630. Proculus: Draft Essay and Related Documents
16 January–6 April 1788

For the background to the drafting of the “Proculus” essay by Rufus King, see Theophilus Parsons: Notes of Convention Debates, 16 January 1788, A.M., note 5 (RCS:Mass, 1212–13). This grouping has one document number, with a letter extension for each item in it.

630-A. Rufus King’s Draft of Proculus Essay, post-16 January 17881

To the public

“The Times places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof: but the congress may at any Time by law make or alter such regulations except as to the places of chusing Senators”—

Art. 1. Sect. 4. of the proposed Constn.

In discussing the foregoing section in the late convention of this state, among a variety of arguments urged in its support, it was suggested that if the sole power of regulating the Times places and manner of holding Elections for representatives, was vested in the state Legislatures, and congress should remain destitute of authority on that subject, that by mere neglect on the part of the state Legislatures, the federal government might be effectually, though silently, subverted; For that their omitting to enact the necessary Election Laws might prove as injurious as the recal of their Representatives and perhaps more fatal than an open, and positive, opposition to the federal Government—that this would absolutely be the case could not be asserted; but it was said that the omission was as probable, as the neglect of the States in Keeping up a representation in congress under the present confederation—It was notorious that several of the States had been remiss in this respect, and it was asserted that in the course of the Last year, the Legislature of Rhode Island, by a positive act, had declined continuing their Delegates at congress—this assertion was doubted by a member of the convention from Rehoboth, a Town bordering on Rhode Island, who desired that the Fact might be authenticated—Mr. King who had stated the Fact, said that he was confident that during the last Summer congress had repetedly urged the attendance of the Delegates of Rhode Island, but that in reply to their requests the Legislature of that State, after serious deliberation, had passed a resolution, and had sent official notice thereof to congress, which recalled, or prevented the attendance of, their Delegates. Mr. Gorham confirmed the information of Mr. King; and from this refusal of Rhode Island to continue her Delegates in Congress, it was contended that it was as probable that the States would decline electing Senators or omit enacting Laws for the election of Representatives, under the proposed Constitution, that they would detain at home, the Delegates appointed under the present Confederation; and so the Inference seemed to be admitted that the only remedy which could be expected, must be derived from a controuling power in Congress.

Since the Dissolution of the convention the following certificate has been made public—the date is 1787, a mistake undoubtedly for 1788. State of Rhode Island &c. Providence, February 3. 1787. I certify that the general assembly at December session A.D. 1786, requested the honorable James M. Varnum & Peleg Arnold Esquires, Delegates of this State in Congress, to take their seat: That the general assembly never passed an act for the recal of them or either of them: and that I never wrote to the Delegates or any other person, that it was the sense of the general assembly that they should return.

Henry ward, Secretary

This certificate seems intended for two purposes—first, to contradict & disprove the assertion made by Mr. King & Mr. Gorham concerning the recal or detention of the Delegates of Rhode Island; and secondly, to induce the public to believe, that there has been no delinquency in the Legislature of that state in keeping up a representation in congress, and therefore that an Inference drawn from the supposition thereof, must be unsupported—As Mr. Ward has signed this Certificate, and has been pleased to add to his Name the sanction of his official character, it has thereby acquired a claim to particular attention—notwithstanding which it is presumed that the following Observations, and Proofs, will authorise the impartial public not only to decide that this certificate does not accomplish its intended purposes, but that the Delinquency of the Legislature of Rhode Island is fully proved, and consequently the assertion of Mr. King & Mr. Gorham completely established.

Every state in the union has power to recal her Delegates but in that case she must appoint others in their stead for the remainder of the year: to recal a Delegate, and appoint another is lawful; but to detain at home the Delegates of a state, or to restrain their attendance at congress so as to interrupt the representation of the State, is contrary to the articles of confederation—It is immaterial what were the particular expressions of Mr. King & Mr. Gorham, the purport of their assertion was, “that although Rhode Island was bound to appoint and support a representation in Congress, yet that she had not only neglected to support such representation when required by Congress, but by an act of her Legislature had actually prevented her Delegates from continuing to represent the State in the Congress of the Last year”—Rhode Island, in common with the other States was bound to have sent forward her Delegates in Novr. 1786 that being the period fixed in the Confederation for the annual assembling of congress—Mr. Secretary Ward says that in the December following two of the Delegates of Rhode Island were requested to attend congress; these gentlemen took their Seats in congress on the 9. of April 1787, and the state was represented by them, Fifteen days in that month, after which one or both of them retired from congress—Whether the state gave them instructions to withdraw, or whether the Opinion of their constituents was conveyed to them in a less explicit, but equally intelligible manner is alike unimportant to the public—It is well Known that the national business was suspended in consequence of a failure in the representation of the States—Letters were written by the secretary of congress to the states unrepresented, stating the Delay to which the affairs of the union were exposed, and urging them to send on their Delegates—In the month of July the secretary of Congress in a letter to the Governor of Rhode Island requested the attendance of the Delegates of that State, and as a motive to induce a compliance observed “that Business of the greatest importance was neglected through their nonattendance”—But Rhode Island still continued unrepresented—The affairs of the Union grew more and more critical, and on the 13. of august last the president of Congress addressed a Letter to the Governor of Rhode Island urging for important reasons, and in the most pressing Terms, the immediate attendance of the Delegates of that state: This letter was laid before the Legislature of Rhode Island, and under date of the 17. of september last, the Governor of that State inclosed to the president of congress an act of the Legislature in reply to his Letter—Both the Letter of the Secretary and of the president of congress requested the immediate attendance of the Delegates of Rhode Island in the congress of that year—The Reply of the Legislature to this request was, not that their Delegates for that year should attend as was desired, but that they had taken measures that the delegates of that State for the next year should attend at the meeting of the new Congress, and “that they had not given Orders for their Delegates going forward previous to that period.”—The Effect of this resolution seems to have corresponded with the views of the Legislature—They had refused to appoint Delegates to the federal convention at Philadelphia—The president of congress had notified them in his Letter that the report of that Convention would soon be before congress, they therefore passed a Resolution in reply to his Letter, whereby the Delegates of that state were restrained from returning to Congress, and the State accordingly remained unrepresented to the End of the year—From the beginning of november 1786 to the beginning of November 1787 Rhode Island was represented in congress only during a part of the month of april[.] In the resolution of the legislature in answer to the president’s letter they engaged to send their Delegates to the new congress in November 1787—four months have nearly elapsed since that period and no Delegate has yet appeared in Congress from Rhode Island—So that although that state is bound by the confederation to Keep up a constant representation in Congress, and has been repetedly solicited to comply with this Obligation; and although by a deliberate Act of her own Legislature she recently engaged to send Delegates at the meeting of the Congress of the present year, yet during the last fifteen months the State of Rhode Island has been represented in Congress but only fifteen Days—If this is not Delinquency, it seems difficult to determine what is—

These remarks are not made with a view to censure the State of Rhode Island, or to criminate her administration—They are extorted in support of Truth, and published for the sole purpose of removing the impressions which the volunteer certificate of the Secretary of that State is calculated to produce.—PROCULUS.

The following authentic Letters will verify the preceding Observations—

Vid No. 2. 3. & 4.

630-B. Independent Chronicle, 14 February 17881

Inserted by desire.

State of RHODE-ISLAND, &c.

Providence, February 3, 1787. 

I CERTIFY that the General Assembly, at December Session, A. D. 1786, requested the Honourable JAMES M. VARNUM and PELEG ARNOLD, Esq’rs. Delegates of this State in Congress, to take their seate: That the General Assembly, never passed an act for the recall of them, or either of them: And that I never wrote to the Delegates, or any other person, that it was the sense of the General Assembly that they should return.

HENRY WARD, Secretary. 

630-C. Nathaniel Gorham to Henry Knox
Charlestown, 17 February 17881

Mr King will [be] abundantly able to inform you of every thing—nothing of consiquence has taken place since his departure—.

The[re] was a necessity in the Convention of mentioning Rhode Island as having prohibited the attendance of their Members in Congress—an advertizm’t has appeared in order to give a false coloring to that business—and a use is intended to be made of it at the meeting of the Legislature—I have therefore written in the inclosed letter to Mr K requesting him to get me copies of every thing relative to that affair & to forward it through you by the first Post—be so kind as to let him have the Letter as soon as possible—& let me further beg you[r] assistance & attention to it—as it is of consiquence—

630-D. Nathaniel Gorham to Henry Knox
Charlestown, 19 March 17881

Your esteemed favour I recd—I can hardly think myself of consiquence enough to recive the notice or emolument under the general Government that will be equal to Lieut Governor of this State—however I have discouraged every attempt that would otherways have been made to bring me into view—some of our very good Friends think they are sure of bringg. in Lincoln provided the business is brought to a point between him & Gen W——. I hope they will not be disapointed but I have my doubts—I think there can be no chance of Mr Gerry ousting Mr. Hancock—I recd the papers relative to Rhode Island—but such has been our critical situation in the Legislature that a number of good Friends thought the publication of them had best be suspended untill the Session was over—do tell Mr King this—my best respects attend Mrs. Knox.

630-E. Nathaniel Gorham to Rufus King
Charlestown, 6 April 17881

The Legislature have ended the Session without doing any mischief—the utmost prudence & moderation was necessary & it was exerted—things were so critically situated that the publication of the papers would have been injurious—neither will it now be of service as the People so far as applys immediately to the federal Goverment are perfectly quiet—electioneering at present engages the attention but tomorrow you know closes that business—the Leaders of the Anti’ make great exertions—Mr Gerry will have about 1/6 part of the votes as Governor for L G—I presume there will be no choice by the People—I think General Warren [will?] have the greatest number of votes—

O Phelps & I have purchased the Western Land we have agreed with the NYork purchasers to consolidate the titles we expect to make money by it—notwithstanding which if you wish to take a right or 120th. part you may have it upon terms similar to ours.—do set down & write me all the news—& prospects from Mary Land & Virginia—Send the Letter to G Knox & he will inclose. remember me to all friends