Rest and Recuperation

Elbridge Gerry
James Bogle, after John Vanderlyn, 1861

Independence National Historical Park

Rest and Recuperation

"I am exceedingly distrest at the proceedings of the Convention being apprehensive, and almost sure they will if not altered materially lay the foundation of a civil War. This entre nous… I never was more sick of anything than I am of conventioneering: had I known what would have happened, nothing would have introduced me to come here. I am and must be patient a little longer."

-Elbridge Gerry to his wife, Ann

The Constitution of the United States is so familiar, so lucid, and so apparently (and deceptively) simple in its provisions as to obscure the sheer drudgery required to produce it. Yet drudgery it must have been.

During the week just past, the thirteenth full week of the Convention, its sessions convened at l0:00 A.M. and adjourned at 4:00 P.M. - six hours a day but without interruption for lunch or refreshments.

While in session the delegates were required to perform two extremely difficult tasks. They were required to listen and think. They did not even enjoy the luxury of listening to and thinking about new ideas. By this time, the subjects were familiar and most of the thoughts expressed on each subject had been expressed before--how to define and punish treason, whether direct taxes should be apportioned among the states based on the number of representatives each state was allowed until the census could be taken, what role the Federal Government should have in controlling the militia, whether or not exports should be taxed, whether or not the slave trade should be prohibited, whether or not Congress should have authority to veto state laws--and the other topics discussed in the past six days had been discussed before.

What might have been new and exciting in early June was old and boring in late August. Yet the delegates stuck with the task at hand.

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Monday, August 27, 1787
Debating the Judiciary

HOME The 225th Anniversary of the Constitution Convention

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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