Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
First Pub. Date
New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
Pub. Date
Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
934 of 1105



SALARY GRAB (IN U. S. HISTORY), the popular name for the general increase of federal salaries in 1873.


—The constitution provides that "the senators and representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States"; that the president "shall, at stated times, receive for his services a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States, or any of them"; and that the judges of all federal courts "shall, at stated times, receive for their services a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office." The act of March 3, 1873, provided that, on and after March 4, 1873 (the beginning of President Grant's second term), the salary of the president should be $50,000 a year, of the chief justice $10,500, of the vice-president, cabinet officers, associate justices, and speaker of the house, $10,000, and of senators, representatives and delegates in congress, $7,500; and that the salaries of employés of both houses should be increased in various proportions. The salaries named had previously been as follows: president, $25,000; chief justice, $8,500; other officers, $8,000; and senators, representatives and delegates, $5,000. Although the act was in other respects to go into force "on and after March 4, 1873," the members of the congress which passed it were to be included in the increased salary, so that the act, as to them, was retroactive for the two years just closing. This was the essence of the "salary grab," which excited so much popular indignation that many of the members were moved to repay their increase to the treasury. The act was repealed, as to all except the president and the justices, by act of Jan. 20, 1874, and salaries reverted to the former standard. The increase of the salaries of the president and justices was retained.


—The acts to ascertain and fix the compensation of members of congress have been as follows: The act of Sept. 22, 1789, fixed the salaries of senators and representatives at $6 per day, and $6 for every twenty miles of travel, until March 4, 1795, after which date senators were to receive $7 per day, and $7 for every twenty miles of travel. The act of March 10, 1796, fixed the salaries of both senators and representatives at the rate fixed in 1789. The act of March 19, 1816, increased this salary to $1,500 per annum for "this and every future congress." This "salary grab" excited so much popular feeling that it was repealed by act of Feb. 6, 1817. The act of Jan. 22, 1818, fixed the salary at $8 per day, and $8 for every twenty miles of travel, dating the increase back to March 3, 1817. The act of Aug. 16, 1856, increased the salary to $3,000 per annum, and mileage as before, and enacted further, that "this law shall apply to the present congress." In all these ascertainments of salary, the speaker's salary had been double that of the other members The act of July 28, 1866, increased the salary of members to $5,000 per annum, and that of the speaker to $8,000. All these increases had been retroactive, and it is probable that the criticism on the increase of 1873 came mainly from the lavish generosity of congress in increasing so many salaries, heightened by the unfortunate fact that the congressional increase alone was retroactive.


—See 1 Stat. at Large, 70, 448 (for acts of Sept. 22, 1789, and March 10, 1796); 3 Stat. at Large, 257, 345, 404 (acts of March 19, 1816, Feb. 6, 1817, and Jan. 22, 1818); 11 Stat. at Large, 48 (act of Aug. 16, 1856); 14 Stat. at Large (act of July 28, 1866); 17 Stat. at Large, 486 (act of March 3, 1873); and 18 Stat. at Large, 4 (act of Jan. 20, 1874).


934 of 1105

Return to top