Article VI Section 2 was taken up. The Legislature of the United States shall have authority to establish such uniform qualifications of the members of each House, with regard to property, as to the said Legislature shall seem expedient.
Charles Pinckney (SC) noted the Committee of Detail was not able to draft a recommendation as to property qualifications. The first Constitutional Congress would perhaps meet without a standard. If composed of either rich or poor men, they could set the standard. He opposed an undue Aristocratic influence, but still favored some amount of wealth in order to remain independent and respectable. Much will be entrusted to the Executive, Legislative and Judicial members; should they not have large stakes in the wise administration of the Government?
Mr. Pinckney motioned to fix the minimum net worth of the President at one hundred thousand dollars, and half or so for Judges and something appropriately less for members of Congress.
John Rutlidge (SC) (a member of the Committee of Detail) seconded and observed the Committee could not come to an agreement among themselves.
Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) brought up that changes as to new states and moving centers of wealth could not be predicted. He did not support either uniform or fixed qualifications. Leave them to Congress.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin (PA) (offered his usual wisdom) ridiculed the notion that wealth promoted honesty. Some of the greatest rogues he was ever acquainted with, were the richest rogues. Be careful not to be partial to men of wealth.
Mr. Pinckneys motion was defeated.
James Madison (VA) vociferously rejected Congressionally determined wealth qualifications as a dangerous power. The standard should be in the Constitution, for if not, Congress could subvert the Constitution if it could determine the qualifications of both electors and elected. A Republic could thus be transformed into an Aristocracy or Oligarchy. If I correctly read the rest of his comments, Madison knew there was a tendency for elected officials to feather their nests and impair potential opponents.
Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) did not view the Section as dangerous.
Governeur Morris (PA) moved to strike with regard to property. Each house would have carte blanche to determine any and all qualifications of its members. (Bad idea)
Hugh Williamson (NC) was aghast. He predicted Congress would be composed of lawyers and would fix elections to favor their kind. (Again and again, our Framers as a group were concerned with, and strove to prevent structural corruption in our governing document.)
James Madison (VA) reminded all of the British Parliaments power to set qualifications of both electors and elected. It was done to secure their positions. (What percentage of laws is designed to keep incumbents in office?)
On the motion to strike, with regard to property, it failed to pass, 6-4.
John Rutlidge (SC) hit on the solution; make the qualifications that of those in the State Legislatures.
James Wilson (PA) thought it best to delete the section entirely.
On the question to accept Section 2 of Article VI, The Legislature of the United States shall have authority to establish such uniform qualifications of the members of each House, with regard to property, as to the said Legislature shall seem expedient, it failed 7-3.
James Wilson (PA) motioned to reconsider Article IV Section 2 for the purpose of returning to a three year citizenship (v. seven) requirement for election to the House of Representatives.
Mr. Wilsons motion passed 6-5. Article IV Section 2 would be reconsidered the following Monday.
Article VI Section 3 was next. In each House a majority of the members shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day.
Nathaniel Gorham (MA) (touched on an issue that plagued Congress under the Articles of Confederation. So many members declined to attend sessions that business was often stymied for months at a time) thought something less than a majority should constitute a quorum.
John Mercer (MD) would also make do with less than a majority. He used the word secession, for under the Articles of Confederation, States could de facto secede from the Union simply by not attending Congress. Mr. Mercer favored the method of Parliament, where the number is small.
George Mason (VA) cautioned that a majority was the right standard because our country was large, the various interests would grow even larger and distant parts must be represented. Why allow States nearby to the seat of government to commandeer Congressional sessions? Such a rule prevented paper money in VA. It was possible, given the extreme case, to form Juntos.
Rufus King (MA) admitted some danger but would accept it.
Governeur Morris (PA) moved to fix the minimum for a quorum at thirty three in the House and fourteen in the Senate. (There is that word, secession again) He saw even the threat of secession as a tool that could be use to extort concessions.
(I believe this is the only Convention reference to State secession from the future Constitutional Union.)
John Mercer (MD) seconded Mr. Morris.
Rufus King (MA) said he just prepared another method to achieve the same results that would allow for increased membership.
John Mercer (MD) agreed to the substitution.
Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) opposed fixed numbers and proffered that each house be authorized to demand member attendance.
James Wilson (PA) concurred.
Elbridge Gerry (MA) proposed further hard numbers of Reps and Senators to conduct business.
On the question to amend Article VI Section 3 to read, not less than 33 members of the House of representatives, nor less that 14 members of the Senate, shall constitute a quorum to do business; a smaller number in either House may adjourn from day to day, but the number necessary to form such quorum may be increased by an act of the Legislature on the addition of members in either branch, failed 9-2.
Governor Edmund Randolph and James Madison (VA) motioned to add to the end of Art. VI. Sect 3, "and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members in such manner & under such penalties as each House may provide." It was agreed to, 10-0-1.
Article VI Section 3 as amended, was agreed to without opposition.
Sections 4 & 5 of Article VI were agreed to.
Section 6 of Article VI. Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings; may punish its members for disorderly behaviour; and may expel a member, was debated next.
James Madison (VA) thought a mere majority (or less) to expel a member would be abused. He motioned to insert with the concurrence of 2/3 between may and expel.
Governor Edmund Randolph and George Mason (VA) approved.
Governeur Morris (PA) would trust the majority. There was room for abuse by minorities to retain the dirtbags.
Daniel Carroll (MD) agreed with Mr. Madison and would require at least 2/3 majority.
On Mr. Madisons 2/3 motion, it passed 10-0-1.
The amended Section 6 of Article VI passed without opposition.
Article VI Section 7, The House of Representatives, and the Senate, when it shall be acting in a legislative capacity, shall keep a journal of their proceedings, and shall, from time to time, publish them: and the yeas and nays of the members of each House, on any question, shall at the desire of one-fifth part of the members present, be entered on the journal, was up.
Governeur Morris (PA) motioned and Mr. Randolph seconded, that yeas and nays be recorded any time a single member requested. Small States would be at a disadvantage with a 20% requirement.
Roger Sherman (CN) & Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) (apparently looking at the politics of recorded votes) would do away with recorded votes .
George Mason (VA) saw the existent wording an acceptable middle way.
Nathaniel Gorham (MA) was against the amendment; he saw abuses of such a rule in MA. There were too many recordations for frivolous votes and they could be used to mislead the people who would not know the reasons.
Mr. Morris motion to amend was disagreed to without opposition.
Daniel Carroll (MD) & Governor Edmund Randolph moved to strike each House, and insert the House of Representatives, and add to the end, "and any member of the Senate shall be at liberty to enter his dissent."
Governeur Morris (PA) and James Wilson (PA) opposed and thought it would fill the Journals with the equivalent of unnecessary objections, rejoinders, etc common to judicial proceedings.
Mr. Carrolls amendment failed to pass, 8-3.
Elbridge Gerry (MA) (These delegates didnt miss anything.) moved to delete, "when it shall be acting in its legislative capacity." Recorded votes should be available in advise and consent situations. He motioned to insert "except such parts thereof as in their judgment require secrecy" after the words "publish them."
Mr. Gerrys motion passed, 7-3-1
The topic of voter qualifications is a regular feature at FR.
What about qualifications of the people we put into office? Today, the Framers began from an assumption that some amount of wealth was appropriate for our President and lesser amounts for Senators and so on down to Congressmen and Judges. After all, wouldnt affluent men better defend property and contract rights? Maybe so, but great wealth was not synonymous with good character, as wittily summarized by Ben Franklin, Some of the greatest rogues he was ever acquainted with, were the richest rogues.
What of new States that would start off as subsistence agricultural societies? It takes time to build wealth and such a rule would invite Eastern carpetbaggers to immediately set up residency.
As usual with most issues, the Framers went round with various motions. Ranging from Congressionally determined dollars amounts of wealth, wealth fixed in the Constitution or perhaps wealth rules utilized by the States, they were initially puzzled. Finally, the delegates determined that sitting members would invariably set the wealth bar at a level designed to protect their seats and influence. James Madison was certain that minimum wealth standards would eventually transform the republic into an Aristocracy or Oligarchy. By a 7-3 vote, the clause was removed.
Once again, the Framers got it right.
Fascinating! Outstanding post! Thanks for your work, Jacquerie.