James Madison Papers

Instruction from Virginia General Assembly to Its Delegates in Congress, 12–13 July 1780

Instruction from Virginia General Assembly to
Its Delegates in Congress

RC (NA: PCC, No. 71, I, 391).

Virginia to wit.
In the House of Delegates
the 12th of July 1780

Resolved that the Virginia Delegates to Congress be informed that the people of this Commonwealth are alarmed at the omission of the Yeas and Nays in the Monthly publication of the proceedings of Congress, as the publication of them best ascertains the conduct of their delegates in every important debate

Resolved that it be an instruction to the Virginia delegates in Congress to use their best endeavors to have the Yeays and Nays on every important question printed in the Journals of Congress as formerly:1

Teste   John Beckley C.h.d.

Agreed to by the Senate

Will: Drew C.S.

A Copy    John Beckley C.h.d.

1When the Virginia delegation laid its “instruction” before Congress on 22 August 1780, it was “referred to the committee appointed to superintend the printing the Journal” (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVII, 755). The committee’s report, if any, is apparently not on record. By authorization of Congress and the President in 1799, the Folwell Press of Philadelphia published the following year a reprint of the original edition of the journals of the Continental Congress, under the title, Journals of Congress: Containing Their Proceedings. Volume V of this edition, covering 1779, records how each delegate voted on many motions, resolutions, and bills, while the next volume, covering 1780, omits these listings altogether. Hence the reason for the Virginia legislature’s request becomes evident (see also Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921–36). description ends , V, 371). On 1 March 1781, due to Maryland’s ratification, the Articles of Confederation went into effect. Article IX of this document required Congress to “publish the Journal of their proceedings monthly” and, except on matters requiring secrecy, “the yeas and nays of the delegates of each state on any question shall be entered on the Journal.…” Conforming with this mandate, Congress on 16 March 1781 resumed the publication of the yeas and nays.

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