|Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
June 23, 1787
Saturday June 23, 1787
The 3rd. Resolution, resumed.
On 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 United States".
Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, no. New York, no. New Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, no. Maryland, aye.
Virginia, aye. North Carolina, no. South Carolina, no. Georgia, divided. So the question was lost, and the sentence not inserted.
Gen. 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 to which such a restriction would expose both the members of the 1st. branch, and
the States wishing for their services; from the smallness of the object to be attained by the restriction.
It would seem from the ideas of some that we are erecting a Kingdom to be divided against itself, he disapproved such a fetter
on the Legislature.
Mr. SHERMAN seconds the motion. It would seem that we are erecting a Kingdom at war with itself. The Legislature ought
not to fettered in such a case. on the question:
Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, aye. New York, aye. New Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania no. Delaware, no. Maryland, aye.
Virginia, aye. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, aye.
Mr. MADISON renewed his motion yesterday made and waved to render the members of the 1st. branch "ineligible during
their term of service, and for one year after, to such offices only as should be established, or the emoluments thereof,
augmented by the Legislature of the United 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, and that if the door was shut against them, it
might properly be left open for the appointment of members to other offices as an encouragement to the Legislative service.
Mr. Alex MARTIN seconded the motion.
Mr. BUTLER. The amendment does not go far enough and would 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, 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 and corruption in the British Parliament,
connected with the appointment of its members. He could 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 and 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 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 and most incorrupt period of life, and which all wise and free Governments had
deemed it sound policy, to cherish, not to check. The members of the Legislature have perhaps the hardest and least profitable
task of any who engage in the service of the state. Ought this merit to be made a disqualification?
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, and 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 would be sufficient inducements to the
public service without resorting to the prospect of desirable offices, and on the whole was rather against the motion of Mr.
Mr. GERRY thought there was great weight in the objection of Mr. Sherman. He added as another objection against 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 and cabal for their sons, brothers, etc, 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
The question was not to be viewed on one side only. The advantages and disadvantages on both ought to be fairly compared.
The objects to be aimed at were to fill all offices with the fittest characters, and to draw the wisest and 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 would the partialities of such Bodies
be obviated by disqualifying their own members. Candidates for office would hover round the seat of Government or be found
among the residents there, and practice 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
Government the evil must be still greater, the characters of distant states, being much less known throughout the Uunited
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 federal Government or in its neighborhood. 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 would also be more felt in
the National Government than in the State Governments as the sacrifices required
from the distant members would be much greater, and the pecuniary provisions, probably, more disproportionate.
It would 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 Virginia would probably have been without many of its best members, if in that
situation, they had been ineligible to Congress to the Government and other honorable offices of the State.
Mr. BUTLER thought Characters fit for office would 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 and improve their talents, and lay the train for their
Mr. JENIFER remarked that in Maryland, the Senators chosen for five years could hold no other office and that this
circumstance gained them the greatest confidence of the people.
On the question for agreeing to the motion of Mr. Madison.
Massachusetts, divided. Connecticut, aye. New York, no. New Jersey, ay. Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, no. Maryland, no.
Virginia, no. North Carolina, no. South Carolina, no. Georgia, no.
Mr. SHERMAN moved to insert the words, "and incapable of holding" after the words "eligible to offices" which was agreed
to without opposition.
The word "established" and the words " National Government” were struck out of Resolution 3d.:
Mr. SPAIGHT called for a division of the question, in consequence of which it was so put, as that it turned in the first
member of it, "on the ineligibility of the members during the term for which they were elected"-whereon the States were.
Massachusetts, divided. Connecticut, aye. New York, aye. New Jersey, ay. Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, aye. Maryland, aye.
Virginia, aye. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, no.
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 against 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 could not be prevented--as
by proxies-- by friends holding for a year, and them opening the way etc,. Mr. RUTLIDGE admitted the possibility of
evasions but was for controlling them as possible.
Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, no. New York, aye. New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania, divided. Delaware, aye. Maryland, aye.
Virginia, no. North Carolina, no. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, no.
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