"sacred honour", "office of honour"

Mon Apr 8 16:54:02 UTC 2013

For those of you who don't have their Constitution at hand, the passage in question reads:  "Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law."

I believe that "Office of honor, Trust or Profit" means essentially the same as "office."  Certainly Story's Commentaries, secs. 781 et seq., does not seem to give any great weight to the terms "honor, Trust or Profit" in this context.  The words may have been helpful in showing that the disqualification is not limited to civil offices.  Civil officers alone are subject to impeachment; Congress cannot impeach a general.

"Office of profit" simply meant that the office was one for pay.  For example, in Shepherd v. Commonwealth, 1 Serg. & Rawle 1 (Pa. 1814), we see:  "By the Constitution of Pennsylvania, art. 5, sect. 2, it is provided that the Judges of the Supreme Court and Presidents of the several Courts of Common Pleas, "shall not hold any other office of profit under this Commonwealth." This was an office of profit. The commissioners were entitled to three dollars and fifty cents for every day they acted."

I don't think "sacred honor" meant anything different in 1787 (or in 1776, when it was used in the Declaration of Independence) than it does today.

Incidentally, both the Declaration and the Constitution spell "honor" without the u.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Joel S. Berson
Sent: Monday, April 08, 2013 11:08 AM
Subject: "sacred honour", "office of honour"

I am interested in the meaning of the following terms in and at the
time of the adoption of the US Constitution:

sacred honour

office of trust
office of honour
office of profit

In the Constitution the last three appear in, and apparently only in,
the article dealing with impeachment, where they are listed together
and are not distinguished.  A litle bit of Googling suggests that
there were no definitions because everyone knew what they meant!

"Office of profit" I will guess is one where the revenues are farmed,
and a portion provides compensation for the office-holder.  But
that's only a guess.


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