Article 1, Section 6, Clause 1

Document 10


11--18 Dec. 1787Storing 4.10.8--9

The Congress are to have power to levy and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, at their discretion; and out of this revenue, to make themselves such compensation for their services as they may think proper.

Is it altogether certain, that a body of men elected for so long a term,--rendered thus independent, and most of them placed at the distance of some hundreds of miles from their constituents, will pay a more faithful regard to their interest, and set an example of economy, more becoming the circumstances of this country, than they would do, if they were annually elected, subject to some kind of instructions, and liable to be recalled, in case of male administration? Have the several states, in the estimation of the compilers of this Constitution, been hitherto, so parsimonious and unjust in paying their delegates, that they have rendered themselves unfit to contract with their Senators and Representatives, respecting a compensation for their service? If so, what may we suppose will be considered as a just compensation, when this honourable Body shall set their own pay, and be accountable to none but themselves?

It will probably be urged, "Our State Legislature set their own pay; and why should not Congress do the same."

If the cases are similar, the reasoning may be good; but there is a wide difference between them. The members of our State legislature are annually elected--they are subject to instructions--they are chosen within small circles--they are sent but a small distance from their respective homes: Their conduct is constantly known to their constituents. They frequently see, and are seen, by the men whose servants they are. While attending the duties of their office, their connexions in general, are with men who have been bred to economy, and whose circumstances require them to live in a frugal style. They are absent from their respective homes but a few days, or weeks, at most. They return, and mix with their neighbours of the lowest rank, see their poverty, and feel their wants.--On the contrary: The members of Congress are to be chosen for a term of years. They are to be subject to no instructions. They are to be chosen within large circles: They will be unknown to a very considerable part of the constituents, and their constituents will be not less unknown to them. They will be far removed, and long detained, from the view of their constituents. Their general conduct will be unknown. Their chief connections will be with men of the first rank in the United States, who have been bred in affluence at least, if not in the excess of luxury. They will have constantly before them the enchanting example of Ambassadors, other publick Ministers, and Consuls from foreign courts, who, both from principles of policy, and private ambition, will live in the most splendid and costly style. Men are naturally enough inclined to vie with each other. Let any body of men whatever be placed, from year to year, in circumstances like these; let them have the unlimitted controul of the property of the United States; and let them feel themselves vested, at the same time, with a constitutional right, out of this property to make themselves such compensation as they may think fit: And then, let any one judge, whether they will long retain the same ideas, and feel themselves under equal restraints as to fixing their own pay, with the members of our state legislature. This part of the Constitution, I conceive to be calculated, not only to enhance the expense of the federal government to a degree that will be truely burdensome; but also, to increase that luxury and extravagance, in general, which threatens the ruin of the United States; and that, to which the Eastern States in particular, are wholly unequal.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 6, Clause 1, Document 10
The University of Chicago Press

Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

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