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Table of Contents
The 27th Amendment, also known as the Congressional Compensation Act of 1789, was the second of the twelve amendments that were proposed in 1789 by the First Congress.
See the fact file below for more information on the 27th Amendment or alternatively, you can download our 24-page The 27th Amendment worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
The 27th Amendment
- It is an amendment that requires that any change to the rate of compensation in the US Congress must only take effect after the coming election in the House of Representatives.
- The 27th Amendment hinders Congress from allowing themselves pay rises during the current session.
- It was believed by the proponents that legislators were more likely to be aware of increasing congressional pay if they had no personal claims in the vote.
- James Madison, the proponent, did not want Congress to have power over its own pay without limitation.
- He also did not want the President to become involved with congressional pay since he might be given too much power over Congress.
- This amendment stipulated that:
“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”
- In the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, a topic that took up several days of discussion was congressional pay.
- Benjamin Franklin’s speech to the convention was about public salaries, which he was not in favor of.
- He believed public servants must not be paid at all because we can get leaders with “bold and violent” personalities who are often engaged in “selfish pursuits”.
- Franklin’s arguments were declined because the Framers did not want only the wealthy to have a hold of federal offices.
- However, Benjamin Franklin’s argument made the Framers focus on making sure that people did not go into public office just to make a lot of money.
- A phenomenon known as “placemen” became the biggest problem in English democracy.
- Placemen, who were members of Parliament, was appointed by the King in different profitable executive branch offices.
- By doing this, the King was able to buy their loyalty on votes in Parliament.
- The King favored and corrupted these officeholders by providing them with easy yet high-paying civil office jobs just to buy their support in Parliament.
- To prevent this problem, the Framers added article 1, Section 6’s Incompatibility Clause which was then described as the Cornerstone of the Constitution.
- However, according to the Constitution, for the salaries of the congressmen, the Congress would set its own pay.
- The general public and James Madison were against this idea because it was like a cue for Congress to pay itself more than it should.
- On September 25, 1789, the First Congress submitted 12 amendments to the Constitution which was made by James Madison of Virginia.
- Two years later, ten of these were approved and known as the Bill of Rights.
- Two amendments, the 27th Amendment and the proposed Congressional Apportionment Amendment were not approved.
- After almost two hundred years, the proposed amendment for congressional pay resurfaced and was widely supported by the public.
- In 1982, Gregory Watson, a 19-year-old sophomore undergraduate student at the University of Texas, wrote a research paper about the government process.
- His paper became the foundation for a movement to diminish corruption in politics by ratifying the amendment.
- He argued that there was no time limit on when the amendment could be ratified and it could even be ratified now.
- Watson’s professor, Sharon Waite, gave him a poor grade, C, because she did not think his argument was convincing.
- Watson was sure he deserved a grade higher than a C for his paper.
- He appealed his grade to his TA and then his professor.
- As he was unsuccessful, he took the issue to the country.
- As he was unsuccessful, he took the issue to the country. According to the NPR report in May 2017, he said after he was given a C, “I thought right then and there, I am going to get that thing ratified”.
- Watson sent letters to the state legislators but most ignored his idea.
- Senator William Cohen was the only one who liked his idea so in 1983, he pushed and passed it in Maine.
- Watson also kept pushing and by then, the Amendment had gained popularity.
- After the public was displeased with frequent increases in congressional pay in the 1980s, the Amendment’s passage through Congress in 1789 and non-ratification by the states came to public attention.
- A campaign was held to get three-quarter votes from the states to ratify the Amendment over the period from 1789 to the present day.
- Five states passed it in 1985 while 38 states had it passed in 1992.
- As required by Article V of the constitution, three-quarters of the state’s consensus was finally reached.
- The Amendment was legally ratified by the Archivist of the United States and Congress declared its ratification to be legal and part of the Constitution on May 20, 1992.
- No court should ever doubt that decision.
- This fulfilled James Madison’s principle that the Congress must not vote for its own pay raises without colleagues’ approval or disapproval.
The 27th Amendment Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about the 27th Amendment across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about The 27th Amendment, also known as the Congressional Compensation Act of 1789, which was the second of the twelve amendments that were proposed in 1789 by the First Congress. It was passed by two-thirds votes of both houses. In history, it is one of the most unusual amendments ever made to the US Constitution.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- 27th Amendment Facts
- Fill in the Box
- True or False?
- Matching Type
- What Do You Think?
- Be Heard!
- You as CEO
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Use With Any Curriculum
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