what is the meaning of "lie upon the table" here? does "the belief held by the petitioners" means "the petitioners believed that it was a delusion"?

In April, 1854, the Hon. James Shields presented a memorial,* praying for inquiry, to the United States legislature, with thirteen thousand signatures attached, and with the name of Governor Tallmadge at the head of the list. After a frivolous discussion, in which Mr. Shields, who presented the petition, referred to the belief held by the petitioners as due to a delusion arising from defective education or deranged mental faculties, it was formally agreed that the petition should lie upon the table. Mr. E. W. Capron has this comment**: *See Capron, Modern Spiritualism, pp. 359- 363. ** Modern Spiritualism, p. 375. Modern Spiritualism, p. 197. It is not probable that any of the memorialists expected more favourable treatment than they received. The carpenters and fishermen of the world are the ones to investigate new truths and make Senates and Crowns believe and respect them. It is in vain to look for the reception or respect of new truths by men in high places.

source:http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0301051h.html _ hos by acd

  • I found this... At the beginning of 1854, they entrusted the petition to Senator James Shields, who introduced it to the attention of the Senate. As Emma Hardinge explained later, however, the Senate declined to refer it to any committee, but rather voted to table it, without further action, effectively voting to ignore it. Obviously Victorian "Spiritualist activists" were using public petitions to lobby the legislature, but the Senate were wily enough to kick any "follow-up action" well into the long grass. Apr 15, 2020 at 15:18
  • There is too much to properly edit. Too much unnecessary text. Two questions, which is okay, but one of the phrases in questions is footnoted to a different location in the same book in the original text, which requires a responder to do too much searching of the original text.
    – user19179
    Apr 15, 2020 at 15:21
  • 1
    It took me a while to understand this text (I had to look hard in the full OED to understand the long-obsolete use of memorial here, for example). And I've got a degree in English literature! Shouldn't you be reading material more accessible to (reasonably-educated) Anglophones today? Apr 15, 2020 at 15:22
  • 1
    Please consider using #archaic when posting any more questions about this book.
    – user19179
    Apr 15, 2020 at 15:32
  • The more I see of this ACD stuff, the more it strikes me he's deliberately being confusing in his use of language. As a Brit, he'd understand to lie on the table completely different to his primary audience here (Americans). I'm sure the Senate didn't actively debate the petition, but ACD's phrasing would lead many US readers to think it did. Making the topic (Spiritualism) seem more "credible" than it actually was. Apr 15, 2020 at 15:35

1 Answer 1


In effect, Mr. Shields said the belief of the petitioners was due to their lack of education or derangement. So, the petitioners had some odd beliefs, and Mr. Shields said they were ignorant or crazy. Since it was he who was presenting the petition, it sounds as if he didn't want to do it.

"It was agreed that the petition should lie upon the table."
That is antiquated language for "the petition was tabled." This can mean two different things, depending on the country involved:
Wikipedia "Table (parliamentary procedure)"
Since the matter in the post happened in the United States, it means that consideration of the matter was postponed.

You must log in to answer this question.