From James Monroe
New York Sepr. 1. 1786.
Sometime since I was appointed of the Committee to attend the Pena. Assembly, contrary to my wishes, & not being able to extricate myself (having apologiz’d in the first instance upon Mrs. Monroe’s indisposition which was not admitted in expectation of her better health) am now under the necessity of attending.1
The question was not as I suppos’d taken upon the whole report of the Committee of the Whole—but upon the subsequent instruction as to the boundaries only. The President Stated it from the chair to be upon the whole, but the next day qualified it as meaning the whole then before the house, the other part being (as to the repeal) decided the day before. We suppos’d the question, having been taken upon the several amendments, had been, as stated above, afterwards taken on the whole.2 It is enter’d in the journals as carried in the affirmative as to the repeal. A motion was made is the question carried: & laid aside by the previous question. It has since been made an order that we shall not move in form or substance any proposition which has been set aside by the previous question, unless the same number of States are present—the State of R. Island, being abt. to leave the floor which their delegation accordingly did immediately.3 I shall sit out for Phila. on Monday next—will you be there on my arrival?4 Sincerely yrs.
1. Monroe and Rufus King were instructed on 14 Aug. to attend the Pennsylvania legislature and to urge the state to conform to Congress’s system for collecting the impost (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 515; Monroe to JM, 10  Aug. 1786 and n. 1).
2. On 28 Aug. Congress took up two resolutions on the Jay-Gardoqui negotiations reported from a Committee of the Whole. The first, repealing the sine qua non in Jay’s instructions on the U.S. boundaries and free navigation of the Mississippi, was approved by a vote of 7 to 5 on 29 Aug. The second, issuing revised instructions on the Mississippi and boundaries, was defeated after complex parliamentary maneuvers. It was this vote, taken on 30 Aug., which Monroe had misinterpreted as being taken on the whole report of 28 Aug. (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 565–613).
3. From 28 to 31 Aug. the southern delegates repeatedly attempted to reassert the sine qua non on the Mississippi in Jay’s instructions. Their attempts along with the imminent departure of the Rhode Island delegates led King on 31 Aug. to move a rule of order, “That when a question is set aside by the previous question, it shall not be in Order afterwards formally or substantially to move the same, unless there shall be the same, or as many states represented in Congress.” Congress passed the rule the next day; there the business rested until the following spring (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 609–21). See Notes on Debates, 18, 23, 25, and 26 Apr. 1787.
4. Monroe set out for Philadelphia on the day JM arrived at Annapolis—4 Sept. Monroe and King were in Pennsylvania on their mission from 6 to 24 Sept. (George Mann to JM, 4–15 Sept. 1786; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VIII, lxxxviii).