Opposition to Executive Salaries (June 2)
It is with reluctance that I rise to express a disapprobation of any one article of the plan for which we are so much obliged to
the honorable gentleman who laid it before us. From its first reading I have borne a good will to it, and in general wished it
success. In this particular of salaries to the Executive branch I happen to differ; and as my opinion may appear new and
chimerical, it is only from a persuasion that it is right, and from a sense of duty that I hazard it. The Committee will judge of
my reasons when they have heard them, and their judgment may possibly change mind think I see inconveniences in the
appointment of salaries; I see none in refusing them, but on the contrary, great advantages.
Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice;the love of
power,and the love of money. Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of
the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men, a post of honourt hat
shall be at the same time a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it. The vast number of such places it
is that renders the British Government so tempestuous. The struggles for them are the true sources of all these factions which
are perpetually dividing the Nation, distracting its Councils, hurrying sometimes into fruitless and mischievous wars, and
often compelling a submission to dishonorable terms of peace.
And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable pre-eminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of
contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate;
the Iovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions
and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your Government and be your rulers. And
these too will be mistaken in the expected happiness of their situation: For their vanquished competitors of the same spirit,
and from the aame motives will perpetually be edeavouring to distress their administration, thwart their measures, and render
them odious to the people.
Besides these evils, Sir, though we may set out in the beginning with moderate salaries, we shall find that such will not be of
long continuance. Reasons will never be wanting for proposed augmentations. And there will always be a party for givmg
more to the rulers, that the rulers may be able inreturn to give more to them. Hence as all history informs us, there has been in
every State and Kingdom a constant kind of warfare between the goverining and governed: the one striving to obtain more for
its support, and the other to pay less. And this has alone occasioned great convulsions, actual civil wars, ending either in
detoning of the Princes, or ens1aving of the people. Generally indeed the ruling power carries its point, the revenues of
princes constantly increasing, and we see that they are never satisfied, but always in want of more. The more the people are
discontented with the oppression of taxes; the greater need the prince has of money to distribute among his paztizans and pay
the troops that are to suppress all resistance, and enable him to plunder at pleasure. There is a scarce king in a hundred who
would not, if he could, follow the example of Pharaoh, get frrst all the peoples money, then all their lands, and then make them
and their children servant: for ever. It will be said, that we don't propose to establish Kings. I know it. But there is a natural
inclination in mankind to Kinggly Government. It sometimes relieves them from Aristocratic domination. They bad rather
have one tyrant than flve hundred. It gives more of the appearance of equality among Citizens, and that they like. I am
apprehensive therefore, perhaps too apprensive, that the Government of these States, may in future times, end in a
Monarchy. But this Catastrophe I think may be long delayed, if in our proposed System we do not sow the seeds of
contention, faction and tumult, by making our posts of honor, places of profit. If we do, I fear that though we do empIoy at
first a number, and not a single person, the number wili in time be set aside, it will only nourish the fetus of a King, as the
honorable gentleman from Virginia very aptly expressed it, and a King will the sooner beset over us.
It may be imagined by some that this isan Utopian Idea, and that we can never find men to serve us in the Executive
department without paying them well for their services. I conceive this to be a nisstake. Some existing facts present
themselves to me, which incline me to a contrary opinion. The high Sheriff of a County in England is an honorable office, but
it is not a profitable oue. It is rather expensive and therefore not sought for. But yet, it is executed and well executed, and
usually by some of the principal Gentlemen of the County. In France, the office of Counselor or Member of their Judiciary
Parliaments is more honorable. It is therefore purchased at a high price: There are indeed fees on the law proceedings, which
are divided among them, but these fees do not amount to more than three percent on the sum paid for the place. Therefore as
legal interest is there at five percent they in fact pay two percent for being allowed to do the Judiciary business of the Nation,
which is at the same time entirely exempt from the burden of paying them any salari~ for their services. I do not however
mean to recommend this as an eligible mode for our Judiciary department. I only bring the instance to show that the pleasure
of doing good and serving their Country and the respect such conduct entitles them to, an sufficient motives with some minds
to give up a great portion of their time to the public, without the mean inducement of pecuniary satisfaction.
Another instance is that of a respectable Society who have made the experiment, and practissed it with success more than ai
huiidmd years. I mean the Quakers. It is an established rule with them, that they are not to go to law; but in their
controversies they mnst apply to their monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings Committees of these sit with patience to hear
the parties, and spend much time in composing their differences. In doing this they are supported by a sense of duty, and the
respect paid to usefulness. It is honorable to be so employed, but it was never made profitable by salaries, fees, or
perquisites. And indeed in all cues of public service the less the profit the greater the honor.
To bring the matter nearer home, have we not seen, the great and most imporant of our offices, that of General of our armies
executed for eight years together without the smallest salary, by a Patriot whom I wffl not now offend by any other praise;
and this through fatigues and distresses in common with the other brave men his military friends and companions, and the
constant anxieties peculiar to his station? And shall we doubt finding three or four men in all the United States, with public
spirit enough to bes itting in peaceful Council for perhaps an equal term, merely to preside over our civil concerns, and see
that our laws are duly executed. Sir, I have a better opinion of our country. I think we shall never be without a sufficient
number of wise and good men to undertake and execute well and faiithfully the office in question.
Sir, the saving of the salaries that may at first be proposed is not an object with me. The subsequent mischiefs of proposing
them are what I apprehend. And therefore it is, that I move the amendment. If it is not seconded or accepted I must be
contented with the satisfaction of having delivered my opinion frankly and done my duty.
The motion was seconded by Colonel Hamilton with the view he said merely of bringing so respectable a proposition before the Committee, and which was besides enforced by argurnents that had a certain degree of weight. No debate ensued, and the proposition was postponed for the consideration of the members. It was treated with great respect, but rather for the author of it, than from any apparent conviction of its expediency or practicability.