The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
The clause in Resol. 3. 1 "to
receive fixed stipends to be paid out of the Nationl. Treasury"
Mr. ELSEWORTH, moved to substitute
payment by the States out of their own Treasurys: observing that the manners of
different States were very different in the Stile of living and in the profits
accruing from the exercise of like talents. What would be deemed therefore a
reasonable compensation in some States, in others would be very unpopular, and
might impede the system of which it made a part.
Mr. WILLIAMSON favored the idea. He
reminded the House of the prospect of new States to the Westward. They would be
3 poor — would pay little into the
common Treasury — and would have a different interest from the old States.
He did not think therefore that the latter ought to pay the expences of men who
would be employed in thwarting their measures & interests.
Mr. GHORUM, wished not to refer the
matter to the State Legislatures who were always paring down salaries in such a
manner as to keep out of offices men most capable of executing the functions of
them. He thought also it would be wrong to fix the compensations 4
by the constitutions, 4 because we could
not venture to make it as liberal as it ought to be without exciting an enmity
agst. the whole plan. Let the Natil. Legisl: provide for their own wages from
time to time; as the State Legislatures do. He had not seen this part of their
power abused, nor did he apprehend an abuse of it.
Mr. RANDOLPH 5
feared we were going too far, in consulting popular prejudices. Whatever respect
might be due to them, in lesser matters, or in cases where they formed the
permanent character of the people, he thought it neither incumbent on nor
honorable for the Convention, to sacrifice right & justice to that
consideration. If the States were to pay the members of the Natl. Legislature, a
dependence would be created that would vitiate the whole System. The whole
nation has an interest in the attendance & services of the members. The
Nationl. Treasury therefore is the proper fund for supporting them.
Mr. KING, urged the danger of creating a
dependence on the States by leavg. to them the payment of the members of the
Natl. Legislature. He supposed it wd. be best to be explicit as to the
compensation to be allowed. A reserve on that point, or a reference to the Natl.
Legislature of the quantum, would excite greater opposition than any sum that
would be actually necessary or proper.
Mr. SHERMAN contended for referring both
the quantum and the payment of it to the State Legislatures.
Mr. WILSON was agst. fixing the
compensation as circumstances would change and call for a change of the amount.
He thought it of great moment that the members of the Natl. Govt. should be left
as independent as possible of the State Govts. in all respects.
Mr. MADISON concurred in the necessity
of preserving the compensations for the Natl. Govt. independent on the State
Govts. but at the same time approved of fixing them by the Constitution,
which might be done by taking a standard which wd. not vary with circumstances.
He disliked particularly the policy suggested by Mr. Wiliamson of leaving the
members from the poor States beyond the Mountains, to the precarious &
parsimonious support of their constituents. If the Western States hereafter
arising should be admitted into the Union, they ought to be considered as equals
& as brethren. If their representatives were to be associated in the Common
Councils, it was of common concern that such provisions should be made as would
invite the most capable and respectable characters into the service.
Mr. HAMILTON apprehended inconveniency
6 from fixing the wages. He was
strenuous agst. making the National Council dependent on the Legislative rewards
of the States. Those who pay are the masters of those who are paid. Payment by
the States would be unequal as the distant States would have to pay for the same
term of attendance and more days in travelling to & from the seat of the
7 Govt. He expatiated emphatically on the
difference between the feelings & views of the people — &
Governments of the States arising from the personal interest &
official inducements which must render the latter unfriendly to the Genl. Govt.
Mr. WILSON moved that the Salaries of
the 1st. branch "be ascertained by the National Legislature,"
8 and be paid out of the Natl. Treasury.
Mr. MADISON, thought the members of the
Legisl. too much interested to ascertain their own compensation. It wd. be
indecent to put their hands into the public purse for the sake of their own
On this question 9 Mas. no. Cont. no.
N. Y. divd. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo.
On the question for striking out "Natl. Treasury" as moved by Mr..
Mr. HAMILTON renewed his opposition to
it. He pressed the distinction between 11
State Govts. & the people. The former wd. be the rivals of the Genl. Govt.
The State legislatures ought not therefore to be the paymasters of the latter.
Mr. ELSEWORTH. If we are jealous of the
State Govts. they will be so of us. If on going home I tell them we gave the
Gen: Govt. such powers because we cd. not trust you, will they adopt it, and
witht. yr. approbation it is a nullity.
12 Massts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. divd.;
N. J. no Pena. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo.divd.
On a question for substituting "adequate compensation" in place of
"fixt stipends" it was agreed to nem. con. the friends of the latter
being willing that the practicability of fixing the compensation should
be considered hereafter in forming the details.
It was then moved by Mr. BUTLER that a
question be taken on both points jointly; to wit "adequate compensation to
be paid out of the Natl. Treasury." It was objected to as out of order, the
parts having been separately decided on. The Presidt. referd. the question of
order to the House, and it was determined to be in order. Con. N. J. Del. Md. N.
C. S. C. — ay —
15 N. Y. Pa. Va. Geo. no —
15 Mass: divided. The question on the
sentence was then postponed by S. Carolina in right of the State.
Col. MASON moved to insert "twenty-five years
of age as a qualification for the members of the 1st. branch." He thought
it absurd that a man to day should not be permitted by the law to make a bargain
for himself, and tomorrow should be authorized to manage the affairs of a great
nation. It was the more extraordinary as every man carried with him in his own
experience a scale for measuring the deficiency of young politicians; since he
would if interrogated be obliged to declare that his political opinions at the
age of 21. were too crude & erroneous to merit an influence on public
measures. It had been said that Congs. had proved a good school for our young
men. It might be so for any thing he knew but if it were, he chose that they
should bear the expence of their own education.
Mr. WILSON was agst. abridging the
rights of election in any shape. It was the same thing whether this were done by
disqualifying the objects of choice, or the persons chusing. The motion tended
to damp the efforts of genius, and of laudable ambition. There was no more
reason for incapacitating youth than age, where the requisite
qualifications were found. Many instances might be mentioned of signal services
rendered in high stations to the public before the age of 25: The present Mr.
Pitt and Lord Bolingbroke were striking instances. On the question for inserting
"25 years of age"
Massts. no. Cont. ay. N. Y. divd. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay.
N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. no. 16
Mr. GHORUM moved to strike out the last
member of 3 Resol: 17 concerning
ineligibility of members of the 1st. branch to offices 18
during the term of their membership & for one year after. He considered it
as 19 unnecessary & injurious. It was
true abuses had been displayed in G. B. but no one cd. say how far they might
have contributed to preserve the due influence of the Govt. nor what might have
ensued in case the contrary theory had been tried.
Mr. BUTLER opposed it. This precaution
agst. intrigue was necessary. He appealed to the example of G. B. where men got
20 into Parlt. that they might get
offices for themselves or their friends. This was the source of the corruption
that ruined their Govt.
Mr. KING, thought we were refining too
much. Such a restriction on the members would discourage merit. It would also
give a pretext to the Executive for bad appointments, as he might always plead
this as a bar to the choice he wished to have made.
Mr. WILSON was agst. fettering
elections, and discouraging merit. He suggested also the fatal consequence in
time of war, of rendering perhaps the best Commanders ineligible: appealing
21 to our situation during the late war,
and indirectly leading to a recollection of the appointment of the Commander in
Chief out of Congress.
Col. MASON was for shutting the door at all events
agst. corruption. He enlarged on the venality and abuses in this particular in
G. Britain: and alluded to the multiplicity of foreign Embassies by Congs. The
disqualification he regarded as a corner stone in the fabric.
Col. HAMILTON. There are inconveniences on both
sides. We must take man as we find him, and if we expect him to serve the public
must interest his passions in doing so. A reliance on pure patriotism had been
the source of many of our errors. He thought the remark of Mr. Ghorum a just
one. It was impossible to say what wd be 22
effect in G. B. of such a reform as had been urged. It was known that one of the
ablest politicians [Mr. Hume,] had pronounced all that influence on the side of
the crown, which went under the name of corruption, 23
an essential part of the weight which maintained the equilibrium of the
On Mr. Ghorum's Motion for striking out "ineligibility,"
Masts. ay. Cont. no. N. Y. divd. N. J. ay. Pa. divd. Del. divd. Mard. no.
Va. no. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. ay. 25
1. The words "the third Resolution"
are substituted in the transcript for "Resol. 3."
2. The word 'being" is here inserted
in the transcript.
3. The word "too" is here
inserted in the transcript.
4. The transcript uses the words "conpensations"
and "constitutions" in the singular.
5. The words "said he" are here
inserted in the transcript.
6. The word "inconveniency" is
changed to "inconvenience" in the transcript.
7. The word "the" is omitted in
8. The transcript does not italicize the
phrase "be ascertained by the National Legislature."
9. The transcript here inserts the
following: "shall the salaries of the first branch be ascertained by the
10. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, aye — 2; Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware,
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, no — 7; New York,
11. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
12. The words "On the question"
are here inserted in the transcript.
*13. Note. [It appeared that Massts.
concurred, not because they thought the State Treasy. ought to be substituted;
but because they thought nothing should be said on the subject, in which case it
wd. silently devolve on the Natl. Treasury to support the National Legislature.]
14. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
*13 Connecticut, North Carolina, South
Carolina, aye — 4; New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia,
no — 5; New York, Georgia, divided, so it passed in the negative."
15. In the transcript the figures "6"
and "4" are inserted after "ay" and "no"
16. In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut,
New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, aye —
7; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Georgia, no — 3; New York, divided."
17. The words "the third Resolution"
are substituted in the transcript for "3 Resol:"
18. The letter "s" is stricken
out of the word "offices" in the transcript.
19. The word "as" is stricken
out in the transcript.
20. The word "get" is
substituted in the transcript for "got."
21. The word "appealed" is
substituted in the transcript for "appealing."
22. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
23. The transcript italicizes the word "corruption."
24. The transcript here inserts the
following: "it was lost by an equal division of the votes."
25. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, aye — 4; Connecticut, Maryland,
Virginia, South Carolina, no — 4; New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware,