Read THIRD DAY of A Report of the Debates and Proceedings in the Secret Sessions of the Conference Convention, free online book, by Lucius Eugene Chittenden, on

WASHINGTON, WEDNESDAY, February 6th, 1861.

The Conference met at twelve o’clock, at noon, and was called to order by the PRESIDENT.

The Journal of yesterday was read, and after amendment, was approved.

Mr. SUMMERS: I am instructed by the Committee on Credentials to make a report. That committee has examined the credentials which have been submitted to it, and finds the following-named gentlemen duly accredited as members of this Conference:

New Hampshire. Amos Tuck, Levi Chamberlain, Asa Fowler.

Vermont. Hiland Hall, Lucius E. Chittenden, Levi Underwood, H. Henry Baxter, B.D. Harris.

Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Samuel Ames, Alexander Duncan, William W. Hoppin, George H. Browne, Samuel G. Arnold.

Connecticut. Roger S. Baldwin, Chauncey F. Cleveland, Charles J. McCurdy, James T. Pratt, Robbins Battell, Amos S. Treat.

New Jersey. Charles S. Olden, Peter D. Vroom, Robert F. Stockton, Benjamin Williamson, Joseph F. Randolph, Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, Rodman M. Price, William C. Alexander, Thomas J. Stryker.

Pennsylvania. Thomas White, James Pollock, William M. Meredith, David Wilmot, A.W. Loomis, Thomas E. Franklin, William McKennan.

Delaware. George B. Rodney, Daniel M. Bates, Henry Ridgely, John W. Houston, William Cannon.

Maryland. John F. Dent, Reverdy Johnson, John W. Crisfield, Augustus W. Bradford, William T. Goldsborough, J. Dixon Roman, Benjamin C. Howard.

Virginia. John Tyler, William C. Rives, John W. Brockenbrough, George W. Summers, James A. Seddon.

North Carolina. George Davis, Thomas Ruffin, David S. Reid, Daniel M. Barringer, J.M. Morehead.

Kentucky. William O. Butler, James B. Clay, Joshua F. Bell, Charles S. Morehead, James Guthrie, Charles A. Wickliffe.

Ohio. John C. Wright, Salmon P. Chase, William S. Groesbeck, Franklin C. Backus, Reuben Hitchcock, Thomas Ewing, Valentine B. Horton.

Indiana. Caleb B. Smith, Pleasant A. Hackleman, Godlove S. Orth, E.W.H. Ellis, Thomas C. Slaughter.

Iowa. James W. Grimes, Samuel H. Curtis, William Vandever.

Mr. WICKLIFFE: I move that the Secretary be authorized to employ one or more assistants. I am advised that the Secretary cannot perform his duties without assistance, and I see no objection to giving him this authority.

The motion of Mr. WICKLIFFE was agreed to.

Mr. WICKLIFFE: I now desire to call up the remaining portion of the report of the Committee on Rules and Organization, and to move its adoption at the present time. These Rules are substantially the same as those which were adopted by the convention which proposed our present Constitution. The rule which we have reported securing secrecy, so far as our proceedings are concerned, has been made the subject of much discussion in the committee; and it was at first thought best to recommend a modification of it. But upon reflection and consideration, and in view of the fact that, while the rule reported requires that secrecy should be preserved in regard to all that is said or done in this Conference, it does not prevent any member from expressing his own hopes or predictions upon the final result of our deliberations, we have thought best to let it remain as it is.

Mr. SEDDON: I desire to offer an amendment to this portion of the report of the committee, which I will read for the information of the Conference. It is as follows:

Resolved, That no part of the Journal be published without the order or leave of the Conference, and that no copies of the whole or any part be furnished or allowed, except to members, who shall be privileged to communicate the same to the authorities or deliberative assemblies of their respective States, when deemed judicious or appropriate, under their instructions, and that nothing spoken in the House be printed or otherwise published; but private communications respecting the proceedings and debates, while recommended to be with caution and reserve, are allowed at the discretion of each member.”

It may be thought, that in offering this resolution, I am seeking a different end from the one I proposed yesterday, when I advocated the proposition of excluding reporters from our sessions, and insisted that our proceedings should be at all times under the seal of secrecy. Such, however, is not my purpose. But some discretion must be allowed us, in order that we may conform to and carry out the spirit of the resolutions under which we respectively act. This is especially true in relation to myself and my colleagues. The resolutions under which we are acting, require that we should from time to time communicate to the legislature of Virginia the proceedings of this body, and to express our own opinions of the prospect which may exist of the settlement of existing difficulties. The Commissioners from Virginia would be placed in a delicate, not to say an awkward position, by the adoption of a rule here which would absolutely prohibit such communications. I hope my amendment may be adopted.

Mr. TUCK: Would not the purpose of the gentleman from Virginia be answered by giving any delegation leave to communicate any action actually taken by the Conference, with their own opinions as to the probable result of our deliberations?

Mr. SEDDON: Those opinions would possess no value, unless the facts and circumstances are communicated upon which they are founded. It is very clear to me, that the best course will be to entrust to the discretion of each member the privilege of making these communications, trusting that he will not abuse the confidence thus given.

Mr. WICKLIFFE: I hope we have all come here with an earnest desire to harmonize our conflicting opinions, and to unite upon some plan which will settle our troubles and save the union of the States. The South has spoken of the North in very severe terms, and the North has not been slow in returning the compliment. If we come finally, to any definite result satisfactory to either side, it must be by mutual concessions, by confessing our sins to each other, and endeavoring to live harmoniously together in future. In my judgment, secrecy is absolutely indispensable to successful action here. I do not wish to be precluded from abandoning a position to-morrow, if I see cause for it, which I have taken to-day. If the proceedings, and especially the debates of this Conference, are made public from day to day, they will go into the newspapers and be made the subject of comment, favorable or otherwise. The necessary result will be, that when a member is understood to have committed himself to a particular proposition, or any special course of policy, that pride of opinion, which we all possess, will render any change of policy on his part difficult, if not impossible. I should sincerely regret the adoption of the resolution of the gentleman from Virginia.

Mr. RANDOLPH: I move that the portion of the committee’s report under consideration, together with the resolution of Mr. SEDDON, be recommitted to the Committee on Rules and Organization.

The motion of Mr. RANDOLPH was agreed to.

Mr. GUTHRIE: I have an idea relating to the plan which should be adopted to carry into effect the purpose of this Conference. I wish to propose it. We have come together upon the invitation of the glorious old commonwealth of Virginia, the mother of States and Statesmen. We have come from the North and the South, from the East and the West, to see whether our wisdom can devise some means to avert the dangers which threaten to destroy this noble Republic, founded by the wisdom and patriotism of our ancestors. I hope we are animated by a common purpose. The storm is threatening. The horizon is covered with dark and portentous clouds. Section is arrayed against section, and already seven of our sister States have separated from us and are proceeding to establish an independent Confederation. War! Civil War! is impending over us. It must be averted! Who does not know that such a war, among such a people, must be, if it comes, a war of extermination.

Mr. PRESIDENT, I move the adoption of the resolution which I now send to the chair.

The resolution of Mr. GUTHRIE was read as follows:

Resolved, That a committee of one from each State be appointed by the Commissioners thereof, to be nominated to the President, and to be appointed by him, to whom shall be referred the resolutions of the State of Virginia, and the other States represented, and all propositions for the adjustment of existing difficulties between States, with authority to report what they may deem right, necessary, and proper to restore harmony and preserve the Union, and that they report on or before Friday next.

Mr. SEDDON: It appears to me that the mode pointed out by the resolution introduced by the gentleman from Kentucky, is neither the one most appropriate nor expeditious for accomplishing the result desired. We are convened under the invitation of the State of Virginia; and the same invitation that brings us here, proposes the basis for our deliberation and action. Virginia has stated what will be satisfactory to her; not as an ultimatum, but as a basis of adjustment. It appears to me that the proper course would be, to take up the propositions of Virginia propose amendments to them discuss them, and in the end determine how far they shall be adopted. The adoption of the resolution proposed, transfers the labors of this Conference, not in itself too large for convenient deliberation, to a committee. That committee is to discuss the various propositions offered and report the result. What, in the mean time, is this Conference to do? Nothing whatever! We are to meet here from day to day and adjourn, no one knows how long, until this committee reports, and then the discussion will commence which ought to commence now. Mr. PRESIDENT, if any thing is accomplished, it must be accomplished speedily. Events are on the wing. Already in my State the delegates are elected to a Convention, which is to meet next week, to consider the subject which now engrosses the minds of the American people. I hope my suggestion may meet with favor in the Conference.

Mr. EWING: I cannot agree with the gentleman from Virginia, for reasons which must be obvious to all. I do not think Virginia intended to dictate the terms upon which we were to act. I am in favor of the resolution, but would make one suggestion in relation to it. By its terms the committee is to report on Friday, if it can properly do so. I suggest that the committee should have leave to sit during the sessions of the Conference. In this way our business may be greatly expedited.

Mr. GUTHRIE: It gives me pleasure to accept the modification proposed by the gentleman from Ohio. I should have incorporated it into my resolution.

The resolution as modified was then adopted by the Conference without a division.

The PRESIDENT: I will take this occasion to announce a committee to carry into effect the determination of the Conference relating to the obtaining of the services of clergymen to open the proceedings of the Conference daily with prayer. The Chair appoints as such committee, Mr. RANDOLPH, of New Jersey, Mr. WICKLIFFE, of Kentucky, and Mr. JOHNSON, of Maryland.

Mr. JOHNSON: It appears to me very appropriate, in view of the occasion which has brought us together, that the members of this Conference should pay their respects in a body to the President of the United States. I therefore move that we call upon him in a body at such a time as will be most agreeable to him; such time to be ascertained by the President of this Conference.

Which motion was unanimously agreed to.

Mr. CLAY: I move the reconsideration of the vote by which the portion of the report of the Committee on Rules and Organization not yet adopted was recommitted to that committee. I do this in order that the Conference may now proceed to the consideration of those rules which may be adopted without much difference of opinion.

The vote was thereupon reconsidered, and the following rules were severally read and adopted. The remaining rules recommended were recommitted to the committee:


I. A Convention to do business, shall consist of the Commissioners of not less than seven States; and all questions shall be decided by the greater number of those which be fully represented. But a less number than seven may adjourn from day to day.

II. Immediately after the President shall have taken the chair, and the members their seats, the minutes of the preceding day shall be read by the Secretary.

III. Every member, rising to speak, shall address the President; and while he shall be speaking none shall pass between them, or hold discourse with another, or read a book, pamphlet, or paper, printed or manuscript; and of two members rising to speak at the same time, the President shall name him who shall first be heard.

IV. A member shall not speak oftener than twice, without special leave upon the same question; and not a second time before every other who had been silent shall have been heard, if he choose to speak upon the subject.

V. A motion made and seconded, shall be repeated; and if written, as it shall be when any member shall so require, read aloud by the Secretary before it shall be debated; and may be withdrawn at any time before the vote upon it shall have been declared.

VI. Orders of the day shall be read next after the minutes, and either discussed or postponed, before any other business shall be introduced.

VII. When a debate shall arise upon a question, no motion, other than to amend the question, to commit it, or to postpone the debate, shall be received.

VIII. A question which is complicated, shall, at the request of any member, be divided and put separately upon the propositions of which it is compounded.

IX. A writing which contains any matter brought on to be considered, shall be read once, throughout, for information; then by paragraphs, to be debated, and again with the amendments, if any, made on the second reading, and afterwards the question shall be put upon the whole, as amended or approved in the original form, as the case may be.

X. Committees shall be appointed by the President, unless otherwise ordered by the Convention.

XI. A member may be called to order by another member, as well as by the President, and may be allowed to explain his conduct or expressions supposed to be reprehensible. And all questions of order shall be decided by the President, without appeal or debate.

XII. Upon a question to adjourn for the day, which may be made at any time, if it be seconded, the question shall be put without debate.

XIII. When the Convention shall adjourn, every member shall stand in his place until the President pass him.

XIV. That no member be absent from the Convention, so as to interrupt the representation of the State, without leave.

XV. That Committees do not sit while the Convention shall be, or ought to be sitting, without leave of the Convention.

XVI. That no copy be taken of any entry on the Journal, during the sitting of the Convention, without leave of the Convention.

XVII. That members only be permitted to inspect the Journal.

XVIII. Mode of Voting. All votes shall be taken by States, and each State to give one vote. The yeas and nays of the members shall not be given or published only the decision by States.

After the adoption of the foregoing Rules, the Conference adjourned until 10 o’clock to-morrow morning.