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Rules of the Constitutional Convention

Transcript from the journal regarding the first real session of the Constitutional Convention. Namely the determination of the rules by which the convention would proceed.

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Organization of the Rules

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The Convention met agreeably to adjournment – The honorable Nathaniel Gorham, and Caleb String Esquires, Deputies from the State of Massachusetts, The honorable Oliver Elsworth Esq, a Deputy from the State of Connecticut – The honorable Gunning Bedford Esq, a Deputy from the State of Delaware and the honorable James McHenry Esquire, a Deputy from the State of Maryland, attended and took their seats.  The following Credentials were produced and read.  (here insert the credentials of the Deputies from the States of Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and the credentials of James McHenry, Esquire from the State of Maryland)  His Excellency Benjamin Franklin Esquire, and of the honorable George Clymer, Thomas Nifflin, and Jared Ingasol Esquire, ??? of the Deputies of the State of Pennsylvania attended and took their seats. 

Mr. Wythe reported from the committee, (to whom the drawing up rules, proper in their opinion, to be observed by the Convention in their proceedings, as standing orders, was referred) that the Committee had drawn up the rules accordingly, and had directed him to report them to the house – and he read the report in his place, and afterwards delivered it in at the Secretary’s table; where the said rules were once read throughout, and then a second time one by one; and upon the question severally put thereupon two of them were disagreed to; and the rest with amendments to some of them were agreed to by the House, which rules, so agreed to, are as follow:

Rules to be observed as the standing Orders of the Convention

A House, to do business, shall consist of the Deputies if not less than seven States; and all questions shall be decided by the greater number of these which shall be fully represented: but a less number than seven may adjourn from day to day.

Immediately after the President shall have taken the Chair, and the Members their seats, the minutes of the preceding day shall be read by the Secretary

Every member, rising to speak, shall address the President; and, whilst he shall be speaking, none shall pass between them, or hold discourse with another, or read a book, pamphlet or paper, printed or manuscript – and of two members, rising at the same time, the President shall name him who shall be first heard.

A member shall not speak oftener than twice, without special leave, upon the same question; and not the second time, before every other, who had been silent, shall have been heard, if he choose to speak, upon the subject.

A motion made and seconded, shall be repeated and, if written, as it shall be when any member shall so require, read aloud, by the Secretary, before it shall be debated; and may be withdrawn at any time before the vote upon it shall have been declared.

Orders of the day shall be read next after the minutes, and either discussed or postponed before any other business shall be introduced.

When a debate shall arise upon a question, no motion, other than to amend the question, to commit it, or to postpone the debate shall be received.

A question, which is complicated, shall, at the request of any member, be divided, and put separately upon the propositions, of which it is compounded.

The determination of a question, although fully debated, shall be postponed, if the Deputies of any State desire it, until the next day.

A Writing, which contains any matter brought on to be considered, shall be read once throughout, for information, then by paragraphs, to be debated, and again, with the amendments, if any, made on the second reading; and afterwards the question shall be put upon the whole, amended, or approved in it’s original form, as the case shall be.

That Committees shall be appointed by ballot; and that the members who have the greatest number of ballots, although not a majority of the votes present, be the Committee – when two or more members have an equal number of votes, the member standing first on the list in the order of taking down the ballots shall be preferred.

A member may be called to order by any other member, as well as by the President, and may be allowed to explain his conduct or expressions, supposed to be reprehensible – and all questions of order shall be decided by the President without appeal or debate.

Upon a question to adjourn, for the day, which may be made at any time, if it be seconded, the question shall be put without a debate.

When the House shall adjourn every member shall stand in his place until the President pass him.

Resolved that the said rules be observed as standing Orders of the House.

A letter from sundry Persons of the State of Rhode Island addressed to the honorable the Chairman of the General Convention was presented to the Chair by Mr. G. Morris – and, being read, ordered that the said letter do lye upon the table for father consideration.

Amended Rules

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Mr. Wythe reported, from the Committee to whom the motions made by Mr. Butler and Mr. Spaight were referred, that the Committee had examined the matters of the said motions and had come to the following resolution thereupon, resolved that it is the opinion of this Committee that previsions be made for the purposes mentioned in the said motions – and to that end.

The Committee beg leave to propose that the rules written under their resolution be added to the standing orders of the house – and the said rules were once read throughout and then a second time, one by one, and, on the question severally put thereupon, were, with amendments to some of them, agreed to by the House which rules so agreed to are as follow.

Rules

That no member be absent from the House so as to interrupt the representation of the State without leave

That Committees do not sit whilst the House shall be, or ought to be, sitting.

That no copy be taken of any entry on the journal during the sitting of the House without the leave of the House

That members only be permitted to inspect the journal.

That nothing spoken in the House be printed, or otherwise published, or communicated without leave.

That a motion to reconsider a matter, which had been determined by a majority, may be made, with leave unanimously given, on the same day in which the vote passed, but otherwise not without one days previous notice; in which last case, if the House agree to the reconsideration some future day shall be assigned for that purpose.

Resolved that the said rules be added to the standing orders of the House.

Other Matters

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The honorable John Dickinson Esq a Deputy of the State of Delaware %u2013 and the honorable Elbridge Gerry Esquire, a Deputy from the State of Massachusetts, attended and took their seats.

Mr. Randolph, one of the Deputies of Virginia, laid before the House, for their consideration, sundry propositions, in writing, concerning the American confederation, and the establishment of a national government.

Resolved that the House will tomorrow resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House to consider of the state of the American Union.

Ordered that the propositions this day said before the House, for their consideration, by Mr. Randolph be referred to the said Committee.

Mr. Charles Pinckney, one of the Deputies of South Carolina, laid before the House for their consideration, the draught of a federal government to be agreed upon between the free and independent States of America.

Ordered that the said draught be referred to the Committee of the whole House appointed to consider of the state of the American Union.

And then the House adjourned till tomorrow morning 10 o'clock.

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