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EDWARD STANWOOD, Litt. D. (Bowdoin)



(Cfee EmersJDe ^C3^, CambriDoe


Copyright, 1898, By EDWARD STAN^WOOD.

All rights reserved.

The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A. Electrotyped and Printed by H. 0. Houghtou and Company.


The basis of this book is the " History of Presidential Elec- tions," originally published in 1884. In the preparation of that work the meagreness and comparative inaccessibility of material concerning the early elections made the chapters that deal with that period somewhat barren. Increasing abundance of material and greater familiarity with the political history of more recent times caused a broadening of the plan, and led to the result that the later chapters of the original work, and still more the chapters added in subsequent editions, in 1888, 1892, and 1896, were much more than a history of the elections.

I have thought that the usefulness of the book might be greatly enhanced by rewriting a large part of it, supplying deficiencies by a more diligent search for and study of the facts relating to the presidency in the early days of the gov- ernment, and enriching it throughout with new personal, explanatory, and other enlightening matter, thus making the whole work uniform in method. This has enabled me to introduce a fuller discussion of some of the political problems to which the constitutional provisions regarding the presiden- tial office have given rise. More important still, the revision and expansion of the work have given me a much-desired opportunity to modify some opinions expressed in the original book which a more careful and thorough examination of origi- nal sources of information has led me to regard as not well founded. The last consideration has the more weight in view of the use that has been made of the book in the history depart- ments of our colleges.

The changes and additions here noted have given the book


so much greater scope than it had in its first form, that a broader title seems necessary. If it be urged that a history of the presidency should include an account of the development of the presidential office, and of the successive expansions or limitations of the President's powers and duties, the reply may be made that there has been no such development to record, since the office is now what it was in the time of Washington, neither of greater nor of less weight in the government than it was then.

I have endeavored to collect and present all important mat- ters relating to the presidency, beginning with the constitu- tional history of the office, covering every public event and discussion which had a perceptible influence in determining who should hold the office, and in connection therewith to note the origin and sketch the history of all political parties, however ephemeral, that rose above the rank of a local faction. And, since one President is different from another, I have tried to show wherein and in what manner the personal quali- ties of the Presidents have affected the course of public events and of the national history.

E. S. Brookline, Massachusetts, July, 1898.



I. The Electoral System

11. The First Election

in. Washington re-elected unanimously

IV. John Adams

V. The Jefferson-Burr Contest .

VI. The Democratic Regime

VII. James Madison

VIII. An Election in Time of War

IX. The Last of the Virginia "Dynasty

X. The " Era of Good Feelings "

XL The Defeat of " King Caucus "

XII. Jackson's Triumph ....

XIII. The " Old Hero " re-elected .

XIV. The Convention System

XV. Van Buren

XVI. Tippecanoe and Tyler too .

XVIL The First "Dark Horse"

XVIIL The "Free Soil" Campaign of 1848

XIX. The Democrats reunited

XX. The New Republican Party

XXI. The Last Struggle of Slavery

XXII. Lincoln re-elected

(_XXIII. General Grant

XXIV. The Greeley Campaign

XXV. The Disputed Election

XXVL A Republican Revival .

XXVII. The Mugwump Campaign . .

XXVIII. Two Important Questions decided

XXIX. The Second Harrison

XXX. Cleveland's Second Election

XXXL The Free Silver Campaign .



20 32 42 54 74 86 97 106 115 125 142 151 166 178 190 206 226 244 258 279 298 313 333 356 394 419 450 457 486 51?) 571

'1 ii





The evolution of the Constitution of 1787 forms one of the most interesting chapters in the history of human government. For the first time, the representatives of an inchoate nation, meeting to ordain and establish a fundamental law for them- selves and their posterity, could write that law upon tabula rasa. They had to expunge nothing, to abolish no old institutions, to violate no traditions, to reform no long-stand- ing abuses. Their task was not made easier by their unex- ampled freedom from the trammels of an established order ; on the contrary, it was thereby rendered more difficult. To know what is not liked goes far toward teaching one what will be liked. The members of the Philadelphia Convention had no indication of what would be agreeable to those for whom they acted. Yet they proceeded, first to draw in the rough, and afterward to fill in and refine the detail, of a constitution that has converted the unorganized communities of a congeries of mutually repellant States into a united nation, under a govern- ment more conservative and less subject to change than that of any other self-governing people in the world.

Particularly worthy of study is the process by which the executive department of the government to be created was moulded, as the perfect statue is developed from the rougli block of marble. By successive resolutions the convention determined that there should be an executive ; consisting of one person ; holding office for a limited period ; reeligible ; elected ; endowed with certain powers. The Convention hesitated upon many points ; the decisions first reached were not always, not even usually, final. Indeed, almost every feature of the plan


ultimately adopted was at least once rejected, after full debate. Y'et it cannot be said, after a full study of the debates, that the Convention was unduly vacillating. The truth is that it was a series of independent propositions which was rejected in all these cases, but that when they were combined in a whole, the scheme became that toward which the Convention was all the time working. This will explain why Hamilton, whose plan of a government was widely different from that which formed the basis of the Convention's deliberations, who, in- deed, had but little part in the formation of the Constitution, could without great inconsistency become a defender of the instrument as a whole, and could write : ^ " The mode of the appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system of any consequence which has escaped without some censure, or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents." Notwith- standing this statement, which was strictly true, it is now to be said that the only part of the machinery of government, ordained by the people when they adopted the Constitution, that has suffered the least change since the government came into being, is the article which then gave universal satisfaction ; and that no part of the Constitution has been so earnestly and so continuously criticised as this same article, already once amended to remove a supposed defect.

The plan of a national government submitted to the Con- vention on the 29th of May, 1787, by ]Mr. Edmund Randolph, provided for "a national executive to be chosen by the national

legislature for the term of years," " and to be ineligible

the second time." Charles Pinckney proposed, at the same time, " that the executive power be vested in a ' President of the United States of America,' which shall be his style ; and his title shall be ' His Excellency.' He shall be elected for

years, and shall be reeligible." In some of the propositions

made during the early days of the Convention the proposed executive was styled the " governor ; " but it was a mere sug- gestion, resulting from the fact that as there was not, and never had been, a model from which to copy the executive which the Convention intended to create, no precedent existed to guide them in giving him a title. The first question was, In how many persons should the executive power be vested ? One voice was raised in favor of three, one to be chosen 1 Federalist, No. 67.


from the North, one from the Middle States, and one from the South. It was speedily determined that there should he a sin- gle chief magistrate, and the decision was not reopened or crit- icised afterward.

The questions concerning the executive department of the government divided themselves into two classes : What should be the powers and duties of the President ? and, How and by whom should he be chosen ? With the first class we have nothing to do, save incidentally. To understand why the Con- vention was puzzled, and why it changed its mind, apparently, so often, it is necessary to inquire briefly what it was the pur- pose of the Convention to accomplish, and against what appre- hended evils it endeavored to guard. It was one of the guid- ing principles, early adopted and rigidly adhered to, that the legislative, executive, and judicial departments of the govern- ment should be separate and mutually independent. There were two, and only two, natural ways of selecting the Presi- dent : by popular vote, and by the national legislature. At no time was the proposition of a popular election received with favor, although it had the support of powerful advocates, particularly of Mr. Gouverneur Morris. The chief objections urged against it were three : the great advantage this method would give to the large States ; the probable ignorance of the people at large as to the comparative merits of candidates, and the consequent likelihood that they would in all cases give a preference to a candidate each from his own State ; and the general incompetence of the populace to decide a question of such moment. Superficial writers are responsible for a popu- lar impression that the third of these reasons was the control- ling one, that the Convention by its action registered its distrust of the people, that if the members had felt a greater confidence in the people, the decision would have been differ- ent. From this it is plawsible to draw an argument that the present generation, which knoAvs that the people may be trusted, should introduce the popular election. In truth, a distrust of the good judgment of the people was expressed by one member only, Colonel Mason, of Virginia, Avho happens to have been one of the three members of the Convention who did not sign the Constitution, ^ in the often quoted remark that it would be *' as unnatural to refer the proper character for chief magistrate to the people as it would be to refer a trial 1 The others were Randolph and Gerry.


of colors to a blind man." On the other hand, the fear of aggrandizement by the large States was ever present as a con- trolling principle ; for unless the frame of government were such as the smaller States would adopt, the Convention must be a failure. The consideration that the public characters of the country were not generally known, save in the neighbor- hood of their homes, was also potent, and was founded upon a real condition.

Yet the alternative, an election by the legislature, was equally objectionable on other grounds. To require that the Executive should be independent of the law-making power, and at the same time to give the election to the legislature, was an incon- sistency so glaring as to shock the Convention w^henever the clause relating to the choice of a President came under consid- eration. The only escape from it, and that but a partial one, was to forbid the reelection of a chief magistrate, a provision which, as was pointed out, might and would sometimes exclude from the office the person best fitted to exercise it. The pro- position to avoid these difficulties by creatmg a body of elec- tors for the sole purpose of choosing a President was made early in the session. On the 2d of June, James Wilson pro- posed that there should be " certain districts in each State which should appoint electors to elect outside of their own body." The objection was made that, inasmuch as the most eminent citizens would be already serving as senators, repre- sentatives, and State governors, the choice of a President would, by this plan, be committed to a body of inferior men, ignorant of the merits of citizens in all parts of the country, and therefore apt to vote for candidates living in their own State. Dealing with the conditions that prevailed in their time, a dearth of men capable of filling so many new posi- tions as it was necessary to create, and an absence of the means by which information regarding public men and public affairs is now disseminated, they were right.

The statement of the perplexities by which the Convention was confronted prepares us to understand the frequent reversal of its decisions. The first resolution, adopted before the objec- tions to it had occurred to the members, was that the Execu- tive should be chosen by the legislature. Then Elbridge Gerry brought forward a suggestion that the President should be elected by the governors of the States ; this was negatived. Hamilton's plan of a government, offered on the 18th of June,


which was never considered by the Convention, committed the election to a body of electors to be chosen by the people, by districts. These electors were to meet, those for each State within that State, and vote not only for a President of the United States, but also for two " second electors." A majority of all the " first electors " was to be necessary to make choice of a President. Should such a majority not be obtained, the "second electors" were to meet in one place, be presided over by the Chief Justice, and effect a choice.

The convention returned to the subject of the Executive on the 17th of July, and after a debate rejected a motion that he should be chosen " by electors appointed by the legislatures of the several States." On the 19th it adopted a motion in almost the identical words of the rejected proposition : " to be chosen by electors appointed for that purpose by the legislatures of the States." The question as to the length of the President's term, as well as that of his reeligibility, was closely involved with the consideration of the body to which he was to owe his election. A long term and ineligibility for a second term were both mea- sures to insure the President's independence of the legislature. The bugbear of legislative tyranny was held up before the Con- vention almost as frequently as was that of a control of the government by the larger States. Seven years, therefore, was the term first agreed upon ; and the question of reeligibility was left open. After the second vote, above noted, commit- ting the choice to independent electors, the term was reduced to six years ; and an amendment that a President should not hold office more than six years of any twelve years was re- jected. This was on the 19th of July. The next day the Convention adopted Mr. Gerry's proposition regarding the number of electors : Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia were to have three each ; Connecticut, New York, New Jer- sey, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina, two each ; Rhode Island, Delaware, and Georgia, one each. On the 26th the Convention reverted to the seven years' term, with the provision of ineligibility for reelection. Then, on the same day, the whole subject was referred to a committee of five. The committee reported a draft of a Constitution on the 6th of August. The article relating to the election of President was in these words :

Art. X., Sect. 1. The executive power of the United States shall be vested in a single person. His style shall be " The President of


the United States of America ; " and his title shall be " His Excel lency." He shall be elected by ballot by the legislature. He shall hold his office during seven years, but shall not be elected a sec- ond time.

This section, which combined Mr. Randolph's and Mr. Pinck- ney's plans, but which contained no trace of the electoral plan adopted by the Convention, was the basis of future discussions. But the scheme of a choice by the legislature was still as objectionable as ever. It was at this point that jMr. Hugh Williamson of North Carolina made a suggestion in which was the germ of the plan ultimately adopted. He proposed to refer the election to popular vote, each elector to vote for three persons, and the choice to fall on him who obtained a majority of all the persons voting. He thought this would be a cure for the evil that the large States would govern. Gou- verneur Morris at once caught up the idea, but suggested that two votes only be allowed to electors, and that it be provided that one at least of the two should not be given to a citizen of the voter's own State. Mr. Madison also thought that some- thing valuable might be made of Mr. AYilliamson's suggestion, with Mr. jNIorris's amendment. He advanced the idea that the second best man would probably be the first, that is, a voter would place a citizen of his own State first, but would give his second vote to a man selected on account of his fitness for the place, and not on account of his residence. The voter might give the preference to a local candidate in the hope that he would get a majority ; but he would not throw away his second vote also. The first judgment of the Convention was against the proposition, yet it was defeated by one majority only, five States supporting and six opposing it.

On the 24th of August the question of the Executive was again considered. The Convention rejected a proposition by Mr. jNIorris to refer the election to electors chosen by the people of the several States, and also a motion that the Presi- dent be chosen " by electors." It rejected moreover a plain election by the people, a motion to give to each State one vote for President (in the election by " the legislature," which in all this discussion meant the House of Representatives and not both branches of Congress), and another motion that when the legislature should be equally divided the President of the Senate should have the casting vote. It adopted two amend- ments to the section quoted above, which made the third



sentence read as follows : ^^ He shall be elected by joint ballot by the legislature, to which election a majority of the votes of the members present shall be required." In the clause as amended, it will be seen, the phrase " the legislature " signifies both branches.

Up to this point no proposition had been made to appoint a Vice-President. On August 31 " the questions not yet settled " were referred to a committee of eleven, which reported, on the 4th of September, a scheme for the election of the Executive radically different from anything that had been sanctioned by the Convention, as different as the report of a Congressional committee of conference, in our day, some- times is from any version of a bill passed in non-concurrence submitted to it. The committee proposed to strike all out of the section printed above after the word "Excellency," and to insert the following provisions :

Each State shall appoint, in such manner as its legislature may direct, a number of electors equal to the whole number of senators and members of the House of Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the legislature. (A)

The electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhab- itant of the same State with themselves ; and they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each, which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit, sealed, to the seat of general government, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in that house, open all the certificates : and the votes shall then and there be counted. (B) The person having the greatest number of votes shall be President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors ; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the Senate shall choose by ballot one of them for President ; but if no such person have such ma- jority, then, from the five highest on the list, the Senate shall choose by ballot the President. And in every case, after the choice of a President, the person having the greatest number of votes shall be the Vice-President ; but if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them the Vice-President.

The legislature may determine the time of choosing and assem- bling the electors, and the manner of certifying and transmitting their votes.

When the article was taken up for consideration on the


follo\ving day, September 5, many amendments were offered. Those which were adopted show again most clearly that the Convention now discerned definitely what it desired to ac- complish, and that it could move directly to that end. At the place marked (A) a provision was inserted that ^' no per- son shall be appointed an elector who is a member of the leg- islature of the United States, or who holds any office of profit or trust under the United States," At the place marked (B) was added the phrase, " in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives," an important clause, in that it implies that the President of the Senate was to count the elec- toral vote, and that the members of the two houses were to be present as witnesses only. The word '^ immediately " was inserted in the direction to the Senate to choose the President in case of a failure of the electors to give a majority to one person. A motion to commit the election to the " legisla- ture" instead of to the Senate was rejected by seven States against three. The reason for this vote was evidently a de- termination that when the electors did not effect a choice, the result should be determined by a poll of States, each having an equal voice ; for when Roger Sherman moved that the election be made by the House of Representatives, each State to have one vote, the motion was carried by ten States to one. Then it was suggested that inasmuch as a majority of the House of Representatives constituted a quorum, the election might be carried, when the members of three large States only were present, by a vote of two States to one. Madison met this by offering an amendment, which was accepted, pro- viding that when the House was assembled for the purpose of electing a President, a quorum should consist of a member or members from two thirds of the States, and that a majority of all the States should be necessary to effect a choice.

Thus all the points of objection were met, and the scheme as a whole was regarded with almost universal satisfaction. The whole Constitution was referred to a committee " to revise the style and arrange the articles agreed to by the House." The committee, appointed on the 8th of September, reported on the 12th. The articles were "read, debated by paragraphs, amended, and agreed to," and the Convention adjourned on the 17th of September. The article, as finally adopted and rati- fied, under which the first four elections were held, is, in full, as follows :


Art. IL, Sect. 1. The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice- President, chosen for the same term, be elected as follows :

Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole num- ber of senators and representatives to which the State may be enti- tled in the Congress ; but no senator or representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

The electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhab- itant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each ; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit, sealed, to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors ap- pointed ; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Represen- tatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for Presi- dent; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the Presi- dent. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each State having one vote ; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two thirds of the States, and a majority of all the States shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice-President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice-President.

The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors and the day on which they shall give their votes ; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.

What the electoral system has accomplished, and wherein it has proved more or less defective, may be learned in detail from the historical events narrated in subsequent chapters. It is desirable, nevertheless, to consider in this place the general working of the system, and its development in practice. In the first place, let us see how far it has fulfilled the purposes


and expectations of the framers of the Constitution. No doubt it is unsafe to declare in precise terms what they intended to accomplish by every clause and word of the remarkable instrument they left for the use of their country- men: nor is it just or expedient to regard their work as imperfect in those parts of the Constitution wherein later generations have departed from what seems to have been their original intention, provided the modification, not in- consistent with the letter of the Constitution, result in a workable and equitable system. Bearing in mind these pre- liminary cautions, we may say that the Convention sought to accomplish, (1) the independence of the Executive ; (2) the choice of the President by an electorate which {a) should be intelligent, and free to choose the best, and {b) should not be controlled by the large States ; (3) that in the event of a failure of the electors to make a choice, each State should have an equal voice.

The first of the above-enumerated objects has been realized, although at one time it seemed to be defeated. In the Chap- ter on the Convention System (XIV) it will be seen how the Congressional Caucus became so obvious a necessity that it would have been contrary to the plainest dictate of political wisdom not to make use of it ; and yet it was directly in vio- lation of the principle that the President must not owe his election to the legislative department of the government. The national convention has restored to the President as large a measure of independence of Congress as is possible under any system. So long as the strongest, wisest, and best-informed public men have the greatest influence upon the choice, as they ought to have, and so long as the people send such men to Congress, as they ought to do, so long will the absolute independence of the President be impossible ; but not his in- dependence of Congress as a whole, or of his own party mem- bers in Congress.

The most difficult requirement was that the electors should be free agents, and qualified to make a wise choice by acquaint- ance with the public men of the country. In the strictest sense, the first part of this condition was not realized even at the earliest elections. There was no second where Washington was first ; but when he retired, the intelligence of the electors needed to be instructed. It was many years before acquaint- ance with public men was sufficiently general to enable all the


States to appoint electors who were competent to judge for themselves. It is notorious that almost from the beginning, the electors have been subject, in giving their votes, to a moral stress so powerful that not one of them could separate himself from his fellows and vote for any other than the candidate of his party, without being held guilty of unpardonable political treachery. The intrigues to detach Federal electors from Adams, eight years only after the Constitution went into effect, and the absolute unanimity of the anti-Federal electors in support of both Jefferson and Burr, in 1800, show how quickly the scheme of independent, free-acting electors came to naught. Shall we say that it is surprising that the sagacious statesmen of the Convention did not foresee that the govern- ment they were instituting would be a government by party, and that the success of parties would depend as much on their discipline as on their principles ? They did foresee it. Or rather, they feared, as some of them expressed it in debate, that the electors would be influenced and controlled in their action by designing men ; and they hoped only that the votes would be free.

No argument is needed to prove that the scheme of the fathers is not only impracticable, but that in its operation it would now be intolerable. Were electors to be chosen merely as party men, uncommitted to any candidates, one of two things must happen. Either the choice of these candidates, after the appointment of electors, would be made in the utmost confusion, and would be attended with scandalous intrigues, perhaps with corruption ; or, the election of a President would be thrown into the House of Representatives, not occasionally, but always. The most casual consideration of the subject will convince every thinking man that the system we have is far better than that which the fathers planned. We have, in the convention system, a device which substitutes the judgment of a whole party for that of the individual elector, and which enables the wishes of the largest party to be carried into effect, instead of being scattered and wasted. The new system may not, does not, carry out the exact intention of the Fathers, but it conforms to the letter of the Constitution.

Four elections only were held under the provisions of the Constitution as ratified by the States. Then a change was made, in order to meet in a different way a state of affairs which the Convention had foreseen. The circumstances in


which the will of the victorious party was nearly frustrated at the election of 1800-1801 are fully narrated in a subsequent chapter. It was to prevent a recurrence of the scandal, for it was a scandal, in spite of the fact that it was constitutional, that the change was made. Nevertheless the amendment cast away the very feature which induced the Convention to entrust the choice of President to a created body of electors, and which was to make it certain that the large States should not control. Consequently, it seems at first sight illogical to amend the Constitution by ordaining a different course of pro- cedure, for the sole reason that something had happened which was distinctly foreseen and provided for.

It seemed both illogical and unwise to Gouverneur Morris, who was at that time a member of the United States Senate from New York.^ The twelfth amendment was proposed by New York. Mr. Morris voted against it, and the resolution of the House of Representatives was first defeated by his vote. In a letter to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the Assembly of New Y^ork, dated December 2o, 1802,^ he gives his reasons for his vote, three in number, of which one only is pertinent. The evils complained of were foreseen in the Convention. " The Convention not only foresaw that a scene might take place similar to that of the last presidential election, but even supposed it not impossible that at some time or other, a person admirably fitted for the office of President might have an equal vote with one totally unqualified, and that, by the predominance of faction in the House of Representatives, the latter might be preferred. This, which is the greatest supposable evil of the present mode, was calmly examined, and it appeared that however prejudicial it might be at the present moment, a useful lesson would result from it for the future, to teach contending parties the importance of giving both votes to men fit for the first office." Mr, Morris was a Federalist, but his judgment in the crisis of 1801 had been decidedly against the course pursued by the members of his party in the House of Representatives. Thus he had seen an example of that which he characterizes as '• the greatest sup- posable evil of the present mode." He must also have been aware of the strenuous efforts put forth by men of his own party to secure for Mr. Pinckney a larger electoral vote than

1 He represented Pennsylvania in the Convention of 1787.

2 Sparks's Life of Gouverneur Morris, vol. iii., p. 174.


that for Mr. Adams, in the year preceding that crisis. That Avhich he calls a " useful lesson " was then, and has at almost every subsequent election been greatly needed, and usually unheeded. No doubt, if a party victorious in the choice of electors were always liable to the accident of having to submit to an assembly politically hostile the choice between its two candidates for the presidency, the nominations would be more carefully made. But it is clearly evident that, with the aban- donment of the theory of independent voting by electors, and the consequent certainty that there would always be a tie be- tween two candidates, and an election ultimately by the House of Eepresentatives, the change made after the Jefferson-Burr contest was a wise one.

It has been said that to this change is to be attributed the semi-degradation of the office of Vice-President. In support of the assertion it may be stated with truth that not more than two or three candidates for A^ice-President of all parties, dur- ing the last three quarters of a century, have been men who, at the time of their nomination, had even been suggested as candidates for President. Mr. Tyler, Mr. Wheeler, and Mr. Hendricks may be named ; is there a fourth ? It may never- theless be urged that under the original system there surely would have been an evil greater than the choice of second-rate men for the vice-presidency. Consider what would have hap- pened had two such men as Clay and Webster been the candi- dates, and the successful candidates, of the Whig party, in 1840. Receiving an equal vote from the electors, the House of Representatives must have made choice betvt^een them. One of the two would have gone to the Wliite House ; the other would have been condemned to the obscurity of the vice-presi- dency. One can hardly conceive of a situation more conducive to intrigue on the part of both, to an effort of the successful man to retain power by putting down his rival, of the unsuc- cessful to supplant him. This consideration alone, and others might be mentioned, should be sufficient to reconcile the country to the change that resulted from the tie vote between Jefferson and Burr.

No strong movement has ever been made to substitute a direct popular vote for the existing system. The suggestion is so clearly impracticable that a discussion of its merits is useless. A three fourths vote of the States is needed for an amendment of the Constitution. Under the present


apportionment there are fifteen States which have no more than two members each in the House of Representatives. One third of the States, then, have a vastly greater power in de- termining who shall be President than they would exercise under the system of popular election. Not one of them would give its consent to the change. Nor has there ever been a time in our history when the number of small States which would lose political power by the adoption of a system of pop- ular election was not large enough to foredoom the proposi- tion.

Numerous have been the suggestions of amendment of the Constitution with a view to dispensing with the machinery of electors, at the same time preserving to the States their rela- tive weight in the election. The leading idea in the most of them is : a direct vote by the people for President and Vice- President ; the result in each State to be determined by a plurality ; the candidates who receive such plurality to be credited with as many votes from that State as the electoral votes they would have under the present system. The sole practical advantage to be anticipated from any of these propo- sitions is relief from the possibility of treachery on the part of men designated as electors. Never but once has this danger threatened. A complete remedy, much more easily applied than an amendment of the Constitution, is the election of men of high character as electors.

The language of the Constitution relative to the counting of the votes is extremely precise up to the point of designating by whom they shall be counted. It does not seem to have suggested itself to any member of the Convention that there might be a controverted election in any State, and conse- quently that authority to make a decision should be lodged somewhere. The vagueness of the direction led to a variation in practice at the early elections, as will be observed in the account of each election. Gradually Congress asserted its right to make the count and to determine all questions arising. If this is not clearly the intention of the framers of the Con- stitution — who provided merely that the certificates of votes should be opened in the presence of Congress it is certainly safer to entrust the decision to the two Houses than to the discretion of one man. The process by which Congress as- sumed the power will be most conveniently set forth in the history of the successive elections.


The theory of the Constitution undoubtedly is that the elec- tors are officers of their respective States. As such the method of their appointment is left entirely to the legislatures. From the beginning there was a marked difference in the States in this regard, for while in most of them the legislature itself made the choice, some entrusted the election to the people. It will be seen from wdiat follows that the tendency to the sys- tem of popular election was not strong at first ; but in Mon- roe's time it became general. When the election of 1824 took place three fourths of the State legislatures had renounced the privilege of appointment. During the whole period prior to 1824 there were numerous cases of the resumption of the right of choice directly, by the legislatures of States in which a political advantage was to be gained by so doing. At the election of 1828, in Delaware and South Carolina alone were the electors chosen by legislature. South Carolina clung to that method of appointment until the civil w^ar. Another change in the mode of appointment accompanied or followed that just mentioned. Originally, in most of the States where the popular system prevailed, each voter cast his ballot for three electors two for the State at large, and one for the con- gressional district in which he resided, i But politicians soon discovered that the weight of the State's influence was in- creased by a general election of the whole number, by the plan known in France as the scrutin de liste. As soon as a few of the States had adopted this method it was necessary for the rest to do the same, for self-protection. Maryland was the last State to give up the district system, which she did after the election of 1832. Since then no State has reverted to it, with one exception, namely, Michigan in 1892. The party accidentally in power adopted this device with the express pur- pose of dividing the electoral vote of the State, w^hich it had no hope of obtaining upon a general popular vote. It is in this feature that the electoral plan of 1787 fails most conspic- uously. The general ticket greatly increases the power of the large States. Since the first election