Article 1, Section 6, Clause 2
[Volume 2, Page 352]
James Wilson, Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention4 Dec. 1787Elliot 2:475--76, 483--84
It is said, that the House of Representatives will be subject to corruption, and the Senate possess the means of corrupting, by the share they have in the appointment to office. This was not spoken in the soft language of attachment to government. It is, perhaps, impossible, with all the caution of legislators and statesmen, to exclude corruption and undue influence entirely from government. All that can be done, upon this subject, is done in the Constitution before you. Yet it behoves us to call out, and add every guard and preventive in our power. I think, sir, something very important, on this subject, is done in the present system; for it has been provided, effectually, that the man that has been bribed by an office shall have it no longer in his power to earn his wages. The moment he is engaged to serve the Senate, in consequence of their gift, he no longer has it in his power to sit in the House of Representatives; for "No representative shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office, under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased, during such time." And the following annihilates corruption of that kind: "And no person holding any office under the United States shall be a member of either house during his continuance in office." So the mere acceptance of an office, as a bribe, effectually destroys the end for which it was offered. Was this attended to when it [Volume 2, Page 353] was mentioned that the members of the one house could be bribed by the other? "But the members of the Senate may enrich themselves," was an observation made as an objection to this system.
As the mode of doing this has not been pointed out, I apprehend the objection is not much relied upon. The Senate are incapable of receiving any money, except what is paid them out of the public treasury. They cannot vote to themselves a single penny, unless the proposition originates from the other house. This objection, therefore, is visionary, like the following one--"that pictured group, that numerous host, and prodigious swarm of officers, which are to be appointed under the general government." The gentlemen tell you that there must be judges of the supreme, and judges of the inferior courts, with all their appendages: there will be taxgatherers swarming throughout the land. "O!" say they, "if we could enumerate the offices, and the numerous officers that must be employed every day in collecting, receiving, and comptrolling, the moneys of the United States, the number would be almost beyond imagination."
. . . . .
Another good quality in this Constitution is, that the members of the legislature cannot hold offices under the authority of this government. The operation of this, I apprehend, would be found to be very extensive, and very salutary, in this country, to prevent those intrigues, those factions, that corruption, that would otherwise rise here, and have risen so plentifully in every other country. The reason why it is necessary in England to continue such influence, is, that the crown, in order to secure its own influence against two other branches of the legislature, must continue to bestow places; but those places produce the opposition which frequently runs so strong in the British Parliament.
Members who do not enjoy offices combine against those who do enjoy them. It is not from principle that they thwart the ministry in all its operations. No; their language is, Let us turn them out, and succeed to their places. The great source of corruption, in that country, is, that persons may hold offices under the crown, and seats in the legislature, at the same time.
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.
© 1987 by The University of Chicago