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The Constitutional Convention 

Monday 29th* of May 1787 to September 17, 1787.

 

 

 

Overview 

Discussion during the 1787 constitutional convention 

James Madison Notes for the Day

 

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The Convention an Overview

 

On May 25, a quorum of seven states was secured. The first order of business was to elect a President, and George Washington was the obvious choice. William Jackson, yet another immigrant at the Convention, was elected Secretary of the Convention and he recorded the propositions and amendments as well as the vote tabulation. James Madison took extensive Notes of the proceedings and although some scholars have questioned their authenticity and completeness, they remain the primary source for reproducing the conversations at the Convention.

 

On May 25, the Constitutional Convention began its work by creating a Committee to propose "rules for conducting business." On May 28, the Committee reported sixteen rules and on May 29 they reported six further rules. One of these was the rule of secrecy. According to Madison's Notes, the exact language of the secrecy rule was: "That nothing spoken in the house be printed, or otherwise published or communicated without leave."

The delegates adopted these rules without debate. And for the most part, they adhered to the rule of secrecy. The issue of what would happen after the Convention adjourned was not addressed. Certainly, Madison informed Thomas Jefferson about the main features of the deliberations. There was at least one Founder in each of the state ratifying conventions, and these conventions were open to the public with the deliberations reported widely in the press. Madison seems to have taken the vow of secrecy to the limit; his copious Notes weren't available until after his death despite numerous requests that he make them available to help in constitutional interpretation.