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title:“John Quincy Adams: Memoirs”
authors:John Quincy Adams
date written:1819-5-13

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retrieved:March 5, 2024, 11:00 a.m. UTC

Adams, John Quincy. "John Quincy Adams: Memoirs." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

John Quincy Adams: Memoirs (May 13, 1819)

[1819, May] 13th, IV. 30. Four hours of this morning again engaged in examining the journals of the Convention of 1787, and the sheets of yeas and nays, which I compared with the questions in the journals. This comparison has led me to the conclusion that the journals ought to be published with notes. The journals were loosely kept, and the yeas and nays only show the votes of States, and not of individual members. There are some questions on the face of the journals, and which were evidently taken by yeas and nays, but which are omitted in the sheets, and some on the sheets of yeas and nays which were not entered upon the journals. The journal never mentions by whom a motion was made, but it often appears upon the sheets of yeas and nays. I must revise and superintend the publication of this volume myself. . . .
16th. The remainder of the day I was employed in delving into the Convention journals and papers. They are to be printed by T. Wait, at Boston, which I now find to be the cause of some inconvenience. From the examination of all the papers that I have collected, it is apparent that the usefulness of the publication will depend altogether upon their arrangement. When the Convention adjourned, they passed a resolution that their journals and papers, which had been kept by Major William Jackson, their Secretary, should be delivered to their President, Washington, to be kept by him, subject to the future order of Congress, after the Constitution should go into operation. Washington kept them until the 19th day of March, 1796, when he deposited them in the Department of State, where they have remained till this time. A resolution of Congress of 27th March, 1818, directed that they, together with the secret journals of the old Congress, and their foreign correspondence to the Peace of 1783, except such parts of it as the President may think it improper now to publish, should be printed under the direction of the President. He devolved this duty upon me; but the books and papers deposited by President Washington were so imperfect, and in such disorder, that to have published them, as they were, would have given to the public a book useless and in many respects inexplicable.
It happened that General Bloomfield, a member of Congress from New Jersey, as executor of the will of David Brearley, one of the members of the Convention, had come to the possession of his papers, among which were several very important ones relating to the proceedings of the Convention. He sent them all to me. The journal itself was imperfect, and the journal of the last two days was wanting. I wrote to President Madison, and obtained from him the means of completing it.1 There was a plan of Constitution mentioned on the journals as having been proposed by Mr. Charles Pinckney, of South Carolina. I wrote to him and obtained a copy of that.2 With all these papers suitably arranged, a correct and tolerably clear view of the proceedings of the Convention may be presented; but there is one great and irreparable defect. In the printed journals of the old Congress the yeas and nays appear nominally as well as by States, although the votes were taken by States. So they were in the Convention; but the yeas and nays show only the votes of the States, and not of the individual members.3 Copies of the journals, and of most of the papers, were sent last autumn to Wait, at Boston, but I had not time to examine and collate the whole, and I did not dare trust the task to any one else. I have now nearly gone through it, and have settled the mode of publication, but to carry it into effect I must have again all the papers that have been sent to Wait. There is also one paper wanting, to be collected from the resolutions scattered over the journal from 19th June to 23d July, 1787. I began this day to prepare it.
17th. Wrote to Wait, and continued plodding upon the journals and papers of the Convention. Proceeded with the draft of the supplementary paper, and made out a list of the members who attended. . . .
20th. Continued at home the preparations for the publication of the Convention journals. . . .
22d. Still occupied upon the journals of the Convention, upon which I begin to think I shall spend too much time and descend too much to minutiae. . . .
26th. Finished the first draft of an advertisement to be prefixed to the publication of the journals of the Convention of 1787, and the list of the members. . . .
31st. Resumed the task of arranging the Convention journals and papers for publication. Among the papers transmitted to me by General Bloomfield was a plan of the Constitution proposed by Alexander Hamilton, of New York. At the time when the Constitution was offered to the people, the principal objections against it were that it had too many features of, or, as Patrick Henry expressed it with more energy than elegance, "an awful squinting towards," monarchy. This objection was much urged during the whole Administration of President Washington and that of his immediate successor, my father. When Hamilton, as Secretary of the Treasury, came in conflict with Jefferson, as Secretary of State, and consequently with Virginia, this plan of his was often alluded to in party discussions as a proof of his propensities to monarchy. As it has never yet been published, it became a subject of extraordinary curiosity, and will again excite some public attention on the publication of the journals. The only remarkable facts in it are, that he proposes the tenure of office of the Chief Executive Magistrate and of the members of the Senate should be during good behavior, which of course, in ordinary cases, is a tenure for life, It seems Hamilton did not formally propose this as a plan for discussion, but read it as part of a speech. I wrote this evening to Mr. Madison and enquired on what debate, and when, the speech was delivered, with a view to printing the paper immediately after the journal of the day.4 . . .
[June] 2d. After the journal of yesterday, I resumed the arrangement and preparation of the Convention journals for the press. It is truly 'in tenui labor' — the longer I brood upon it the more protracted and unprofitable the toil becomes. The journals and papers were very loosely and imperfectly kept. They were no better than the daily minutes from which the regular journal ought to have been, but never was, made out. I find, on close inspection, a great number of questions, some of them important, entered on the loose sheets of yeas and nays, and not entered at all in the journal. I intend to have them all inserted at their respective places on the journal. There was one loose page of yeas and nays of which I had been able to make nothing until this morning, when I found it must have been the Secretary's first expedient for taking down the yeas and nays. The page is divided into thirteen columns, with the initials of the names of the States, from New Hampshire to Georgia, numbered from 1 to 13, at the head of the page; but no space is left on the page either to enter the question upon which the yeas and nays were taken, or the sum of the votes on either side. There are five successive sets of the yeas and nays taken, not summed up, and with nothing to indicate upon what questions they were taken. After these, the New Hampshire column is divided into two, upon which the sum of the yeas and nays on each question is entered, to the bottom of the page; and in eight instances, at intervals, the question upon which the question was taken is crowded into the square of the Rhode Island column. New Hampshire and Rhode Island were the two States not then represented, and their columns of course remained in blank after the yeas and nays were taken and entered. There are twenty-eight questions, the result of which appears upon this page; on the other side of which is the name of Mr. Gorham, with seven strokes of the pen, and that of Mr. Rutledge, with one, by their side. This is obviously the noting down of the vote by ballot for a Chairman to the committee of the whole. The vote for Rutledge was probably Gorham's. He was at that time President of the old Congress. Before Jackson, the Secretary, had got half down this page, he found the want of spaces to enter the questions upon which the votes were taken, and the sums of the yeas, nays, and divided votes. The sheets that he afterwards used were divided accordingly; but he entered upon them only a part of the questions that he had already taken down on the first experimental page. He began with the question of a "Single Executive," which is the seventeenth on the experimental page. He entered it the first, on his book of yeas and nays, and then resorted again to loose sheets, after filling two of which he returned to his book, leaving blank pages apparently to have the contents of the loose sheets copied upon them. The single Executive question, being the first entered upon the book, was the first with which I found the corresponding question in the journal of the committee of the whole; and from that time I traced the questions in the journals and collated them with the questions on the sheets of yeas and nays. This left, however, a number of questions on the journal of the committee of the whole, taken before that of the single Executive, but not noted either on the book or on the loose sheets of yeas and nays, and the yeas and nays upon which I had hitherto been unable to trace. This morning I first noticed the coincidence of the "Single Executive" question, the first entered upon the book and the seventeenth upon the experimental page; and immediately inferred that the sixteen preceding votes entered upon the page must have been upon the questions taken in the committee of the whole before that upon the single Executive. But to which question each set of the yeas and nays applied was yet to be traced out, the ninth and fifteenth of the questions being the only two entered upon the Rhode Island square. I traced the questions on the journal to the first taken in the committee of the whole, apparently by yeas and nays, and was collating it with the first vote on the experimental page of yeas and nays, when the consumption of time in this petty research brought it to past noon, and I was obliged to break it off and go to my office.
[Footnotes as included or written by Farrand]
  • 1 See CCCXXIII above, and also CCCXXIX below.
  • 2 See CCCXXVI above.
  • 3 Hamilton stated that in voting "individuals were not distinguished." See CCXCV above.
  • 4 See CCCXXIX below.
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