Elliot’s Debates: Volume 1

Report of Proceedings

In Congress, Wednesday, February 21, 1787.—The report of a grand committee, consisting of Mr. Dane, Mr. Varnum, Mr. S. M. Mitchell, Mr. Smith, Mr. Cadwallader, Mr. Irvine, Mr. N. Mitchell, Mr. Forrest, Mr. Grayson, Mr. Blount, Mr. Bull, and Mr. Few, to whom was referred a letter of 14th September, 1786, from J. Dickinson, written at the request of commissioners from the states of Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, assembled at the city of Annapolis, together with a copy of the report of the said commissioners to the legislatures of the states by whom they were appointed, being an order of the day, was called up, and which is contained in the following resolution, viz.:—

“Congress having had under consideration the letter of John Dickinson, Esq., chairman of the commissioners who assembled at Annapolis during the last year; also the proceedings of the said commissioners; and entirely coinciding with them as to the inefficiency of the federal government, and the necessity of devising such further provisions as shall render the same adequate to the exigencies of the Union, do strongly recommend to the different legislatures to send forward delegates, to meet the proposed convention, on the second Monday in May next, at the city of Philadelphia.”

The delegates for the state of New York thereupon laid before Congress instructions which they had received from their constituents, and, in pursuance of the said instructions, moved to postpone the further consideration of the report in order to take up the following proposition, viz.:—

“That it be recommended to the states composing the Union, that a convention of representatives, from the said states respectively, be held at —,on—, for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual. Union between the United States of America, and reporting to the United States in Congress assembled, and to the states respectively, such alterations and amendments of the said Articles of Confederation as the representatives met in such convention shall judge proper and necessary to render them adequate to the preservation and support of the Union.”

On the question to postpone, for the purpose above mentioned, the yeas and nays being required by the delegates for New York:

Massachusetts,… Mr. King,… Ay.
Mr. Dane,… Ay.
Connecticut,… Mr. Johnson,… Ay.
Mr. S. Mitchell,… No.
New York,… Mr. Smith,… Ay.
Mr. Benson,… Ay.
New Jersey,… Mr. Cadwallader,… No.
Mr. Clark,… No.
Mr. Schureman,… No.
Pensylvania,… Mr. Irvine,… No.
Mr. Meredith,… Ay.
Mr. Bingham,… No.
Delaware,… Mr. N. Mitchell,… No.
Maryland,… Mr. Forrest,… No.
Virginia,… Mr. Grayson,… Ay.
Mr. Madison,… Ay.
North Carolina,… Mr. Blount,… No.
Mr. Hawkins,… No.
South Carolina,… Mr. Bull,… No.
Mr. Kean,… No.
Mr. Huger,… No.
Mr. Parker,… No.
Georgia,… Mr. Few,… Ay.
Mr. Pierce,… No.

So the question was lost.

A motion was then made, by the delegates for Massachusetts, to postpone the further consideration of the report, in order to take into consideration a motion which they read in their place. This being agreed to, the motion of the delegates for Massachusetts was taken up, and, being amended, was agreed to, as follows:—

“Whereas there is provision, in the Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union, for making alterations therein, by the assent of a Congress of the United States, and of the legislatures of the several states; and whereas experience hath evinced that there are defects in the present Confederation; as a mean to remedy which, several of the states, and particularly the state of New York, by express instructions to their delegates in Congress, have suggested a convention for the purposes expressed in the following resolution; and such convention appearing to be the most probable mean of establishing in these states a firm national government,—

Resolved, That, in the opinion of Congress, it is expedient that, on the second Monday in May next, a convention of delegates, who shall have been appointed by the several states, be held at Philadelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall, when agreed to in Congress, and confirmed by the states, render the federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union.”

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Contents

General Overview

In 1787 and 1788, following the Constitutional Convention, a great debate took place throughout America over the Constitution that had been proposed.

In-Doors Debate

View in-depth studies of the Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York state ratifying conventions.

The Federal Pillars

View drawings of the federal pillars rising published by the Massachusetts Centinel during the ratification debate.

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The Stages of Ratification: An Interactive Timeline

View the six stages of the ratification of the Constitution with links to many other features on this site.

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Interactive Ratification Map

View interactive maps showing the breakdown of Federalist-Antifederalist strength at the state level during the Ratification debate.

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