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The first volume of the late edition of the laws of the United States, compiled under the direction of the late Secretary of State and Attorney General, contains a succinct historical review of the successive publick measures, which led to the present organization of the North American Union, from the assembling of the Congress of the colonies on the 5th of September, 1774, to the adoption of the constitution of the United States, and of the subsequent amendments to it, now in force.
The following resolution of the old Congress, adopted on the 21st of February, 1787, contains the authority by which the convention, which formed the constitution, was convoked:
" Whereas there is provision in the articles of 66 confederation and perpetual union, for making al“ terations 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 par“ticularly the state of New York, by express instruc“tions to their delegates in Congress, have suggested a • convention for the purposes expressed in the follow66 ing resolution; and such convention appearing to be “the most probable mean of establishing in these a states a firm national government
“ Resolved, That in the opinion of Congress, it is s expedient, that on the second Monday in May next, “ a convention of delegates, who shall have been ap
pointed by the several states, be held at Philadel“phia, 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 Con“gress, and confirmed by the states, render the federal “ constitution adequate to the exigencies of govern" ment, and the preservation of the union."
The day appointed by this resolution for the meet ing of the convention was the second Monday in May; but the 25th of that month was the first day upon which a sufficient number of members appeared to constitute a representation of a majority of the states. They then elected George Washington their President, and proceeded to business.
On the 29ıh of May, Mr. Edmund Randolph presented to the convention fifteen resolutions, and Mr. C. Pinckney laid before them the draft of a federal government, which were referred to a committee of the whole; which debated the resolutions, from day to day, until the 13th of June, when the committee of the whole reported to the convention a series of nineteen resolutions, founded upon those which had been proposed by Mr. Randolph.
On the 15th of June, Mr. Patterson submitted to the convention his resolutions, which were referred to a
committee of the whole, to whom were also recommitted the resolutions reported by them on the 13th.
On the 19th of June, the committee of the whole reported, that they did not agree to Mr. Patterson's propositions, but reported again the resolutions which had been reported before.
The convention never afterwards went into committee of the whole; but from the 19th of June till the 23d of July were employed in debating the nineteen resolutions reported by the committee of the whole on the 13th of Jane ; some of which were occasionally referred to grand committees, of one member from each state, or to select committees of five members.
After passing upon the nineteen resolutions, it was on the 23d of July resolved, “ That the proceedings " of the convention for the establishment of a national
government; except whát respects the supreme 6 Executive, be referred to a committee for the pur“pose of reporting a constitution conformably to the 5 proceedings aforesaid."
This committee, consisting of five members, and called in the journal "the committee of detail,” was appointed on the 24th of July, and with the proceedings of the convention, the propositions submitted to the convention, by Mr. Charles Pinckney, on the 29th of May, and by Mr. Patterson on the 15th of June, were referred to them.
- On the 26th of July, a resolution respecting the Executive and two others, offered for the consideration of the convention, were referred to the committee of
and the convention adjourned till Monday, the 6th of August, when the committee reported a consti
tution for the establishment of a national government. This draft formed the general text of debate, from that time till the 8th of September ; many additional resolutions, being in the course of the deliberations, proposed, and referred to and reported upon by the same committee of detail, or other committees of eleven, (a member from each state) or of five.
On the 8th of September a committee of five was appointed'" to revise the style of and arrange the ar6 ticles agreed to by the house."
On the 12th of September, this committee reported the constitution as revised and arranged, and the draft of a letter to Congress. It was ordered that 'printed copies of the reported constitution should be furnished 10 the members, and they were : brought in the 'next day.
On the seventeenth day of September, 1787, the convention dissolved itself, by an adjournment without day, after transmitting the plan of constitution which they had prepared to Congress, to be laid before conventions, delegated by the people of the several states, for their assent and ratification.
The last act of the convention, was a resolution that their journal and other papers should be deposited with their president, to be retained by him subject to the order of the Congress, if ever formed under the constitution.
On the 19th of March, 1796, President Washington deposited in the Department of State three manuscript volumes; one containing in 153 pages, the journal of the federal convention of 1787; one the journal of the proceedings of the same convention,