FIRST EDITION OF THE 1820 SECRET JOURNALS OF CONGRESS WITH FIRST EDITION OF THE 1819 JOURNAL, ACTS AND PROCEEDINGS OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, EXCEPTIONALLY SCARCE FIVE-VOLUME WAIT PRINTING AUTHORIZED BY CONGRESS— THE FIRST OFFICIAL ACCOUNT OF THE 1787 CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, TOGETHER WITH THE FIRST OFFICIAL COLLECTION TO INCLUDE FRANKLIN’S 1775 ‘SKETCH’ FOR THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION AND JOHN DICKINSON’S JULY 12, 1776 DRAFT
(CONSTITUTION) (MADISON, James). Secret Journals of the Acts and Proceedings of Congress, from the First Meeting Thereof to the Dissolution of the Confederation, by the Adoption of the Constitution of the United States. Boston: Thomas B. Wait, 1820. Four Volumes. WITH: Journal, Acts and Proceedings of the Convention, Assembled at Philadelphia, Monday, May 14, and Dissolved Monday, September 17, 1787, Which Formed the Constitution of the United States. Boston: Thomas B. Wait, 1819. Together five volumes. Octavo, period-style full tan calf , elaborately gilt-decorated spines, raised bands, red and green morocco spine labels.
Scarce first editions of the complete five-volume set containing the 1819 Journal, Acts and Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention— the first official account to break the Convention’s “seal of secrecy”— with the Secret Journals of the Acts and Proceedings of Congress, featuring Benjamin Franklin’s “sketch of the Articles of Confederation” as submitted to the Convention on July 21, 1775, and the first official publication of both John Dickinson’s July 12, 1776 draft of the Articles of Confederation and the subsequent August 20, 1776 draft of the Articles. The official complete Wait printings, each edition one of 1000 copies published by order of Congress.
In the early 1800s, as “50th Anniversary celebrations of successive events of the Revolution began, a wave of historical curiosity would sweep the country, aided and abetted by government-sponsored publications” (Powell, 114). At the center of interest was the 1787 Philadelphia Convention that had been empowered by the Congress of the Confederation to recommend amendments to the Articles of Confederation. “The Convention decided, however, to discard the Articles and to devise an entirely new government. When the framers were done they bypassed the Congress and submitted the new Constitution directly to the states, which were called upon to organize popular conventions to ratify their actions and adopt the Constitution. The framers appealed to the people directly… [believing] that only the people themselves could compact together to ordain the Constitution” (Lutz & Warren, Covenanted People, 47).
Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison were among the 65 delegates, and upon election as president of the Convention, Washington appointed Hamilton and several others “to a small committee that drew up rules and procedures for the convention… To encourage candor, the committee decided that ‘nothing spoken in the House be printed, or otherwise published or communicated without leave.’ Journalists and curious spectators were forbidden to attend, sentries were stationed at doors, and delegates, sworn to secrecy, remained tight-lipped to outsiders. The delegates even adjourned to the second floor of the State House to ensure confidentiality. During a sultry Philadelphia summer, in the face of thick swarms of tormenting flies, the blinds were often drawn and the windows shut to guarantee privacy. Even Madison’s copious notes of the convention were not published until decades later.” Kept secret in the belief that open deliberations would fuel divisiveness, these “close-door proceedings yielded inspired, uninhibited debate and brought forth one of the most luminous documents in history.” The Constitution was ultimately adopted and signed by the Convention on September 17, 1787 and submitted to the Continental Congress on September 28, 1787, with the suggestion that it be submitted to the states for ratification. But the veil of secrecy would make the Convention’s “inner workings the stuff of baleful legend,” encouraging many to suspect “a wicked cabal at work.” Patrick Henry, for one, railed against the ‘tyranny of Philadelphia” and much of the ensuing dispute produced an often poisonous rancor, ushering “in a golden age of literary assassination in American politics” that persisted even after the Constitution’s ratification (Chernow, 228, 244). Knowledge of these secret debates is available only from Madison’s journal and a handful of documents deposited by Washington at the Department of State in 1796. This extraordinary five-volume set contains the original 1819 edition, published by Thomas Wait under the title Journal, Acts and Proceedings of the Convention, along with the four-volume expanded edition, also published by Wait, entitled Secret Journals of the Acts and Proceedings of Congress and documenting even more fully that 1787 Convention and the revolutionary ideas that led to its realization. The 1819 Journal contains the first and earliest obtainable account of the Constitutional Convention. Edited by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, it draws upon Madison’s notes and material obtained from other members of the Convention, providing vivid access to the drama that created a nation. The expanded Secret Journals of 1820 is first official collection to print Benjamin Franklin’s “sketch on the Articles of Confederation” as submitted by him to the Committee of the Whole on July 21, 1775 (Domestick Affairs:267-273), previously appearing in 1776 in the Pennsylvania Evening Post, with two independent printings the same year. Though Franklin’s proposal was initially rejected, much of his plan was incorporated into John Dickinson’s draft of the Articles (Domestick Affairs:274-288). Called into service for the Continental Army, Dickinson’s handwritten manuscript was read before the Continental Congress on July 12, 1776. This is the first official public release of Dickinson’s draft, preceded only by 80 copies printed for the delegates under written instructions “not to disclose, either directly or indirectly,” its contents (287). Further, this is the first official public release of the August 20, 1776 draft of the Articles (Domestick Affairs:288-299), which also appeared only as 80 copies disseminated to Congress with similar conditions of secrecy. In addition to containing such crucial documents, this 1820 edition extends beyond the 1819 edition’s termination at the peace treaty of 1783, revealing previously unpublished proceedings and correspondence from 1784-88. Domestick Affairs (Volume I, Secret Journals) with front advertisement leaf dated August 1820; 1820 title page (scarce variant not found in Sabin; differences to mispagination following page 456 without loss of text). Farrand’s Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Ford 85, 472. Sabin 15557, 15594. Shaw & Shoemaker 49802, 4058, 7481. Embossed library stamps to title pages.
Text generally fresh with light scattered foxing, occasional faint marginal dampstaining to a few preliminary leaves, expert paper repair to upper title pages where signatures have been excised, Volume II with an few marginal paper repairs. Beautifully bound.