Article 1, Section 5, Clauses 1--4
[Volume 2, Page 292]
Debate in Massachusetts Ratifying Convention19 Jan. 1788Elliot 2:52
Dr. Taylor wished to know the meaning of the words "from time to time," in the third paragraph. Does it mean, says he, from year to year, from month to month, or from day to day?
The Hon. Mr. King rose, and explained the term.
Mr. Widgery read the paragraph, and said, by the words, "except such parts as may require secrecy," Congress might withhold the whole journals under this pretence, and thereby the people be kept in ignorance of their doings.
The Hon. Mr. Gorham exposed the absurdity of any public body publishing all their proceedings. Many things in great bodies are to be kept secret, and records must be brought to maturity before published. In case of treaties with foreign nations, would it be policy to inform the world of the extent of the powers to be vested in our ambassador, and thus give our enemies opportunity to defeat our negotiations? There is no provision in the constitution of this state, or of Great Britain, for any publication of the kind; and yet the people suffer no inconveniency. The printers, no doubt, will be interested to obtain the journals as soon as possible for publication, and they will be published in a book, by Congress, at the end of every session.
Rev. Mr. Perley described the alarms and anxiety of the people at the commencement of the war, when the whole country, he said, cried with one voice, "Why don't General Washington march into Boston, and drive out the tyrants?" But, said he, Heaven gave us a commander who knew better than to do this. The reverend gentleman said, he was acquainted with the Roman history, and the Grecian too, and he believed there never was, since the creation of the world, a greater general than Washington, except, indeed, Joshua, who was inspired by the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. Would it, he asked, have been prudent for that excellent man, General Washington, previous to the American army's taking possession of Dorchester Heights, to have published to the world his intentions of doing so? No, says he, it would not.
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