Terms of Service for Senators

Oliver Ellsworth
Oliver Ellsworth, delegate from Connecticut
James Sharples Senior, 1796-1797

Independence National Historical Park

Terms of Service for Senators

"Our business is yet unfinished and it yet remains uncertain when I shall return home - I am sure I wish for the time for this city has no charms for me - I mix with company without enjoying it and am perfectly tired with flattery and forms. To be very fashionable we must be very trifling and make and receive a thousand professions which everybody knows there is not truth in - Give me a little domestick circle where affection is natural and friendship sincere and I do not care who takes the rest."

- Oliver Ellsworth to his wife, Abigail

Ellsworth's somber letter may reflect the effect of today's battle as the Convention resumed its debate on term of service in the Senate. Gorham (MA) seconded by Wilson, moved for a six-year term with l/3 to go out of office every three years.

General Pinckney (SC) preferred four, lest members become tied too closely to the capital city. Read (DE) moved nine years since he couldn't get a life term; Broom (DE) seconded. Madison favored nine years with a high minimum age. Sherman (CT) thought six years sufficient to insure steadiness and wisdom in the system. Hamilton (NY) favored at least nine years.

Mr. Gerry (MA) "wished we could be united in our ideas...All aim at the same end, but there are great differences as to the means." He favored four or five years.

Eventually, the convention agreed upon six year terms, and Senators to be ineligible for other Federal offices during their term.

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Wednesday, June 27, 1787
Luther Martin's Point of View

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Last updated: February 26, 2015

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