Bill for Regulating the Appointment of
Delegates to Congress
[22 May 1784]
Whereas Congress by their Act of November in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty three have recommended to the Respective States in the Union to pass Laws for the purpose of keeping up a full Representation in Congress from each State, and it is expedient to reduce the several Acts of Assembly now in force in this CommonWealth respecting the appointment of Delegates to Congress into one Act.1
Be it therefore enacted that all and every Act or Acts which now are in force concerning the Mode of appointing & the manner of supporting Delegates to Congress from this State shall be and the same are hereby repealed. And be it enacted that Delegates shall be annually chosen to represent this CommonWealth in Congress by joint ballot of both Houses of Assembly for one Year to commence from the first Monday in November next ensuing the date of their Appointments. [that so soon] as such election [shall be made]2 the Speakers of each House of General Assembly shall notify the same to his Excellency the Governor who thereupon shall cause a credential to be made Out, the Seal of the CommonWealth affixed thereto, signed by him, & delivered to each Delegate so as aforesaid chosen—which credential shall be in the Words following to wit—Virginia Sci: The General Assembly of this CommonWealth on the day of 17 by joint ballot of both Houses elected Esquire a Delegate to serve this CommonWealth, in Congress for one Year to commence from the first Monday in November next ensuing the date of his appointment. Given under my hand and the Seal of the CommonWealth this day of 17 And be it further enacted that in case of the death resignation or removal from office of any Delegate to Congress the person who shall be elected to supply the vacancy occasioned by such death resignation or removal from office shall serve only for the period which such Delegate would have served in case such death resignation or removal from office had not happened And the Credential to be given as aforesaid by the Governor shall be varied accordingly.
And for the better support of the Delegates so as aforesaid elected, Be it further enacted that the Treasurer of this CommonWealth shall pay to each of them or to their order the sum of per day3 for every day they shall be attending or travelling to, or returning from Congress, together with their Carriages in going to and returning from Congress.
Nothing in this Act shall extend to the Delegates at present representing this State in Congress who shall continue to act and receive the same allowance as they would do, had this Act never been made, until the first Monday, in November, that shall be in the Year 1784. And in case any vacancy shall happen in the present representation of this State in Congress, before that period the same shall be supplied in the same manner as if this Act had never been made.4
Ms (Vi). Written in several hands and docketed as “A Bill For regulating the appointment of Delegates to Congress,” by John Beckley, clerk of the House of Delegates. Accompanying the Ms are two folios recording changes made in the bill after its introduction.
1. Congress had adopted the “Act” on 1 Nov. 1783 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 790–91). For the “several Acts” in Virginia, see Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , IX, 73–74, 133–34 and passim; X, 74–75 and passim; XI, 31, 249.
2. Several words in the original are illegible but have been restored from the printed text in Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XI, 365. The House later inserted an important amendment preceding this phrase and after “Appointments”: “three of whom at least shall be constantly attending to discharge the duties of their Office, when, and where that Honorable Body shall be sitting.” For an effective vote to be cast in Congress by a state, at least two of its delegates had to agree on the question at issue. The requirement that three be present avoided the possibility of a deadlock in voting. This improved the 1779 law, which provided that “any one” of the delegates in Congress, “or a majority of those present, if more than one,” could “give the vote of the commonwealth” (ibid., X, 163). This provision had virtually become obsolete on 1 Mar. 1781 with the adoption of the Articles of Confederation, since Article V stipulated that at least two state delegates should agree for the vote of that state to be effective (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 215).
3. In its final form, the House fixed a delegate’s pay at $8.00 per diem.
4. The bill was debated and amended on 28 May, passed the House on 31 May, and became law on 17 June 1784 (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , May 1784, pp. 25–28 and passim). As enacted, it carries an amended section rephrasing that portion of this paragraph after the words “as they would …”