Journal of the Second Session of the Senate


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Journal of the Second Session of the Senate


(UNITED STATES CONGRESS). Journal of the Second Session of the Senate of the United States of America, Begun and Held at the City of New-York, January 4th, 1790; and in the Fourteenth Year of the Independence of the Said States. New York: Printed by John Fenno, 1790. Folio, contemporary full brown sheep, raised bands. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $8500.

Scarce first edition of the official record of the Second Session of the First United States Senate, containing an early printing of Washington’s eloquent State of the Union Message delivered in the Senate Chamber, and notices of ratification of the Bill of Rights, as well as a record of debate over Hamilton’s fiscal policy, laws on Western expansion, the establishment of the judiciary, negotiation of Indian treaties, the census and the controversial location of a permanent seat of government.

"The politics of the 1790s was a truly cacophonous affair… Historians have labeled it 'the Age of Passion' for good reason… It has no equal in American history" (Ellis, Founding Fathers, 16). That fierce debate is evident in this scarce first official publication of the Journal of the Second Session of the first Senate, which documents the entire Session from January 4 to August 12, 1790. Included is an important early printing of Washington's State of the Union Message (5-8), as well as a record of ratification of the Bill of Rights, of laws on Western expansion and the judiciary, and of proposals for a national census—which became implicitly linked with an emerging divide over slavery as a growing slave population in the South had a subtle but consequential impact on federal elections. In addition this Journal's notes on Hamilton's fiscal proposals address a conflict key to "the political life of the new republic in its earliest years… the massive and personal political enmity, classic in the annals of American history… between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson" (Elkins & McKitrick, 77).

That conflict had linked impact on the location of the nation's capitol and policies over the assumption of federal debt—issues central to Senate actions that ultimately saw partial resolution on July 16, 1790, when this Journal states that Washington "has on this day approved of, and affixed his signature to the 'Act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the government of the United States" (159). With these and other issues, such as regulation of trade and the military, this First Congress saw that "a new kind of ideological problem, hitherto not of first urgency, became insistent… Beyond the words of the Constitution and the republican values represented by General Washington, what was to be its character? At the beginning of 1790, the answer still lay very much in the future" (Elkins & McKitrick, 78). One of only 700 copies printed, for in May 1789, Congress passed a resolution directing that "600 copies of the Acts of each session, [and] 700 copies of the Journals of each house,… [be printed and] distributed to the members and to the executive, judiciary, and heads of the departments of the United States government, as well as the executive, legislative and judicial branches of every state. This would practically exhaust the 600 and 700 copies, you will note, in official distribution, and leave none for public purchase" (Powell, Books of a New Nation, 87). With corrected pagination of the two final leaves (222-4) and errata. Evans 22982.

Light scattered foxing, light rubbing to contemporary boards. A handsome near-fine copy of a key volume in America's legislative history.

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