Melancton Smith (1744–1798)

Notes on the Debates in Congress on the Constitution, sheet 2

September 27, 1787
New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections

A great debate over the Constitution, held behind closed doors (always the case at this time), took place in Congress, September 26–28, 1787. During the debate, Richard Henry Lee proposed substantial amendments to the Constitution, including a Bill of Rights. Federalists did not want it publicly known that this debate occurred, and the record of it does not appear in the journals of Congress. Here you see the exchange between Lee and James Madison; the latter argued that amendments could not be proposed by Congress or the states; an incredulous Lee introduces proposed amendments. The best record of the debate is the notes of the debate taken by New York congressman Melancton Smith.