From John Quincy Adams
Department of State Washington
22. October 1818
A Resolution of Congress of 27. March last, directs the publication of the Journal of the Convention which formed the present Constitution of the United States, now remaining in this Office, and all Acts and proceedings of that Convention, which are in the possession of the Government of the United States.1
On the 19th. of March 1796. there were deposited in this Office by President Washington—a Volume in Manuscript containing the Journal of the proceedings of the Convention—a second Volume containing their proceedings in Committee of the whole—A third, containing lists of yeas and nays on various questions—and nine separate papers—Two of which are copies of Resolutions submitted by Mr Randolph and discussed in Convention, one is a printed draft of the Constitution as reported, with manuscript minutes of amendments to it adopted after debate, and the rest are papers of little or no consequence. These are all the documents possessed by the Government, coming within the scope of the Resolution of Congress at their last Session.
General Bloomfield2 transmitted to me in the month of May last several papers relating to the proceedings of the Convention, which had come to his hands as Executor to Mr Brearley,3 one of its Members. Among them are copies of Propositions4 offered on the 15th: of June 1787. by Mr Patterson;5 and a plan of Constitution, offered by Coll: Hamilton.6 Mr Patterson’s Propositions are noticed in the Journal of 15. June, but I find throughout the Journal no mention made of the plan of Coll. Hamilton. The Journal does mention a plan of Constitution offered by Mr Charles Pinckney,7 which appears to have been taken into consideration, but of which there is no copy in possession of the Government.
The Volume containing the Journal of the Convention, is incomplete. The record closes with the proceedings of Friday 14. September 1787. Those of Saturday the 15th. and of Monday the 17th. the day of final adjournment, are not entered in the book, which if published in its present condition will be a fragment. I have written to Major Jackson,8 the Secretary of the Convention, to enquire if he could furnish the means of supplying the deficiency. He answers that he cannot. The chasm is remarkable, as the adjournment on the 14th: leaves a debate unfinished and to be resumed. There was even a part entry of the proceedings of Saturday the 15th. which is crossed out, upon the book.
Under these circumstances, the President has directed me to write to you, and enquire if you can without inconvenience furnish the means of completing the Journal, by a Note, which may indicate the transactions of the Convention on the last two days of their Session, and if you have any additional documents relating to the proceedings of the Convention, which you think it might be useful to add to the publication directed by Congress, and which you would have the goodness to communicate for that purpose. I am with the highest Respect, Sir your very humble & obedt. Servt.
FC (DNA: RG 59, Drafts of Domestic Letters, 1801–77, entry 100, box 1); letterbook copy (DNA: RG 59, DL, vol. 17). Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.
1. Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States.… (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 15th Cong., 1st sess., 2600. In compliance with this resolution, John Quincy Adams compiled, edited, and published the Journal, Acts and Proceedings, of the Convention,… Which Formed the Constitution of the United States (Boston, 1819; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 49802).
2. Joseph Bloomfield (1753–1823), a veteran of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, was governor of New Jersey, 1801–2 and 1803–1812, until JM appointed him brigadier general in the U.S. Army in 1812. He subsequently represented a New Jersey district in Congress, 1817–21 (PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (6 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 5:113 n. 2; Sobel and Raimo, Biographical Directory of the Governors, 3:1010).
3. David Brearley (1745–1790) was a New Jersey lawyer and ardent revolutionary who served in the Continental Army from 1776 until 1779, when he became chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and afterwards U.S. district judge, 1789–90 (PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (1st ser., vols. 1–10, Chicago, 1962–77, vols. 11–17, Charlottesville, Va., 1977–91). description ends , 5:291 n. 13).
4. The letterbook copy reads “Resolutions.”
5. William Paterson (1745–1806), a graduate of the College of New Jersey was admitted to the bar in 1768, and served as a delegate to the New Jersey Provincial Congress and as attorney general during the Revolutionary War. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and as such, in a speech on 15 June 1787, proposed a plan of government, which came to be known as the “New Jersey Plan,” that would have “revised, corrected & enlarged” the Articles of Confederation in contradistinction to JM’s Virginia Plan. Paterson signed the resulting compromise Constitution and supported it in his state ratifying convention. He subsequently served as U.S. senator, 1789–90, governor of New Jersey, 1790–93, and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1793–1806 (Sobel and Raimo, Biographical Directory of the Governors, 3:1007–8; Madison, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention, 118–21 and nn.).
6. Alexander Hamilton (1757–1804) took an early part in the revolutionary activities of New York as a speaker and pamphleteer and became an aide and secretary to Gen. George Washington once the fighting began. After Yorktown, Hamilton entered the Confederation Congress, 1782–83, where he worked with JM to establish its financial credit. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, where he proposed a plan of government in a speech of 18 June. He left a copy of this plan with JM at the end of the convention. The two, along with John Jay, collaborated on the essays published as The Federalist, designed to influence the ratification debate in New York. Hamilton’s forceful and influential tenure as secretary of the Treasury in the new government, 1789–95, placed him at odds with JM, though the latter always paid tribute to the power of Hamilton’s personality and intellect. Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804.
7. Charles Pinckney (1757–1824) was a Revolutionary War veteran, a member of the Confederation Congress, 1784–87, and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He served many terms in the South Carolina legislature, as governor of the state, 1789–92, 1796–98, and 1806–8, and as U.S. senator, 1798–1801. He represented the United States as minister to Spain, 1801–5, and served a term in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1819–21 (Sobel and Raimo, Biographical Directory of the Governors, 4:1387).
Pinckney’s plan of the Constitution was introduced into the Convention proceedings on 29 May 1787 and given to the committee of detail on 24 July but was not mentioned in the journal or notes of the convention again, nor has a copy ever been found. The copy of the plan that Pinckney furnished Adams in 1818 and that was published in the Journal, Acts and Proceedings, of the Convention (Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 49802), however, differed in many respects from that introduced in 1787, as was noted several times by JM in his retirement correspondence and in his detailed analysis of the document (Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 [4 vols.; New Haven, Conn., 1937], 1:xxii, 23, 24, 2:98, 106, 3:479–80, 481–82, 501–15, 531–32).
8. William Jackson (1759–1828) was aide-de-camp to Major General Benjamin Lincoln and assistant secretary at war during the American Revolution. He served as secretary of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and later as President Washington’s private secretary during his first administration (PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (1st ser., vols. 1–10, Chicago, 1962–77, vols. 11–17, Charlottesville, Va., 1977–91). description ends , 4:36–37 n. 1).