Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

by James Madison


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Friday, June 22

IN CONVENTION

The clause in Resol. 3.1 “to receive fixed stipends to be paid out of the Nationl. Treasury”2 considered.

Mr. ELSEWORTH, moved to substitute payment by the States out of their own Treasurys: observing that the manners of different States were very different in the Stile 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 be3 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 expences of men who would be employed in thwarting their measures & 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 compensations4 by the constitutions,4 because we could not venture to make it as liberal as it ought to be without exciting an enmity agst. the whole plan. Let the Natil. Legisl: 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. RANDOLPH5 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 & justice to that consideration. If the States were to pay the members of the Natl. Legislature, a dependence would be created that would vitiate the whole System. The whole nation has an interest in the attendance & services of the members. The Nationl. Treasury therefore is the proper fund for supporting them.

Mr. KING, urged the danger of creating a dependence on the States by leavg. to them the payment of the members of the Natl. Legislature. He supposed it wd. be best to be explicit as to the compensation to be allowed. A reserve on that point, or a reference to the Natl. 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 agst. 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 Natl. Govt. should be left as independent as possible of the State Govts. in all respects.

Mr. MADISON concurred in the necessity of preserving the compensations for the Natl. Govt. independent on the State Govts. but at the same time approved of fixing them by the Constitution, which might be done by taking a standard which wd. not vary with circumstances. He disliked particularly the policy suggested by Mr. Wiliamson of leaving the members from the poor States beyond the Mountains, to the precarious & parsimonious support of their constituents. If the Western States hereafter arising should be admitted into the Union, they ought to be considered as equals & 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 inconveniency6 from fixing the wages. He was strenuous agst. 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 travelling to & from the seat of the7 Govt. He expatiated emphatically on the difference between the feelings & views of the people-& the Governments of the States arising from the personal interest & official inducements which must render the latter unfriendly to the Genl. Govt.

Mr. WILSON moved that the Salaries of the 1st. branch “be ascertained by the National Legislature,”8 and be paid out of the Natl. Treasury.

Mr. MADISON, thought the members of the Legisl. too much interested to ascertain their own compensation. It wd. be indecent to put their hands into the public purse for the sake of their own pockets.

On this question9 Mas. no. Cont. no. N. Y. divd. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. divd..10

On the question for striking out “Natl. Treasury” as moved by Mr. Elseworth.

Mr. HAMILTON renewed his opposition to it. He pressed the distinction between11State Govts. & the people. The former wd. be the rivals of the Genl. Govt. The State legislatures ought not therefore to be the paymasters of the latter.

Mr. ELSEWORTH. If we are jealous of the State Govts. they will be so of us. If on going home I tell them we gave the Gen: Govt. such powers because we cd. not trust you, will they adopt it, and witht. yr. approbation it is a nullity.

12Massts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. divd.; N. J. no Pena. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo.divd.13 14

On a question for substituting “adequate compensation” in place of “fixt 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 Natl. Treasury.” It was objected to as out of order, the parts having been separately decided on. The Presidt. referd. the question of order to the House, and it was determined to be in order. Con. N. J. Del. Md. N. C. S. C.-ay-15 N. Y. Pa. Va. Geo. no-15 Mass: divided. The question on the sentence was then postponed by S. 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 to day 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 & erroneous to merit an influence on public measures. It had been said that Congs. 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 expence of their own education.

Mr. WILSON was agst. 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 chusing. 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”

Massts. no. Cont. ay. N. Y. divd. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. no.16

Mr. GHORUM moved to strike out the last member of 3 Resol:17 concerning ineligibility of members of the 1st. branch to offices18 during the term of their membership & for one year after. He considered it as19 unnecessary & injurious. It was true abuses had been displayed in G. B. but no one cd. say how far they might have contributed to preserve the due influence of the Govt. nor what might have ensued in case the contrary theory had been tried.

Mr. BUTLER opposed it. This precaution agst. intrigue was necessary. He appealed to the example of G. B. where men got20 into Parlt. that they might get offices for themselves or their friends. This was the source of the corruption that ruined their Govt.

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 made.

Mr. WILSON was agst. fettering elections, and discouraging merit. He suggested also the fatal consequence in time of war, of rendering perhaps the best Commanders ineligible: appealing21 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 agst. corruption. He enlarged on the venality and abuses in this particular in G. Britain: and alluded to the multiplicity of foreign Embassies by Congs. 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 wd be22 effect in G. B. 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,23 an essential part of the weight which maintained the equilibrium of the Constitution.

On Mr. Ghorum’s Motion for striking out “ineligibility,”24

Masts. ay. Cont. no. N. Y. divd. N. J. ay. Pa. divd. Del. divd. Mard. no. Va. no. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. ay.25

Adjd.


1 The words “the third Resolution” are substituted in the transcript for “Resol. 3.” Return to text

2 The word ‘being” is here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text

3 The word “too” is here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text

4 The transcript uses the words “conpensations” and “constitutions” in the singular.  Return to text

5 The words “said he” are here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text

6 The word “inconveniency” is changed to “inconvenience” in the transcript. Return to text

7 The word “the” is omitted in the transcript.  Return to text

8 The transcript does not italicize the phrase “be ascertained by the National Legislature.”  Return to text

9 The transcript here inserts the following: “shall the salaries of the first branch be ascertained by the National Legislature?”  Return to text

10 In the transcript the vote reads: “New Jersey, Pennsylvania, aye-2; Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, no-7; New York, Georgia, divided.”  Return to text

11 The word “the” is here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text

12 The words “On the question” are here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text

13 Note. [It appeared that Massts. concurred, not because they thought the State Treasy. ought to be substituted; but because they thought nothing should be said on the subject, in which case it wd. silently devolve on the Natl. Treasury to support the National Legislature.]  Return to text

14 In the transcript the vote reads: ‘Massachusetts, [see 13] Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina, aye-4; New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, no-5; New York, Georgia, divided, so it passed in the negative.”  Return to text

15 In the transcript the figures “6″ and “4″ are inserted after “ay” and “no” respectively.  Return to text

16 In the transcript the vote reads: “Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, aye-7; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Georgia, no-3; New York, divided.”  Return to text

17 The words “the third Resolution” are substituted in the transcript for “3 Resol:”  Return to text

18 The letter “s” is stricken out of the word “offices” in the transcript.  Return to text

19 The word “as” is stricken out in the transcript.  Return to text

20 The word “get” is substituted in the transcript for “got.”  Return to text

21 The word “appealed” is substituted in the transcript for “appealing.”  Return to text

22 The word “the” is here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text

23 The transcript italicizes the word “corruption.”  Return to text

24 The transcript here inserts the following: “it was lost by an equal division of the votes.”  Return to text

25 In the transcript the vote reads: “Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, aye-4; Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, no- 4; New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, divided.”  Return to text


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Contents

Introduction

The year was 1787. The place: the State House in Philadelphia. This is the story of the framing of the federal Constitution.

The Convention

Read the four-act drama and day-by-day summary by Gordon Lloyd, as well as Madison’s Notes on the Convention.

Interactive Map of Historic Philadelphia in the Late 18th Century

Learn about historic Philadelphia and where the founders stayed, ate, and met.

View Interactive

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