3

On November 20, 1787, the fourth day of the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention, before any debates had taken place, it was "Ordered, That the doors of the Convention be left open during the session" on motion of Thomas McKean, seconded by James Smilie (330). On November 21, the Pennsylvania Herald wrote:

It has been doubted, says a correspondent, whether the doors of the ensuing Convention will be kept open; but from the very constitution of that body, it cannot be otherwise; for the plan of the federal government is to be submitted to the people, yet as it would be highly inconvenient, if not impracticable, to lay it before the citizens at large, it is agreed to submit it to a part for the whole. Whatever therefore is transacted by the Convention is, in fact, transacted by the people. and to exclude them from hearing what passes is in effect excluding them from a share in their own act. Besides this reason, it will doubtless be remembered that the secret proceedings of the Federal Convention, by preventing its members from a knowledge of the sentiments of the people, which might have guided their decisions, has probably been the source of all the opposition that is now made to the plan of government devised by that body. (qtd. in 331, note 4)

So were the doors actually left open for the whole convention, or just for the November 20 session?

Work Cited

Jensen, Merrill, ed. The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 2. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1976. Print.

2

The doors were kept open.

On motion of Mr. M'KEAN, seconded by Mr. Smilie, — Ordered, That the doors of the Convention be left open during the session.

The reasoning doesn't seem to be recorded in my source, http://www.constitution.org/rc/rat_pa.htm

Evidently the session was a special case, as this is only recorded once, and references to the doors being closed are present in the speeches covered in the source.

  • Evidently I didn't read your question properly; the session appeared to be a special case, and references to the doors being closed are present in the speeches covered in my source. I've edited it. – Slacklord the Terrible Apr 29 '15 at 22:08
  • I'm confused; are you saying that the doors were kept open or that they weren't? I know that they were opened for the November 20th session: I used the same quote in my question. The issue is if they were kept open for the sessions after that one. You say that "references to the doors being closed are present in the speeches covered in the source." Can you show me where? That would be very helpful. – Joshua Meyers Apr 29 '15 at 23:12
  • Apparently this was a major point of contention. The Pennsylvania constitution required that assemblies be open to the public as long as secrecy was not required, but the release of notes from the convention (and others like it) was still seen as being scandalous. To make things worse, the answer just doesn't seem to be available; historical accounts will mention the doors being opened on that session, yet do not mention them again. That said, it would appear that the doors were kept open from that point on, as the debate doesn't come back to fore. I regret not making this answer a comment. – Slacklord the Terrible Apr 30 '15 at 18:31

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