X. Members of Congress

Catechism of the Constitution Book CoverThe Federalist Papers has posted a PDF copy of an Elementary Catechism on the Constitution from 1828 written by Arthur J. Stansbury. I’m publishing it on Mondays in a series of posts. Because the date of publication was 1828, some content has been changed by later Constitutional amendments. There are no sections in the book, so I’m dividing it into any natural breaks of topics and the posts will vary in length. Any emphases within the text are Stansbury’s.

X. Congressional Members

Q. Do Members of Congress receive any thing for doing the business of the public?

A. Their chief and best reward is the honor of serving their country; but as many of them cannot afford to leave their own business so often and so long without having the loss in some measure made up to them, the Constitution says that they shall be allowed a compensation to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.

Q. Who fixes the rate of compensation, that is, how much the Members shall have?

A. It is fixed by Congress.

Q. Ought they to be allowed to fix their own wages?

A. It cannot be avoided; the rate must be fixed by law, and there is none who have power to make law for this country but the Congress only.

Q. May Members of Congress be arrested, (that is, seized by a sheriff or constable) for debts they owe, while they are attending to their public duty?

A. Their duty is of so much value to us all that the Constitution will not allow them to be arrested while going and returning from their home to the place where Congress meets, nor while they are attending there, except in three cases.

Q. What are these?

A. If they have been guilty of treason, felony, or breach of the peace.

Q. When is a person guilty of treason?

A. When he makes war against the United States — (that is, when he endeavors by force to overturn or to resist the Government,) or when he helps or comforts others who are making war against them. [But this must be proved by at least two witnesses, who have both seen him do some act of treason. The crime is punished in any way Congress thinks fit; and they have determined that it shall be punished by death.]

Q. If Members of Congress while engaged in debate, that is, in arguing about any law that is proposed to be made, shall sat any thing offensive to another Member, may he be sued for it by the other in a Court of Law?

A. No; (lest this should destroy the freedom of debate, and make the Members afraid of speaking their thoughts with honesty and plainness in matters for the public good,) a Member cannot be called to account in any other place for any thing he says upon the floor of Congress.

Q. May Members of Congress be appointed to any civil office under the United States?

A. Not while they continue to be Members ; if they are appointed to any office and wish to accept the appointment, they must give up their seats in Congress; nor can they be chosen Members again while they hold’ the office.

Q. Supposing Congress create any new office, (that is, appoint some public duty to be done and allow the person who does it a compensation) or shall increase the pay before allowed for doing the duties of any office, that is already established, — may any Member of the Congress which did this be appointed to such office?

A. No, not till the whole time for which he was chosen a Member shall have expired.

In the heading under Charters of Freedom, you will find a copy of the Constitution as well as links to other pertinent primary documents and commentary on the Constitution.

Elementary Catechism on the Constitution posts:
Elementary Catechism on the Constitution (Preface)
I. The Necessity of Government and Its Forms
II. The American Revolution
III. The Occasion and Purpose of the Constitution
IV. State and National Laws
V. The House of Representatives
VI. The Senate
VII. Impeachment
VIII. Impeachment of the President & The Rule of Law
IX. Meetings of Congress
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Book image from The Federalist Papers. Other reading formats of the Elementary Catechism on the Constitution can be found here.

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