|Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
June 22, 1787
Friday June 22, 1787
The clause in Resolution 3. "to receive fixed stipends to be paid out of the National Treasury" considered.
Mr. ELSEWORTH, moved to substitute payment by the States out of their own Treasuries, observing that the manners of
different States were very different in the style 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 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 expenses of men who would be employed in thwarting their measures and 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 by the constitutions, because we could not venture to make it as liberal as it ought to be without
exciting an enmity against the whole plan. Let the National Legislature 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 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 and justice to that consideration. If the States were to pay the members of the
National Legislature, a dependence would be created that would vitiate the whole System. The whole nation has an interest in
the attendance and services of the members. The National Treasury therefore is the proper fund for supporting them.
Mr. KING, urged the danger of creating a dependence on the States by leaving to them the payment of the members of the
National Legislature. He supposed it would be best to be explicit as to the compensation to be allowed. A reserve on that point,
or a reference to the National 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 against 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 National Government should be left as independent as possible of the
State Governments in all respects.
Mr. MADISON concurred in the necessity of preserving the compensations for the National Government independent of the
State Governments but at the same time approved of fixing them by the Constitution, which might be done by taking a
standard which would not vary with circumstances. He disliked particularly the policy suggested by Mr. Williamson of leaving
the members from the poor States beyond the Mountains, to the precarious and parsimonious support of their constituents. If
the Western States hereafter arising should be admitted into the Union, they ought to be considered as equals and 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 [the] inconveniency from fixing the wages. He was strenuous against 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
traveling to and from the seat of the Government. He expatiated emphatically on the difference between the feelings and views
of the people and the Governments of the States arising from the personal interest and official inducements which must
render the latter unfriendly to the General Govt.
Mr. WILSON moved that the Salaries of the 1st branch "be ascertained by the National Legislature," and be paid out of the
Mr. MADISON, thought the members of the Legislature too much interested to ascertain their own compensation. It would
be indecent to put their hands into the public purse for the sake of their own pockets.
On this question Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, no. New York, divided. New Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, no.
Maryland, no. Virginia, no. North Carolina, no. South Carolina, no. Georgia, divided.
On the question for striking out "National Treasury" as moved by Mr.. Elseworth.
Mr. HAMILTON renewed his opposition to it. He pressed the distinction between State Governments and the people. The
former would be the rivals of the General Government. The State legislatures ought not therefore to be the paymasters of the
Mr. ELSEWORTH. If we are jealous of the State Governments they will be so of us. If on going home I tell them we gave
the General Government such powers because we could not trust you, will they adopt it, and without your approbation? It is
Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, aye. New York, divided. New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, no. Maryland, no.
Virginia, no. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, divided.
On a question for substituting "adequate compensation" in place of "fixed 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 National Treasury." It was objected to as out of order, the parts having been separately decided on. The President
referred the question of order to the House, and it was determined to be in order.
Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, aye. New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia,
Georgia, no. Massachusetts, divided. The question on the sentence was then postponed by South 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 today 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 and erroneous to merit an influence on public measures. It had been said that
Congress 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 expense of their own education.
Mr. WILSON was against 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 choosing. 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".
Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, aye. New York, divided New Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, aye. Maryland, aye.
Virginia, aye. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, no.
Mr. GHORUM moved to strike out the last part of Resolution 3, concerning ineligibility of members of the 1st. branch to
offices during the term of their membership and for one year after. He considered it as unnecessary and injurious. It was true
abuses had been displayed in Great Britain but no one could say how far they might have contributed to preserve the due
influence of the Government nor what might have ensued in case the contrary theory had been tried.
Mr. BUTLER opposed it. This precaution against intrigue was necessary. He appealed to the example of Great Britain where
men got into Parliament that they might get offices for themselves or their friends. This was the source of the corruption that
ruined their Government.
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
Mr. WILSON was against fettering elections, and discouraging merit. He suggested also the fatal consequence in time of
war, of rendering perhaps the best Commanders ineligible; appealing 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 against corruption. He enlarged on the venality and abuses in this
particular in Great Britain, and alluded to the multiplicity of foreign Embassies by Congress. 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 would be effect in Great Britain 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, an essential part of the weight which maintained the
equilibrium of the Constitution.
On Mr. Ghorum's Motion for striking out "ineligibility,"
Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, no. New York, divided. New Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania, divided. Delaware, divided,
Maryland, no. Virginia, no. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, no. Georgia, aye.
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