The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
JUNE 2d1 IN
*[Insert the words noted here] 2
*William Saml. Johnson from Connecticut, Daniel of St. Thomas Jennifer, from
Maryd. & John Lansing Jr. from N. York, took their seats.
It was movd. & 2ded. to postpone ye Resol: of Mr. Randolph respecting
the Executive, in order to take up the 2d. branch of the Legislature; which
being negatived by Mas: Con: Del: Virg: N. C. S. C. Geo: 3
agst. N. Y. Pena. Maryd. 3
The mode of appointg ye Executive was resumed.
Mr. WILSON made the following motion, to
be substituted for the mode proposed by Mr. Randolph's resolution, "that
the Executive Magistracy shall be elected in the following manner: That the
States be divided into ______ districts: & that the persons qualified to
vote in each district for members of the first branch of the national
Legislature elect ______ members for their respective districts to be electors
of the Executive magistracy, that the said Electors of the Executive magistracy
meet at ______ and they or any ______ of them so met shall proceed to elect by
ballot, but not out of their own body ______ person in whom the Executive
authority of the national Government shall be vested."
Mr. WILSON repeated his arguments in
favor of an election without the intervention of the States. He supposed too
that this mode would produce more confidence among the people in the first
magistrate, than an election by the national Legislature.
Mr. GERRY, opposed the election by the
national legislature. There would be a constant intrigue kept up for the
appointment. The Legislature & the candidates wd. bargain & play into
one another's hands, votes would be given by the former under promises or
expectations from the latter, of recompensing them by services to members of the
Legislature or to
4 their friends. He liked the principle of
Mr. Wilson's motion, but fears it would alarm & give a handle to the State
partisans, as tending to supersede altogether the State authorities. He thought
the Community not yet ripe for stripping the States of their powers, even such
as might not be requisite for local purposes. He was for waiting till people
should feel more the necessity of it. He seemed to prefer the taking the
suffrages of the States instead of Electors, or letting the Legislatures
nominate, and the electors appoint. He was not clear that the people ought to
act directly even in the choice of electors, being too little informed of
personal characters in large districts, and liable to deceptions.
Mr. WILLIAMSON could see no advantage in
the introduction of Electors chosen by the people who would stand in the same
relation to them as the State Legislatures, whilst the expedient would be
attended with great trouble and expence. On the question for agreeing to Mr.
Wilson's substitute, it was negatived: Massts. no. Cont. no. N. Y. no.
*5 Pa. ay. Del. no. Mard. ay. Virga. no.
N. C. no. S. C. no. Geoa. no.
On the question for electing the Executive by the national Legislature for
the term of seven years, it was agreed to Massts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. ay. Pena.
no. Del. ay. Maryd. no. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 7
moved that what related to the compensation for the services of the Executive be
postponed, in order to substitute — "whose necessary expences shall be
defrayed, but who shall receive no salary, stipend fee or reward whatsoever for
their services" — He said that being very sensible of the effect of
age on his memory, he had been unwilling to trust to that for the observations
which seemed to support his motion, and had reduced them to writing, that he
might with the permission of the Committee read instead of speaking them.
Mr. WILSON made an offer to read the
paper, which was accepted — The following is a literal copy of the paper.
It is with reluctance that I rise to express a disapprobation of
any one article of the plan for which we are so much obliged to the honorable
gentleman who laid it before us. From its first reading I have borne a good will
to it, and in general wished it success. In this particular of salaries to the
Executive branch I happen to differ; and as my opinion may appear new and
chimerical, it is only from a persuasion that it is right, and from a sense of
duty that I hazard it. The Committee will judge of my reasons when they have
heard them, and their judgment may possibly change mine. — I think I see
inconveniences in the appointment of salaries; I see none in refusing them, but
on the contrary, great advantages.
Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs
of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power, and the love of
money. Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but
when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent
effects. Place before the eyes of such men, a post of honour that shall
be at the same time a place of profit, and they will move heaven and
earth to obtain it. The vast number of such places it is that renders the
British Government so tempestuous. The struggles for them are the true sources
of all those factions which are perpetually dividing the Nation, distracting its
Councils, hurrying sometimes into fruitless & mischievous wars, and often
compelling a submission to dishonorable terms of peace. And of what kind are the
men that will strive for this profitable pre-eminence, through all the bustle of
cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to
pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate; the lovers
of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and
the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their
selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your Government and be your
rulers. — And these too will be mistaken in the expected happiness of their
situation: For their vanquished competitors of the same spirit, and from the
same motives will perpetually be endeavouring to distress their administration,
thwart their measures, and render them odious to the people.
Besides these evils, Sir, tho' we may set out in the beginning with moderate
salaries, we shall find that such will not be of long continuance. Reasons will
never be wanting for proposed augmentations. And there will always be a party
for giving more to the rulers, that the rulers may be able in return to give
more to them. — Hence as all history informs us, there has been in every
State & Kingdom a constant kind of warfare between the governing &
governed: the one striving to obtain more for its support, and the other to pay
less. And this has alone occasioned great convulsions, actual civil wars, ending
either in dethroning of the Princes, or enslaving of the people. Generally
indeed the ruling power carries its point, the revenues of princes constantly
increasing, and we see that they are never satisfied, but always in want of
more. The more the people are discontented with the oppression of taxes; the
greater need the prince has of money to distribute among his partizans and pay
the troops that are to suppress all resistance, and enable him to plunder at
pleasure. There is scarce a king in a hundred who would not, if he could, follow
the example of Pharoah, get first all the peoples money, then all their lands,
and then make them and their children servants for ever. It will be said, that
we don't propose to establish Kings. I know it. But there is a natural
inclination in mankind to Kingly Government. It sometimes relieves them from
Aristocratic domination. They had rather have one tyrant than five hundred. It
gives more of the appearance of equality among Citizens, and that they like. I
am apprehensive therefore, perhaps too apprehensive, that the Government of
these States, may in future times, end in a Monarchy. But this Catastrophe I
think may be long delayed, if in our proposed System we do not sow the seeds of
contention, faction & tumult, by making our posts of honor, places of
profit. If we do, I fear that tho' we do employ at first a number, and not a
single person, the number will in time be set aside, it will only nourish the
foetus of a King, as the honorable gentleman from Virginia very aptly expressed
it, and a King will the sooner be set over us.
It may be imagined by some that this is an Utopian Idea, and that we can
never find men to serve us in the Executive department, without paying them well
for their services. I conceive this to be a mistake. Some existing facts present
themselves to me, which incline me to a contrary opinion. The high Sheriff of a
County in England is an honorable office, but it is not a profitable one. It is
rather expensive and therefore not sought for. But yet, it is executed and well
executed, and usually by some of the principal Gentlemen of the County. In
France, the office of Counsellor or Member of their Judiciary Parliaments is
more honorable. It is therefore purchased at a high price: There are indeed fees
on the law proceedings, which are divided among them, but these fees do not
amount to more than three per Cent on the sum paid for the place. Therefore as
legal interest is there at five per Ct. they in fact pay two per Ct. for being
allowed to do the Judiciary business of the Nation, which is at the same time
entirely exempt from the burden of paying them any salaries for their services.
I do not however mean to recommend this as an eligible mode for our Judiciary
department. I only bring the instance to shew that the pleasure of doing good &
serving their Country and the respect such conduct entitles them to, are
sufficient motives with some minds to give up a great portion of their time to
the public, without the mean inducement of pecuniary satisfaction.
Another instance is that of a respectable Society who have made the
experiment, and practised it with success more than an 8
hundred years. I mean the Quakers. It is an established rule with them, that
they are not to go to law; but in their controversies they must apply to their
monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings. Committees of these sit with patience to
hear the parties, and spend much time in composing their differences. In doing
this, they are supported by a sense of duty, and the respect paid to usefulness.
It is honorable to be so employed, but it was 9
never made profitable by salaries, fees, or perquisites. And indeed in all cases
of public service the less the profit the greater the honor.
To bring the matter nearer home, have we not seen, the great and most
important of our offices, that of General of our armies executed for eight years
together without the smallest salary, by a Patriot whom I will not now offend by
any other praise; and this through fatigues and distresses in common with the
other brave men his military friends & Companions, and the constant
anxieties peculiar to his station? And shall we doubt finding three or four men
in all the U. States, with public spirit enough to bear sitting in peaceful
Council for perhaps an equal term, merely to preside over our civil concerns,
and see that our laws are duly executed. Sir, I have a better opinion of our
Country. I think we shall never be without a sufficient number of wise and good
men to undertake and execute well and faithfully the office in question.
Sir, The saving of the salaries that may at first be proposed is not an
object with me. The subsequent mischiefs of proposing them are what I apprehend.
And therefore it is, that I move the amendment. If it is not seconded or
accepted I must be contented with the satisfaction of having delivered my
opinion frankly and done my duty.
The motion was seconded by Col. HAMILTON with the
view he said merely of bringing so respectable a proposition before the
Committee, and which was besides enforced by arguments that had a certain degree
of weight. No debate ensued, and the proposition was postponed for the
consideration of the members. It was treated with great respect, but rather for
the author of it, than from any apparent conviction of its expediency or
Mr. DICKENSON moved "that the
Executive be made removeable by the National Legislature on the request of a
majority of the Legislatures of individual States." It was necessary he
said to place the power of removing somewhere. He did not like the plan of
impeaching the Great officers of State. He did not know how provision could be
made for removal of them in a better mode than that which he had proposed. He
had no idea of abolishing the State Governments as some gentlemen seemed
inclined to do. The happiness of this Country in his opinion required
considerable powers to be left in the hands of the States.
Mr. BEDFORD seconded the motion.
Mr. SHERMAN contended that the National
Legislature should have power to remove the Executive at pleasure.
Mr. MASON. Some mode of displacing an
unfit magistrate is rendered indispensable by the fallibility of those who
choose, as well as by the corruptibility of the man chosen. He opposed decidedly
the making the Executive the mere creature of the Legislature as a violation of
the fundamental principle of good Government.
Mr. MADISON & Mr. WILSON observed that it would leave an equality of agency in
the small with the great States; that it would enable a minority of the people
to prevent ye. removal of an officer who had rendered himself justly criminal in
the eyes of a majority; that it would open a door for intrigues agst. him in
States where his administration tho' just might be unpopular, and might tempt
him to pay court to particular States whose leading partizans he might fear, or
wish to engage as his partizans. They both thought it bad policy to introduce
such a mixture of the State authorities, where their agency could be otherwise
Mr. DICKENSON considered the business as
so important that no man ought to be silent or reserved. He went into a
discourse of some length, the sum of which was, that the Legislative, Executive,
& Judiciary departments ought to be made as independent. as possible; but
that such an Executive as some seemed to have in contemplation was not
consistent with a republic: that a firm Executive could only exist in a limited
monarchy. In the British Govt. itself the weight of the Executive arises from
the attachments which the Crown draws to itself, & not merely from the force
of its prerogatives. In place of these attachments we must look out for
something else. One source of stability is the double branch of the Legislature.
The division of the Country into distinct States formed the other principal
source of stability. This division ought therefore to be maintained, and
considerable powers to be left with the States. This was the ground of his
consolation for the future fate of his Country. Without this, and in case of a
consolidation of the States into one great Republic, we might read its fate in
the history of smaller ones. A limited Monarchy he considered as one of
the best Governments in the world. It was not certain that the same
blessings were derivable from any other form. It was certain that equal
blessings had never yet been derived from any of the republican form. A limited
Monarchy however was out of the question. The spirit of the times — the
state of our affairs, forbade the experiment, if it were desireable. Was it
possible moreover in the nature of things to introduce it even if these
obstacles were less insuperable. A House of Nobles was essential to such a Govt.
could these be created by a breath, or by a stroke of the pen? No. They were the
growth of ages, and could only arise under a complication of circumstances none
of which existed in this Country. But though a form the most perfect perhaps
in itself be unattainable, we must not despair. If antient republics have been
found to flourish for a moment only & then vanish for ever, it only proves
that they were badly constituted; and that we ought to seek for every remedy for
their diseases. One of these remedies he conceived to be the accidental lucky
division of this Country into distinct States; a division which some seemed
desirous to abolish altogether. As to the point of representation in the
national Legislature as it might affect States of different sizes, he said it
must probably end in mutual concession. He hoped that each State would retain an
equal voice at least in one branch of the National Legislature, and supposed the
sums paid within each State would form a better ratio for the other branch than
either the number of inhabitants or the quantum of property. A motion being made
to strike out "on request by a majority of the Legislatures of the
individual States" and rejected, Connecticut, S. Carol: & Geo. being
ay, the rest no: the question was taken —
On Mr. DICKENSON'S motion for making
10 Executive removeable by 10
Natl.; Legislature at 10 request of
11 majority of State Legislatures
12 was also rejected — all the
States being in the negative Except Delaware which gave an affirmative vote.
The Question for making ye. Executive ineligible after seven years,
13 was next taken, and agreed to:
Massts.; ay. Cont.; no. N. Y. ay. Pa. divd. Del. ay. Maryd. ay. Va. ay. N.
C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. no: *14,
Mr. WILLIAMSON 2ded. by Mr.
DAVIE moved to add to the last Clause, the words — "and
to be removeable on impeachment & conviction of mal-practice or neglect of
duty" — which was agreed to.
Mr. RUTLIDGE & Mr. C. PINKNEY moved that the blank for the no. of persons in the
Executive be filled with the words "one person." He supposed the
reasons to be so obvious & conclusive in favor of one that no member would
oppose the motion.
Mr. RANDOLPH opposed it with great
earnestness, declaring that he should not do justice to the Country which sent
him if he were silently to suffer the establishmt. of a Unity in the Executive
department. He felt an opposition to it which he believed he should continue to
feel as long as he lived. He urged 1. that the permanent temper of the people
was adverse to the very semblance of Monarchy. 2. 17
that a unity was unnecessary a plurality being equally competent to all the
objects of the department. 3. 17 that the
necessary confidence would never be reposed in a single Magistrate. 4.
17 that the appointments would generally
be in favor of some inhabitant near the center of the Community, and
consequently the remote parts would not be on an equal footing. He was in favor
of three members of the Executive to be drawn from different portions of the
Mr. BUTLER contended strongly for a
single magistrate as most likely to answer the purpose of the remote parts. If
one man should be appointed he would be responsible to the whole, and would be
impartial to its interests. If three or more should be taken from as many
districts, there would be a constant struggle for local advantages. In Military
matters this would be particularly mischievous. He said his opinion on this
point had been formed under the opportunity he had had of seeing the manner in
which a plurality of military heads 18
distracted Holland when threatened with invasion by the imperial troops. One man
was for directing the force to the defence of this part, another to that part of
the Country, just as he happened to be swayed by prejudice or interest.
The motion was then postpd. the Committee rose & the House Adjd.
1. The year "1787" is here
inserted in the transcript.
2. Madison's direction is omitted in the
3. In the transcript the figures "7"
and "3" are inserted after the States Georgia and Maryland,
4. The word "to" is omitted in
*5. N.Y. in the printed Journal — "divided."
6. In the transcript the vote reads: "Pennsylvania,
Maryland, aye — 2; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, 5
Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no — 8."
7. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Georgia, aye — 8; Pennsylvania, Maryland, no — 2."
8. The word "one" is substituted
in the transcript for "an."
9. The word "is" is substituted
in the transcript for "was."
10. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
11. The word "a" is here
inserted in the transcript.
12. The word "which" is here
inserted in the transcript.
13. The phrase "ineligible after
seven years" is italicized in the transcript.
*14. In 16
printed Journal Geo. ay.
15. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, aye —
7; Connecticut, Georgia, 14 no — 2;
16. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
17. The figures "1," "2,"
"3" and "4" are changed to "first," "secondly,"
"thirdly" and "fourthly."
18. The transcript italicizes the phrase "plurality
of military heads."