On Monday, September 17, 1787, the Convention met for
the last time. Three members--Randolph, Mason, and Gerry--had said they
would not sign, and Gouverneur Morris contrived a form of execution to
disguise their dissent. The Constitution was to be adopted "by the
unanimous consent of the States present." By this form, neither opposed
individuals nor absent States were mentioned. One final change was made:
At the urging of Washington, the number of citizens represented by a
member of the House was changed from 40,000 to 30,000. The secretary
erased "forty" and squeezed in "thirty".
The members then signed the document. Washington first,
and the other delegates in the traditional order of States from north to
south. Thirty-eight members signed, and the signature of a thirty-ninth
who was absent was added at his request.
While the last members were filing forward to sign,
Benjamin Franklin directed their attention to the President's chair,
which had on its back a carved sun, painted in gold. Franklin observed
that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a
rising from a setting sun, and that he had often during the vicissitudes
of the Convention looked at that chair without being able to tell
whether it showed a sun rising or setting. "But now at length," he said
as the last names were being signed, "I have the happiness to know that
it is a rising and not a setting sun."
The Great Convention then adjourned.
That night, the Founders dined at the City Tavern.
Washington bid his colleagues a cordial farewell, then retired to his
room "to meditate on the momentous work which had been executed." Within
two years he would be President of the United States of America.*
*The Constitution of the United States of America, with
Supplementary Material, prepared by the U.S. Senate Republican Policy
Committee, Washington, D.C. (1986), pp. 9-10.