a deputy from the state of Connecticut; the Hon. Gunning Bedford, Esq., a deputy from the state of Delaware; and the Hon. James M’Henry, Esq., a deputy from the state of Maryland,—attended and took their seats.

The following credentials were produced and read. [See Credentials.]

His excellency, Benjamin Franklin, Esq., and the Hon. George Clymer, Thomas Mifflin, and Jared Ingersoll, Esqrs., four of the deputies of the state of Pennsylvania, attended and took their seats.

Mr. Wythe reported from the committee, (to whom the drawing up rules proper, in their opinion, to be observed by the Convention in their proceedings, as standing orders, was referred,) that the committee had drawn up the rules accordingly, and had directed him to report them to the house. And he read the report in his place, and afterwards delivered it in at the secretary’s table, where the said rules were once read throughout, and then a second time, one by one; and upon the question, severally put thereupon, two of them were disagreed to; and the rest, with amendments to some of them, were agreed to by the house; which rules, so agreed to, are as follow:—


“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 states 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 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 upon the propositions of which it is compounded.

“The determination of a question, although 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 upon the whole, amended,or approved in its original form, as the case shall be.

“That committees shall be appointed by ballot; and that the members who have the greatest number of ballots although not a majority of the votes present, 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 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.

“Resolved, That the said rules be observed as standing orders of the house.”

A letter from sundry persons of the state of Rhode Island, addressed to the honorable the chairman of the General Convention, was presented to the chair by Mr. G. Morris; and, being read,—

Ordered, That the said letter do lie upon the table for further consideration.”

A motion was made by Mr. Butler, one of the deputies of South Carolina, that the house provide against interruption of business by absence of members, and against licentious publication of their proceedings.

Also, a motion was made by Mr. Spaight, one of the deputies of North Carolina, to provide that, on the one hand, the house may 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.

Ordered, That the said motions be referred to the consideration of the committee appointed, on Friday last, to draw up rules to be observed as the standing orders of the Convention; and that they do examine the matters thereof, and report thereupon to the house.”

Adjourned till to-morrow at 10 o’clock, A. M.

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