WordPress has added this nifty new feature to our suite of tools. It’s a world map, and it allows me to see the countries from where all of you come to visit. This morning, I see there are folks from the United States, and Poland, and some other places. It’s kind of cool to see the various countries and continents represented.
I don’t know where you are specifically, but where I am, it’s been downright hot. We topped out at 106°F yesterday (which is a staggering number for central Iowa), and it’s been over 100° for what seems like a month. I look outside the window, and the yards stare back with deep-fried goodness. Fortunately, our break has arrived. Storms rolled through last night, bringing our first real rainfall in a month, and this morning the winds had a northern component to them. It’s still really humid, but it actually feels cool!
The summer of 1787 was pretty hot as well. Early-American Philadelphia roasted in a hot, humid, hazy sunshine that made a good many people sick, a lot more people very short-tempered, and everyone wish someone would just invent shorts and t-shirts already.
For the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, it was time for a break as well, and not just from the temperatures, which had conveniently moderated a bit ten days prior. Two months of debate, two months of disagreement, and two months of discussion were all beginning to wear them down. But a tremendous amount of progress had been made in that two months. The basic shape of the new government had been worked, including that most sticky of issues: how a bicameral legislature would be represented.
It was time to start collecting the various parts, what the delegates called “resolves” (and twenty-three had been passed to this point), along with other proposals and amendments, into some kind of order. George Washington, who would have rather been riding the countryside, following the rivers and thinking about a canal system, penned in his diary that they needed to “draw into method and form the several matters which had been agreed to by the Convention as a Constitution for the United States.”
So on July 26, 1787, the Convention created the Committee of Detail. The job of this committee was not to create a finished product, but simply to get things organized. Then the delegates could look over their work, have some more debate, and make corrections and further changes. The Committee was Detail was made up of five members, including Virginia’s Edmund Randolph (who, as we know, ultimately did not sign the finished product), James Wilson from Pennsylvania, Nathaniel Gorham from Massachusetts, Connecticut’s Oliver Ellsworth, and John Rutledge from South Carolina. They were given eleven days (until August 6) to knock together a “Report”.
And the rest of the delegates to an eleven-day sabbatical. The delegates themselves didn’t talk about the proceedings in “mixed” company, fearing the spread of rumor and outright falsehoods. But many wrote letters home to family and friends, since flying or driving home was, in 1787, out of the question. There was much “wagging of tongues” around Philly, as bystanders and newspapers speculated on what might be taking place.
General Washington went trout fishing.
Recommended Reading: Decision in Philadelphia – Another account of the Convention I’m reading right now, and it’s pretty good.