Constitution Daily

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A slow start to the Constitutional convention

May 14, 2012 by Scott Bomboy


It was 225 years ago today that the Constitutional Convention started in Philadelphia, but few people showed up.

However, two of the biggest names were there, James Madison and George Washington, 11 days before the historic sessions began in earnest.

The movers-and-shakers behind the convention set May 14, 1787 as the start date, knowing it was a target date and a quorum of official delegates from seven of the 13 states needed to be in the room to start the convention.

According to notes from James Madison and other sources, there might have been eight delegates in Philadelphia on May 14, including Madison, Washington and members of the Pennsylvania delegation.

The logistics of travel in the 18th century made it difficult to journey from the Deep South to Philadelphia, and even travel from New England took days.

Some states were also determining their delegations, while other people already selected as delegates were wrapping up their business and personal lives.

By May 25th, there were 24 delegates in session in Philadelphia representing seven states, and that was enough to start the proceedings.  (Delegates from two other states were there, but not enough to form a quorum for Georgia and Massachusetts.)

Here is a list of the attendance record for the convention, from the website that shows who showed up when for the convention.

Among those missing on May 25 were Elbridge Gerry and Roger Sherman, who would later play key roles at the convention, and Benjamin Franklin, who was not in attendance.

Franklin was 81 years old at the time of the convention and attended when his health

allowed him to do so. He arrived on May 28 and managed to be at most of the sessions.

Franklin lived two blocks away from Independence Hall.

Scott Bomboy is the editor-in-chief of Constitution Daily.

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