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TUESDAY, August 14th.
In Convention, -Article 6, Sect. 9, was taken up.
Mr. PINCKNEY argued that the making the members ineligible to offices was degrading to them, and the more improper as their election into the Legislature implied that they had the confidence of the people; that it was inconvenient, because the Senate might be supposed to contain the fittest men. He hoped to see that body become a school of public ministers, a nursery of statesmen. That it was impolitic, because the Legislature would cease to be a magnet to the first talents and abilities. He moved to postpone the section, in order to take up the following proposition, viz., “ the members of each House shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States, for which they, or any others for their benefit, receive any salary, fees, or emoluments of any kind; and the acceptance of such office shall vacate their seats respectively.”
General MIFFLIN seconded the motion.
Colonel Mason ironically proposed to strike out the whole section, as a more effectual expedient for encouraging that exotic corruption which might not otherwise thrive so well in the American soil; for completing that aristocracy which was probably in the contemplation of some among us; and for inviting into the legislative service those generous and benevolent characters, who will do justice to each other's merit, by carving out offices and rewards for it. In the present state of American morals and manners, few friends, it may be thought, will be lost to
the plan, by the opportunity of giving premiums to a mercenary and depraved ambition.
Mr. Mercer. It is a first principle in political science, that whenever the rights of property are secured, an aristocracy will grow out of it. Elective governments also necessarily become aristocratic, because the rulers being few can and will draw emoluments for themselves from the many. The governments of America will become aristocracies. They are so already. The public measures are calculated for the benefit of the governors, not of the people. The people are dissatisfied, and complain. They change their rulers, and the public measures are changed, but it is only a change of one scheme of emolument to the rulers, for another. The people gain nothing by it, but an addition of instability and uncertainty to their other evils. Governments can only be maintained by force or influence. The Executive has not force-deprive him of influence, by rendering the members of the Legislature ineligible to Executive offices, and he becomes a mere phantom of authority. The aristocratic part will not even let him in for a share of the plunder. The Legislature must and will be composed of wealth and abilities, and the people will be governed by a junto. The Executive ought to have a Council, being members of both Houses. Without such an insluence, the war will be between the aristocracy and the people. He wished it to be between the aristocracy and the Executive. Nothing else can protect the people against those speculating Legislatures, which are now plundering them throughout the United States.
Mr. GERRY read a resolution of the Legislature of Massachusetts, passed before the act of Congress recommending the Convention, in which her deputies were instructed not to depart from the rotation established in the fifth Article of the Confederation; nor to agree, in any case, to give to the members of Congress a capacity to hold offices under the government. This, he said, was repealed in consequence of the act of Congress, with which the State thought it proper to comply in an unqualified manner. The sense of the State, however, was still the same. He could not think with Mr. PINCKNEY, that the disqualification was degrading. Confidence is the road to tyranny. As to ministers and ambassadors, few of them were necessary. It is the opinion of a great many that they ought to be discontinued on our part, that none may be sent among us; and that source of influence shut up. If the Senate were to appoint ambassadors, as seemed to be intended, they will multiply embassies for their own sakes. He was not so fond of those productions, as to wish to establish nurseries for them. If they are once appointed, the House of Representatives will be obliged to provide salaries for them, whether they approve of the measures or not. If men will not serve in the Legislature without a prospect of such offices, our situation is deplorable indeed. If our best citizens are actuated by such mercenary views, we had better choose a single despot at once. It will be more easy to satisfy the rapacity of one than of many. According to the idea of one gentleman, (Mr. MERCER), our government, it seems, is to be a government of plunder. In that case, it certainly
would be prudent to have but one, rather than many to be employed in it. We cannot be too circumspect in the formation of this system. It will be examined on all sides, and with a very suspicious eye. The people, who have been so lately in arms against Great Britain for their liberties, will not easily give them up. He lamented the evils existing, at present, under our governments; but imputed them to the faults of those in office, not to the people. The misdeeds of the former will produce a critical attention to the opportunities afforded by the new system to like or greater abuses. As it now stands, it is as complete an aristocracy as ever was framed. If great powers should be given to the Senate, we shall be governed in reality by a junto, as has been apprehended. He remarked that it would be very differently constituted from Congress. In the first place, there will be but two Deputies from each State; in Congress there may be seven, and are generally five. In the second place, they are chosen for six years; those of Congress annually. In the third place, they are not subject to recall; those of Congress are. And finally, in Congress nine States are necessary for all great purposes; here eight persons will suffice. Is it to be presumed that the people will ever agree to such a system? He moved to render the members of the House of Representatives, as well as of the Senate, ineligible, not only during, but for one year after the expiration of, their terms. If it should be thought that this will injure the Legislature, by keeping out of it men of abilities, who are willing to serve in other offices, it may be required
as a qualification for other offices, that the candidate shall have served a certain time in the Legislature.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. Exclude the officers of the Army and Navy, and you form a band having a different interest from, and opposed to, the civil power. You stimulate them to despise and reproach those " talking Lords who dare not face the foe.” Let this spirit be roused at the end of a war, before your troops shall have laid down their arms, and though the civil authority be “entrenched in parchment to the teeth,” they will cut their way to it. He was against rendering the members of the Legislature ineligible to offices. He was for rendering them eligible again, after having vacated their seats by accepting office. Why should we not avail ourselves of their services if the people choose to give them their confidence? There can be little danger of corruption, either among the people, or the Legislatures, who are to be the electors. If they say, we see their merits—we honor the men-we choose to renew our confidence in them; have they not a right to give them a preference—and can they be properly abridged of it ?
Mr. Williamson introduced his opposition to the motion, by referring to the question concerning
money bills.” That clause, he said, was dead. Its ghost, he was afraid, would, notwithstanding, haunt us. It had been a matter of conscience with him, to insist on it, as long as there was hope of retaining it. He had swallowed the vote of rejection with reluctance. He could not digest it. All that was said, on the other side, was, that the restriction was