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Jensen, Merrill (ed.) / Constitutional documents and records, 1776-1787

The sources,   pp. 30-38

Page 30

The Sources
The sources for the history of the writing and ratification of
the Constitution are located in hundreds of libraries and archives
in the United States and in Europe, although the bulk of them are
found in such institutions as the National Archives of the United
States, the Library of Congress, and state archives and historical so-
Despite the wealth of sources, the significance of the Constitution,
and the ongoing debate about its interpretation, the publication of
documents concerning its writing and ratification has been slow
and remains incomplete today. The Journals and papers of the
Constitutional Convention were not published until 1819, when
Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, in conformity with a congres-
sional resolution of the previous year, edited and published them as
Journal, Acts and Proceedings, of the Convention . . . Which Formed
the Constitution of the United States (Boston, Mass., 1819).
The Journals of the Convention provide only a bare, incomplete
outline, and, most of the Convention's "loose papers" were destroyed
by Secretary William Jackson before he delivered the Journals and
a few papers to George Washington the evening of the last day of
the Constitutional Convention. These records are now in the Na-
tional Archives in Record Group 360: "Records of the Continental
and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention."
They are available on a single roll of microfilm (M-866), described
in a pamphlet, Records of the Constitutional Convention of 1787
(Washington, D.C., 1972).
The notes of debates kept by members of the Convention are essen-
tial for an understanding of its work. The first such notes, published
two years after the Journals, were those of Robert Yates of New York
(Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Convention Assembled at
Philadelphia in the year 1787 . .. [Albany, N.Y., 1821]). Yates's notes
report the debates only to 10 July, when he left the Convention be-
cause he opposed the direction it was taking.
Nineteen years elapsed between the publication of Yates's notes
and the one indispensable source for the debates in the Convention-
the voluminous notes taken by James Madison. Madison refused to

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