|Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
July 20, 1787
Friday July 20, 1787
The postponed Ratio of Electors for appointing the Executive; to wit, 1 for each State whose inhabitants do not exceed
100,000, etc., 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 entitling 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 New
Hampshire, 1; Massachusetts, 3; Rhode Island, 1; Connecticut, 2; New York, 2; New Jersey, 2; Pennsylvania, 3; Delaware,
1; Maryland, 2; Virginia, 3; North Carolina, 2; South Carolina, 2; Georgia, 1.
On the question to postpone in order to take up this motion of Mr. Gerry. It passed in the affirmative. Massachusetts, aye;
Connecticut, no; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, aye; Delaware, no; Maryland, no; Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye; South
Carolina, aye; Georgia, aye.
Mr. ELSEWORTH moved that 2 Electors be allotted to New Hampshire. Some rule ought to be pursued, and New
Hampshire 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. Massachusetts, no; Connecticut, no; New Jersey, aye; Pennsylvania, no; Delaware, aye; Maryland, aye;
Virginia, no; North Carolina, no; South Carolina, no; Georgia, no.
Mr. HOUSTON 2nded the motion of Mr. Elseworth to add another Elector to New Hampshire and Georgia. On the Question:
Massachusetts, no; Connecticut, aye; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, no; Delaware, no; Maryland; no; Virginia, no; North
Carolina, no; South Carolina, aye; Georgia, aye.
Mr. WILLIAMSON moved as an amendment to Mr. Gerry's allotment of Electors in the 1st instance that in future elections
of the National 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 Massachusetts, aye; Connecticut, aye; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, aye;
Delaware, no; Maryland, no; Virginia; aye. North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, aye; Georgia, no.
"To be removable on impeachment and conviction for malpractice or neglect of duty." See Resolution 9.
Mr. PINKNEY and Mr. Govr. MORRIS moved to strike out this part of the Resolution. Mr. Pinkney observed he ought not
to be impeachable while 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 behavior 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 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 and difficulty as to the
mode of choosing the Executive. He approved of that which had been adopted at first, namely of referring the appointment to
the National Legislature. One objection against Electors was the danger of their being corrupted by the Candidates; and this
furnished a peculiar reason in favor of impeachments whilst in office. Shall the man who has practiced corruption and by that
means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment, by repeating his guilt?
Dr. FRANKLIN 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. Everybody cried out against 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 which he was not only deprived of his life but of the opportunity of vindicating his character. It would 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 he should be unjustly accused.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS admits corruption and some few other offences to be such as ought to be impeachable; but thought the
cases ought to be enumerated and defined.
Mr. MADISON thought it indispensable that some provision should be made for defending the Community against 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 and 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 altogether insignificant.
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 Governments should be
separate and independent; that the Executive and 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 behavior.
It is necessary therefore that a forum should be established for trying misbehavior. Was the Executive to hold his place during
good behavior? 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 appointment the same term of 6 years he would periodically be
tried for his behavior 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 behavior, 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 opportunities 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 and 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 of impeachment existed.
Dr. FRANKLIN mentioned the case of the Prince of Orange during the late war. An agreement was made between France
and Holland, by which their two fleets were to unite at a certain time and place. The Dutch fleet did not appear. Everybody
began to wonder at it. At length it was suspected that the Stat holder was at the bottom of the matter. This suspicion
prevailed more and 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 and contentions. Had he been impeachable, a regular and 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 Stat holder was not applicable. He held his place for life, and was not periodically
elected. In the former case impeachments are proper to secure good behavior. 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 and 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
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 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
foreign pay, without being able to guard against it by displacing him. One would think the King of England well secured
against 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 and 2nded to postpone the question of impeachments which was negatived. Massachusetts and South Carolina
only being aye. On the question, Shall the Executive be removable on impeachments etc.? Massachusetts, no; Connecticut,
aye; New Jersey, aye; Pennsylvania, aye; Delaware, aye; Maryland, aye; Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye; South Carolina,
no; Georgia, aye.
"Executive to receive fixed compensation." Agreed to nem con. "to be paid out of the National Treasury" agreed to, New
Jersey only in the negative.
Mr. GERRY and Govr. MORRIS moved, "that the Electors of the Executive shall not be members of the National
Legislature, nor officers of the United States, nor shall the Electors themselves be eligible to the supreme magistracy." Agreed
to nem con.
Dr. Mc.CLURG 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
against 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 great point.
Mr. WILSON thought that some additional directions to the Committee would 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.
|The Illinois Conservative