A blog collecting every use of the term “corruption” among the records of the Framers. Submitted to the Supreme Court as an appendix to an amicus brief by Lawrence Lessig for the Constitutional Accountability Center.
The British government furnishes a very remarkable instance to my present purpose. In that country, sir, is a king, who is hereditary—a man, who is not chosen for his abilities, but who, though he may be without principles or abilities, is by birth their sovereign, and may impart the vices of his character to the government. His influence and power are so great, that the people would bear a great deal before they would attempt to resist his authority. He is one complete branch of the legislature may make as many peers as he pleases, who are immediately members of another branch; he has the disposal of almost all offices in the kingdom, commands the army and navy, is head of the church, and has the means of corrupting a large proportion of the representatives of the people, who form the third branch of the legislature. The House of Peers, which forms the second branch, is composed of members who are hereditary, and, except as to money bills, (which they are not allowed either to originate or alter,) hath equal authority with the other house. The members of the House of Commons, who are considered to represent the people, are elected for seven years, and they are chosen by a small proportion of the people, and, I believe I may say, a large majority of them by actual corruption. Under these circumstances, one would suppose their influence, compared to that of the king and the lords, was very inconsiderable. But the fact is, that they have, by degrees, increased their power to an astonishing degree, and, when they think proper to exert it, can command almost any thing they please.