Elliot’s Debates: Volume 3

In Convention, Richmond, Tuesday, June 3, 1788

The Convention met at the New Academy, on Shockoe Hill, pursuant to adjournment.

Mr. LEE presented a petition of Richard Morris, of the county of Louisa, complaining of an undue election and return of William White, as one of the delegates to serve in this Convention, for the said county of Louisa; which was ordered to be referred to the committee of privileges and elections.

On motion of Mr. HARRISON,—

Ordered, That Mr. William Pierce be appointed serjeant-at-arms to the Convention.

On motion of Mr. JOHN JONES,—

Ordered, That Daniel Hicks be appointed door-keeper to the Convention.

Mr. HARRISON moved that all the papers relative to the Constitution should be read.

Mr. TYLER observed, that, before any papers were read, certain rules and regulations should be established to govern the Convention in their deliberations; which, being necessary on all occasions, are more particularly so on this great and important one.

Gov. RANDOLPH said, that he was fully convinced of the necessity of establishing rules; but as this was on a subject which might involve the Convention in a debate which would take up considerable time, he recommended that the rules of the House of Delegates, as far as they were applicable, should be observed.

Mr. TYLER replied, that he had considered what the honorable gentleman had said, and the objection to the mode recommended by him.

Upon which the Convention came to the following resolution:—

Resolved, That the rules and orders for conducting business in the House of Delegates, so far as the same may be applicable to the Convention, be observed therein.

On motion,—

The resolution of Congress of the 28th of September last, together with the report of the federal Convention lately held in Philadelphia; the resolutions of the General Assembly of the 25th of October last, and the act of the General Assembly entitled, “An act concerning the Convention to be held in June next,” were read;—

Whereupon Mr. MASON addressed the president as follows: Mr. President, I hope and trust, sir, that this Convention, appointed by the people, on this great and important occasion, for securing, as far as possible, to the latest generation, the happiness and liberty of the people, will freely and fully investigate this important subject. For this purpose I humbly conceive the fullest and clearest investigation indispensably necessary, and that we ought not to be bound by any general rules whatsoever. The curse denounced by the divine vengeance will be small, compared to what will justly fall upon us, if from any sinister views we obstruct the fullest inquiry. This subject, therefore, ought to obtain the freest discussion, clause by clause, before any general previous question be put; nor ought it to be precluded by any other question.

Mr. TYLER moved that the Convention should resolve itself into a committee of the whole Convention, to-morrow, to take into consideration the proposed plan of government, in order to have a fairer opportunity of examining its merits.

Mr. MASON, after recapitulating his former reasons for having urged a full discussion, clause by clause, concluded by agreeing, with Mr. Tyler, that a committee of the whole Convention was the most proper mode of proceeding.

Mr. MADISON concurred with the honorable gentleman in going into a full and free investigation of the subject before them, and said he had no objection to the plan proposed.

Mr. MASON then moved the following resolution, which was agreed to by the Convention unanimously:—

Resolved, That no question, general or particular, shall be propounded in this Convention, upon the proposed Constitution of government for the United States, or upon any clause or article thereof, until the said Constitution shall have been discussed, clause by clause, through all its parts.

Mr. TYLER said, he should renew his motion for the Convention to resolve itself into a committee of the whole Convention, the next day, to take under consideration the proposed plan of government.

Mr. LEE strongly urged the necessity and propriety of immediately entering into the discussion.

Mr. MASON. Mr. President, no man in this Convention is more averse to take up the time of the Convention than I am; but I am equally against hurrying them precipitately into any measure. I humbly conceive, sir, that the members ought to have time to consider the subject. Precious as time is, we ought not to run into the discussion before we have the proper means.

Mr. HARRISON urged, as a reason for deferring the discussion till to-morrow, that many of the members had not yet arrived, and that it would be improper to enter into the business until they should arrive.

Mr. LEE answered the two objections against entering immediately into the business. He begged gentlemen to consider that they were limited in point of time; that, if they did not complete their business on the 22d day of the month, they should be compelled to adjourn, as the legislature was to meet the 23d. He also begged gentlemen to consider the consequences of such an adjournment; that the Constitution, he believed, was very fully understood by every gentleman present, having been the subject of public and private consideration of most persons on the continent, and of the peculiar mediation of those who were deputed to the Convention.

The Convention then came to the following resolution:—

Resolved, That this Convention will, to-morrow, resolve itself into a committee of the whole Convention, to take into consideration the proposed Constitution of government for the United States.

And then the Convention adjourned until to-morrow, eleven o’clock.

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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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