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Timeline of legislative actions in the Confederation Congress

and the United States Congress


as related to establishment of the new Constitution
and seating of the new federal government
prepared by Rick Rickoff
Note: In what appears herein, I have highlighted what I consider to be the most important parts of the
transcriptions, but encourage readers to read all the information, and to view the actual pages where
this information is transcribed from, using the page links given.
From Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789
WEDNESDAY, JULY 2, 1788. page 281
Ordered1 That it be read a second time on Monday next. The State of New hampshire having ratified
the constitution transmitted to them by the Act of the 28 of Septr last and transmitted to Congress their
ratification2 and the same being read, the president reminded Congress that this was the ninth
ratification transmitted and laid before them, whereupon
[Note 1: 1 This order was indorsed on the report by Charles Thomson.]
[Note 2: 2 Department of State. See Documentary History of the Constitution, vol. 2, pp. 141--144.]

On Motion3 of Mr [Abraham] Clarke seconded by Mr [Pierpont] Edwards


[Note 3: 3 Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 23, p. 331, in the writing of Mr. Nathan Dane.]

Ordered That the ratifications of the constitution of the United States transmitted to Congress be
referred to a comee .4 to examine the same and report an Act to Congress for putting the said
constitution into operation in pursuance of the resolutions of the late federal Convention.
[Note 4: 4 According to indorsement and the Committee Book, Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 190,
p. 197, the committee consisted of Mr. Edward Carrington, Mr. Pierpont Edwards, Mr. Abraham Baldwin, Mr.
Samuel Allyne Otis and Mr. Thomas Tudor Tucker. It reported July 8, 1788. See July 9, 14, 28 and September
13, 1788.]

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------From Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789


TUESDAY, JULY 8, 1788
Page 303 | Page image
[Report of committee on new Constitution1]
[Note 1: 1 Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 23, pp. 333--335, in the writing of Mr. Edward Carrington.
According to indorsement it was read July 8, and made the order of the day for Thursday (sic), July 9, 1788.
The Committee Book, Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 190, p. 197, and Reports of Committees,
Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 189, p. 36, give July 9 as the date of the report. A broadside of the
report, with manuscript changes, is on p. 329. See July 2, 14, 28, 30, August 4--7, 13, 26, September 2, 3, 4,
12 and 13, 1788.]

The Committee consisting of Mr [Edward] Carrington, Mr [Pierpont] Edwards Mr [Abraham] Baldwin

Mr [Samuel Allyne] Otis and


Page 304 | Page image
Mr [Thomas Tudor] Tucker, to whom were refered the Ratifications of the new Constitution which
have been transmitted to Congress by the several ratifying States, Report as follows,
Resolved, that Whereas the Foederal convention Assembled in Phila pursuant to the Resolution of
Congress of the 21st . of Feby . 1787 did on the 17th . of Sept ., in the same year, report to the United
States in Congress Assembled, in the words following Viz. "We the People &ca
Whereupon Congress on the 28th . of the same September did Resolve Unanimously, that the said
Report, with the Resolutions and letter accompanying the same, be transmitted to the several
Legislatures in order to be submitted to a convention of Delegates chosen in each State, by the People
thereof, in conformity to the Resolves of the Convention made and provided in that Case." And
Whereas the States of N. Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, N. Jersey Pensylvania, Deleware,
Maryland, South Carolina and Georgia, have duly Ratified the aforesaid Constitution, as appears by the
several ratifications of the said States, returned to Congress, and filed in the Office of the Secretary;
and it is expedient that proceedings do commence thereon as early as may be,
Therefore Resolved, That the first Wednesday in December next be the day for appointing Electors in
the several States which have, or shall, before the said day, have, ratified the said Constitution; That the
first Wednesday in January next be the day for the Electors to Assemble in their respective States and
Vote for a President, and that the first Wednesday in February next be the time, and the place for
Commencing proceedings under the said Constitution.1
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------From Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789
3SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 1788.
Link to date-related documents.
Congress assembled present New hampshire Massachusetts Connecticut New York New Jersey
Pensylvania Virginia North Carolina South Carolina and Georgia and from
Page 522 | Page image
Rhode island Mr [Peleg] Arnold and from Delaware Mr [Dyre] Kearny.
On the question to agree to the proposition1 which was yesterday postponed by the State of Delaware
the yeas and nays being required by Mr [Nicholas] Gilman
[Note 1: 1 Organization of the government under the Constitution. See July 2, 8, 9, 14, 28, 30, August 4--7,
13, 26, September 2--4, and 12, 1788.]

{table}
So it was resolved as follows
2Whereas

the Convention assembled in Philadelphia pursuant to the resolution of Congress of the 21st .
of Feby . 1787 did on the 17th . of Sept of the same year report to the United States in Congress
assembled a constitution for the people of the United States, whereupon Congress on the 28 of the same
Sept did resolve unanimously "That the said report with the resolutions and letter accompanying the

same be transmitted to the several legislatures in order to be submitted to a convention of Delegates


chosen in each state by
[Note 2: 2 The following resolution on the organization of the government under the Constitution was entered
by Benjamin Bankson in Ratifications of the Constitution, pp. 180--181. Broadsides of this resolution, signed
by Charles Thomson, are in Papers of the Continental Congress, Broadsides.]

Page 523 | Page image


the people thereof in conformity to the resolves of the convention made and provided in that case" And
whereas the constitution so reported by the Convention and by Congress transmitted to the several
legislatures has been ratified in the manner therein declared to be sufficient for the establishment of the
same and such ratifications duly authenticated have been received by Congress and are filed in the
Office of the Secretary therefore Resolved That the first Wednesday in Jany next be the day for
appointing Electors in the several states, which before the said day shall have ratified the said
constitution; that the first Wednesday in feby . next be the day for the electors to assemble in their
respective states and vote for a president; and that the first Wednesday in March next be the time and
the present seat of Congress the place for commencing proceedings under the said constitution.
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Summary
As can be seen, the final agreed upon resolution on the organization of the new government under the
new Constitution was little changed from what the committee report of July 8, 1788 had
recommended. The schedule was simply delayed one month in hopes that all of the states would have
ratified by that delayed time frame, and the place for commencing first proceedings under the new
Constitution, which had not been stated earlier, was decided as being the then current seat of Congress,
Federal Hall in Manhattan, New York. The first business conducted by the new Congress, in
establishing the new government, was an election of presiding officers for the new Senate and House of
Representatives, followed by the counting of votes for President and Vice President on April 6th of
1789 before a joint session of Congress. George Washington was confirmed as the President elect, and
John Adams was confirmed as Vice President. John Adams was sworn in first, and George Washington
was innaugurated April 30, 1789 on the balcony of Federal Hall. He was sworn in by Chancellor of
New York Robert Livingston, who administered the oath of office. Livingston, being the highest
judicial officer in the state of New York, was chosen to administer the oath for the reason that the
Justices of the federal supreme court had not yet been appointed, and could not be appointed until the
President was sworn in to his office.
As an added note, if you noticed that I did not capitalize "supreme court," you may have thought that I
erred in that regard, but the reason for my not doing so is that it was not capitalized in the Constitution.
Article III Section 1 states that, "The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme
Court.." As can be seen, "supreme" was not capitalized, and the only reason why "Court" was
capitalized was because of a style agreement wherein all nouns in the Constitution were to be
capitalized. Thus, the proper terminology is "supreme court," and therefore supreme court was not
intended to be a given name. It would appear that it became first capitalized within the Judiciary Act of
1789, as it starts out being the "supreme court" in Chapter XX Section 1, and changes to "Supreme
Court," for no apparent reason, in Section 4 and beyond.