George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 5 March 1789

From Henry Knox

New York 5th March 1789

My dear Sir

I yesterday received your favor of the 21st ultimo containing enclosures which shall be submitted agreably to your desire.

Yesterday being appointed for the assembling of the new government the members of it who are in Town met together, but there not being a quorum for business, they will adjourn from day to day untill they have a competent number of members which will most probably be early in the next week.1

The members present are as follows.

N.H. 2.  1 
Mass. 1.  4 
Con. 2.  5 
Pen. 2.  5 
Virga  1 
South C.  1 
Georgia 1.
8  17 

Twelve will be a quorum in the Senate and thirty in the house.

Colonel Wadsworth informs me that he shall have here next week some superfine brown Hartford cloth intended for you.21 am my dear Sir Your most obedient humble Servant

H. Knox


1On 17 Sept. 1787 the Federal Convention resolved that after nine states ratified the Constitution the Continental Congress “should fix a Day on which Electors should be appointed by the States which shall have ratified the same, and a Day on which the Electors should assemble to vote for the President, and the Time and place for commencing Proceedings under this Constitution” (Farrand, Records of the Federal Convention, description begins Max Farrand, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Rev. ed. 4 vols. New Haven, 1966. description ends 2 :665). On 2 Sept. 1788 Congress appointed 1 Jan. 1789 as the day for selecting electors in those states that had ratified the Constitution, the first Wednesday in February as the day for electors in each state to cast their votes for president and vice president, and the first Wednesday in March as the date for the opening of the new Congress (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 34:483–84). Congress met as appointed on 4 Mar. but, largely because the severe winter of 1788–89 had left the roads in many areas impassable, failed to achieve a quorum. “As to the New Congress,” Sen. William Maclay wrote toward the end of the month, “the Members that are already come forward meet daily . . . And Alass neither House are Yet a Quorum—I never felt greater Mortification in my life. to be so long here with the Eyes of all the World on Us & to do nothing, is terrible.” A few days later he complained that “we have wrote repeatedly to the Absent Members. But with very little Success hitherto” (Maclay to Benjamin Rush, 19, 26 Mar. 1789, DLC: Rush Papers). In fact, although the members duly met each day for the next weeks, they could conduct no business, and a quorum was not mustered until 1 April. The Senate did not have a quorum until 6 April (De Pauw, Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972–. description ends 1:3–7, 3:3–7

2For the cloth ordered by GW from the Hartford Manufactory, see GW to Knox, 29 Jan. 1789, and Knox to GW, 12, 16, 19 Feb. 1789.

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