George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 17 May 1787]

Thursday 17th. Mr. Rutledge from Charleston and Mr. Chs. Pinkney from Congress having arrived gave a representation to So: Carolina and Colo. Mason getting in this Evening placed all the Delegates from Virginia on the floor of Convention.

Dined at Mr. Powells and drk. Tea there.

John Rutledge, who had been a war governor of South Carolina, was later appointed a justice of the United States Supreme Court. Charles Pinckney (1757–1824), cousin of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, was a member of Congress from South Carolina from 1784 until Feb. 1787 and a prime mover for the Constitutional Convention, where he played an active role. Four times elected governor of South Carolina, he subsequently left the Federalists to become a leader of the Republicans in South Carolina.

The Virginia General Assembly, through a joint ballot of both houses, elected a seven-man delegation (any three providing a minimum for a quorum), which could cast Virginia’s vote in the convention by a majority vote within the delegation. The returns show GW first, followed by Patrick Henry, Edmund Randolph, John Blair, James Madison, George Mason, and George Wythe (FARRAND description begins Max Farrand, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Rev. ed. 4 vols. New Haven, 1966. description ends , 3:561). Of the seven originally chosen, GW vacillated for months before accepting (see FREEMAN description begins Douglas Southall Freeman. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York, 1948–57. description ends , 6:75–84). Only Patrick Henry declined outright. To Henry’s place Governor Randolph appointed Thomas Nelson, who declined. Randolph then turned to Richard Henry Lee. Lee declined, on account of poor health. Finally on 2 May Randolph appointed Dr. James McClurg (1746–1823), a member of the Virginia Council of State, who was at that time in Philadelphia (FARRAND description begins Max Farrand, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Rev. ed. 4 vols. New Haven, 1966. description ends , 3:21, 558, 561). Hence, GW’s notation on 16 May in his Philadelphia journal that “Doctr. McClerg of Virginia came in” probably records McClurg’s first day of attendance at the convention.

colo. mason: Three days after his arrival, George Mason wrote to his son, George Mason, Jr.: “the Virg[ini]a Deputies (who are all here) meet and confer together two or three Hours, every Day; in order to form a proper Correspondence of Sentiments” (MASON [2] description begins Robert A. Rutland, ed. The Papers of George Mason, 1725–1792. 3 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1970. description ends , 3:880).

Samuel Powel’s house was on the west side of Third Street between Spruce and Walnut streets (GW ATLAS description begins Lawrence Martin, ed. The George Washington Atlas. Washington, D.C., 1932. description ends , pl. 44; BAKER [2] description begins William Spohn Baker. Washington after the Revolution: MDCCLXXXIV - MDCCXCIX. Philadelphia, 1898. description ends , 75n).

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