Page images



IN 1789-90-91,



A Senator from Pennsylvania.

of Harrisburg, Pa.,

Compiler of Harris' Reports of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.





Fiele. 2,


Summer Fund,


[Copyrighted, 1880.]

upon Maclay's Journal, 3 vols.

THE Journal of WILLIAM MACLAY, a Senator in Congress. from the State of Pennsylvania, covers period of about two years, viz : From April 24, 1789, to March 3, 1791. Its chief value consists in the fact that it records with some fullness, the proceedings of the first Senate organized under the Constitution, and at a period when the sessions were held with closed doors. It is well known that no report of the debates in the Senate exists for the period embraced by the 1st to the 5th Congress inclusive. During the ten years from 1789 to 1799, only a bare outline of the business transacted is found in the Annals of Congress, or elsewhere, altho' the debates in the House of Representatives were reported with considerable fullness. The few notices of the business and debates in the Senate during this period, preserved in the published writings of JOHN ADAMS, JEFFERSON, MADISON, WALCOTT, and others, are of high interest and value. Yet in none of them is there any continuous journal purporting to give a record of the debates in the Senate. This vacuum is to a certain extent supplied by this MS. Journal of Senator MACLAY. Although not a formal report of debates, as to the language used, it gives the sentiments expressed by the leading speakers on both sides, on most of the important questions discussed at length. Among these were the questions of the official title for the President of the U. S., the power of removal from office, the doctrine of a protective tariff, the location of the permanent seat of Government, the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts, etc.

Besides these, the Journal contains Mr. MACLAY'S account of the inauguration of President WASHINGTON at N. Y. in 1789, of various Presidential dinners and state ceremonies in the early days of the Government, and some criticisms of the President, Vice President ADAMS, and other public men of the time. As a whole, this MS. record, which has never been published, would add a contribution of considerable interest and value to the stores of information we possess regarding the early politics of the country. The period it embraces, covering as it does the very origin of the Government under the Constitution, is continually enhanced in interest with the growth of the historical spirit in the country.

A. R. SPOFFORD. Presented to Committee on the Library, Washington, March, 1869.


In December, 1858, or in the early part of January, 1859, Mr. Breckenridge, Vice President, delivered an address to the Senate when it was about taking possession, or had taken possession, of its new hall.

In the course of this he observed: "At the origin of the Government, the Senate seemed to be regarded chiefly as an executive council. The President often visited the Chamber and conferred personally with this body. Most of its business was transacted with closed doors, and it took comparatively little part in the legislative debates. The rising and vigorous intellects of the country sought the arena of the House of Representatives as the appropriate theater for the display of their powers," &c.

Now, it appears from the journal of Mr. Maclay, that there was debated in the Senate the question of titles to the President and Vice President; the question whether nominations by the President were to be acted on by ballot or viva voce; the question whether the President had the sole power to remove from office; the tariff bill; debate as to the seat of government; the judiciary bill, and other matters.

The members of the first Senate were not men of inferior minds, and a number of them were of distinguished ability. Was it a reasonable supposition that they would pass upon the important subjects submitted to their consideration without discussion; and is it not reasonable now to entertain a desire to know something of their action within the Chamber of the Senate, at the organization of the Government, when the constitution was being put into


The members of the Senate were as follows:

From New Hampshire-John Langdon*, Paine Wingate; MassachusettsCaleb Strong*, Tristram Dalton; Connecticut-Oliver Ellsworth*, William S. Johnson*; New York-Rufus King*, Philip Schuyler; New Jersey-William Paterson*, Jonathan Elmer; Pennsylvania-William Maclay, Robert Morris*; Delaware-Richard Bassett*, George Read*; Maryland-Charles Carroll, John Henry; Virginia-Richard Henry Lee, William Grayson; South Carolina-Ralph Izard, Pierce Butler*; Georgia-William Few*, James Gunn.

North Carolina and Rhode Island not having adopted the Constitution, had no members in the Senate during the first session, but subsequently, from North Carolina appeared Samuel Johnston and Benjamin Hawkins; from Rhode Island appeared Theodore Foster and Joseph Stanton; from New Jersey, Philemon Dickinson appeared in place of Mr. Paterson; and from Virginia, James Monroe, in place of William Grayson, deceased.

Those above named marked * were members of the convention which framed the constitution of the United States.

Further, it was not customary or usual in the President to visit the Senate Chamber to confer with Senators relative to legislation. He visited the Chamber in August, 1789, in relation to arrangements with northern Indians; but as to no other deliberative business before the Senate. As to the occasion of his being there in August, 1789, and for further particulars on that occasion, see the statement of Mr. Maclay.

« PreviousContinue »