"WE THE PEOPLE… DO ORDAIN AND ESTABLISH THIS CONSTITUTION": FIRST PUBLICATION OF THE SECRET PROCEEDINGS OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, ONE OF 1000 COPIES, RARE ASSOCIATION COPY OF JEFFERSON'S ATTORNEY GENERAL
(CONSTITUTION) UNITED STATES CONGRESS. Journal, Acts and Proceedings of the Convention… which Formed the Constitution of the United States. Boston: Thomas B. Wait, 1819. Octavo, contemporary brown sheep, rebacked with original spine laid down, red morocco spine label. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $10,500.
First edition of the Journals, Acts and Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention, held May 14 to September 17, 1787, one of only 1000 copies, printed by order of Congress, breaking the "seal of secrecy" and revealing publicly for the first time "the Secret Journals of the Acts and Proceedings, and the Foreign Correspondence," the first and earliest obtainable account of the Constitutional Convention. This exceedingly rare association copy contains the owner signature on the title page of Caesar Augustus Rodney, the nephew and namesake of Caesar Rodney, signer of the Declaration of Independence and prominent leader of the Stamp Act Congress, an exceptional copy in contemporary sheep, housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box.
"The Congress of the Confederation had empowered the Philadelphia Convention to recommend amendments to the Articles of Confederation, not to write a constitution for the nation. 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, rather than to the state legislatures, to ensure that the new Constitution would be regarded as a higher law, more fundamental than normal legislation… The framers believed that only the people themselves could compact together to ordain the Constitution" (Lutz & Warren,A Covenanted People 47). Sixty-five delegates had been chosen by the legislatures of 12 of the original 13 states. George Washington was elected president of the Convention, which also included Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. The Constitution was 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 should be submitted to the individual states for their assent and ratification (which was accomplished before the close of 1791). The Convention itself had worked in absolute secrecy by vote of a majority of its members. No official records were kept. Sentries were posted around the building and windows and doors were shut up tight. This secrecy was so well enforced that even personal correspondence between the closest friends could not reveal anything of the nature of the debates. We now know about these debates only through a handful of documents that were preserved by the Convention and deposited by President Washington at the Department of State in 1796, before he left office, as well as Madison's journal.
This publication, the first and earliest obtainable account of the Constitutional Convention, was published by order of Congress in 1818. Edited by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, the Journal is based on those State Department documents and the now-famous "secret" journal of James Madison, as well as material obtained from other members of the Convention. This account of the Constitutional Convention gives us extraordinary access to the creation of our nation's founding document and has had immense influence on our modern understanding of the framers' original intent. In 1820 a four-volume edition, also published by Wait, was issued to further record the events of the 1787 Convention. Farrand's Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Ford 85. Harvard Law Catalogue II:805. Sabin 15557. Shaw & Shoemaker 49802. This is the personal copy of Caesar Augustus Rodney (1772-1824), with his signature, dated 1822, on the title page. A prominent statesman who served as Attorney General for both Jefferson and Madison, he supervised the government's prosecution of Aaron Burr in the controversial 1802 trial. Named after his uncle, Caesar Rodney, brother of his father Thomas, Caesar Rodney was a leading figure in the Revolution. He "represented Delaware in the Stamp Act Congress, where he enthusiastically supported a petition (which some members would not sign) insisting on the right to trial by jury and taxation only with the agreement of their own assemblies, as well as threatening an embargo on all but the most necessary British goods until the Stamp Act was repealed." Described by John Adams as "the oddest looking Man in the world… [yet with] Sense and Fire, Spirit, Wit and Humour in his Countenance" (ANB), Rodney joined John Dickinson in taking "leading roles in the subsequent pre-revolutionary agitation" (Morgan, 367).In 1776 Rodney played a crucial role when the Continental Congress took up the subject of independence on July 2nd. With the Delaware vote divided and Rodney away in Lewes, investigating a Tory uprising, he was urgently called to Philadelphia in order to cast the deciding vote. "He rode 80 miles through the night of 1-2 July 1776 and arrived at the Pennsylvania state house, 'tho detained by Thunder and Rain,' in time to join [fellow assemblyman] McKean in casting Delaware's vote for independence… A justification of this action, in the form of the famous Declaration of Independence, was adopted without any recorded vote on July 4." Subsequently Rodney, along with his fellow "Delaware delegates signed the Declaration… [when] a fine copy was available in August." That same month Rodney called for a special session of the Delaware assembly, "the first in America with the specific function of writing a state constitution." Rodney was later made President of the Delaware militia and during the dangerous months of the war, "with a British army in Philadelphia and a British fleet on the Delaware River, Rodney did all in his power to rally the resources of his state to the weakened cause he fervently embraced." In recognition of his role as "preeminent figure of the Revolution in Delaware," a statue in Wilmington's central square "commemorates his famous ride of July 1-2 1776" and the Delaware quarter, issued in 1999, depicts Rodney on horseback with the caption, "The First State. Caesar Rodney." (ANB). Bookplate. Bookseller stamp. Later owner signatures.
Text quite fresh with trace of marginal loss to page 55 not affecting text, mild edge-wear rubbing to contemporary boards. A handsome near-fine copy of this important American landmark, possessing an especially memorable provenance.