THE “CONVENTIONS” OF CONVENTIONS: POLITICAL RITUALS AND TRADITIONS

RELATIONSHIPS VIA RULES

Conventions built upon one another in the political rituals that they enacted. One way to trace this is to look for continuity between the rules used to constitute and regulate the conventions.

Same Rule, Different Convention

Continuity in the rules takes several forms. In some minutes, adoption of rules used at a previous convention shows that delegates were familiar with past gatherings and that they wished to extend the ritual from one event to another, creating a legacy of ritual. Another way that the rules illustrate this continuity is by using the same rules langauge at subsequent conventions and thus re-inscribing the ritual.

Figure 1. Analysis of the rules of four conventions reveals that the wording of three rules are almostly exactly the same for each of these conventions, despite the fact that the conventions range over more than a decade (1841-1853).

How Long is that Phrase?

Figure 1 shows only a small aspect of the shared language that appears over and over again. In the graph below, all phrases of more than four words which are repeated at least two times in convention rules between 1832-1865 are shown. The longest repeated phrase is a total of 35 words. This phrase reads:

“…the previous question shall always be in order and until decided shall preclude all amendments and debate of the main question and shall be put in this form shall the main question be now put.”

The phrase appears as a stated rule for three different conventions.[1] There are an additional six phrases of 20 or more words that are repeated either two or three times in convention rules. Some of these rules emphasize other traditional elements of the conventions, like the reading of the minutes of the preceding session as a way to ensure that the minutes reflect the curated convention. Other aspects of enforcing certain standards of address include the thrice-repeated warning that

“…no member shall be interrupted while speaking except when out of order when he shall be called to order by or through the chair.” [2]
 

Figure 2. This chart shows all repeated phrases that are at least four words long, and the number of times that exact phrase is repeated in the convention rules in selected minutes from conventions held between 1832-1865.

Full List of Repeated Phrases

Read the chart below to see all the repeated phrases. Phrases are in order of length, longest to shortest. Examing the phrases that are most repeated between conventions shows elements of the traditions that were most important to be upheld. For instance, even though short phrases like “report the same” or “adopted as” might seem to be merely chance repetitions in the writing of the minutes, the repetition of language shows how the conventions were a ritualized political tradition.

Phrase
the previous question shall always be in order and until decided shall preclude all amendments and debate of the main question and shall be put in this form shall the main question be now put
offered to the convention except it come through the business committee but all resolutions rejected by the committee may be presented directly to the convention if the maker
the minutes of the preceding session shall be read at the opening of each session at which time mistakes if there be any shall be corrected
no member shall be interrupted while speaking except when out of order when he shall be called to order by or through the chair
of amendment 12 no motion for reconsideration shall be in order unless made by a member who voted in the majority
no member shall speak more than twice on the same question without the consent of the convention nor more than
the house 11 no motion or proposition on a subject different from that under consideration shall be admitted under
upon the appearance of a quorum the president shall take the chair and call the convention to order
all motions and addresses shall be made to the president the member rising from his seat
a motion to adjourn shall always be in order and shall be decided without debate
the president shall decide all questions of order subject to an appeal of the convention
the president shall decide all questions of order subject to an appeal to the convention
all committees shall be appointed by the chair unless otherwise ordered by the convention
committee appointed to draft rules and regulations for the government of this convention
all motions except those of reference shall be submitted in writing
order after 1 o’clock p m or 6 o’clock p m
appointed to draft rules for the government of this convention
convention be opened by addressing the throne of grace
sessions of the convention shall commence at 9 o’clock
the following rules for the government of the convention
13 a motion for adjournment shall always be
the committee on rules then made a report
to draft rules to govern the convention
reported a list which were adopted
resolved that a committee of five
rules to govern this convention
a committee on rules
and shall close at
at half past two
shall be submitted to
shall constitute a quorum
the convention adjourned until
 Figure 3: All phrases came from selected convention minutes [3] 

 

References

[1] State Convention of the Colored Freemen of Pennsylvania (1841: Pittsburgh, PA), “Proceedings of the State Convention of the Colored Freemen of Pennsylvania, Held in Pittsburgh, on the 23d, 24th and 25th of August, 1841, for the Purpose of Considering their Condition, and the Means of Its Improvement. (Copy 2),” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/240.Connecticut State Convention of Coloured Men (1849: New Haven, CT), “Proceedings of the Connecticut State Convention of Coloured Men, Held at New Haven, On the September 12th and 13th, 1849,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/258; First Convention of the Colored Citizens of the State of Illinois (1853: Chicago, IL), “Proceedings of the First Convention of the Colored Citizens of the State of Illinois, Convened at the City of Chicago, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 6th, 7th and 8th, 1853,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/261.

[2]Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Color, Second Annual (1832: Philadelphia, PA), “Minutes and Proceedings of the Second Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Color in these United States, held by adjournments in the city of Philadelphia, from the 4th to the 13th of June, inclusive, 1832,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/229; Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Color, Third Annual (1833: Philadelphia, PA), “Minutes and proceedings of the Third annual Convention, for the Improvement of the Free People of Colour in these United States, :held by adjournments in the city of Philadelphia, from the 3d to the 13th of June inclusive, 1833,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/275; State Convention of the Colored Freemen of Pennsylvania (1841: Pittsburgh, PA), “Proceedings of the State Convention of the Colored Freemen of Pennsylvania, Held in Pittsburgh, on the 23d, 24th and 25th of August, 1841, for the Purpose of Considering their Condition, and the Means of Its Improvement. (Copy 2),” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/240; National Convention of Colored Citizens (1843: Buffalo, NY), “Minutes of the National Convention of Colored Citizens; Held at Buffalo; on the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th of August, 1843; for the purpose of considering their moral and political condition as American citizens,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/278; Connecticut State Convention of Coloured Men (1849: New Haven, CT), “Proceedings of the Connecticut State Convention of Coloured Men, Held at New Haven, On the September 12th and 13th, 1849.,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/258

[3] Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Color, Second Annual (1832: Philadelphia, PA), “Minutes and Proceedings of the Second Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Color in these United States, held by adjournments in the city of Philadelphia, from the 4th to the 13th of June, inclusive, 1832,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/229; Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Color, Third Annual (1833: Philadelphia, PA), “Minutes and proceedings of the Third annual Convention, for the Improvement of the Free People of Colour in these United States, :held by adjournments in the city of Philadelphia, from the 3d to the 13th of June inclusive, 1833,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/275; Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Color, Fourth Annual (1834: New York, NY), “Minutes of the Fourth Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Colour, in the United States; held by adjournments in the Asbury Church, New York, from the 2d to the 12th of June, inclusive, 1834.,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/276.; Convention of the Colored Inhabitants of the State of New York (1840: Albany, NY), “Convention of the Colored Inhabitants of the State of New York, August 18-20, 1840,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/230; State Convention of the Colored Freemen of Pennsylvania (1841: Pittsburgh, PA), “Proceedings of the State Convention of the Colored Freemen of Pennsylvania, Held in Pittsburgh, on the 23d, 24th and 25th of August, 1841, for the Purpose of Considering their Condition, and the Means of Its Improvement. (Copy 2),” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/240; National Convention of Colored Citizens (1843: Buffalo, NY), “Minutes of the National Convention of Colored Citizens; Held at Buffalo; on the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th of August, 1843; for the purpose of considering their moral and political condition as American citizens,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/278; Connecticut State Convention of Coloured Men (1849: New Haven, CT), “Proceedings of the Connecticut State Convention of Coloured Men, Held at New Haven, On the September 12th and 13th, 1849.,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/258; First Convention of the Colored Citizens of the State of Illinois (1853: Chicago, IL), “Proceedings of the First Convention of the Colored Citizens of the State of Illinois, Convened at the City of Chicago, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 6th, 7th and 8th, 1853,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/261; Colored National Convention (1855: Philadelphia, PA), “Proceedings of the Colored National Convention, held in Franklin Hall, Sixth Street, Below Arch, Philadelphia, October 16th, 17th and 18th, 1855,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/281.; Convention of the Colored Citizens of Massachusetts (1858: New Bedford, MA), “Convention of the Colored Citizens of Massachusetts, August 1, 1858,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/264; State Convention of Coloured Men of the State of New Jersey (1865: Trenton, NJ), “Proceedings of the State Convention of Coloured Men of the State of New Jersey, Held in the City of Trenton, N.J., July 13th and 14th, 1865; With a Short Address to the Local People of New Jersey, Together with the Constitution of the Equal Rights League of the State of New Jersey.,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/257; California State Convention of the Colored Citizens (1865: Sacramento, CA), “Proceedings of the California State Convention of the Colored Citizens, Held in Sacramento on the 25th, 26th, 27th, and 28th of October, 1865,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed April 28, 2016, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/268.