The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
The 3. Resol: resumed. 1
On 2 Question yesterday postponed by
S. Carol: for agreeing to the whole sentence "for allowing an adequate
compensation to be paid out of the Treasury of the U. States"
Masts. ay. Cont. no. N. Y. no. N. J. ay. Pena. ay Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay.
N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo divided. 3 So the
question was lost, & the sentence not inserted:
Genl. PINKNEY moves to strike out the
ineligibility of members of the 1st. branch to offices established "by a
particular State." He argued from the inconveniency 4
to which such a restriction would expose both the members of the 1st. branch,
and the States wishing for their services; 5
from the smallness of the object to be attained by the restriction.
It wd. seem from the ideas of some that we are erecting a Kingdom to be
divided agst. itself, he disapproved such a fetter on the Legislature.
Mr. SHERMAN seconds the motion. It wd.
seem that we are erecting a Kingdom at war with itself. The Legislature ought
6 fettered in such a case. on the question
Masts. no. Cont. ay. N. Y. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N.
C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 7
Mr. MADISON renewed his motion yesterday
made & waved to render the members of the 1st. branch "ineligible
during their term of service, & for one year after — to such offices
only as should be established, or the emoluments thereof, augmented by the
Legislature of the U. States during the time of their being members." He
supposed that the unnecessary creation of offices, and increase of salaries,
were the evils most experienced, & that if the door was shut agst. them: it
might properly be left open for the appointt. of members to other offices as an
encouragemt. to the Legislative service.
Mr. Alex: MARTIN seconded the motion.
Mr. BUTLER. The amendt. does not go far
eno' & wd. be easily evaded.
Mr. RUTLIDGE, was for preserving the
Legislature as pure as possible, by shutting the door against appointments of
its own members to offices, 8 which was
one source of its corruption.
Mr. MASON. The motion of my colleague is
but a partial remedy for the evil. He appealed to him as a witness of the
shameful partiality of the Legislature of Virginia to its own members. He
enlarged on the abuses & corruption in the British Parliament, connected
with the appointment of its members. He cd. not suppose that a sufficient number
of Citizens could not be found who would be ready, without the inducement of
eligibility to offices, to undertake the Legislative service. Genius &
virtue it may be said, ought to be encouraged. Genius, for aught he knew, might,
but that virtue should be encouraged by such a species of venality, was an idea,
that at least had the merit of being new.
Mr. KING remarked that we were refining
too much in this business; and that the idea of preventing intrigue and
solicitation of offices was chimerical. You say that no member shall himself be
eligible to any office. Will this restrain him from from availing himself of the
same means which would gain appointments for himself, to gain them for his son,
his brother, or any other object of his partiality. We were losing therefore the
advantages on one side, without avoiding the evils on the other.
Mr. WILSON supported the motion. The
proper cure he said for corruption in the Legislature was to take from it the
power of appointing to offices. One branch of corruption would indeed remain,
that of creating unnecessary offices, or granting unnecessary salaries, and for
that the amendment would be a proper remedy. He animadverted on the impropriety
of stigmatizing with the name of venality the laudable ambition of rising into
the honorable offices of the Government; an ambition most likely to be felt in
the early & most incorrupt period of life, & which all wise & free
Govts. had deemed it sound policy, to cherish, not to check. The members of the
Legislature have perhaps the hardest & least profitable task of any who
engage in the service of the state. Ought this merit to be made a
Mr. SHERMAN, observed that the motion
did not go far enough. It might be evaded by the creation of a new office, the
translation to it of a person from another office, and the appointment of a
member of the Legislature to the latter. A new Embassy might be established to a
new Court, & an ambassador taken from another, in order to create a
vacancy for a favorite member. He admitted that inconveniencies lay on both
sides. He hoped there wd. be sufficient inducements to the public service
without resorting to the prospect of desireable offices, and on the whole was
rather agst. the motion of Mr. Madison.
Mr. GERRY thought there was great weight
in the objection of Mr. Sherman. He added as another objection agst. admitting
the eligibility of members in any case that it would produce intrigues of
ambitious men for displacing proper officers, in order to create vacancies for
themselves. In answer to Mr. King he observed that although members, if
disqualified themselves might still intrigue & cabal for their sons,
brothers &c, yet as their own interest would be dearer to them, than those
of their nearest connections, it might be expected they would go greater lengths
to promote it.
Mr. MADISON had been led to this motion
as a middle ground between an eligibility in all cases, and an absolute
disqualification. He admitted the probable abuses of an eligibility of the
members, to offices, particularly within the gift of the Legislature He had
witnessed the partiality of such bodies to their own members, as had been
remarked of the Virginia assembly by his colleague [Col. Mason]. He appealed
however to him, in turn to vouch another fact not less notorious in Virginia,
that the backwardness of the best citizens to engage in the Legislative service
gave but too great success to unfit characters. The question was not to be
viewed on one side only. The advantages & disadvantages on both ought to be
fairly compared. The objects to be aimed at were to fill all offices with the
fittest characters, & to draw the wisest & most worthy citizens into the
Legislative service. If on one hand, public bodies were partial to their own
members; on the other they were as apt to be misled by taking characters on
report, or the authority of patrons and dependents. All who had been concerned
in the appointment of strangers on those recommendations must be sensible of
this truth. Nor wd. the partialities of such Bodies be obviated by disqualifying
their own members. Candidates for office would hover round the seat of Govt. or
be found among the residents there, and practise all the means of courting the
favor of the members. A great proportion of the appointments made by the States
were evidently brought about in this way. In the general Govt. the evil must be
still greater, the characters of distant states, being much less known
throughout the U. States than those of the distant parts of the same State. The
elections by Congress had generally turned on men living at the seat of the fedl
Govt. or in its neighbourhood. — As to the next object, the impulse to the
Legislative service, was evinced by experience to be in general too feeble with
those best qualified for it. This inconveniency 9
wd. also be more felt in the Natl. Govt. than in the State Govts. as the
sacrifices reqd. from the distant members, wd. be much greater, and the
pecuniary provisions, probably, more disproportiate. It wd. therefore be
impolitic to add fresh objections to the Legislative service by an absolute
disqualification of its members. The point in question was whether this would be
an objection with the most capable citizens. Arguing from experience he
concluded that it would. The Legislature of Virga. would probably have been
without many of its best members, if in that situation, they had been ineligible
to Congs. to the Govt. & other honorable offices of the State.
Mr. BUTLER thought Characters fit for
office wd. never be unknown.
Col. MASON. If the members of the Legislature are
disqualified, still the honors of the State will induce those who aspire to them
to enter that service, as the field in which they can best display & improve
their talents, & lay the train for their subsequent advancement.
Mr. JENIFER remarked that in Maryland,
the Senators chosen for five years, cd. hold no other office & that this
circumstance gained them the greatest confidence of the people.
On the question for agreeing to the motion of Mr. Madison.
Massts. divd. Ct. ay. N. Y. no. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no.
N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. 10
Mr. SHERMAN movd. to insert the words "and
incapable of holding" after the words "eligible to offices"
11 wch. was agreed to without opposition.
The word "established" & the words " 12
Natl. Govt." were struck out of Resolution 3d.: 13
Mr. SPAIGHT called for a division of the
question, in consequence of which it was so put, as that it turned in
14 the first member of it, "on the
ineligibility of the 15 members during
the term for which they were elected" — whereon the States were,
Massts. divd. Ct. ay. N. Y. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay.
N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. no. 16
On the 2d. member of the sentence extending ineligibility of members to one
year after the term for which they were elected.
Col MASON thought this essential to guard agst.
evasions by resignations, and stipulations for office to be fulfilled at the
expiration of the legislative term. Mr. GERRY,
had known such a case. Mr. HAMILTON. Evasions cd. not be
prevented — as by proxies — by friends holding for a year, & them
17 opening the way &c. Mr.
RUTLIDGE admitted the possibility of evasions but was
for controuling them as possible. 18,
19 Mass. no. Ct. no. N. Y. ay. N. J. no. Pa.
divd. Del. ay. Mard. ay Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo. no. 20
1. In the transcript this sentence reads: "The
third Resolution being resumed."
2. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
3. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, aye — 5; Connecticut, New
York, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, no — 5; Georgia, Divided."
4. The word "inconveniency" is
changed to "inconvenience" in the transcript.
5. The word "and" is here
inserted in the transcript.
6. The word "be" is here
inserted in the transcript.
7. In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut,
New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Georgia, aye — 8; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, no — 3."
8. The transcript uses the word "offices"
in the singular.
9. The word "inconveniency" is
changed to "inconvenience" in the transcript.
10. In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut,
New Jersey, aye — 2; New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia,
North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no — 8; Massachusetts, divided."
11. The words "ineligible to any
office" are substituted in the transcript for "eligible to offices."
12. The words "under the" are
here inserted in the transcript.
13. The words "the third Resolution"
are substituted in the transcript for "Resolution 3d".
14. The word "on" is
substituted in the transcript for "in."
15. The word "the" is omitted
in the transcript.
16. In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut,
New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South
Carolina, aye — 8; Pennsylvania, Georgia, no — 2; Massachusetts,
17. The word "then" is
substituted in the transcript for "them."
18. The phrase "contracting them as
far as possible" is substituted in the transcript for "controuling
them as possible."
19. The words "On the question"
are here inserted in the transcript.
20. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
York, Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, aye — 4; Massachusetts,
Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, no — 6;