Article 1, Section 5, Clauses 1--4
Records of the Federal Convention
[2:251; Madison, 10 Aug.]
Mr. Ghorum contended that less than a Majority in each House should be made of Quorum, otherwise great delay might happen in business, and great inconvenience from the future increase of numbers.
Mr. Mercer was also for less than a majority. So great a number will put it in the power of a few by seceding at a critical moment to introduce convulsions, and endanger the Governmt. Examples of secession have already happened in some of the States. He was for leaving it to the Legislature to fix the Quorum, as in Great Britain, where the requisite number is small & no inconveniency has been experienced.
Col. Mason. This is a valuable & necessary part of the plan. In this extended Country, embracing so great a diversity of interests, it would be dangerous to the distant parts to allow a small number of members of the two Houses to make laws. The Central States could always take care to be on the Spot and by meeting earlier than the distant ones, or wearying their patience, and outstaying them, could carry such measures as they pleased. He admitted that inconveniences might spring from the secession of a small number: But he had also known good produced by an apprehension of it. He had known a paper emission prevented by that cause in Virginia. He thought the Constitution as now moulded was founded on sound principles, and was disposed to put into it extensive powers. At the same time he wished to guard agst abuses as much as possible. If the Legislature should be able to reduce the number at all, it might reduce it as low as it pleased & the U. States might be governed by a Juncto--A majority of the number which had been agreed on, was so few that he feared it would be made an objection agst. the plan.
Mr. King admitted there might be some danger of giving an advantage to the Central States; but was of opinion that the public inconveniency on the other side was more to be dreaded.
Mr. Govr. Morris moved to fix the quorum at 33 members in the H. of Reps. & 14 in the Senate. This is a majority of the present number, and will be a bar to the Legislature: fix the number low and they will generally attend knowing that advantage may be taken of their absence. the Secession of a small number ought not to be suffered to break a quorum. Such events in the States may have been of little consequence. In the national Councils, they may be fatal. Besides other mischiefs, if a few can break up a quorum, they may sieze a moment when a particular part of the Continent may be in need of immediate aid, to extort, by threatening a secession, some unjust & selfish measure.
Mr. Mercer 2ded. the motion
Mr. King said he had just prepared a motion which instead of fixing the numbers proposed by Mr. Govr Morris as Quorums, made those the lowest numbers, leaving the Legislature at liberty to increase them or not. He thought the future increase of members would render a majority of the whole extremely cumbersome.
Mr. Mercer agreed to substitute Mr. Kings motion in place of Mr. Morris's.
Mr. Elseworth was opposed to it. It would be a pleasing ground of confidence to the people that no law or burden could be imposed on them, by a few men. He reminded the movers that the Constitution proposed to give such a discretion with regard to the number of Representatives that a very inconvenient number was not to be apprehended. The inconveniency of secessions may be guarded agst by giving to each House an authority to require the attendance of absent members.
Mr. Wilson concurred in the sentiments of Mr. Elseworth.
Mr. Gerry seemed to think that some further precautions than merely fixing the quorum might be necessary. [Volume 2, Page 290] He observed that as 17 wd. be a majority of a quorum of 33, and 8 of 14, questions might by possibility be carried in the H. of Reps. by 2 large States, and in the Senate by the same States with the aid of two small ones.--He proposed that the number for a quorum in the H. of Reps. should not exceed 50 nor be less than 33. leaving the intermediate discretion to the Legislature.
Mr. King. as the quorum could not be altered witht. the concurrence of the President by less than 2/3 of each House, he thought there could be no danger in trusting the Legislature.
Mr Carrol this will be no security agst. a continuance of the quorums at 33 & 14. when they ought to be increased.
On question on Mr. Kings motion "that not less than 33 in the H. of Reps. nor less than 14 in the Senate shd. constitute a Quorum, which may be increased by a law, on additions of members in either House."
N. H. no. Mas. ay. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. [Ayes--2; noes--9.]
Mr. Randolph & Mr. Madison moved to add to the end of Art. VI Sect 3, "and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members in such manner & under such penalties as each House may provide." Agreed to by all except Pena--which was divided
Art: VI. Sect. 3. Agreed to as amended Nem. con. . . .
Mr. Madison observed that the right of expulsion (Art. VI. Sect. 6.) was too important to be exercised by a bare majority of a quorum: and in emergencies of faction might be dangerously abused. He moved that "with the concurrence of 2/3" might be inserted between may & expel.
Mr. Randolph & Mr. Mason approved the idea.
Mr Govr Morris. This power may be safely trusted to a majority. To require more may produce abuses on the side of the minority. A few men from factious motives may keep in a member who ought to be expelled.
Mr. Carrol thought that the concurrence of 2/3 at least ought to be required.
On the question for requiring 2/3 in cases of expelling a member.
N. H. ay-- Mas. ay. Ct. ay-- N. J-- ay. Pa. divd. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N-- C. ay-- S. C. ay. Geo. ay. [Ayes--10; noes--0; divided--1.]
Art. VI-- Sect-- 6-- as thus amended agreed to nem. con. . . .
Mr. Govr Morris urged that if the yeas & nays were proper at all any individual ought to be authorized to call for them: and moved an amendment to that effect.--The small States may otherwise be under a disadvantage, and find it difficult. to get a concurrence of 1/5
Mr. Randolph 2ded. ye motion.
Mr. Sherman had rather strike out the yeas & nays altogether. they never have done any good, and have done much mischief. They are not proper as the reasons governing the voter never appear along with them.
Mr Elseworth was of the same opinion
Col. Mason liked the Section as it stood. it was a middle way between two extremes.
Mr Ghorum was opposed to the motion for allowing a single member to call the yeas & nays, and recited the abuses of it, in Massts. 1 in stuffing the journals with them on frivolous occasions. 2 in misleading the people who never know the reasons determining the votes.
The motion for allowing a single member to call the yeas & nays was disagd. to nem-- con--
Mr. Carrol & Mr. Randolph moved to strike out the words "each House" and to insert the words "the House of Representatives" in sect-- 7. art-- 6. and to add to the Section the words "and any member of the Senate shall be at liberty to enter his dissent"
Mr. Govr Morris & Mr Wilson observed that if the minority were to have a right to enter their votes & reasons, the other side would have a right to complain, if it were not extended to them: & to allow it to both, would fill the Journals, like the records of a Court, with replications, rejoinders &c--
Question on Mr Carrols motion to allow a member to enter his dissent
N. H-- no. Mas. no. Cont. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo. no. [Ayes--3; noes--8.]
Mr Gerry moved to strike out the words "when it shall be acting in its legislative capacity" in order to extend the provision to the Senate when exercising its peculiar authorities and to insert "except such parts thereof as in their judgment require secrecy" after the words "publish them".--(It was thought by others that provision should be made with respect to these when that part came under consideration which proposed to vest those additional authorities in the Senate.)
On this question for striking out the words "when acting in its Legislative capacity"
N. H. divd. Mas ay. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay-- N. C. ay. S. C-- ay. Geo. ay-- [Ayes--7; noes--3; divided--1.]
[2:259; Madison, 11 Aug.]
Mr Madison & Mr. Rutlidge moved "that each House shall keep a journal of its proceeding, & shall publish the same from time to time; except such part of the proceedings of the Senate, when acting not in its Legislative capacity as may be judged by that House to require secrecy."
Mr. Mercer. This implies that other powers than legislative will be given to the Senate which he hoped would not be given.
Mr. Madison & Mr. R's motion. was disagd. to by all the States except Virga.
Mr. Gerry & Mr. Sharman moved to insert after the words "publish them" the following "except such as relate to treaties & military operations." Their object was to give each House a discretion in such cases.--On this question
N. H-- no. Mas-- ay. Ct. ay. N-- J. no. Pa. no. Del-- no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. [Ayes--2; noes--8.]
Mr. Elseworth. As the clause is objectionable in so many shapes, it may as well be struck out altogether. The Legislature will not fail to publish their proceedings from time to time--The people will call for it if it should be improperly omitted.
Mr. Wilson thought the expunging of the clause would be very improper. The people have a right to know what [Volume 2, Page 291] their Agents are doing or have done, and it should not be in the option of the Legislature to conceal their proceedings. Besides as this is a clause in the existing confederation, the not retaining it would furnish the adversaries of the reform with a pretext by which weak & suspicious minds may be easily misled.
Mr. Mason thought it would give a just alarm to the people to make a conclave of their Legislature.
Mr. Sherman thought the Legislature might be trusted in this case if in any.
Question on 1st. part of the Section, down to "publish them" inclusive: Agreed to nem. con.
Question on the words to follow, to wit "except such parts thereof as may in their Judgment require secrecy." N. H. divd. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J-- ay. Pa. no. Del-- no. Md. no. Va. ay-- N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. ay--[Ayes--6; noes--4; divided--1.]
The remaining part as to yeas and nays.--agreed to nem. con. . . .
[Art. 6, sec. 8: "Neither House, without the consent of the other, shall adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that at which the two Houses are sitting. But this regulation shall not extend to the Senate, when it shall exercise the powers mentioned in the article."]
Mr. King remarked that the section authorized the 2 Houses to adjourn to a new place. He thought this inconvenient. The mutability of place had dishonored the federal Govt. and would require as strong a cure as we could devise. He thought a law at least should be made necessary to a removal of the Seat of Govt.
Mr. Madison viewed the subject in the same light, and joined with Mr. King in a motion requiring a law.
Mr. Governr. Morris proposed the additional alteration by inserting the words "during the Session" &c".
Mr. Spaight. this will fix the seat of Govt at N. Y. The present Congress will convene them there in the first instance, and they will never be able to remove; especially if the Presidt. should be Northern Man.
Mr Govr Morris. such a distrust is inconsistent with all Govt.
Mr. Madison supposed that a central place for the Seat of Govt. was so just and wd. be so much insisted on by the H. of Representatives, that though a law should be made requisite for the purpose, it could & would be obtained. The necessity of a central residence of the Govt wd be much greater under the new than old Govt The members of the new Govt wd. be more numerous. They would be taken more from the interior parts of the States: they wd. not, like members of ye present Congs. come so often from the distant States by water. As the powers & objects of the new Govt. would be far greater yn. heretofore, more private individuals wd. have business calling them to the seat of it, and it was more necessary that the Govt should be in that position from which it could contemplate with the most equal eye, and sympathize most equally with, every part of the nation. These considerations he supposed would extort a removal even if a law were made necessary. But in order to quiet suspicions both within & without doors, it might not be amiss to authorize the 2 Houses by a concurrent vote to adjourn at their first meeting to the most proper place, and to require thereafter, the sanction of a law to their removal. The motion was accordingly moulded into the following form: "the Legislature shall at their first assembling determine on a place at which their future sessions shall be held; neither House shall afterwards, during the session of the House of Reps. without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor shall they adjourn to any other place than such as shall have been fixt by law"
Mr. Gerry thought it would be wrong to let the Presidt check the will of the 2 Houses on this subject at all.
Mr Williamson supported the ideas of Mr. Spaight
Mr Carrol was actuated by the same apprehensions
Mr. Mercer. it will serve no purpose to require the two Houses at their first Meeting to fix on a place. They will never agree.
After some further expressions from others denoting an apprehension that the seat of Govt. might be continued at an improper place if a law should be made necessary to a removal, and the motion above stated with another for recommitting the section had been negatived, the Section was left in the shape it which it was reported, as to this point. The words "during the session of the legislature" were prefixed to the 8th section--and the last sentence "But this regulation shall not extend to the Senate when it shall exercise the powers mentioned in the article" struck out. The 8th section as amended was then agreed to.
[2:300; Madison, 15 Aug.]
Mr. Carrol-- when the negative to be overruled by 2/3 only was agreed to, the quorum was not fixed. He remarked that as a majority was now to be the quorum, 17, in the larger, and 8 in the smaller house might carry points. The Advantage that might be taken of this seemed to call for greater impediments to improper laws. He thought the controuling power however of the Executive could not be well decided, till it was seen how the formation of that department would be finally regulated. He wished the consideration of the matter to be postponed.
Mr. Ghorum saw no end to these difficulties and postponements. Some could not agree to the form of Government before the powers were defined. Others could not agree to the powers till it was seen how the Government was to be formed. He thought a majority as large a quorum as was necessary. It was the quorum almost every where fixt in the U. States.
[2:305, Madison, 16 Aug.]
Mr. Carroll reminded the Convention of the great difference of interests among the States, and doubts the propriety in that point of view of letting a majority be a quorum.
[2:613; Madison, 14 Sept.]
Art. 1. Sect. 5. "Each House shall keep a Journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy."[Volume 2, Page 292]
Col: Mason & Mr. Gerry moved to insert after the word "parts" the words "of the proceedings of the Senate" so as to require publication of all the proceedings of the House of Representatives.
It was intimated on the other side that cases might arise where secrecy might be necessary in both Houses--Measures preparatory to a declaration of war in which the House of Reps. was to concur, were instanced.
On the question, it passed in the negative
N. H. no. (Rh. I. ab:.) Mas. no. Con: no. (N. Y. abs) N. J. no. Pen. ay. Del-no. Mary. ay. Virg. no. N. C. ay. S. C. divd. Geor. no [Ayes--3; noes--7; divided--1.]
The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 5, Clauses 1--4, Document 7
The University of Chicago Press
Farrand, Max, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Rev. ed. 4 vols. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1937.