Download This Paper Open PDF in Browser

The Original Meaning of ‘Emoluments’ in the Constitution

57 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2017 Last revised: 12 May 2017

Robert G. Natelson

Independence & Heartland Institutes

Date Written: May 11, 2017


This Article explores the original meaning of the word “Emolument(s)” in the Constitution. It identifies four common definitions in founding-era political discourse. It places the constitutional use within its context as part of a larger reform movement in Britain and America and as driven by other historical events. The Article examines how the word was employed in contemporaneous reform measures, in official congressional and state documents, in the constitutional debates, and in the constitutional text.

The author concludes that the three appearances of “emoluments” in the Constitution had a common meaning, which was “compensation with financial value, received by reason of public employment.”

Keywords: Constitution, Emoluments Clause, Original Meaning, Original Understanding, Original Intent

JEL Classification: K1, K19, K29, K39

Suggested Citation

Natelson, Robert G., The Original Meaning of ‘Emoluments’ in the Constitution (May 11, 2017). Georgia Law Review, Vol. 52, No. 1, 2017. Available at SSRN:

Robert G. Natelson (Contact Author)

Independence & Heartland Institutes ( email )

727 E. 16th Ave.
Denver, CO 80203
United States
303-279-6536 (Phone)


Paper statistics

Abstract Views