The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
Article VI. Sect. 9. 1, 2
Mr. PINKNEY argued that the making the
members ineligible to offices was degrading to them, and the more
improper as their election into the Legislature implied that they had the
confidence of the people; that it was inconvenient, because the Senate
might be supposed to contain the fittest men. He hoped to see that body become a
School of public Ministers, a nursery of Statesmen: that it was impolitic,
because the Legislature would cease to be a magnet to the first talents and
abilities. He moved to postpone the section in order to take up the following
proposition viz — "the members of each House shall be incapable of
holding any office under the U.S. for which they or any of
3 others for their benefit receive any
salary, fees, or emoluments of any kind — and the acceptance of such office
shall vacate their seats respectively"
Genl. MIFFLIN 2ded. the motion.
Col. MASON ironically proposed to strike out the
whole section, as a more effectual expedient for encouraging that exotic
corruption which might not otherwise thrive so well in the American Soil —
for compleating that Aristocracy which was probably in the contemplation of some
among us, and for inviting into the Legislative Service, those generous &
benevolent characters who will do justice to each other's merit, by carving out
offices & rewards for it. In the present state of American morals &
manners, few friends it may be thought will be lost to the plan, by the
opportunity of giving premiums to a mercenary & depraved ambition.
Mr. MERCER. It is a first principle in
political science, that wherever the rights of property are secured, an
aristocracy will grow out of it. Elective Governments also necessarily become
aristocratic, because the rulers being few can & will draw emoluments for
themselves from the many. The Governments of America will become aristocracies.
They are so already. The public measures are calculated for the benefit of the
Governors, not of the people. The people are dissatisfied & complain. They
change their rulers, and the public measures are changed, but it is only a
change of one scheme of emolument to the rulers, for another. The people gain
nothing by it, but an addition of instability & uncertainty to their other
evils. — Governmts. can only be maintained by force or influence.
The Executive has not force, deprive him of influence 4
by rendering the members of the Legislature ineligible to Executive offices, and
he becomes a mere phantom of authority. The aristocratic part will not even let
him in for a share of the plunder. The Legislature must & will be composed
of wealth & abilities, and the people will be governed by a Junto. The
Executive ought to have a Council, being members of both Houses. Without such an
influence, the war will be between the aristocracy & the people. He wished
it to be between the Aristocracy & the Executive. Nothing else can protect
the people agst. those speculating Legislatures which are now plundering them
throughout the U. States.
Mr. GERRY read a resolution of the
Legislature of Massts. passed before the Act of Congs. recommending the
Convention, in which her deputies were instructed not to depart from the
rotation established in the 5th. art: of
5 Confederation, nor to agree in any case
to give to the members of Congs. a capacity to hold offices under the
Government. This he said was repealed in consequence of the Act of Congs. with
which the State thought it proper to comply in an unqualified manner. The Sense
of the State however was still the same. He could not think with Mr. Pinkney
that the disqualification was degrading. Confidence is the road to tyranny. As
to Ministers & Ambassadors few of them were necessary. It is the opinion of
a great many that they ought to be discontinued, on our part; that none may be
sent among us, & that source of influence be 6
shut up. If the Senate were to appoint Ambassadors as seemed to be intended,
they will multiply embassies for their own sakes. He was not so fond of those
productions as to wish to establish nurseries for them. If they are once
appointed, the House of Reps. will be obliged to provide salaries for them,
whether they approve of the measures or not. If men will not serve in the
Legislature without a prospect of such offices, our situation is deplorable
indeed. If our best Citizens are actuated by such mercenary views, we had better
chuse a single despot at once. It will be more easy to satisfy the rapacity of
one than of many. According to the idea of one Gentlemen [Mr. Mercer] our
Government it seems is to be a Govt. of plunder. In that case it certainly would
be prudent to have but one rather than many to be employed in it. We cannot be
too circumspect in the formation of this System. It will be examined on all
sides and with a very suspicious eye. The People who have been so lately in arms
agst. G. B. for their liberties, will not easily give them up. He lamented the
evils existing at present under our Governments, but imputed them to the faults
of those in office, not to the people. The misdeeds of the former will produce a
critical attention to the opportunities afforded by the new system to like or
greater abuses. As it now stands it is as compleat an aristocracy as ever was
framed If great powers should be given to the Senate we shall be governed in
reality by a Junto as has been apprehended. He remarked that it would be very
differently constituted from Congs — 1. 7
there will be but 2 deputies from each State, in Congs. there may be 7. and are
generally 5. — 2.
8 they are chosen for six years, those of
Congs. annually. 3. 9 they are not subject
to recall; those of Congs. are. 4. In Congs. 9 States 10
are necessary for all great purposes — here 8 persons will suffice.
Is it to be presumed that the people will ever agree to such a system? He moved
to render the members of the H. of Reps. as well as of the Senate ineligible not
only during, but for one year after the expiration of their terms. — If it
should be thought that this will injure the Legislature by keeping out of it men
of abilities who are willing to serve in other offices it may be required as a
qualification for other offices, that the Candidate shall have served a certain
time in the Legislature.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS.
Exclude the officers of the army & navy, and you form a band having a
different interest from & opposed to the civil power: you stimulate them to
despise & reproach those "talking Lords who dare not face the foe."
Let this spirit be roused at the end of a war, before your troops shall have
laid down their arms, and though the Civil authority "be intrenched in
parchment to the teeth" they will cut their way to it. He was agst.
rendering the members of the Legislature ineligible to offices. He was for
rendering them eligible agn. after having vacated their Seats by accepting
office. Why should we not avail ourselves of their services if the people chuse
to give them their confidence. There can be little danger of corruption either
among the people or the Legislatures who are to be the Electors. If they say, we
see their merits, we honor the men, we chuse to renew our confidence in them,
have they not a right to give them a preference; and can they be properly
abridged of it. Mr. WILLIAMSON; introduced
his opposition to the motion by referring to the question concerning "money
bills." That clause he said was dead. Its ghost he was afraid would
notwithstanding haunt us. It had been a matter of conscience with him, to insist
upon 11 it as long as there was hope of
retaining it. He had swallowed the vote of rejection, with reluctance. He could
not digest it. All that was said on the other side was that the restriction was
not convenient. We have now got a House of Lords which is to originate
money-bills. — To avoid another inconveniency, 12
we are to have a whole Legislature at liberty to cut out offices for one
another. He thought a self-denying ordinance for ourselves would be more proper.
Bad as the Constitution has been made by expunging the restriction on the Senate
concerning money bills he did not wish to make it worse by expunging the present
Section. He had scarcely seen a single corrupt measure in the Legislature of N.
Carolina, which could not be traced up to office hunting.
Mr. SHERMAN. The Constitution shd. lay
as few temptations as possible in the way of those in power. Men of abilities
will increase as the Country grows more populous and, and 13
the means of education are more diffused.
Mr. PINKNEY. No State has rendered the
members of the Legislature ineligible to offices. In S. Carolina the Judges are
eligible into the Legislature. It can not be supposed then that the motion will
be offensive to the people. If the State Constitutions should be revised he
believed restrictions of this sort wd. be rather diminished than multiplied.
Mr. WILSON could not approve of the
Section as it stood, and could not give up his judgment to any supposed
objections that might arise among the people. He considered himself as acting &
responsible for the welfare of millions not immediately represented in this
House. He had also asked himself the serious question what he should say to his
constituents in case they should call upon him to tell them why he sacrified his
own Judgment in a case where they authorised him to exercise it? Were he to own
to them that he sacrificed it in order to flatter their prejudices, he should
dread the retort: did you suppose the people of Penna. had not good sense enough
to receive a good Government? Under this impression he should certainly follow
his own Judgment which disapproved of the section. He would remark in addition
to the objections urged agst. it, that as one branch of the Legislature was to
be appointed by the Legislatures of the States, the other by the people of the
States, as both are to be paid by the States, and to be appointable to State
offices, nothing seemed to be wanting to prostrate the Natl. Legislature, but to
render its members ineligible to Natl. offices, & by that means take away
its power of attracting those talents which were necessary to give weight to the
Governt. and to render it useful to the people. He was far from thinking the
ambition which aspired to Offices of dignity and trust, an ignoble or culpable
one. He was sure it was not politic to regard it in that light, or to withold
from it the prospect of those rewards, which might engage it in the career of
public service. He observed that the State of Penna. which had gone as far as
any State into the policy of fettering power, had not rendered the members of
the Legislature ineligible to offices of Govt.
Mr. ELSWORTH did not think the mere
postponement of the reward would be any material discouragement of merit.
Ambitious minds will serve 2 years or 7 years in the Legislature for the sake of
qualifying themselves for other offices. This he thought a sufficient security
for obtaining the services of the ablest men in the Legislature, although whilst
members they should be ineligible to Public offices. Besides, merit will be most
encouraged, when most impartially rewarded. If rewards are to circulate only
within the Legislature, merit out of it will be discouraged.
Mr. MERCER was extremely anxious on this
point. What led to the appointment of this Convention? The corruption &
mutability of the Legislative Councils of the States. If the plan does not
remedy these, it will not recommend itself; and we shall not be able in our
private capacities to support & enforce it: nor will the best part of our
Citizens exert themselves for the purpose. — It is a great mistake to
suppose that the paper we are to propose will govern the U. States? It is The
men whom it will bring into the Governt. and interest in maintaining it that is
14 to govern them. The paper will only
mark out the mode & the form. Men are the substance and must do the
business. All Govt. must be by force or influence. It is not the King of France
— but 200,000 janisaries of power that govern that Kingdom. There will be
no such force here; influence then must be substituted; and he would ask whether
this could be done, if the members of the Legislature should be ineligible to
offices of State; whether such a disqualification would not determine all the
most influencial men to stay at home, and & prefer appointments within their
Mr. WILSON was by no means satisfied
with the answer given by Mr. Elsewoth to the argument as to the discouragement
of merit. The members must either go a second time into the Legislature, and
disqualify themselves — or say to their Constituents, we served you before
only from the mercenary view of qualifying ourselves for offices, and haveg
answered this purpose we do not chuse to be again elected.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS
put the case of a war, and the Citizen the
15 most capable of conducting it,
happening to be a member of the Legislature. What might have been the
consequence of such a regulation at the commencement, or even in the Course of
the late contest for our liberties?
On 16 question for postponing in
order to take up Mr. Pinkneys motion, it was lost.
N. H. ay. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C.
no. S. C. no. Geo. divd. 17
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS
moved to insert, after "office," except offices in the army or navy:
but in that case their offices shall be vacated.
Mr. BROOM 2ds. him.
Mr. RANDOLPH had been & should
continue uniformly opposed to the striking out of the clause; as opening a door
for influence & corruption. No arguments had made any impression on him, but
those which related to the case of war, and a co-existing incapacity of the
fittest commanders to be employed. He admitted great weight in these, and would
agree to the exception proposed by Mr. Govr. Morris.
Mr. BUTLER & Mr. PINKNEY urged a general postponemt. of 9 Sect. Art. VI. till it
should be seen what powers would be vested in the Senate, when it would be more
easy to judge of the expediency of allowing the officers of State to be chosen
out of that body. — a general postponement was agreed to nem. con.
Art: VI. sect. 10. 18, 19
taken up — "that members be paid by their respective States."
Mr. ELSEWORTH said that in reflecting on
this subject he had been satisfied that too much dependence on the States would
be produced by this mode of payment. He moved to strike 20
out and insert "that they should" be paid out of the Treasury of the
U.S. an allowance not exceeding (blank) dollars per day or the present value
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS,
remarked that if the members were to be paid by the States it would throw an
unequal burden on the distant States, which would be unjust as the Legislature
was to be a national Assembly. He moved that the payment be out of the Natl.
Treasury; leaving the quantum to the discretion of the Natl. Legislature. There
could be no reason to fear that they would overpay themselves.
Mr. BUTLER contended for payment by the
States; particularly in the case of the Senate, who will be so long out of their
respective States, that they will lose sight of their Constituents unless
dependent on them for their support.
Mr. LANGDON was agst. payment by the
States. There would be some difficulty in fixing the sum; but it would be unjust
to oblige the distant States to bear the expence of their members in travelling
to and from the Seat of Govt.
Mr. MADISON. If the H. of Reps. is to be
chosen biennially — and the Senate to be constantly
dependent on the Legislatures which are chosen annually, he could not
see any chance for that stability in the Genl. Govt. the want of which was a
principal evil in the State Govts. His fear was that the organization of the
Govt. supposing the Senate to be really independt. for six years, would not
effect our purpose. It was nothing more than a combination of the peculiarities
of two of the State Govts. which separately had been found insufficient. The
Senate was formed on the model of that of Maryld. The Revisionary check, on that
of N. York. What the effect of a union of these provisions might be, could not
be foreseen. The enlargement of the sphere of the Government was indeed a
circumstance which he thought would be favorable as he had on several occasions
undertaken to shew. He was however for fixing at least two extremes not to be
exceeded by the Natl. Legislre. in the payment of themselves.
Mr. GERRY. There are difficulties on
both sides. The observation of Mr. Butler has weight in it. On the other side,
the State Legislatures may turn out the Senators by reducing their salaries.
Such things have been practised.
Col. MASON. It has not yet been noticed that the
clause as it now stands makes the House of Represents. also dependent on the
State Legislatures; so that both houses will be made the instruments of the
politics of the States whatever they may be.
Mr. BROOM could see no danger in
trusting the Genl. Legislature with the payment of themselves. The State
Legislatures had this power, and no complaint had been made of it.
Mr. SHERMAN was not afraid that the
Legislature would make their own wages too high; but too low, so that men ever
so fit could not serve unless they were at the same time rich. He thought the
best plan would be to fix a moderate allowance to be paid out of the Natl.
Treasy. and let the States make such additions as they might judge fit. He moved
that 5 dollars per day be the sum, any further emoluments to be added by the
Mr. CARROL had been much surprised at
seeing this clause in the Report. The dependence of both Houses on the State
Legislatures is compleat; especially as the members of the former are eligible
to State offices. The States can now say: if you do not comply with our wishes,
we will starve you: if you do we will reward you. The new Govt. in this form was
nothing more than a second edition of Congress in two volumes, instead of one,
and perhaps with very few amendments —
Mr. DICKENSON took it for granted that
all were convinced of the necessity of making the Genl. Govt. independent of the
prejudices, passions, and improper views of the State Legislatures. The contrary
of This was effected by the section as it stands. On the other hand there were
objections agst. taking a permanent standard as wheat which had been suggested
on a former occasion, as well as against leaving the matter to the pleasure of
the Natl. Legislature. He proposed that an Act should be passed every 12 years
by the Natl. Legislre. settling the quantum of their wages. If the Genl. Govt.
should be left dependent on the State Legislatures, it would be happy for us if
we had never met in this Room.
Mr. ELSEWORTH was not unwilling himself
to trust the Legislature with authority to regulate their own wages, but well
knew that an unlimited discretion for that purpose would produce strong, tho'
perhaps not insuperable objections. He thought changes in the value of money,
provided for by his motion in the words, "or the present value thereof."
Mr. L. MARTIN. As the Senate is to
represent the States, the members of it ought to be paid by the States.
Mr. CARROL. The Senate was to represent &
manage the affairs of the whole, and not to be the advocates of State interests.
They ought then not to be dependent on nor paid by the States.
On the question for paying the Members of the Legislature out of the Natl.
N. H. ay. Mas. no. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C.
ay. S. C. no. Geo. ay. 21
Mr. ELSEWTH moved that the pay be fixed
at 5 dollrs. or the present value thereof per day during their attendance &
for every thirty miles in travelling to & from Congress.
Mr. STRONG preferred 4 dollars, leaving
the Sts. at liberty to make additions.
On 22 question for fixing the pay at
N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. ay. N. C.
no. S. C. no. Geo. no. 23
Mr. DICKENSON proposed that the wages of
the members of both houses Sd. be required to be the same.
Mr. BROOME seconded him.
Mr. GHORUM. this would be unreasonable.
The Senate will be detained longer from home, will be obliged to remove their
families, and in time of war perhaps to sit constantly. Their allowance should
certainly be higher. The members of the Senates in the States are allowed more,
than those of the other house. Mr. DICKENSON
withdrew his motion
It was moved & agreed to amend the Section by adding — "to be
ascertained by law."
The Section [Art VI. Sec. 10] as amended, agreed to nem. con.
1. See ante.
2. The word "was" is here
inserted in the transcript.
3. The word "of" is omitted in
4. The transcript italicizes the word "influence."
5. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
6. The word "be" is omitted in
7. The figure "1" is changed to "In
the first place" in the transcript.
8. The figure "2" is changed to "In
the second place" in the transcript.
9. The figure "3" is changed to "In
the third place" in the transcript.
10. The phrase "And finally, in
Congress nine States" is substituted in the transcript for "4. In
Congs. 9 States."
11. The word "on" is
substituted in the transcript for "upon."
12. The word "inconveniency" is
changed to " nconvenience" in the transcript.
13. The word "as" is
substituted in the transcript for "and."
14. The word "are" is
substituted in the transcript for "is."
15. The word "the" is omitted
in the transcript.
16. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
17. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, aye — 5;
Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, no —
5; Georgia, divided."
18. See ante.
19. The words "was then" are
here inserted in the transcript.
20. The word "it" is here
inserted in the transcript.
21. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia,
North Carolina, Georgia, aye — 9; Massachusetts, South Carolina, no —
22. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
23. In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut,
Virginia, aye — 2; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no — 9."