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those who are so poor that the meanest beggar would not waste time trying to extort anything from them. For a man who belongs to neither of these classes, who, like myself, is in between the two-Congress is no place."
The increase in the salary soon afterward, from $5000 to $7500, proved but a brief palliative, for it no more than offset the drop in the purchasing power of money between 1896 and 1910. With the drop of another third from the 1896 level, brought about chiefly by the currency inflation connected with the World War, the salary became totally inadequate to the needs of members having no other income. At the same time the opportunity to earn other income was greatly reduced, for the exigencies of the war period compelled extra sessions and made the work of a Congressman almost continuous. Up to this period he could count on having about half of every twenty-four months available for private affairs. Whether with the vastly expanded scope of governmental activities, in other words the huge growth in public business, long intervals between sessions will ever again be possible, remains to be seen. One Senator, Edward J. Gay, of Louisiana, convinced that the new conditions would be permanent, announced early in 1920 that he would not be a candidate for reëlection, for he was unwilling to accept
a an office to which he could not continue to give his undivided attention.
Although the members of Congress of course appreciated the bearing of the situation upon their individual welfare, and some of them knew its menace to the public welfare, although it was clear that the salary had become grossly inadequate in comparison with the real value of the salary of a generation before, yet they hesitated to act. Nearly all the citizens of the country belonging to the professional class were in much the same plight; the suffering due to the maladjustments of swiftly rising prices was widespread; and there was natural reluctance to make any addition to the burdens of taxation. So Congressmen were among the last to begin talking about the need of more pay.
As things stand now, I should hesitate to advise any man having a family and without independent resources, to be a candidate for Congress. He cannot hope to dress and to dwell and generally to live as his constituents would expect and his selfrespect demand, with decent regard to the dignity of his position, and yet escape constant anxiety. He will be unable to lay aside anything against sickness or the needs of old age. He will be lucky if he keeps out of debt. If he hopes to stay in office long enough to win standing and influence, he will face the certainty that upon the failure of reëlection which sooner or later ends almost every public career in America, with practice or clientage or business prestige gone, with the earning habit broken, perhaps with bodily and mental powers impaired, his remaining days will lack many a comfort enjoyed by his compeers who have not sought the chance to be of service to their fellow-citizens. It happens that I can say this without personal bias. My only motive is to disclose the situation to any reader who may chance to aspire to a seat in Congress, as well as to awaken all my readers to the folly of under-paying the men whom they intrust with the affairs of the nation.
INCIDENTAL OUTLAY The critic who finds fault with the salaries of lawmakers usually forgets or ignores the outlays that are incidental to public service. They are a serious matter to the man without independent income. Election costs alone make no small inroad on earnings. Theoretically, these are quite unjustifiable, and the time will doubtless come when they will be taken away from individuals, the public assuming all the costs of selecting its servants. At present, however, not only must the candidates as a practical matter usually go to material expense, but also that expense is in effect made legitimate by corrupt practices acts. For instance, Massachusetts says any candidate may spend $150, may not expend more than $5000, and within these limits may expend $25 for each thousand voters in his district. Thus that which a candidate is virtually invited to spend, takes a not insignificant part of the salary he gets if successful.
This is only the beginning of drains on his purse, if he is elected. As long as he is in office, he is the target for every sort of solicitation. He is expected to be a generous contributor to all the organizations of his party, to charities and philanthropies, and a host of devices for the rapid circulation of money. Such a burden has this become that in at least one State the statute book has been invoked as a shield. The Massachusetts law against corrupt practices was amended in 1911 so as to make it an offense to solicit either from a candidate for, or from any person occupying, an elective public office, any payment or gift for advertising, gratuities, donations, tickets, programmes, or any other purpose whatever; and also an offense for a candidate or a person holding elective public office to make such payment or gift; the solicitation or making in good faith of gifts for charitable or religious purposes excepted.
Of course no prosecutions ever take place under such a law, but it has its uses as a protection to the pocketbook of the man who wants to cite it, though its efficacy was much lessened by permitting the solicitation for charitable or religious purposes.
With courage and tact it is possible safely to deny the greater part of the unfair demands, though never without anxiety over the possible effect on political fortunes. There are other outlays, though, that the man in public life feels he must make beyond the degree probable were he not in office. He is expected to dress well. He is expected to be more than ordinarily generous in hospitality. He should not be over thrifty when traveling. If he has to use hotels, it must be the higher priced hotels. In a dozen other ways his scale of living is usually higher than that to which he has been accustomed. The result is that even when the salary is liberal, very few men save anything. Furthermore, when they return to private life, often it is to find clientage gone or business impaired. To many, the acceptance of public office under the uncertain conditions of American politics spells ruin. To others it spells sacrifice to an amount never appreciated by the public. Political honor is dearly bought.
Very rarely an over-conscientious man raises the question of whether he ought to accept any payment at all for serving the public. If he can easily afford it, his scruples, or some other cause, may lead him to refuse to draw his salary, or having drawn it, to give it to some charity. Unfortunately there is occasional ground for fear that his course is due to some other cause than pure scruple. From early times men have sought to ingratiate themselves with electorates by the pretense of generosity. As long ago as 1678 the House of Commons had occasion to make a standing order declaring it bribery if a candidate for the House should give or promise any gift or reward to the county, town, or borough from which he sought to be returned to Parliament, after writs of election had been issued; and the order punished the person so offending by expulsion and a limited disqualification. In our country this kind of bribery has here and there taken the form of an offer to forego all or part of the salary attached to the desired office.
Such a course has been severely condemned. An early case was that of William Cole and Cole Diggs, charged in 1715 with having made preëlection promises that they would not draw any salary if elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses. Finding that the charges were true, the House declared Cole and Diggs not to have been duly elected, and asked Governor Spotswood to issue writs for a new election. The offenders were among Spotswood's few supporters in the House, which may have had something to do with his indignation over their treatment, but another election was held and the same men being returned, were this time admitted. The Burgesses based their contention on the law disabling anybody who made or promised a gift of money or anything else to any “person or persons in Particular” or to any "county, Town, or corporation, in general.” As each county then paid the salary of its two Burgesses, the offer of service without salary was held to be a promise of reward to the county.
When in 1873 J. E. Newell offered the voters of Vernon County, Wisconsin, to serve as county judge for $700 a year, $1000 being the salary, and later reduced his offer to $600, the court held (State v. Purdy, 36 Wis. 213) that votes given by reason of such an offer were void. The voice of justice spoke still more emphatically as a result of what took place in Calloway County, Missouri, in 1878. About a thousand citizens held a mass meeting and passed resolutions in which they said the salaries of their county officers were larger than they could afford to pay, and that there were plenty of good men, competent and honest, who were willing to perform the services at lower rates set forth in the resolutions. It was voted to support no man who would not agree to serve for an amount specified. One Collier was elected Judge of Probate under such an agreement. The matter was carried to the Supreme Court, which held against him. The ground for the decision was that such a promise tends to swerve the voter from his duty as a citizen; to blind his perceptions to the sole question he should consider — the qualifications of the candidate; and to fix them upon
· State v. Collier, 72 Mo. 13 (1880).