Skip to comments.Journal of the Federal Convention June 26th 1787
Posted on 06/26/2011 3:37:17 AM PDT by Jacquerie
On the Precipice of Democracy. Madison Speech. Fourth Resolution. Length of Terms. Lifetime? Purpose of Second Branch. Six Year Terms. Senatorial Salaries. Who pays? Minimum Wealth Requirement. Subsequent Office Eligibility. Fifth Resolution, Originating Acts.
The duration of the 2d. branch [FN1] under consideration.
Mr. GHORUM moved to fill the blank with "six years," one third of the members to go out every second year.
Mr. WILSON 2ded. the motion.
Genl. PINKNEY opposed six years in favor of four years. The States he said had different interests. Those of the Southern, and of S. Carolina in particular were different from the Northern. If the Senators should be appointed for a long term, they wd. settle in the State where they exercised their functions; and would in a little time be rather the representatives of that than of the State appointg. them.
Mr. READ movd. that the term be nine years. This wd. admit of a very convenient rotation, one third going out triennially. He wd. still prefer "during good behaviour," but being little supported in that idea, he was willing to take the longest term that could be obtained.
Mr. BROOME 2ded. the motion.
Mr. MADISON. In order to judge of the form to be given to this institution, it will be proper to take a view of the ends to be served by it. These were first to protect the people agst. their rulers: secondly to protect the people agst. the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led. A people deliberating in a temperate moment, and with the experience of other nations before them, on the plan of Govt. most likely to secure their happiness, would first be aware, that those chargd. with the public happiness, might betray their trust. An obvious precaution agst. this danger wd. be to divide the trust between different bodies of men, who might watch & check each other. In this they wd. be governed by the same prudence which has prevailed in organizing the subordinate departments of Govt., where all business liable to abuses is made to pass thro' separate hands, the one being a check on the other. It wd. next occur to such a people, that they themselves were liable to temporary errors, thro' want of information as to their true interest, and that men chosen for a short term, & employed but a small portion of that in public affairs, might err from the same cause. This reflection wd. naturally suggest that the Govt. be so constituted, as that one of its branches might have an oppy. of acquiring a competent knowledge of the public interests.
Another reflection equally becoming a people on such an occasion, wd. be that they themselves, as well as a numerous body of Representatives, were liable to err also, from fickleness and passion. A necessary fence agst. this danger would be to select a portion of enlightened citizens, whose limited number, and firmness might seasonably interpose agst. impetuous councils. It ought finally to occur to a people deliberating on a Govt. for themselves, that as different interests necessarily result from the liberty meant to be secured, the major interest might under sudden impulses be tempted to commit injustice on the minority. In all civilized Countries the people fall into different classes havg a real or supposed difference of interests. There will be creditors & debtors, farmers, merchts. & manufacturers. There will be particularly the distinction of rich & poor. It was true as had been observd. [by Mr. Pinkney] we had not among us those hereditary distinctions, of rank which were a great source of the contests in the ancient Govts. as well as the modern States of Europe, nor those extremes of wealth or poverty which characterize the latter. We cannot however be regarded even at this time, as one homogeneous mass, in which every thing that affects a part will affect in the same manner the whole.
In framing a system which we wish to last for ages, we shd. not lose sight of the changes which ages will produce. An increase of population will of necessity increase the proportion of those who will labour under all the hardships of life, & secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings.
These may in time outnumber those who are placed above the feelings of indigence. According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the former. No agrarian attempts have yet been made in in this Country, but symtoms, of a leveling spirit, as we have understood, have sufficiently appeared in a certain quarters to give notice of the future danger. How is this danger to be guarded agst. on republican principles? How is the danger in all cases of interested coalitions to oppress the minority to be guarded agst.? Among other means by the establishment of a body in the Govt. sufficiently respectable for its wisdom & virtue, to aid on such emergences, the preponderance of justice by throwing its weight into that scale. Such being the objects of the second branch in the proposed Govt. he thought a considerable duration ought to be given to it. He did not conceive that the term of nine years could threaten any real danger; but in pursuing his particular ideas on the subject, he should require that the long term allowed to the 2d. branch should not commence till such a period of life, as would render a perpetual disqualification to be re-elected little inconvenient either in a public or private view. He observed that as it was more than probable we were now digesting a plan which in its operation wd. decide for ever the fate of Republican Govt. we ought not only to provide every guard to liberty that its preservation cd. require, but be equally careful to supply the defects which our own experience had particularly pointed out.
Mr. SHERMAN. Govt. is instituted for those who live under it. It ought therefore to be so constituted as not to be dangerous to their liberties. The more permanency it has the worse if it be a bad Govt. Frequent elections are necessary to preserve the good behavior of rulers. They also tend to give permanency to the Government, by preserving that good behavior, because it ensures their re-election. In Connecticut elections have been very frequent, yet great stability & uniformity both as to persons & measures have been experienced from its original establishmt. to the present time; a period of more than 130 years. He wished to have provision made for steadiness & wisdom in the system to be adopted; but he thought six or four years would be sufficient. He shd. be content with either.
Mr. READ wished it to be considered by the small States that it was their interest that we should become one people as much as possible; that State attachments shd. be extinguished as much as possible; that the Senate shd. be so constituted as to have the feelings of Citizens of the whole.
Mr. HAMILTON. He did not mean to enter particularly into the subject. He concurred with Mr. Madison in thinking we were now to decide for ever the fate of Republican Government; and that if we did not give to that form due stability and wisdom, it would be disgraced & lost among ourselves, disgraced & lost to mankind for ever. He acknowledged himself not to think favorably of Republican Government; but addressed his remarks to those who did think favorably of it, in order to prevail on them to tone their Government as high as possible. He professed himself to be as zealous an advocate for liberty as any man whatever, and trusted he should be as willing a martyr to it though he differed as to the form in which it was most eligible. -He concurred also in the general observations of [Mr. Madison] on the subject, which might be supported by others if it were necessary. It was certainly true: that nothing like an equality of property existed: that an inequality would exist as long as liberty existed, and that it would unavoidably result from that very liberty itself. This inequality of property constituted the great & fundamental distinction in Society. When the Tribunitial power had levelled the boundary between the patricians & plebeians, what followed? The distinction between rich & poor was substituted. He meant not however to enlarge on the subject. He rose principally to remark that [Mr. Sherman] seemed not to recollect that one branch of the proposed Govt. was so formed, as to render it particularly the guardians of the poorer orders of Citizens; nor to have adverted to the true causes of the stability which had been exemplified in Cont. Under the British system as well as the federal, many of the great powers appertaining to Govt. particularly all those relating to foreign Nations were not in the hands of the Govt. there. Their internal affairs also were extremely simple, owing to sundry causes many of which were peculiar to that Country. Of late the Govermt. had entirely given way to the people, and had in fact suspended many of its ordinary functions in order to prevent those turbulent scenes which had appeared elsewhere. He asks Mr. S. whether the State at this time, dare impose & collect a tax on ye. people? To these causes & not to the frequency of elections, the effect, as far as it existed ought to be chiefly ascribed.
Mr. GERRY. wished we could be united in our ideas concerning a permanent Govt. All aim at the same end, but there are great differences as to the means. One circumstance He thought should be carefully attended to. There were not 1/1000 part of our fellow citizens who were not agst. every approach towards Monarchy. Will they ever agree to a plan which seems to make such an approach. The Convention ought to be extremely cautious in what they hold out to the people. Whatever plan may be proposed will be espoused with warmth by many out of respect to the quarter it proceeds from as well as from an approbation of the plan itself. And if the plan should be of such a nature as to rouse a violent opposition, it is easy to foresee that discord & confusion will ensue, and it is even possible that we may become a prey to foreign powers. He did not deny the position of Mr. Madison, that the majority will generally violate justice when they have an interest in so doing; But did not think there was any such temptation in this Country. Our situation was different from that of G. Britain: and the great body of lands yet to be parcelled out & settled would very much prolong the difference. Notwithstanding the symtoms of injustice which had marked many of our public Councils, they had not proceeded so far as not to leave hopes, that there would be a sufficient sense of justice & virtue for the purpose of Govt. He admitted the evils arising from a frequency of elections: and would agree to give the Senate a duration of four or five years. A longer term would defeat itself. It never would be adopted by the people.
Mr. WILSON did not mean to repeat what had fallen from others, but wd. add an observation or two which he believed had not yet been suggested. Every nation may be regarded in two relations 1. [FN2] to its own citizens. 2 [FN2] to foreign nations. It is therefore not only liable to anarchy & tyranny within, but has wars to avoid & treaties to obtain from abroad. The Senate will probably be the depositary of the powers concerning the latter objects. It ought therefore to be made respectable in the eyes of foreign Nations. The true reason why G. Britain has not yet listened to a commercial treaty with us has been, because she had no confidence in the stability or efficacy of our Government. 9 years with a rotation, will provide these desirable qualities; and give our Govt. an advantage in this respect over Monarchy itself. In a monarchy much must always depend on the temper of the man. In such a body, the personal character will be lost in the political. He wd add another observation. The popular objection agst. appointing any public body for a long term was that it might by gradual encroachments prolong itself first into a body for life, and finally become a hereditary one. It would be a satisfactory answer to this objection that as 1/3 would go out triennially, there would be always three divisions holding their places for unequal terms, [FN3] and consequently acting under the influence of different views, and different impulses-On the question for 9 years, 1/3 to go out triennially
Massts. no. Cont. no. N. Y. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. ay. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. [FN4]
On the question for 6 years 1/3 to go out biennially Massts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. no. [FN5]
[FN6]"To receive fixt stipends by which they may be compensated for their services." [FN7]considered
General PINKNEY proposed "that no Salary should be allowed." As this [the Senatorial] branch was meant to represent the wealth of the Country, it ought to be composed of persons of wealth; and if no allowance was to be made the wealthy along would undertake the service. He moved to strike out the clause.
Doctr. FRANKLIN seconded the motion. He wished the Convention to stand fair with the people. There were in it a number of young men who would probably be of the Senate. If lucrative appointments should be recommended we might be chargeable with having carved out places for ourselves. On the question, Masts. Connecticut [FN8] Pa. Md. S. Carolina ay. [FN10] N. Y. N. J. Del. Virga. N. C. Geo. no. [FN11]
Mr. WILLIAMSON moved to change the expression into these words towit "to receive a compensation for the devotion of their time to the public Service." The motion was seconded by Mr. Elseworth. And was [FN12] agreed to by all the States except S. Carola. It seemed to be meant only to get rid of the word "fixt" and leave greater room for modifying the provision on this point.
Mr. ELSEWORTH moved to strike out "to be paid out of the natil. Treasury" and insert "to be paid by their respective States." If the Senate was meant to strengthen the Govt. it ought to have the confidence of the States. The States will have an interest in keeping up a representation, and will make such provision for supporting the members as will ensure their attendance.
Mr. MADISON considered this [FN13] a departure from a fundamental principle, and subverting the end intended by allowing the Senate a duration of 6 years. They would if this motion should be agreed to, hold their places during pleasure; during the pleasure of the State Legislatures. One great end of the institution was, that being a firm, wise and impartial body, it might not only give stability to the Genl. Govt. in its operations on individuals, but hold an even balance among different States. The motion would make the Senate like Congress, the mere Agents & Advocates of State interests & views, instead of being the impartial umpires & Guardians of justice and [FN14] general Good. Congs. had lately by the establishment of a board with full powers to decide on the mutual claims be- between the U. States & the individual States, fairly acknowledged themselves to be unfit for discharging this part of the business referred to them by the Confederation.
Mr. DAYTON considered the payment of the Senate by the States as fatal to their independence. he was decided for paying them out of the Natl. Treasury.
On the question for payment of the Senate to be left to the States as moved by Mr. Elseworth. [FN15]
Massts. no. Cont. ay. N. Y. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. [FN16]
Col. MASON. He did not rise to make any motion, but to hint an idea which seemed to be proper for consideration. One important object in constituting the Senate was to secure the rights of property. To give them weight & firmness for this purpose, a considerable duration in office was thought necessary. But a longer term than 6 years, would be of no avail in this respect, if needy persons should be appointed. He suggested therefore the propriety of annexing to the office a qualification of property. He thought this would be very practicable; as the rules of taxation would supply a scale for measuring the degree of wealth possessed by every man.
A question was then taken whether the words "to be paid out of the public [FN17] treasury," should stand."
Massts. ay. Cont. no. N. Y. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. [FN18]
Mr. BUTLER moved to strike out the ineligibility of Senators to State offices.
Mr. WILLIAMSON seconded the motion.
Mr. WILSON remarked the additional dependence this wd create in the Senators on the States. The longer the time he observed allotted to the officer, the more compleat will be the dependance, if it exists at all.
Genl. PINKNEY was for making the States as much as could be conveniently done, a part of the Genl. Govt.: If the Senate was to be appointed by the States, it ought in pursuance of the same idea to be paid by the States: and the States ought not to be barred from the opportunity of calling members of it into offices at home. Such a restriction would also discourage the ablest men from going into the Senate.
Mr. WILLIAMSON moved a resolution so penned as to admit of the two following questions. 1. [FN19] whether the members of the Senate should be ineligible to & incapable of holding offices under the U. States 2. [FN19] Whether &c. under the particular States.
On the Question to postpone in order to consider [FN20] Williamson's Resoln. Masts. no. Cont. ay. N. Y. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. [FN21]
Mr. GERRY & Mr. MADISON-move to add to Mr. Williamsons 1, [FN19] Quest: "and for 1 year thereafter." On this amendt.
Masts. no. Cont. ay. N. Y. ay. N. J. no. P. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. no. [FN22]
On Mr. Will-son's 1 Question as amended. vz. inelig: & incapable &c. &c for 1 year &c. agd. [FN23] unanimously.
On the 2. [FN24] question as to ineligibility &c. to State offices. [FN25]
Mas. ay. Ct. no. N. Y. no. N. J. no. P. ay. Del. no. Md. no. Va. ay. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. [FN26]
The 5. [FN27] Resol: "that each branch have the right of originating acts" was agreed to nem: con:
FN1 The word "being" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN2 The figures "1" and "2" are changed to "first" and "secondly" in the transcript.
FN3 The word "times" is substituted in the transcript for "terms."
FN4 In the transcript the vote reads: "Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, aye- 3; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-8."
FN5 In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, aye-7; New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, Georgia, no-4."
FN6 The words "The clause of the fourth Resolution" are here inserted in the transcript.
FN7 The word "being" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN8 Quer. whether Connecticut should not be-no, & Delaware, ay. [FN29]
FN9 An interrogation mark and the initials "J.M." are here inserted in the transcript. According to the Journal, Connecticut was "ay" and Delaware "no."
FN10 The figure "5" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN11 The figure "6" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN12 The word "was" is omitted in the transcript.
FN13 The word "as" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN14 The word "the" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN15 The phrase "it passed in the negative" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN16 In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, Georgia, aye-5; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, no-6."
FN17 The word "public" is changed to "national" in the transcript.
FN18 In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, aye-5; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-6."
FN19 The figures "1" and "2" are changed to "first" and "secondly" in the transcript.
FN20 The word "Mr." is here inserted in the transcript.
FN21 In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye-8; Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, no-3."
FN22 In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, ay-7; Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia, no-4."
FN23 The word "to" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN24 The figure "2" is changed to "second" in the transcript.
FN25 The transcript italicizes the words "State offices."
FN26 In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, aye-3; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-8."
FN27 The figure "5" is changed to "fifth" in the transcript.
Senate term lengths continued, Resolution 4.
4 Resolved. That the members of the second Branch of the national Legislature ought to be chosen by the individual Legislatures. to be of the age of thirty years at least. to hold their offices for a term sufficient to ensure their independency, namely seven years. to receive fixed stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service-to be paid out of the National Treasury to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States (except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the second branch) during the term of service, and under the national government, for the space of one year after it's expiration.
Nathaniel Gorham (MA) proposed once again six year terms with turnover of one third every two years.
James Wilson (PA) seconded.
General Pinckney (SC) returned to four year terms. (Interesting view here.) He was concerned that Senators would eventually forget the interests of their home states and eventually become creatures of the state in which the US capital would reside. (How often do we complain of legislators becoming creatures of Washington DC?)
Judge George Read (DE) favored lifetime appointments, but would accept nine year terms under good behavior.
James Madison (VA) urged the delegates to consider the purpose of the Senate before shaping its form. It was to protect the people from their government and themselves. The experienced men of government at the convention were aware of possible legislative corruption. Two houses, each a check on the other, were necessary. One of short terms, the other of longer terms with which to achieve deeper understanding of public interests.
It was here that Mr. Madison outlined again the purpose of the Constitutional Convention. Under the Articles, the states were veering into wild democracy in which majority interests trampled the minority. The revolutionary republican spirit placed too much power into the hands of the people. Among the dangers fostered by the Articles were paper money, tax holidays, and suspension of debts. It was feared the union would fragment into three or more confederacies or the people would demand a return of monarchy to bring order to society.
(My FRiends, we are in a similar position now. For almost a hundred years, our Senate has been elected by the people. States are moving toward popular election of the President. Most States have developed easy referenda provisions to allow the people to make laws and constitutional amendments. As in 1787, we suffer from an excess of democracy, in which the many violate the Natural Rights of the few. Popular government has given us wealth redistribution, onerous labor and employment laws, and a failing currency. When society collapses, the call will be for the regime to do something. That something I fear, will not be a return to Constitutional principles. Mr. Madison feared a future leveling spirit, what we call today the welfare, redistributionist state unless the Senate was structured to be above populist emotions. The Senate functioned largely as planned, until popular will was substituted for wisdom with the 17th Amendment.)
Mr. Madison preferred a single, long, senatorial term of nine years. It was long enough to ensure independence, but when limited to one term, short enough to avoid becoming a creature of the general government.
Roger Sherman (CN) acknowledged the pull between longer term lengths for stability and shorter terms to remind the Senators whom they work for. He offered the 130 year experience of CN as an example. He supported four or six year terms.
Judge George Read (DE) said it was in the interests of the small states to foster national unity among the people.
Alexander Hamilton (NY) believed the fate of the union was at stake. Although he did not especially support republican government, he was as strong an advocate for liberty as any man. As long as liberty existed there would be inequalities of property. He painted a quick picture of too much democracy in the states and asked Mr. Sherman if CN would dare to impose and collect a tax.
Elbridge Gerry (MA) reminded the convention that while they shared the same goals, they differed on the means. Only a tiny minority favored a return to monarchy. Whatever the convention recommended would carry great weight, so they had to be careful. OTOH, a plan that engendered violent opposition may see the end of the union and possible domination by European powers. Immigration into western lands would minimize the tendency toward majority abuse. The people would not accept any more than 4-5 year terms.
James Wilson (PA) remarked that since the Senate would likely have powers regarding treaties and wars it ought to be made respectable in the eyes of other nations. Great Britain could not be bothered to negotiate a commercial treaty because our government was unstable. (How true. GB still occupied forts in the NW Territory despite the 1783 treaty because her creditors could not sue in American state courts.) Nine year terms would therefore placate fears of an eventual hereditary house, and render the body respectable to foreign nations.
Six year terms with one third rotation every two years passed 7-4.
Next up, To receive fixt stipends by which they may be compensated for their services."
General Pinckney (SC) moved to strike the clause and prevent salaries. The Senate was designed to represent the wealth of the country. (I have to say this suggestion has appeal. One of the problems we have today is exactly what Madison feared, majority interests voting to relieve others of their wealth. A Senate of independently wealthy individuals would be more inclined to resist populist notions emanating from the House)
Dr. Benjamin Franklin (PA),( who was always on the lookout for corruption) seconded General Pinckney (SC). Many members of the convention would likely end up in the Senate. It would be improper for them to feather their own nests.
The motion to deny Senatorial salaries was defeated 6-5.
Hugh Williamson (NC) wished to remove fixed from the resolution to allow for varied salaries.
Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) thought state issued salaries would help keep up an interest in sending Senators. (This was reference to a problem under the Confederacy. Congressional delegates often did not bother to attend. Sometimes, months would go by without a quorum to conduct business. Anarchy is not government.)
James Madison (VA) opposed. It would make the Senators mere agents of the states and incapable of considering the good of the nation.
Jonathan Dayton (NJ) also viewed state payment of Senatorial salaries as fatal to their independence.
By a 6-5 vote, Senatorial salaries would not be paid by state governments.
George Mason (VA) did not make a motion, but stated that a qualification of property of some sort should be attached to Senatorial appointments. It they were to protect the wealth of the country, they should possess a certain amount themselves.
By a 6-5 vote, Senatorial salaries would not be paid by the national government.
Pierce Butler (SC) and Hugh Williamson (NC) wished to allow Senators to hold concurrent state offices.
James Wilson (PA) opposed concurrent offices because it would increase Senatorial dependence on the states.
General Pinckney (SC) was for making the states a part of the general government as much as possible, yet he supported state salaries for Senators, and the option of state recall of their Senators to serve in state offices. Such restrictions would discourage the best men.
Pierce Butler (SC)s motion to strike out ineligibility of Senators to hold state offices was postponed in order to consider Mr. Williamsons motion.
Hugh Williamson (NC) motioned to question whether Senators could hold simultaneous offices under the US or State governments.
Elbridge Gerry (MA) and James Madison (VA) motioned to add and one year thereafter, which passed 7-4.
Hugh Williamsons motion against simultaneous service as Senator and officer of the US or state governments during, and for one year after leaving the Senate passed unanimously.
A motion for each branch of Congress to initiate acts (Resolution 5) was agreed to without opposition
For Repeal The 17th, see Madison's description of the purpose of the Senate and what it was designed to prevent.
Well here we are discussing senatorial salaries, and once again Madison (and his buddy Hamilton of course) want national salaries for Senators, lest states have any real power under the new system. It barely passed.
Look at the Senate today. It is exactly what Madison and Hamilton wanted. Members serve for decades. It is slow, unresponsive to the people, and serves most of all to guard national power and prerogative from the people or the states.
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