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The Life of Gouverneur Morris

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authorized one to represent the county, or to constitute a quorum for voting, so that when one of the members only was present, he had two votes, although from New York if there were not more than six present, they could have no vote.  Members were allowed to sit in Congress, and to speak, and act on committees, even when there was not a sufficient representation from the county, to which they belonged, to form a quorum for voting.  A majority of the counties made a quorum for business.  This Congress was chosen for six months, from the tenth of November.

A question of some delicacy carne up, respecting the delegation to the Continental Congress, with which the Provincial Congress found themselves a little perplexed.  Twelve delegates had been chosen, by the Convention in April, to represent the colony of New York, of whom five were necessary to make a valid representation.  On the 16th of October the delegates wrote to the New York Congress, stating that their number was reduced to five, so that in case of the sickness, or necessary absence of any one of them, the colony must remain unrepresented.  To prevent such an accident, they suggested the expediency, of delegating the power to three, instead of five.  After deliberating upon the matter, the Congress determined, that they had no right to make such a change, however much they might lament the untoward circumstance, that required it.  ‘When we consider,’ they say, ‘that twelve were originally designated, of whom five were to be a quorum, we necessarily suppose, that the last number was particularly pointed out, with a general view to the several members, and in the confidence that every five of them would be amply sufficient for that beneficial purpose.  We cannot pretend, therefore, to lessen that number, unless indeed upon the most cogent necessity, and perhaps not then.’

This is another example of the extreme caution, with which the representatives of the people exercised their power, in all the gradations of the elective offices.  And it may here be repeated, that the particularity with which elections were con-

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From The Life of Gouverneur Morris: With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers; Detailing Events in the American Revolution, The French Revolution, and in the Political History of the United States, by Jared Sparks, Volume 1, Boston: Gray & Bowen, 1832, p 71. Some minor edits may have been made, but an attempt has been made to preserve the original spelling. Although some effort has been made to correct the limitations of OCR technology, if you find an error please report it to


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