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title:“Committee of Detail Report with Revisions”
date written:1787-8-6

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last updated:Feb. 4, 2016, 8:48 p.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 3, 2023, 1:52 p.m. UTC

"Committee of Deatil Report with Revisions." Supplement to Max Farrand's The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Ed. James H. Hutson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987. 207-12. Print.

Committee of Detail Report with Revisions (August 6, 1787)

On July 24 the Convention appointed a committee—John Rutledge, Edmund Randolph, Nathaniel Gorham, Oliver Ellsworth, and James Wilson—"to report a Constitution conformable to the Resolutions" that it had passed. On July 26 the Convention adjourned until August 6 to give the committee (soon called the Committee of Detail) an opportunity to work in peace. The Committee finished its assignment in time to present a printed copy of its report to the Convention when it reconvened on August 6. Of the approximately sixty copies printed, eighteen are known to have survived: the proof sheets, corrected by Edmund Randolph, at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania; five copies at the Library of Congress—William Samuel Johnson's, William Jackson's, James Madison's, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney's, and Hugh Williamson's; two copies at the National Archives—George Washington's and David Brearley's; two copies at the Huntington Library—George Mason's and an unidentified owner's; two copies at the Massachusetts Historical Society—Elbridge Gerry's and Nathaniel Gorham's; a copy at the Pierpont Morgan Library—Abraham Baldwin's; a copy at the University of Indiana—owner unidentified; a copy at the Library Company of Philadelphia—John Dickinson's; a copy at the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati—Rufus King's; and two copies in private hands—Pierce Butler's and James Wilson's.
The Committee reports were printed with unusually wide left hand margins, to permit the delegates to record substitute motions, revisions, and other alterations in constitutional language. In addition, all copies contain cancellations and interlineations, some in profusion. In most cases the additions, revisions, and marginalia contain the changes in the Committee report made as the Convention inched forward clause by clause. The annotated reports served, then, as legislative diaries, permitting individual delegates to record the evolution of the Constitution. A few delegates, however, used the Committee report to enter independent observations on proceedings in the Convention. The more substantial of these marginal reflections, suggestions, and queries are printed below.
In identifying marginalia as original material, caution must be used on several counts. Many delegates, either capriciously or from a desire to rearrange the report, made marginal entries which transposed actions taken late in the Convention to an earlier period and thus gave a false impression of prescience and inventiveness. For example, next to article VII, section 1, first clause, approved August 16, George Mason made the following marginal entry: "Sec. 1st. The Legislature shall fulfill the Engagements and discharge the Debts of the united States." Mason was here merely copying the motion adopted by the Convention on August 23, not anticipating his colleagues by a week. Care has been taken to print only those marginal entries which are both substantive and original, although different selections would be possible in some cases.
In a marginal note, keyed to the phrase "the Legislature shall meet on the first Monday in December every year," Williamson wrote: "It was proposed to strike out this Provision, on the allegation that frequent Meetings of the Legislature may occasion changes of Measures etc. I no."
ARTICLE IV, SECTION I Across from this section Williamson wrote: "It was proposed to confine the Election to freeholders. I no."
In the margin Williamson wrote: "Sept. 8th motion made by HW to reconsider sect. 3rd so as to increase the number of representatives to 100. Question lost. pro. 7. 8. 9. 11.1 con. the other six states."
Last phrase revised by Dickinson to read: "according to the Rule hereinafter for direct Taxation not exceeding the rate of one for every forty thousand, provided that every state have at least one Representative and that the Representation of the most populous state shall not exceed that of the least populous more than on the proportion of twenty to one."
ARTICLE VII, SECTION I Opposite to "regulate commerce with foreign nations" Dickinson wrote: "no Preference or Advantage to be given to any persons or place—Laws to be equal." Mason wrote: "See the provision in Section 6, & the Note upon the 8th Article."3
Opposite to "regulate the value of foreign coin" Dickinson wrote: "no money to be drawn out of the National Treasury, unless by an appropriation thereof by Law."
Opposite to "appoint a Treasurer" Dickinson wrote: Q[uery] Board." Mason wrote: "Amend by inserting—or Treasurers by joint ballot."
Opposite to "declare the law and punishment of piracies" Dickinson wrote: "and offenses by persons in the service of the United States." Mason wrote: "Why not also foreign Current Coin, the Bills of Credit, and the Public Securitys of the United States?"
Opposite to "raise armies" Dickinson wrote: "to erect forts."
Opposite to "call forth the aid of the militia" Dickinson wrote: "to create Offices to fix the Salaries."
Opposite this section Dickinson wrote: "Q[uery] Meaning of Direct Taxation."
Opposite Section IV Dickinson wrote: "on the Exportation of Livestock Wheat or other Grains, Flour, Rice, Fish, Lumber, Iron, Tobacco, Indigo or the Manufactures of any state."2 Mason wrote: "Report of the Committee upon Entrys and Duties to be inserted here."
ARTICLE IX, SECTION I Opposite Section I Mason wrote: "As Treaties are to be the Laws of the Land and commercial Treaties may be so framed as to be partially injurious, there seems to be some necessity for the same Security upon the Subject as in the 6th Section of the 6th Article."
Opposite Section II Dickinson wrote: "A Power to terminate all Discensions with a state, likely to disturb the public peace."
ARTICLE X, SECTION I After "elected by" Mason added: "by the joint Ballot of"
Dickinson entered the following series of observations in the margin: "To lay Embargos. The offices should be established by the Legislature. Proroguing. Convening at some other place than that adjourned to. Independance of Salary. and shall appoint to all offices established by this Constitution, except in Cases herein otherwise provided for and to all offices that shall be created by Law."
Mason noted at "Ambassadors": "this was not the Idea of the Convention"; before "Commander in Chief": "Q[uery]. Whether the President ought to command the Army personally"; before "execute the Office": "He ought also to swear, to the best of his Power and Knowledge to preserve the Constitution."
Opposite Section II Dickinson queried: "Should they not be removable on Application by the two Branches of the Legislature."
Opposite "such as shall regard Territory or Jurisdiction" Dickinson wrote: "Q[uery] Appeals in Cases relating to Territory Jurisdiction or Disputes with foreign Powers."
After "such regulations as the Legislature shall make" Mason commented: "a more explicit Definition seems necessary here."
Opposite Section IV Dickinson wrote: "Q[uery] Offences committed out of the United States."
Opposite Section V Mason wrote: "No Mode of impeaching the Judges is established; and the Mode of Indictment and Punishment for all the great Officers of the Government should be designated."
Opposite this article Dickinson wrote: "nor to lay Duties or Imposts on the postage of Letters or the Carriages employed therein nor on Exports unless they be the produce or Manufacture of the state exporting the same nor to lay embargos."
Dickinson keyed the following marginal note to "specie": "coined or regulated by the Legislature of the United and at the Rate or Value by them established." At the end of the article he added: "and then to continue no longer than Congress shall otherwise determine."
At the end of the article Dickinson added: "except the priveledge of electing and being elected to office."
Opposite the article Dickinson wrote: "the Union to be perpetual."
Williamson wrote on the back of page six of his copy of the report: "Art:22. Question first put for filling up the Blank with 10, the number 7 had been proposed. Question lost. The question was then put for 9 and carry'd. 10. 11. 12. 13. HW ay."3
At the end of the article Dickinson added: "If within Months after the Government ordained declared and established by this Constitution shall be agreed to in Congress, the same shall not be confirmed by the Legislature of every State, then, to introduce this Constitution, it is the Opinion of this Convention, that Delegates should be appointed by Conventions to be called by the Legislatures of such states as shall assent to this Constitution to meet in Convention at on the Day of in the Year and that the said Convention consisting of Delegates from at least States should have full power to appoint and publish a Day as early as may be and appoint a Place for commencing proceedings under this Constitution; that after such appointment and publication, the Legislatures of the several states should elect Members of the Senate and direct the Election of Members of the House of Representatives: and that the Members of the Legislature should meet at the Time and place assigned by the said Convention, and should as soon as may be after their Meeting choose the president of the United States and proceed to execute this Constitution."
1 In entering his marginalia Williamson numbered the states 1 to 13, descending the coast from New Hampshire (number 1) to Georgia (number 13).
2 Directly above this entry Dickinson copied the full faith and credit clause from Article IV of the Articles of Confederation.
3 Both Farrand and Madison reported this vote as 8 in favor, 3 against, Georgia being listed in favor in both accounts.