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there, but only after a severe contest. This contest led to the adoption of the Twelfth Amendment, which provides the present mode of election.

Why the
College was

The device of the Electoral College was adopted chiefly for two reasons:

I. To avoid the necessity, on the one hand, of election by Congress. This, it was thought, would have subjected the Executive to the legislature in violation of the principle of the separation of powers. The President was to be independent of Congress. He was to be dependent upon the people and free to guard their welfare.

2. To avoid, on the other hand, direct popular election. This was then thought to be a dangerous democratic extreme. The idea was that the people were not competent to make the election themselves; they would be the dupes of wily demagogues who would mislead and deceive them. They were subject to dangerous excitements and passions and were not to be trusted with such responsibility. But the people might be allowed to elect the wisest and most competent men among themselves, who from their greater knowledge of the needs of the country and of the eligible men for the Presidency might go aside into a deliberative assembly where they would be free to choose a fit man for President. When it was first proposed in Democracy the Convention that the President should be elected by the people, the member who proConvention. posed it' apologized for the suggestion; he was reluctant to declare the mode which he favored, being apprehensive that it might appear chimerical. Another thought the people too little informed, too liable to deception, and it was declared that it would be "as unnatural to refer the choice of a proper character for chief magistrate to the people as it would be to refer a trial of

Dread of

in the Constitutional

1 Mr. Wilson, of Pennsylvania, under date of June 1, 1787.

'Mr. Mason of Virginia, under date of July 17, 1787. See Debates of the Convention.

colors to a blind man.

It was supposed that the electors

would be the best men in their respective States, and that in their unfettered discretion they would choose the fittest man for President in all the country.

been en

The Failure of the Electoral




Functions of the Electors.

The failure of this scheme is familiar to all. The anticipations of the framers in this matter have tirely disappointed. It is now known that the electors are not independent; they are not free to choose whom they will; they do not exercise their own discretion. They are chosen under a pledge of honor to vote for a particular candidate. When they meet, the people have already chosen the President. The electors are merely the agents of their party, appointed to ratify the election already made. Who and what they are, whether they are the best and wisest leaders among their respective States, no one knows and no one cares. The electors are personally of so little account, and their standing and party relation so little known, that it is now the custom (though it is not necessary), to place the names of the presidential candidates at the top of the ticket on which the electors' names are printed, so as to enable the voter to know which set of electors stand for his party. As to the personnel of the electors, it is sought only to know that they will faithfully stand by the party nominee and register the result which they are elected officially to proclaim. An elector may be nominated because he is a good speaker and he may be expected to canvass his district for his party, and perhaps he will expect some party appointment or reward after the election of his candidate.

It would be perfectly legal and constitutional for an elector to vote for whom he pleases other than his party candidate. A Republican elector in any State carried by that party might vote for the Democratic candidate and divide the vote of the State and thus defeat his party

nominee; his vote would have to be counted as he cast it, not as he was elected to cast it, and there would be no

The Law

of the

Binds the
Electors to
Vote for

the Party

law to punish the recreant elector. Some extra-legal punishment would probably be devised for an elector who refused to vote for the party candidate for whom he had been elected to vote, especially if his vote contributed to his party's defeat. He would be looked upon as a traitor to his party and his party's cause, and he would probably not find it comfortable to return home. At any rate he would be ostracized and despised and would be visited with the social condemnation and contempt due to one who had been guilty of an infamous betrayal of a public trust; and a presidential candidate elected by such betrayal would probably not accept the office. Public sentiment would be so universal against such an act, and the party fealty of the electors is so well guarded that it is safe to say that no such act is apt to occur. No law of the Constitution is stronger or more inviolable than this unwritten one that a Presidential elector is required to vote for the party candidate selected by the party convention and the popular election. But this is a great change in the electoral system from what our fathers intended, and from the actual practice in the first few elections.


How was this change brought about? By a change in our party customs and party machinery and by the rise Causes of of the representative party convention. the Change. understand this change fully, we must notice the rise and growth of our party system, a subject considered in a companion volume to this work.'

No part of the Constitution was regarded with more satisfaction by the framers than the Electoral College. It is often said that it is about the only original thing in the Constitution - the only actual invention of the ConI See the author's Political Parties and Party Problems.


for the Electoral


vention not based on an existing institution or a previous experience, and it is the one part of that instrument that has utterly failed to fulfil expectations. But while this plan of electing the President finds no precedent in the Old World it was not entirely new. In the Constitution of Maryland, adopted in 1776, we find an almost exact counterpart of the electoral scheme. The State Senators in Maryland were elected by a body of electors chosen every five years by the voters of the State for this particular purpose. Bowdoin, in the Massachusetts Convention that ratified the Constitution, recognized that the method of choosing the President was probably taken from Maryland's method of choosing Senators.' "The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system which has escaped without some censure, or which has received the slightest mark of appreciation from its opponents.'


In the first two elections (1789 and 1792) all the electors voted for Washington without question, though they generally divided according to party opinion, then forming, on the Vice-President. In the election of 1796, the electors were still left unpledged, but in electing them the voting was on party lines, and when they came to cast their votes they voted as they were expected to,— the Federalist electors for Adams, the Democratic electors for Jefferson. By 1800, the notion of leaving any freedom and discretion to the electors had vanished, and it has ever since been agreed that the nation, not the electors, must decide who shall be President.

Each State is left free to determine its own method of choosing the electors. The method is now uniform

1 See Publications of American Academy, No. 9, cited in Stevens's Sources of the Constitution, p. 154.

Federalist, No. 67; see also No. 1 of the Federalist, and Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention; Elliott, vol. ii., cited by Bryce, vol. i., p. 41.

The States Determine on the

Method of

throughout the States. They are elected in each State on a common ticket, all the electors being voted for by all the voters, generally under manhood suffrage.' Formerly the States chose the electors in various ways,-some by the legislature, some Choosing the directly by the people on a common ticket, and Electors. some by the people in districts. In 1824, eleven of the twenty-four States elected by districts. By 1832, all but South Carolina and Maryland used the method of electing by popular vote on a general ticket. South Carolina continued to elect her Presidential electors by the legislature until the Civil War. The feeling that the people had been deprived of their choice in 1824, and the Democratic movement under Jackson, leading to a change in the party system, had led in the direction of the more popular plan for the election of the President. In 1891, the Democratic Legislature of Michigan passed a law providing for the district plan of election. Michigan is usually a Republican State, but in the elecPlan Revived tion of 1890, by a "landslide" in politics, the in Michigan, Democrats carried the State and secured a ma1891. jority of the legislature. In view of the approaching presidential election of 1892, they provided that Michigan should elect her Presidential electors by districts, as in this way the Democrats, who expected to lose the State in 1892, would be sure of electing at least a few of the electors from the various districts. It is seldom a party carries all of the Congressional districts of a State. The Republicans contested this Democratic law before the courts, but both the Supreme Court of Michigan and then the Supreme Court of the United States the majority of each Court being Republicans— decided in favor of the constitutionality of the Michigan

The District

1 There are constitutional restrictions in some Southern States barring a large part of the colored vote.

'The decision does not support the right of a State to provide that all

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