Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States
Selected, Arranged, and Indexed by Charles C. Tansill
Prepared under the general supervision of H.H.B. Meyer, Director, Legislative Reference Service Library of Congress
This volume may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents Government Printing Office at $7.50 per copy.
THE publication of this collection of documents on the origin and development of our constitutional history is due chiefly to the active interest manifested by Representatives Robert L. Bacon, of New York, and R. Walton Moore, of Virginia, and to Senators George Wharton Pepper, of Pennsylvania, and Simeon D. Fess, of Ohio. Its purpose is to present under one cover the most significant documents relative to the formation of the American Federal States. The only comparable collection of documents published by the Government of the United States is the Documentary History of the Constitution, which was brought out some thirty-two years ago.
Two other publications have since appeared which bring together some of these documents. In 1911 Prof. Max Farrand, of Yale University, brought out a new edition of the Records of the Federal Convention in three volumes. This work included Madison’s journal and the supplementary material by Yates, McHenry, and others. He also included certain significant correspondence of the members of the Federal Convention. This important publication was not only quite expensive but is now difficult to acquire at any price. In 1920 the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published the debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 reported by James Madison. This also included some preliminary and supplementary material.
In the present document greater emphasis has been placed upon the evolution of the Constitution in the Constitutional Convention Of 1787. The documents necessary for a complete study of the development of the Federal Constitution have been scattered so widely in different publications, many of them inaccessible to the ordinary reader, that it is a real service to collect all relevant materials and publish them in one volume.
Until a few years ago our chief source of information with regard to the proceedings of the Federal Convention was the journal kept by James Madison, of Virginia. Since the publication of this in the Documentary History of the Constitution, the notes and papers kept by other members of the convention have come to light and have been published. In the proposed volume the notes of Robert Yates, Rufus King, William Pierce, William Paterson, Alexander Hamilton, and James McHenry have been reproduced. These documents, not only give a new insight into the personal characteristics of the members of the convention, but they Present valuable supplementary material with reference to the arguments presented in and the actual decisions of the Federal Convention.
In no previous publication has any attempt been made to publish the variant texts of the plans presented to the convention by Edmund Randolph, William Paterson, and Alexander Hamilton. It has usually been assumed that the texts of these plans as published in Madison’s journal were authentic. Recent investigations have shown, however, that the texts of these plans as actually presented to the convention were in many particulars widely different from the plans as given by Madison. Although it is practically impossible to determine the exact text of these different plans that were presented to the convention, it has been deemed of great importance to publish for the first time in one volume these variant texts.
No more appropriate memorial of the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation of American independence could be produced. It is also a memorial to Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and his colleague in many patriotic undertakings, John Adams, both of whom died one hundred years ago. It also commemorates James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” who was born one hundred and seventy-five years ago.
No argument is necessary to point out the value of having these historical papers made available in one volume. The wide dissemination of these documents, dealing with those momentous and stirring questions associated with the birth of our country, and its subsequent constitutional development, will do incalculable good and will foster a better understanding of the principles upon which our government is founded.
The table of contents shows a list of the documents in chronological order. The analytical subject index and index of names adds materially to the usefulness of the volume as a book of reference.
We gratefully acknowledge the assistance given us by Dr. James Brown Scott and by Dr. J. Franklin Jameson with regard to the reproduction of documents first published under their editorship.
H. H. B. MEYER,
Director, Legislative Reference Service.