Mr. BLAND presented to the house an application of the state of Virginia, requesting Congress to call a convention for the purpose of revising and amending the constitution.
Mr. BLAND observed, that this application was made with a view of obtaining amendments to the constitution in one of the two modes pointed out in the 5th article; that copies of the application with an address had been sent to the several states, but that few of them seemed to have coincided with Virginia in opinion, and whether the apprehensions of the people of that state were well or ill founded, time alone would determine. He wished that the paper might be referred to a committee of the whole house, and thought that it would be advisable to give it a consideration at the same time that the amendment to be moved by Mr. MADISON, of which he gave notice yesterday should be brought forward.
Mr. BOUDINOT was opposed to the commitment: He wished to pay respect to the application of the state of Virginia, but he thought it ought to lie on the table for the information of the members, when a sufficient number of the states should according to the constitution join the application, it would then be the proper time to commit it—at present it was premature.
Mr. BLAND hoped that an equal respect would be paid to the wishes of the state of Virginia as had been shown to the petitions of the artisans of New-York and others—He hoped that the house would pay Virginia the compliment of committing their application. He knew not whether other states would come forward or not, but if the house had this address before them when the general subject amendments was taken up, it might have some proper influence in their decision, tho' it were not accompanied by other applications.
Mr. MADISON said the house ought to treat this subject with all due respect; but the mode of disposing of this application, ought to be consistent with the principles and spirit of the Constitution. Congress had no deliberative power with respect to a convention; for whenever two thirds of the states should apply they were bound to call one; but till this concurrent application took place, they had no power whatever to enter into the subject—The best mode was to let it lie upon the table till a sufficient number applications appeared.
Mr BOUDINOT assured the gentlemen it was from no disrespect that he objected to the commitment—He would wish to express his respect for every state, particularly for Virginia; but he did not conceive it would be paying any respect to Virginia to commit their application to a body which had no power to deliberate or decide upon it.
Mr. BLAND replied, that the committing the application could not lay any obligation upon the house whatever as to its merits and therefore it was no unconstitutional step—The matter might regularly come before the house, without its over passing the bounds prescribed by the constitution, or actually doing any thing to contravene its principles. Mr. HUNTINGTON opposed the commitment, and was for having the paper lie on the table.
Mr TUCKER said the provision in the constitution did not appear to him in the same point of view in which it struck the gentlemen—If two thirds of the states made application, Congress were obliged to comply; but if this should not happen, they were at liberty to exercise their discretion—He thought therefore it would be constitutional to take this up, and deliberate upon it—Great respect was due to the application of any state—if the states had this power, as they certainly had, they ought not to be disregarded—They ought to be carefully attended to.
Mr. GERRY conceived this question to be out of order. A gentleman, he said, had yesterday informed the house that on the 4th Monday of this month, he should move the house to go into a committee on the 5th article of the constitution; but there was no order of the house to go into a committee on that day—He had no doubt but the gentleman would bring forward his motion, but he thought it at present not in order on the expectation of such a motion, to refer any thing to a committee of the ; whole which was not yet in existence—He conceived therefore that the proper mode of treating this application was to let it lie on the table till the 5th article of the constitution should be taken into consideration.
Mr. PAGE was opposed to the commitment—He thought it would be a proper respect to the application to enter it on the journal, and he was willing this should be done.
Mr. BLAND said he had no objection to any mode of treatment which was respectful—it was a standing order that the house should go each day into a committee of the whole on the state of the Union—To this committee he wished the application should be referred—And he thought it would be in their power to take the same at any time into consideration.
Mr. MADISON said he would consent to enter the paper on the journal, and to have the original on the files of the clerk's office—He therefore moved that the application be entered on the journal, and the original deposited in the office of the clerk.
Mr. WHITE seconded this motion, and the question being put, it was agreed to.