Article 1, Section 5, Clauses 1--4
[Volume 2, Page 294]
Debate in North Carolina Ratifying Convention26 July 1788Elliot 4:72--73
Mr. Steele observed, that he had heard objections to the 3d clause of this section, with respect to the periodical publication of the Journals, the entering the yeas and nays on them, and the suppression of such parts as required secrecy--that he had no objection himself, for that he thought the necessity of publishing their transactions was an excellent check, and that every principle of prudence and good policy pointed out the necessity of not publishing such transactions as related to military arrangements and war--that this provision was exactly similar to that which was in the old Confederation.
Mr. Graham wished to hear an explanation of the words "from time to time," whether it was a short or a long time, or how often they should be obliged to publish their proceedings.
Mr. Davie answered, that they would be probably published after the rising of Congress, every year--that if they sat two or three times, or oftener, in the year, they might be published every time they rose--that there could be no doubt of their publishing them as often as it would be convenient and proper, and that they would conceal nothing but what it would be unsafe to publish. He further observed, that some states had proposed an amendment, that they should be published annually; but he thought it very safe and proper as it stood--that it was the sense of the Convention that they should be published at the end of every session. The gentleman from Salisbury had said, that in this particular it resembled the old Confederation. Other gentlemen have said there is no similarity at all. He therefore wished the difference to be stated.
Mr. Iredell remarked, that the provision in the clause under consideration was similar in meaning and substance to that in the Confederation--that in time of war it was absolutely necessary to conceal the operations of government; otherwise no attack on an enemy could be premeditated with success, for the enemy could discover our plans soon enough to defeat them--that it was no less imprudent to divulge our negotiations with foreign powers, and the most salutary schemes might be prevented by imprudently promulgating all the transactions of the government indiscriminately.
Mr. J. Galloway wished to obviate what gentlemen had said with regard to the similarity of the old Confederation to the new system, with respect to the publication of their proceedings. He remarked, that, at the desire of one member from any state, the yeas and nays were to be put on the Journals, and published by the Confederation; whereas, by this system, the concurrence of one fifth was necessary.
To this it was answered, that the alteration was made because experience had showed, when any two members could require the yeas and nays, they were taken on many trifling occasions; and there was no doubt one fifth would require them on every occasion of importance.
Elliot, Jonathan, ed. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. . . . 5 vols. 2d ed. 1888. Reprint. New York: Burt Franklin, n.d.
© 1987 by The University of Chicago