Article 1, Section 6, Clause 1

Document 11

Debate in Massachusetts Ratifying Convention

19 Jan. 1788Elliot 2:52--54

Dr. Taylor. Mr. President, it has hitherto been customary for the gentlemen of Congress to be paid by the several state legislatures out of the state treasury. As no state has hitherto failed paying its delegates, why should we leave the good old path? Before the revolution it was considered as a grievance that the governors, &c., received their pay from Great Britain. They could not, in that case, feel their dependence on the people, when they received their appointments and salaries from the crown. I know not why we should not pay them now, as well as heretofore.

Gen. Porter. Have not delegates been retained from Congress, which is virtually recalling them, because they have not been paid? Has not Rhode Island failed to pay their delegates? Should there not be an equal charge throughout the United States, for the payment of the delegates, as there is in this state for the payment of the members of this Convention, met for the general good? Is it not advantageous to the people at large, that the delegates to this Convention are paid out of the public treasury? If any inconvenience, however, can be shown to flow from this plan, I should be glad to hear it.

Hon. Mr. Sedgwick hoped gentlemen would consider that the federal officers of government would be responsible for their conduct; and, as they would regard their reputations, will not assess exorbitant wages. In Massachusetts, and in every other state, the legislatures have power to provide for their own payment; and, he asked, have they ever established it higher than it ought to be? But, on the contrary, have they not made it extremely inconsiderable? The commons of Great Britain, he said, have the power to assess their own wages; but for two centuries they have never exercised it. Can a man, he asked, who has the least respect for the good opinion of his fellow-countrymen, go home to his constituents, after having robbed them by voting himself an exorbitant salary? This principle will be a most powerful check; and in respect to economy, the power lodged as it is in this section will be more advantageous to the people than if retained by the state legislatures. Let us see what the legislature of Massachusetts have done; they vote the salaries of the delegates to Congress, and they have voted them such as have enabled them to live in style suited to the dignity of a respectable state; but these salaries have been four times as much, for the same time, as they ever voted themselves. Therefore, concluded the honorable gentleman, if left to themselves to provide for their own payment, as long as they wish for the good opinion of mankind, they will assess no more than they really deserve, as a compensation for their services.

Hon. Mr. King said, if the arguments on the 4th section against an undue control, in the state legislatures, over the federal representatives, were in any degree satisfactory, they are so on this.

Gen. Thompson. Mr. President, the honorable gentleman means well, and is honest in his sentiments; it is all alike. When we see matters at large, and what it all is, we will know what to do with it.

Mr. Parsons. In order that the general government should preserve itself, it is necessary it should preserve justice between the several states. Under the Confederation, the power of this section would not be just; for each state has a right to send seven members to Congress, though some of them do not pay one tenth as much of the public expenses as others. It is a mere federal government of states, neither equal nor proportionate. If gentlemen would use the same candor that the honorable gentleman from Topsham (Gen. Thompson) does, considering all the parts as connected with others, the Constitution would receive a better discussion.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 6, Clause 1, Document 11
The University of Chicago Press

Elliot, Jonathan, ed. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. . . . 5 vols. 2d ed. 1888. Reprint. New York: Burt Franklin, n.d.

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