Article 1, Section 5, Clauses 1--4

[Volume 2, Page 300]

Document 15

James Wilson, Legislative Department, Lectures on Law

1791Works 1:420--22

Each house may not only punish, but, with the concurrence of two thirds, it may expel a member. This regulation is adopted by the constitution of Pennsylvania: "but," it is added, "not a second time for the same cause." The reason for the addition evidently is--that the member, who has offended, cannot be an object of a second expulsion, unless, since the offence given and punished by the first expulsion, he has been either reelected by his former constituents, or elected by others. In both cases, his election is a proof, that, in the opinion of his constituents, he either has not offended at all, or has been already sufficiently punished for his offence. The language of each opinion is, that he ought not to be expelled again: and the language of the constituents is a law to the house.

. . . . .

The constitution of the United States directs, that each house shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and, from time to time, publish them, except such parts as may require [Volume 2, Page 301] secrecy: it directs further, that the yeas and nays of the members of either house, on any question, shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal. The constitution of Pennsylvania goes still further upon these points: it directs, that the journals shall be published weekly; that the yeas and nays shall be entered on them, at the desire of any two members; and that the doors of each house, and of committees of the whole, shall be open, unless when the business shall be such as ought to be kept secret.

That the conduct and proceedings of representatives should be as open as possible to the inspection of those whom they represent, seems to be, in republican government, a maxim, of whose truth or importance the smallest doubt cannot be entertained. That, by a necessary consequence, every measure, which will facilitate or secure this open communication of the exercise of delegated power, should be adopted and patronised by the constitution and laws of every free state, seems to be another maxim, which is the unavoidable result of the former. For these reasons, I feel myself necessarily and unavoidably led to consider the additional regulations made, upon this subject, by the constitution of Pennsylvania, as improvements upon those made by the constitution of the United States. The regulation--that the doors of each house, and of committees of the whole, shall be open--I view as an improvement highly beneficial both in its nature and in its consequence--both to the representatives and to their constituents. "In the house of commons," says Sir William Blackstone, "the conduct of every member is subject to the future censure of his constituents, and therefore should be openly submitted to their inspection." But I forbear to enter more largely into this interesting topick.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 5, Clauses 1--4, Document 15
The University of Chicago Press

The Works of James Wilson. Edited by Robert Green McCloskey. 2 vols. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.

© 1987 by The University of Chicago
All rights reserved. Published 2000