Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



One of the most significant legal-constitutional moments in the history of the American republic occurred in the Confederation Congress on September 26 and 27, 1787. On those dates, the handiwork of the historic Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia was now "laid before the United States in Congress assembled." And the momentous question for the extant official lawmaking body of the US government was what to do next. Under Article 1 3 of the Articles of Confederation, any alteration of the articles had to be agreed to by Congress and confirmed by the legislatures of every state. Notably, the Philadelphia convention had already decided on a radically different mode of ratification via conventions in only nine of the original states (arguably contravening the very article on which Congress officially recommended a Philadelphia convention in the first place). So what should Congress do with this document so "laid before" it? Should it independently debate the report anew? Could it amend the proposed constitution? Should it officially vote to approve or disapprove the document? This was a moment of historic constitutional decisionism.


Reproduced with permission. Copyright 2020 Cambridge University Press. This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution or re-use.