James Madison Papers
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Members of the First Branch of the Legislature Barred from Federal Offices, [22 June], [23 June] 1787

Members of the First Branch of
the Legislature Barred from Federal Offices

[22 June 1787]

Gorham moved to strike out that part of the third resolution of the report of 13 June making a member ineligible to hold any office “under the national government for the space of one year after” the member’s term of service expired (Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , I, 228).

Mr. Madison. Some gentlemen give too much weight and others too little to this subject. If you have no exclusive clause, there may be danger of creating offices or augmenting the stipends of those already created, in order to gratify some members if they were not excluded. Such an instance has fallen within my own observation. I am therefore of opinion, that no office ought to be open to a member, which may be created or augmented while he is in the legislature.

Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , I, 380 (Yates).

[23 June 1787]

Mr. Madison renewed his motion yesterday made1 & waved to render the members of the 1st. branch “ineligible during their term of service, & for one year after—to such offices only as should be established, or the emoluments thereof, augmented by the Legislature of the U. States during the time of their being members.” He supposed that the unnecessary creation of offices, and increase of salaries, were the evils most experienced, & that if the door was shut agst. them, it might properly be left open for the appointt. of members to other offices as an encouragemt. to the Legislative service.2

Ms (DLC).

1Although there is no record of such a formal motion by JM on 22 June, see his brief remarks on the subject recorded by Yates for that day. JM himself noted the absence of a recorded motion in an undated memorandum (ibid.; Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , I, 390).

2Lansing’s version:

“Madison moves after established insert or Emoluments whereof shall have been augmented by the Legislature of the United States during the Time they have been Members or within one Year thereafter—He wishes Executive to have Appt of Officers—He thinks it necessary to hold out Inducements to Men of first Fortune to become Members” (Strayer, Delegate from N.Y. description begins Joseph R. Strayer, ed., The Delegate from New York or Proceedings of the Federal Convention … from the Notes of John Lansing, Jr. (Princeton, 1939). description ends , p. 79).

Yates’s version:

“Mr. Madison then moved, that after the word established, be added, or the emoluments whereof shall have been augmented by the legislature of the United States, during the time they were members thereof, and for one year thereafter” (Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , I, 391).

[23 June 1787]

Mr. Madison had been led to this motion as a middle ground between an eligibility in all cases, and an absolute disqualification. He admitted the probable abuses of an eligibility of the members, to offices, particularly within the gift of the Legislature. He had witnessed the partiality of such bodies to their own members, as had been remarked of the Virginia assembly by his colleague (Col. Mason). He appealed however to him, in turn to vouch another fact not less notorious in Virginia, that the backwardness of the best citizens to engage in the Legislative service gave but too great success to unfit characters. The question was not to be viewed on one side only. The advantages & disadvantages on both ought to be fairly compared. The objects to be aimed at were to fill all offices with the fittest characters, & to draw the wisest & most worthy citizens into the Legislative service. If on one hand, public bodies were partial to their own members; on the other they were as apt to be misled by taking characters on report, or the authority of patrons and dependents. All who had been concerned in the appointment of strangers on those recommedations must be sensible of this truth. Nor wd. the partialities of such Bodies be obviated by disqualifying their own members. Candidates for office would hover round the seat of Govt. or be found among the residents there, and practise all the means of courting the favor of the members. A great proportion of the appointments made by the States were evidently brought about in this way. In the general Govt. the evil must be still greater, the characters of distant states, being much less known throughout the U. States than those of the distant parts of the same State. The elections by Congress had generally turned on men living at the seat of the fedl Govt. or in its neighbourhood. As to the next object, the impulse to the Legislative service, was evinced by experience to be in general too feeble with those best qualified for it. This inconveniency wd. also be more felt in the Natl. Govt. than in the State Govts. as the sacrifices reqd. from the distant members, wd. be much greater, and the pecuniary provisions, probably, more disproportiate. It wd. therefore be impolitic to add fresh objections to the Legislative service by an absolute disqualification of its members. The point in question was whether this would be an objection with the most capable citizens. Arguing from experience he concluded that it would. The Legislature of Virga. would probably have been without many of its best members, if in that situation, they had been ineligible to Congs. to the Govt. & other honorable offices of the State.1

Ms (DLC).

1JM’s version may be a blend of two separate speeches. Yates has him speaking twice. Yates’s version (first speech):

“Mr. Madison. My wish is that the national legislature be as uncorrupt as possible. I believe all public bodies are inclined, from various motives, to support its members; but it is not always done from the base motives of venality. Friendship, and a knowledge of the abilities of those with whom they associate, may produce it. If you bar the door against such attachments, you deprive the government of its greatest strength and support. Can you always rely on the patriotism of the members? If this be the only inducement, you will find a great indifferency in filling your legislative body. If we expect to call forth useful characters, we must hold out allurements; nor can any great inconveniency arise from such inducements. The legislative body must be the road to public honor; and the advantage will be greater to adopt my motion, than any possible inconvenience” (Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , I, 392).

Yates’s version (second speech):

“Mr. Madison. This question is certainly of much moment. There are great advantages in appointing such persons as are known. The choice otherwise will be chance. How will it operate on the members themselves? Will it not be an objection to become members when they are to be excluded from office? For these reasons I am for the amendment” (ibid., I, 393).

Lansing’s version:

“Madison—Men of Ability are not found [?] in Virginia to step forward in Public. Persons of other Descriptions press for Admission” (Strayer, Delegate from N.Y. description begins Joseph R. Strayer, ed., The Delegate from New York or Proceedings of the Federal Convention … from the Notes of John Lansing, Jr. (Princeton, 1939). description ends , pp. 79–80).

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