The Distinguished Honr. of being called to preside over this August Body, gives me the most pleasing sensations, and excites sentiments of the warmest gratitude, considering it as an Evidence that my Conduct in the various Public emploiments wch. have occupied Great part of my life, have Fortunately met the Approbation of my Countrey. Forgiving me this testimony, You will be pleased to accept my unfeigned thanks.
My wish to have been excused From this appointment, how[ev]er Flattering, proceeded, Not From the old Farce of "Nolo Episcopari", but , From a Consciousness of decline in my Mental powers, and my bodily infirmities, conspiring to render me unable to discharge the duties.
However, since knowing these, you have been pleased to call me to these duties, my best powers, such as they are, shall be exerted, to prevent dishonr. or inconvenience to the House, or the Occasion.
I pledge myself for the Integrity of my heart, and shall rely on the Benignity of the House to cast a Vail over misduties proceeding from Infirmity.
Order & Decorum in the deliberations of all Public bodies, is absolutely necessary, not only to preserve their Dignity, but that reason & Argument may have their proper effect in decision, & not be lost in confusion & disorder. You have made it my duty to be the Centinel over Order, & my endeavrs. to preserve it shall not be wanting. But those will be wholly ineffectual, unless Assisted by your example & Support, which I shall therefore confidently hope For.
We are met together on this Solemn Occasion as Trustees for a Great people, the Citizens of Virginia, to deliberate & decide upon a Plan proposed for the Government of the United States, of which they are a Member.
The Trust is Sacred & important, and requires our most Serious Attention. Let us calmly reason With each other, as Friends, having all the same end in view, the real happiness of our Constituents, avoiding all heats, Intemperance & Personal Altercations, which always impede, but never Assist Fair Investigation. Let us Probe the Plan to the Bottom, but let us do it with Candor temper & mutual Forbearance: & finally decide as our Judgment shall direct.
Thus proceeding, we may reasonably hope to stand justified in the Decision, whatever it may be, to those we Act For, to God & the world