Summary of Legislative Debate on Appointment of Members of Legislature to Federal Office, 25 January 18391
Mr. Jarrott offered a resolution, instructing the committee on the Judiciary to inquire into the legality of Mr. Flood’s holding a seat in the Legislature, when he has been appointed to the office of Register of the Land Office at Quincy.2
Mr. Flood thanked the gentleman for the care he manifested for his reputation; acknowledged that he had been appointed to the office of Register; but believed that he did not come within the prohibition of the Constitution, as he had neither given bonds nor taken the oath of office.
Mr. English moved to lay the resolution on the table till the 4th of July next.
Mr. Jarrott disclaimed any unfriendly feelings towards the gentleman from Adams (Mr. Flood) and he was entirely welcome to all the solicitude that he supposed him to feel for his reputation.
Mr. Ficklin was glad the motion had been made to lay on the table, as it bro’t[brought] up the merits of the resolution. He gave it as his opinion, that no one could be said to hold an office, in any such sense as to exclude him from another office, till he had taken the oath, given bond, &c[etc].
Mr. Williams hoped that he would not withdraw it. Had it not been offered, he should have offered a similar one, though divested of its personality; for, in wishing that the inquiry should be instituted, he was actuated by no unfriendly feeling toward his colleague, but a solemn conviction of duty alone. The appointment of his colleague has been announced in the public papers; and being looked upon as the incumbent of that office, he asked whether there was not room to apprehend the prevalence of that kind of influence here, which it was the object of the constitution to guard against ? In supporting the resolution, he felt that he was exerting a supervisory care, not so much over the Register elect, as over the constitution, and the purity of our legislation.
He thought the object of the resolution, was a proper subject of inquiry; it is a fair presumption, that the pay of this officer commences with the date of his appointment; which was the 8th of January.—If so, then he is excluded by the Constitution from a seat in this House; the circumstance of his not having been sworn in, is quite unimportant. He did not mean to impugn the character of his colleague; for, he knew him to be an honorable man; but, he hoped that the inquiry would be made; and that the committee on the Judiciary would report, whether he was to be properly considered as now holding said office, by virtue of an appointment to it, on his application; even though he had not been formally installed.
Mr. Flood hoped that the House would decide upon the merits of the resolution, without referring it to any committee.
Mr. Lincoln would not like to see the abstract question of right to a seat in this legislature blinded with any personal interests. He should therefore vote against laying the resolution on the table till the 4th of July; and if this motion were lost, he would move to lay it on the table—with the intention of letting it lie there till near the close of the session; when it could be taken up without wearing the appearance of being a personal attack.
Mr. Williams regretted that the inquiry had not come up in an abstract form; but it is of great importance that we know how the constitution is to be understood; and that the people know what their representatives are doing. Possibly the people are suffering inconvenience in the absence of the register from his office.
Mr. Flood said, that he could do nothing there, until a Receiver was appointed, and that the office was not shut on his account alone.
The discussion was continued by Messrs.[Messieurs] English, Walker of Vermillion, Henderson, Henry and Marshall.
At the request of Mr. Flood, Mr. English withdrew his motion to lay on the table till the 4th of July.
Mr. Thornton offered an amendment (striking out all of a personal character, and limiting the inquiry to the abstract matter,) which Mr. Jarrott adopted as a modification of his resolution.
1The Illinois legislature debated several times addressing the possible unconstitutionality of certain dual-officeholder situations. Article two, section twenty-five of the Illinois constitution stated: “No judge of any court of law or equity, secretary of state, attorney general, attorney for the state, register, clerk of any court of record, sheriff, or collector, member of either house of Congress, or person holding any lucrative office under the United States or this state...shall have a seat in the general assembly.”
Ill. Const. (1818), art. 2, §19, 25; Summary of Legislative Debate on Election of House Members to Office.
2Jarrot’s resolution repeated article two, section twenty-five of the Illinois constitution, then added “Resolved, That the committee on the Judiciary be instructed to inquire whether any member of this House, since taking his seat, has been appointed to any office under the General Government; whether such appointment has been accepted; and, if so, whether such person is properly entitled to hold his seat; and that they report the result of their inquiry to this House.”
Illinois House Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 280.
3On January 26, the House again took up consideration of the resolution. They amended the resolution to add, “That the committee also be instructed to inquire whether any member of this House is a president, cashier, or director of the State Bank of Illinois; and, if so, if he retains his seat in violation of the proviso of the 14th section of the act chartering said bank; and to report as soon as practicable.” The House then adopted the resolution. Section 14 of the act chartering the State Bank of Illinois contained the following proviso: “that no President, Cashier or Director of the Bank shall, during the term of his office, be eligible to a seat in either branch of the General Assembly of this State.”
Illinois House Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 284-85.
Copy of Printed Document, 1 page(s), Quincy Whig (Quincy, IL), 2 February 1839, 2:5.