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Dr. Benjamin Franklin Statement to 1787 Constitutional Convention RE: Executive Salary
The Avalon Project Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy ^ | 1787 | Dr. Benjamin Franklin

Posted on 04/18/2010 5:02:58 PM PDT by dajeeps

Dr. B. Franklin

Madison Debates

Saturday June 2, 1787

IN COMMITTEE OF WHOLE

Sir. It is with reluctance that I rise to express a disapprobation of any one article of the plan for which we are so much obliged to the honorable gentleman who laid it before us. From its first reading I have borne a good will to it, and in general wished it success. In this particular of salaries to the Executive branch I happen to differ; and as my opinion may appear new and chimerical, it is only from a persuasion that it is right, and from a sense of duty that I hazard it. The Committee will judge of my reasons when they have heard them, and their judgment may possibly change mine. -I think I see inconveniences in the appointment of salaries; I see none in refusing them, but on the contrary, great advantages.

Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power, and the love of money. Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men, a post of honour that shall be at the same time a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it. The vast number of such places it is that renders the British Government so tempestuous. The struggles for them are the true sources of all those factions which are perpetually dividing the Nation, distracting its Councils, hurrying sometimes into fruitless & mischievous wars, and often compelling a submission to dishonorable terms of peace. And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable pre- eminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate; the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your Government and be your rulers. -And these too will be mistaken in the expected happiness of their situation: For their vanquished competitors of the same spirit, and from the same motives will perpetually be endeavouring to distress their administration, thwart their measures, and render them odious to the people.

Besides these evils, Sir, tho' we may set out in the beginning with moderate salaries, we shall find that such will not be of long continuance. Reasons will never be wanting for proposed augmentations. And there will always be a party for giving more to the rulers, that the rulers may be able in return to give more to them. -Hence as all history informs us, there has been in every State & Kingdom a constant kind of warfare between the governing & governed: the one striving to obtain more for its support, and the other to pay less. And this has alone occasioned great convulsions, actual civil wars, ending either in dethroning of the Princes, or enslaving of the people. Generally indeed the ruling power carries its point, the revenues of princes constantly increasing, and we see that they are never satisfied, but always in want of more. The more the people are discontented with the oppression of taxes; the greater need the prince has of money to distribute among his partizans and pay the troops that are to suppress all resistance, and enable him to plunder at pleasure. There is scarce a king in a hundred who would not, if he could, follow the example of Pharoah, get first all the peoples money, then all their lands, and then make them and their children servants for ever. It will be said, that we don't propose to establish Kings. I know it. But there is a natural inclination in mankind to Kingly Government. It sometimes relieves them from Aristocratic domination. They had rather have one tyrant than five hundred. It gives more of the appearance of equality among Citizens, and that they like. I am apprehensive therefore, perhaps too apprehensive, that the Government of these States, may in future times, end in a Monarchy. But this Catastrophe I think may be long delayed, if in our proposed System we do not sow the seeds of contention, faction & tumult, by making our posts of honor, places of profit. If we do, I fear that tho' we do employ at first a number, and not a single person, the number will in time be set aside, it will only nourish the foetus of a King, as the honorable gentleman from Virginia very aptly expressed it, and a King will the sooner be set over us.

It may be imagined by some that this is an Utopian Idea, and that we can never find men to serve us in the Executive department, without paying them well for their services. I conceive this to be a mistake. Some existing facts present themselves to me, which incline me to a contrary opinion. The high Sheriff of a County in England is an honorable office, but it is not a profitable one. It is rather expensive and therefore not sought for. But yet, it is executed and well executed, and usually by some of the principal Gentlemen of the County. In France, the office of Counsellor or Member of their Judiciary Parliaments is more honorable. It is therefore purchased at a high price: There are indeed fees on the law proceedings, which are divided among them, but these fees do not amount to more than three per Cent on the sum paid for the place. Therefore as legal interest is there at five per Ct. they in fact pay two per Ct. for being allowed to do the Judiciary business of the Nation, which is at the same time entirely exempt from the burden of paying them any salaries for their services. I do not however mean to recommend this as an eligible mode for our Judiciary department. I only bring the instance to shew that the pleasure of doing good & serving their Country and the respect such conduct entitles them to, are sufficient motives with some minds to give up a great portion of their time to the public, without the mean inducement of pecuniary satisfaction.

Another instance is that of a respectable Society who have made the experiment, and practised it with success more than an hundred years. I mean the Quakers. It is an established rule with them, that they are not to go to law; but in their controversies they must apply to their monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings. Committees of these sit with patience to hear the parties, and spend much time in composing their differences. In doing this, they are supported by a sense of duty, and the respect paid to usefulness. It is honorable to be so employed, but it was never made profitable by salaries, fees, or perquisites. And indeed in all cases of public service the less the profit the greater the honor. To bring the matter nearer home, have we not seen, the great and most important of our offices, that of General of our armies executed for eight years together without the smallest salary, by a Patriot whom I will not now offend by any other praise; and this through fatigues and distresses in common with the other brave men his military friends & Companions, and the constant anxieties peculiar to his station? And shall we doubt finding three or four men in all the U. States, with public spirit enough to bear sitting in peaceful Council for perhaps an equal term, merely to preside over our civil concerns, and see that our laws are duly executed. Sir, I have a better opinion of our Country. I think we shall never be without a sufficient number of wise and good men to undertake and execute well and faithfully the office in question.

Sir, The saving of the salaries that may at first be proposed is not an object with me. The subsequent mischiefs of proposing them are what I apprehend. And therefore it is, that I move the amendment. If it is not seconded or accepted I must be contented with the satisfaction of having delivered my opinion frankly and done my duty.

The motion was seconded by Col. HAMILTON with the view he said merely of bringing so respectable a proposition before the Committee, and which was besides enforced by arguments that had a certain degree of weight. No debate ensued, and the proposition was postponed for the consideration of the members. It was treated with great respect, but rather for the author of it, than from any apparent conviction of its expediency or practicability. Source: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_602.asp


TOPICS: Miscellaneous; Reference
KEYWORDS: godsgravesglyphs; history; wealthredistribution
I found this while doing some research for an essay. To me it seems like prophecy on the virge of being fulfilled and I thought I'd share it.
1 posted on 04/18/2010 5:02:58 PM PDT by dajeeps
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To: dajeeps; Publius

I think this post deserves a Book Ping!


2 posted on 04/18/2010 5:18:52 PM PDT by HuntsvilleTxVeteran ((B.?) Hussein (Obama?Soetoro?Dunham?) Change America Will Die From.)
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To: 21stCenturion

...


3 posted on 04/18/2010 5:52:54 PM PDT by 21stCenturion ("It's the Judges, Stupid !")
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To: dajeeps
For gosh sake, I was just reading about that this AM in Gordon Wood's The Radicalism of the American Revolution. "Disinterestedness" of this type was the "Republican" ideal, supposedly dating back to Cato in Rome. Did you know members of Parliament weren't paid until 1911( I assume Commons as well as Lords)?
4 posted on 04/18/2010 6:23:23 PM PDT by gusopol3
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To: dajeeps

Thanks for the post. I’ve always been in awe of Franklin’s role in the Constitutional Convention, but had never run across this quote.


5 posted on 04/18/2010 6:30:01 PM PDT by gitmo ( The democRats drew first blood. It's our turn now.)
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To: Dr. Brian Kopp

I find this very interesting. Too bad it was not adopted.


6 posted on 04/18/2010 6:42:51 PM PDT by little jeremiah
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To: little jeremiah

Nonsense. If government posts were unpaid, only the wealthy could afford to be involved. Which is exactly why the British didn’t pay members of Parliament until well into the 20th century. It kept the riff-raff out.

FWIW, when he was President Washington accepted his salary of $25,000. This was during a period when a reasonably decent salary was $500 to $1000 annually.

Depending on which method of adjustment one uses, this corresponds to $591,000.00 to $1,910,000,000.00 in 2009 dollars. Obama’s official salary is $400,000.

http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/result.php?use%5B%5D=DOLLAR&use%5B%5D=GDPDEFLATION&use%5B%5D=VCB&use%5B%5D=UNSKILLED&use%5B%5D=MANCOMP&use%5B%5D=NOMGDPCP&use%5B%5D=NOMINALGDP&year_source=1790&amount=25000&year_result=2009

Of the six numbers given, I suspect $11,600,000.00 is the closest approximation to equivalent value of Washington’s salary today. It is surprisingly difficult to compare prices and wages from one era to another.


7 posted on 04/18/2010 7:16:04 PM PDT by Sherman Logan
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To: Sherman Logan

“Nonsense. If government posts were unpaid, only the wealthy could afford to be involved. Which is exactly why the British didn’t pay members of Parliament until well into the 20th century. It kept the riff-raff out.

FWIW, when he was President Washington accepted his salary of $25,000. This was during a period when a reasonably decent salary was $500 to $1000 annually.

Depending on which method of adjustment one uses, this corresponds to $591,000.00 to $1,910,000,000.00 in 2009 dollars. Obama’s official salary is $400,000.”

Just a couple of observations:

1) With the way our political system currently works, salary is only a small part of the total wealth they realize while in office. I am in no way endorsing that as a substitute for pay, but the truth should not be avoided and should be dealt with in some way.

2) They should receive neither more the median national income nor tax-funded pensions that remove their personal interest in having to rely on the success of private investment for comfort in retirement. If they want a raise, then it would be in their interest to raise the national median income in effectal ways.

I do not agree that refusal of salary is a ploy to keep the riff-raff out. There have been periods over the last decade when either I or my husband was out of work and one stayed home with our son while the other worked. It isn’t a glamourous life style by any means, but we got by. Until Obama and his 40 thieves came along, it was possible to live off one modest income. Now, I’m not so certian but I don’t believe it is by design to keep average people out of politics.

Additionally, when George Washington became president, paper money was used (Colonials), and over used. Inflation was rampant, almost to the point of Weimar Republic kind of inflation. It’s almost impossible to compare the real value vs. nominal values as we really do not know what the buying power of that 25k was verses $25k today because the economy was in shambles along with trade.


8 posted on 04/18/2010 9:28:34 PM PDT by dajeeps
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To: StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1ofmanyfree; 21twelve; 240B; 24Karet; 2ndDivisionVet; ...

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Thanks dajeeps.

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9 posted on 04/22/2010 3:33:28 PM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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To: dajeeps
In Washington’s case salary was not a consideration, because of his immense personal wealth. This was not the case for Adams and Jefferson.
10 posted on 04/22/2010 3:42:41 PM PDT by Lucius Cornelius Sulla (Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer Than this world dreams of.-- Idylls of the King)
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To: gusopol3; All

With such a complete lack of payment I guess very few moderate income tea party people could afford to hold public office. And it has been my impression that this is largely a middle/lower middle class movement.


11 posted on 04/22/2010 5:05:53 PM PDT by gleeaikin
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To: dajeeps; All

Yes, the elites were definitely interested in keeping the riff-raff out, which is why only landowners could vote for a number of year in the US. If I am not mistaken, Washington sacrificed a lot of income in the years he was fighting the Revolution, so I think he deserved some make-up salary. Regarding Observation 1, I am sure the unpaid lords and lackeys got lots of benefits from being in office. I imagine the Romans did too and back and back.

The living wage was not a casulty of the Obama administration. The poverty level has increased steadily since the Bush administration began. Furthermore, whereas 35 years ago, top CEOs earned about 40 times the salary of their low level workers. In recent years that ratio had grown to 400 to 1 and as high as 1,000 to 1. In 08 for example, the top 3 executives of Goldman Sachs each earned over $65 million. I have some GE stock which has tanked from the $50 a share it was worth less than a decade ago. It went down to $5 a share last year and has now crept up to $19. My proxy vote information gave the compensation of the top 7 executives which has ranged from $11 million to $22 million in 07, 08, and 09. There was no reduction in salary when the stock was doing so badly and is still not doing well. Compared to this $400,000 is chicken feed.


12 posted on 04/22/2010 9:30:57 PM PDT by gleeaikin
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To: gleeaikin

The solution to this issue, IMHO, is to make the Separate States responsible for the compensation and expenses of their Senators and Representatives and any supporting staff.


13 posted on 04/23/2010 5:40:33 AM PDT by Little Ray (The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!)
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To: gleeaikin

“1. In 08 for example, the top 3 executives of Goldman Sachs each earned over $65 million. I have some GE stock which has tanked from the $50 a share it was worth less than a decade ago. It went down to $5 a share last year and has now crept up to $19. My proxy vote information gave the compensation of the top 7 executives which has ranged from $11 million to $22 million in 07, 08, and 09. There was no reduction in salary when the stock was doing so badly and is still not doing well. Compared to this $400,000 is chicken feed.”

This is why these companies should not have been bailed out. Markets deal with excess the same way too much of a good thing deals in nearly every other instance, and letting it naturally correct is the only way to flush out imbalances. A company cannot long last in a competitive environment that screws over its employees while handing the lion’s share to those at the top, especially when they are incompetent. It’s kind of like vomiting after having too much booze.

The only way any of them survive that way is with the blessing of politics, corruption. It is not a Bush anomaly, it’s an age old problem. Remember the robber barons? It comes with political meddeling and the govt picking winners and losers. Free market justice is the real justice, anything else is just a distraction.


14 posted on 04/23/2010 6:26:51 PM PDT by dajeeps
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To: dajeeps
...”there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power, and the love of money. Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men, a post of honour that shall be at the same time a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it.” ....

...”And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable pre- eminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate; the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your Government and be your rulers. -And these too will be mistaken in the expected happiness of their situation: For their vanquished competitors of the same spirit, and from the same motives will perpetually be endeavouring to distress their administration, thwart their measures, and render them odious to the people.”...

... “tho’ we may set out in the beginning with moderate salaries, we shall find that such will not be of long continuance. Reasons will never be wanting for proposed augmentations. And there will always be a party for giving more to the rulers, that the rulers may be able in return to give more to them. -Hence as all history informs us, there has been in every State & Kingdom a constant kind of warfare between the governing & governed: the one striving to obtain more for its support, and the other to pay less
“...

Everything that Franklin warned us about has come to pass.

15 posted on 02/24/2011 10:58:37 AM PST by fella (.He that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough." Pv.28:19')
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To: dajeeps
I wish someone would make a good video of this speech. It should be shown to every civics class (Do they still teach civic?) through out our nation.
16 posted on 06/01/2011 11:05:59 AM PDT by fella ("As it was before Noah, so shall it be again.")
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To: fella
Everything that Franklin warned us about has come to pass.

Brilliant but not real prescient.

17 posted on 02/25/2016 4:27:29 PM PST by norton
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