Constitutional Journal

-Tuesday, Aug. 14, 1787

Many delegates were late for dinner yesterday as the heat of the lengthy debate over congressional power of the purse matched the heat of the Convention hall.

A FUTURE crisis for the proposed national government was averted today when nine States voted to pay members of Congress out of the national Treasury rather than from the separate States.

The Committee of Detail, contrary to a previous vote by the Convention, had recommended that compensation for members of Congress be determined by the States from which they are elected. One observer pointed out that, if the provision were left in place, members of the national Congress would be State officers. This would eventually create a conflict with the whole theory of a national Congress under a national Constitution.

Col. George Mason of Virginia spoke of the political implications of the potential conflict:

``It has not yet been noticed that the clause as it now stands makes the House of Represents. also dependent on the State Legislatures; so that both Houses will be made the instruments of the politics of the States whatever they may be.''

Maj. Pierce Butler of South Carolina argued for payment by the States, particularly for Senate members who will be elected by the States. They will be long out of their respective States, he added, and ``will lose sight of their Constituents unless dependent on them for their support.''

James Madison countered with a razorlike argument. The House and the Senate, he said, will be elected every two and six years, respectively, while the States are subject to annual elections - producing the very political instability ``which was the principal evil in the State Govts.''

Mr. Madison's and Colonel Mason's arguments appeared to have carried a majority of the Convention. The question then turned to how much members of Congress should be paid out of the national Treasury. Roger Sherman of Connecticut proposed five dollars a day, with additional compensation provided by the States. John Dickinson of Delaware noted that someone has suggested linking the compensation for members of Congress to the price of wheat. He proposed instead that an act be passed every 12 years setting the wages of national representatives. Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut favored setting congressional salaries based on the current value of money.

The Convention rejected all these proposals with the words ``to be ascertained by law.''

The Convention also debated but postponed voting on the question of whether members of Congress should be allowed to hold other offices and receive compensation. Virginia delegates James Madison and Col. George Mason have clashed over this and other issues. One observer believes this has led to a serious breach in their friendship.

Colonel Mason, who came to this Convention with high expectations, has in recent weeks become bitter. Today, for example, he sarcastically suggested that some delegates favored a corrupt aristocracy.

Like Virginia Gov. Edmund Randolph, Colonel Mason finds the emerging Constitution something to be feared rather than favored.

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

Correction: Yesterday's report should have been dated Monday, Aug. 13, 1787. -30-{et

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