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The petitions in favor of the measure, though numerous and respectable, have not altogether influenced this opinion. The subject has engaged much of the public attention. Members have mixed with their constituents in all parts of the state, and have had full time and opportunity to learn their sentiments; they have, in a committee of the whole, severally communicated the knowledge which they had acquired, and the result has been, a full and thorough conviction that the voice of the great majority of the people calls for the measure, and that nothing but the slender opposition which it has met with, and an opinion of its being generally agreeable, has prevented more petitions in its favor.
The committee combine with these considerations a conviction that the measure is in itself right and necessary; that it will tend to promote the wishes of every good citizen, by settling a question which has long agitated the public mind, and thereby restore harmony, mutual confidence and good order, on the most solid foundations.
In addition to this, it is the fortunate season when all our citizens are on an equal footing to elect their members of convention, and are for the most part within the state, which was not the case when the constitution was framed. The convention too will possess every advantage which time and experience have unfolded, from the forms of government in other states, and the examples of improvement they have shewn, as well as from the excellent model, so far as it applies, exhibited in the constitution of the United States: The committee, therefore, in obedience to the wishes of the people, submit to the house the following resolutions, to wit.
Resolved, That, in the opinion of this house, it is expedient and proper for the good people of this commonwealth to choose a convention, for the purpose of reviewing, and, if they see occasion, altering and amending the constitution of this state; that in the opinion of this assembly, the said convention should consist of the like number of members from the city of Philadelphia, and the several counties in this commonwealth, as compose this house, and be chosen on the same day, in the same manner, by the same persons, at the same places, and under the same regulations, as are directed and appointed by the election laws of this state, save that the returns should be made to the convention so chosen; and that the said convention should meet at Philadelphia on the fourth Tuesday in November next.
Resolved, That, in the opinion of this house, a convention being chosen and met, it would be expedient, just and reasonable, that the convention should publish their amendments and alterations for the consideration of the people, and adjourn at least four months previous to confirmation.
Resolved, That it be and it is hereby recommended to the succeeding house of assembly, to provide, by law, for the expenses incurred by the said election and convention.
Ordered, That 7000 copies in the English, and 3000 in the German language, of the foregoing resolutions, be printed, and distributed for the information of the citizens of this state.
The resolution relative to publishing the amendments and alterations of the constitution for the consideration of the people, was moved. as an amendment, and adopted with but one dissenting voice. Mr. Lewis, who voted in the negative, entered the following reasons upon the journal:
I dissent, because, although I admit, in the fullest extent, that it will be proper for the convention to submit to the consideration of the people the plan of government which may be formed, and although I fervently wish that sufficient time will be afforded them to deliberate thereon, I am so far from being satisfied of the right of this house to enter into any resolutions respecting it, that I cannot but consider them as unwarrantable assumptions of power. The resolution agreed to must be intended to have some weight and influence with the convention, or it would not have been proposed, and as that weight and influence, so far as they operate, must tend to prevent the unbiassed exercise of their own minds, in a matter submitted to them by the people, and not by this house, they must be highly improper. An adjournment by the convention is a thing in itself so desirable, that were its members to be appointed by this House, and to derive their authority from it, I should not only be for recommending, but directing the measure. But the convention must be chosen by the people, in whom alone the authority is lodged, and will derive all their powers from them. They will set, and they ought to act, both as to adjournments and in all other respects, independent of this house, and should not in the one case, any more than in others, be influenced by it. Being to be chosen by the same people with ourselves, it is rather assuming in us to suppose that their wisdom, virtue or discretion will be less than our own, and unless we distrust their prudent exercise thereof, it does not become us, to whom the business does not appertain, to dictate to those to whom it belongs. They will doubtless receive from their constituents, and duly respect, such instructions and recommendations as they may think proper to give, but ought not to receive any from us, who, as a body, have no right to interfere, and who, as individuals, will have a voice with other members of the community. The people may think that an adjournment of four months is too long or too short, and may recommend as they may think proper, but we have no right to think or to act for them. If we have a right to resolve that an adjournment is proper, we must have an equal right to resolve that it is improper, or that any matter in the formation of the government is right or wrong, according to the prevailing ideas in this house. In our resolution respecting the election, and the meeting of the convention, we are authorised by the wishes of the people, manifested to us, but we have no authority of our own, and are not warranted by them to proceeded further. When the convention meet, they will look to the source of their authority for instructions and recommendations, both as to adjourning and as to other matters, and act with a prudent discretion therein; and as that discretion ought not to be biassed by any supposed influence of this house, I dissent from the resolution, as being calculated to intrench on the rights of the people, and on the free deliberations of their representatives in convention, and have recorded my reasons, in justification of my conduct. WM. LEWIS.
The yeas and nays on the adoption of the resolutions for calling a convention were as follow:
William Robinson, jr.,
Reasons of dissent from the measures for calling a convention. We dissent from the measures adopted by this house for calling a convention,
1st. Because we are of opinion that this house is not competent to the subject. We are delegated for the special purposes of legislation, agreeably to the constitution. Our authority is derived from it, and limited by it. We are bound by the sanction of our solemn oaths to do nothing injurious to it, and the good people of Pennsylvania have in the constitution declared the only mode in which they will exercise "the right of a community to reform, alter or abolish government," as being the manner most conducive to the public weal.
2d. Because we are of opinion that if this house were competent to the subject, they have not sufficient grounds for adopting this measure. It is clear to us that a majority of the good people of the state are averse to it. This house originated it from their own mere motion, without any application from their constituents, and invited the people to signify their assent. After an effort of several months, supported by the greatest exertions of legislative influence, and without any considerable interference to oppose them, this assent has been extorted from not more than (about) one seventh of the people; and this, we are authorised to assert from our own knowledge and the best information, was effected by the most deceptious means, and that in many instances the petitioners supposed the object of the application to this house was the obtaining amendments to the federal constitution, and for the lowering of the taxes in this state. These reasons, so far as they are grounded on the small number of petitioners, are strengthened by the information given in this house from, and of the most wealthy and populous parts of the state, that, since the petitions were signed, great changes have taken place in the wishes of the people on this subject.
Sd. Because, when an attempt was lately made to effect the same measure, a majority of the good people of the state interposed, denying the right or power of their representatives to interfere, and gave a most decided and unambiguous evidence of their attachment to the present constitution.
4th. Because the supreme executive council have not been advised with nor had any concurrence in the measure proposed, but have given am unequivocal mark of their disapprobation, and yet they are equally interested, and equally representatives of the good people of the state.
5th. Because the time proposed to the people for electing members of the intended convention is too soon to admit of that general information and full consideration which so important a measure deserves. Sheriffs and coroners have been months canvassing for their com paratively trifling offices, and in a case of inconceivable importance to every member of the community and their posterity for ages, a knowledge of which should be carried to the doors of every house, but little more time is given than is sufficient to ride to the doors of the county court-houses of the state.
6th. Because this measure at once infringes the solemn compact entered into by the people of this state with each other, to be ruled by fixed principles; will render every form of government precarious and unstable; encourage factions, in their beginning contemptible for numbers, by a persevering opposition to any administration, to hope for success; and subject the lives and liberties of the good people of this commonwealth, and all law and government, to uncertainty; render every thing that is dear subject to the caprice of a factious and corrupt majority in the legislature; destroy all confidence in our government, and prevent foreigners from giving that preference to Pennsylvania, as an asylum from oppression, which we have hitherto experienced.
MINUTES OF THE CONVENTION,
Of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, commenced at Philadelphia, on Tuesday the twenty-fourth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
TUESDAY. November 24, 1789, P. M.
This being the day appointed by the legislature of this state for the meeting of the convention, a number of gentlemen, delegated for that purpose, met accordingly at the state house, but not being sufficient to constitute a quorum, they adjourned until three o'clock to-mor row, P. M.
WEDNESDAY, November 25, 1789, P. M.
A number of gentlemen, elected to serve in the convention, sufficient to constitute a quorum met, whereupon, on motion, the returns
of the elections held for the city of Philadelphia, and the several coună ties of this state, were read, by which it appeared that the following gentlemen were returned as delegates for the said city and counties respectively, viz.
NOTE. No returns have been received from the counties of Nor thumberland and Allegheny.
The return from the county of Mifflin appearing to be double, was read as follows, viz.