George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 25 May 1787]

Friday 25th. Another Delegate coming in from the State of New Jersey gave it a representation and encreased the number to Seven which forming a quoram of the 13 the Members present resolved to organize the body; when, by a unanimous vote I was called up to the Chair as President of the body. Majr. William Jackson was appointed Secretary and a Comee. was chosen consisting of 3 Members to prepare rules & regulations for conducting the business and after [ap]pointing door keepers the Convention adjourned till Monday, to give time to the Comee. to report the matters referred to them.

Returned many visits to day. Dined at Mr. Thos. Willings and sp[en]t the evening at my lodgings.

A unanimous vote for GW as president had been generally expected by the delegates. Benjamin Franklin, the only other possible candidate for the honor, had planned to nominate GW, but he was unwell and Robert Morris made the nomination, seconded by John Rutledge. James Madison’s notes described the scene: “General [Washington] was accordingly unanimously elected by ballot, and conducted to the chair by Mr. R. Morris and Mr. Rutlidge; from which in a very emphatic manner he thanked the Convention for the honor they had conferred on him, reminded them of the novelty of the scene of business in which he was to act, lamented his want of [better qualifications], and claimed the indulgence of the House towards the involuntary errors which his inexperience might occasion” (FARRAND description begins Max Farrand, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Rev. ed. 4 vols. New Haven, 1966. description ends , 1:3–4).

William Jackson, who later served as one of GW’s secretaries, was not the only candidate for secretary of the convention. John Beckley, clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates, accompanied Governor Randolph to Philadelphia “in expectation of being appointed clerk” of the convention (James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson, 27 July 1787, JEFFERSON [1] description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 11:631). William Temple Franklin, secretary to his grandfather Benjamin Franklin when he was in Paris, was nominated by the Pennsylvania delegation, but Jackson, who actively solicited GW and other delegates for support, was elected (FARRAND description begins Max Farrand, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Rev. ed. 4 vols. New Haven, 1966. description ends , 1:4, 3:18). In Nov. 1795 GW attended Jackson’s wedding to Elizabeth Willing, daughter of Thomas Willing, GW’s dinner host today (Pa. Mag., 2 [1878], 366, 21 [1897], 27).

Thomas Willing’s three-story town house was on Third Street just below Walnut Street.

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