James Madison Papers

Salaries for the Congress, [16 July] 1789

Salaries for the Congress

[16 July 1789]

A daily pay of six dollars for both senators and representatives was proposed. Sedgwick moved to reduce the representatives’ pay to five dollars.

Mr. Madison Was of opinion that a discrimination was necessary; he observed, that it had been evidently contemplated by the constitution, to distinguish in favor of the senate, that men of abilities and firm principles, whom the love and custom of a retired life might render averse to the fatigues of a public one, may be induced to devote the experience of years, and the acquisitions of study, to the service of their country: And unless something of this kind is adopted, it may be difficult to obtain proper characters to fill the senate, as men of interprize and genius will naturally prefer a seat in the house, considering it to be a more conspicuous situation.1

Cong. Register description begins Thomas Lloyd, comp., The Congressional Register; or, History of the Proceedings and Debates of the First House of Representatives … (2 vols.; New York, 1789; Evans 22203–4). description ends , II, 97.

1Sedgwick’s motion lost by a large majority. According to Representative Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, members of Congress could not live in New York on less than six dollars a day: “This proves fully that the good of the United States requires a removal from this place, & whenever this happens I shall chearfully vote to lessen the Salaries. You have no conception at what extravagant rates every thing is paid for in this place, and the general principle seems to be this, That as the stay of Congress is doubtfull it is necessary to take time by the forelock. There is not a place within the State of Pennsylvania, where we could not live more comfortably on four Dollars than here on Six—it is in vain at this place to talk of frugality, Œconomy, & a Republican Stile of Living” (Muhlenberg to [?], 22 July 1789 [PHi]).

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