The Original Meaning of ‘Emoluments’ in the Constitution

Robert G. Natelson

The Independence Institute

February 5, 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.”

Number of Pages in PDF File: 60

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

JEL Classification: K1, K19, K29, K39

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Date posted: February 6, 2017 ; Last revised: February 21, 2017

Suggested Citation

Natelson, Robert G., The Original Meaning of ‘Emoluments’ in the Constitution (February 5, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2911871

Contact Information

Robert G. Natelson (Contact Author)
The Independence Institute ( email )
727 E. 16th Ave.
Denver, CO 80203
United States
303-279-6536 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://constitution.i2i.org
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