The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
The postponed 1 Ratio of Electors for
appointing the Executive; to wit 1 for each State whose inhabitants do not
2 &c. being taken up.
Mr. MADISON observed that this would
make in time all or nearly all the States equal. Since there were few that would
not in time contain the number of inhabitants intitling them to 3 Electors: that
this ratio ought either to be made temporary, or so varied as that it would
adjust itself to the growing population of the States.
Mr. GERRY moved that in the 1st.
instance the Electors should be allotted to the States in the following
ratio: to N. H. 1. Mas. 3. R. I. 1. Cont. 2. N. Y. 2. N. J. 2. Pa. 3. Del. 1.
Md. 2. Va. 3. N. C. 2. S. C. 2. Geo. 1.
On the question to postpone in order to take up this motion of Mr. Gerry. It
passed in the affirmative. Mas. ay. Cont. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. no.
Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 3
Mr. ELSEWORTH moved that 2 Electors be
allotted to N. H. Some rule ought to be pursued; and N. H. has more than 100,000
inhabitants. He thought it would be proper also to allot 2. to Georgia
Mr. BROOM & Mr. MARTIN moved to postpone Mr. Gerry's allotment of Electors,
leaving a fit ratio to be reported by the Committee to be appointed for
detailing the Resolutions.
On this motion. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. no.
N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. 4
Mr. HOUSTON 2ded. the motion of Mr.
Elseworth to add another Elector to N. H. & Georgia. On the Question: Mas.
no. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo.
Mr. WILLIAMSON moved as an amendment to
Mr. Gerry's allotment of Electors in the 1st. instance that in future elections
of the Natl. Executive, the number of Electors to be appointed by the several
States shall be regulated by their respective numbers of Representatives in the
1st. branch pursuing as nearly as may be the present proportions.
On question on Mr. Gerry's ratio of Electors Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa.
ay. Del. no. Md. no. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. no. 6,
7 "to be removeable on impeachment and
conviction for mal practice or neglect of duty." see Resol: 9.
Mr. PINKNEY & Mr. Govr.
MORRIS moved to strike out this part of the Resolution.
Mr. P. observd. he ought not to be impeachable whilst in office
Mr. DAVIE. If he be not impeachable
whilst in office, he will spare no efforts or means whatever to get himself
re-elected. He considered this as an essential security for the good behaviour
of the Executive.
Mr. WILSON concurred in the necessity of
making the Executive impeachable whilst in office.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS.
He can do no criminal act without Coadjutors who may be punished. In case he
should be re-elected, that will be 9
sufficient proof of his innocence. Besides who is to impeach? Is the impeachment
to suspend his functions. If it is not the mischief will go on. If it is the
impeachment will be nearly equivalent to a displacement, and will render the
Executive dependent on those who are to impeach
Col. MASON. No point is of more importance than that
the right of impeachment should be continued. Shall any man be above Justice?
Above all shall that man be above it, who can commit the most extensive
injustice? When great crimes were committed he was for punishing the principal
as well as the Coadjutors. There had been much debate & difficulty as to the
mode of chusing the Executive. He approved of that which had been adopted at
first, namely of referring the appointment to the Natl. Legislature. One
objection agst. Electors was the danger of their being corrupted by the
Candidates; & this furnished a peculiar reason in favor of impeachments
whilst in office. Shall the man who has practised corruption & by that means
procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape
punishment, by repeating his guilt?
was for retaining the clause as favorable to the Executive. History furnishes
one example only of a first Magistrate being formally brought to public Justice.
Every body cried out agst. this as unconstitutional. What was the practice
before this in cases where the chief Magistrate rendered himself obnoxious? Why
recourse was had to assassination in wch. he was not only deprived of his life
but of the opportunity of vindicating his character. It wd.. be the best way
therefore to provide in the Constitution for the regular punishment of the
Executive where his misconduct should deserve it, and for his honorable
acquittal when 10 he should be unjustly
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS
admits corruption & some few other offences to be such as ought to be
impeachable; but thought the cases ought to be enumerated & defined:
Mr. MADISON thought it indispensable
that some provision should be made for defending the Community agst. the
incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the chief Magistrate. The limitation of the
period of his service, was not a sufficient security. He might lose his capacity
after his appointment. He might pervert his administration into a scheme of
peculation or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers. The case
of the Executive Magistracy was very distinguishable, from that of the
Legislature or of any other public body, holding offices of limited duration. It
could not be presumed that all or even a majority of the members of an Assembly
would either lose their capacity for discharging, or be bribed to betray, their
trust. Besides the restraints of their personal integrity & honor, the
difficulty of acting in concert for purposes of corruption was a security to the
public. And if one or a few members only should be seduced, the soundness of the
remaining members, would maintain the integrity and fidelity of the body. In the
case of the Executive Magistracy which was to be administered by a single man,
loss of capacity or corruption was more within the compass of probable events,
and either of them might be fatal to the Republic.
Mr. PINKNEY did not see the necessity of
impeachments. He was sure they ought not to issue from the Legislature who would
in that case hold them as a rod over the Executive and by that means effectually
destroy his independence. His revisionary power in particular would be rendered
Mr. GERRY urged the necessity of
impeachments. A good magistrate will not fear them. A bad one ought to be kept
in fear of them. He hoped the maxim would never be adopted here that the chief
magistrate could do no wrong.
Mr. KING expressed his apprehensions
that an extreme caution in favor of liberty might enervate the Government we
were forming. He wished the House to recur to the primitive axiom that the three
great departments of Govts. should be separate & independent: that the
Executive & Judiciary should be so as well as the Legislative: that the
Executive should be so equally with the Judiciary. Would this be the case, if
the Executive should be impeachable? It had been said that the Judiciary would
be impeachable. But it should have been remembered at the same time that the
Judiciary hold their places not for a limited time, but during good behaviour.
It is necessary therefore that a forum should be established for trying
misbehaviour. Was the Executive to hold his place during good behaviour? The
Executive was to hold his place for a limited term like the members of the
Legislature: Like them particularly the Senate whose members would continue in
appointmt the same term of 6 years he would periodically be tried for his
behaviour by his electors, who would continue or discontinue him in trust
according to the manner in which he had discharged it. Like them therefore, he
ought to be subject to no intermediate trial, by impeachment. He ought not to be
impeachable unless he held his office during good behaviour, a tenure which
would be most agreeable to him; provided an independent and effectual forum
could be devised. But under no circumstances ought he to be impeachable by the
Legislature. This would be destructive of his independence and of the principles
of the Constitution. He relied on the vigor of the Executive as a great security
for the public liberties.
Mr. RANDOLPH. The propriety of
impeachments was a favorite principle with him. Guilt wherever found ought to be
punished. The Executive will have great opportunitys of abusing his power;
particularly in time of war when the military force, and in some respects the
public money will be in his hands. Should no regular punishment be provided, it
will be irregularly inflicted by tumults & insurrections. He is aware of the
necessity of proceeding with a cautious hand, and of excluding as much as
possible the influence of the Legislature from the business. He suggested for
consideration an idea which had fallen [from Col Hamilton] of composing a forum
out of the Judges belonging to the States: and even of requiring some
preliminary inquest whether just grounds 11
of impeachment existed.
mentioned the case of the Prince of Orange during the late war. An agreement was
made between France & Holland; by which their two fleets were to unite at a
certain time & place. The Dutch fleet did not appear. Every body began to
wonder at it. At length it was suspected that the Statholder was at the bottom
of the matter. This suspicion prevailed more & more. Yet as he could not be
impeached and no regular examination took place, he remained in his office, and
strengthening his own party, as the party opposed to him became formidable, he
gave birth to the most violent animosities & contentions. Had he been
impeachable, a regular & peaceable enquiry would have taken place and he
would if guilty have been duly punished, if innocent restored to the confidence
of the public.
Mr. KING remarked that the case of the
Statholder was not applicable. He held his place for life, and was not
periodically elected. In the former case impeachments are proper to secure good
behaviour. In the latter they are unnecessary; the periodical responsibility to
the electors being an equivalent security.
Mr. WILSON observed that if the idea
were to be pursued, the Senators who are to hold their places during the same
term with the Executive, ought to be subject to impeachment & removal.
Mr. PINKNEY apprehended that some
gentlemen reasoned on a supposition that the Executive was to have powers which
would not be committed to him: He presumed that his powers would be so
circumscribed as to render impeachments unnecessary.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS's
opinion had been changed by the arguments used in the discussion. He was now
sensible of the necessity of impeachments, if the Executive was to continue for
any 12 time in office. Our Executive was
not like a Magistrate having a life interest, much less like one having an
hereditary interest in his office. He may be bribed by a greater interest to
betray his trust; and no one would say that we ought to expose ourselves to the
danger of seeing the first Magistrate in forign pay, without being able to guard
agst. it by displacing him. One would think the King of England well secured
agst. bribery. He has as it were a fee simple in the whole Kingdom. Yet Charles
II was bribed by Louis XIV. The Executive ought therefore to be impeachable for
treachery; Corrupting his electors, and incapacity were other causes of
impeachment. For the latter he should be punished not as a man, but as an
officer, and punished only by degradation from his office. This Magistrate is
not the King but the prime-Minister. The people are the King. When we make him
amenable to Justice however we should take care to provide some mode that will
not make him dependent on the Legislature.
It was moved & 2ded. to postpone the question of impeachments which was
negatived. Mas. & S. Carolina only being ay. On ye. Question, Shall the
Executive be removeable on impeachments &c.? Mas. no. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa.
ay. Del ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. ay. 13
" 14 Executive to receive fixed
compensation." Agreed to nem. con. "to be paid out of the National
Treasury" agreed to, N. Jersey only in the negative.
Mr. GERRY & 15
GOVr. MORRIS moved "that
the Electors of the Executive shall not be members of the Natl. Legislature, nor
officers of the U. States, nor shall the Electors themselves be eligible to the
supreme magistracy." Agreed to nem. con.
asked whether it would not be necessary, before a Committee for detailing the
Constitution should be appointed, to determine on the means by which the
Executive is to carry the laws into effect, and to resist combinations agst.
them. Is he to have a military force for the purpose, or to have the command of
the Militia, the only existing force that can be applied to that use? As the
Resolutions now stand the Committee will have no determinate directions on this
Mr. WILSON thought that some additional
directions to the Committee wd.. be necessary.
Mr. KING. The Committee are to provide
for the end. Their discretionary power to provide for the means is involved
according to an established axiom.
1. The word "proposed" is
substituted in the transcript for "postponed."
2. In the figure "100,000" the "1"
is crossed out and a figure "2" is written above it in the transcript
3. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye — 6;
Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, no — 4."
4. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, aye — 3; Massachusetts, Connecticut,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no — 7."
5. In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut,
South Carolina, Georgia, aye — 3; Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, no — 7."
6. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, aye —
6; New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, no — 4."
7. The words "On the clause" are
here inserted in the transcript.
8. The words "the ninth Resolution"
are substituted in the transcript for "Resol: 9."
9. The word "a" is here inserted
in the transcript.
10. The word "where" is
substituted in the transcript for "when."
11. The transcript uses the word "grounds"
in the singular.
12. The words "length of" are
here inserted in the transcript.
13. In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia,
aye — 8; Massachusetts, South Carolina, No — 2."
14. The word "The" is here
inserted in the transcript.
15. The word "Mr." is here
inserted in the transcript.