Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Constitutional Journal

-Friday, June 22, 1787 Yesterday the Convention voted to reduce the terms for House members from three years to two, and for senators from seven to six.

ALARM spread through the ranks of the large States today when it was proposed that the members of the national Congress be paid for their services by their respective States.

About these ads

Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut made the potentially explosive suggestion when the Convention took up the question of whether elected national lawmakers should receive ``fixed stipends to be paid out of the Nationl [National] Treasury.'' Judge Ellsworth insisted that the style of living and incomes were different in each State. Since the number of lawmakers in the national Congress would be determined by population, he added, the small States would have less of a financial burden than the larger ones. The point was a sharp reminder to the nationalists of the small States' intense opposition to the makeup of both houses of Congress on the basis of population. The proposal appears to be a political device to unnerve the nationalists and seems to have succeeded, this correspondent has learned.

Virginia's Gov. Edmund Randolph insisted in intense language that salaries should be paid out of the National Treasury. ``If the states were to pay the members of the Natl. [National] Legislature, a dependence would be created that would vitiate the whole System,'' Governor Randolph said. James Wilson of Pennsylvania and James Madison of Virginia both agreed, insisting that if the States held the exclusive power to pay elected lawmakers, the national Legislature would be thrown entirely ``into the hands of the States'' and ``ruin the fabric'' of the entire Viriginia Plan for a national government. Col. Alexander Hamilton of New York added to the verbal volley of the nationalist opposition:

``A State government will ever be the rival power of the general government. It is therefore highly improper that the state legislatures should be the paymasters of the members of the national government. All political bodies love power, and it will often be improperly attained.''

Judge Ellsworth answered that his State did not trust the proposed general government and the extensive powers it may assume. The States would not adopt such a government, he warned. ``Let it ever be remembered, that without their approbation your government is nothing more than a rope of sand,'' he added with a ringing defiance.

Mr. Wilson was equally defiant, suggesting that it would not be the State legislatures that would decide the fate of a national government, but the State ratifying conventions composed of the people. However, when the delegates voted as to whether salaries should be paid out of the National Treasury, the proposal was defeated five States to four, with two divided. The splintered close vote indicates that the small States have developed a determined and united strategy against the large States.

The Convention moved in circles today over how to prevent corruption in the proposed national Congress. Pierce Butler of South Carolina said the new government should learn from the corrupt practices of the British Parliament. Alexander Hamilton of New York shot back that such an example contains few truths and much falsehood. ``One great error is that we suppose mankind more honest than they are,'' he said, adding that corruption is inherent in men, not in institutions.

These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue on Monday.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.