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A HISTORY

OF

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.

I.

THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM.

*THE mode of appointment of the chief magistrate of the United States," wrote Alexander Hamilton, in No. 67 of the Federalist,” “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.” And it was also true, as was said by James Wilson, in advocating the Constitution before the Pennsylvania Convention, “The Convention, sir, were perplexed with no part of the plan so much as with the mode of choosing the President of the United States." To these assertions must be added, after a century of practice under the Constitution, that no other part of the great charter of the country has failed so completely to fulfil the intentions of the fathers; has, by its ambiguity of language, given rise to more, or more perplexing, disputes; or has been the occasion of more numerous and varied attempts at amendment.

It is, however, not the purpose of this work to criticise, but to record, — to exhibit the electoral clauses of the Constitution in their practical working, without the slightest attempt to cause the events of twenty-four presiden

a

tial elections to emphasize the need of a change of system, nor even to indicate where, in the opinion of the writer, the failures have occurred. The people of the country have grown fully accustomed to the plan, and their patrivtism has, on occasions quite as perilous as are likely to occur in the future, been equal to the demands upon it. The system has not ended in anarchy, as more than once it logically should have done, simply because the people did not wish for anarchy. That it is the part of statesmanship fully to consider the numerous evils which have been developed by a part of the Constitution faulty in what it enjoins and in its omissions, and unsatisfactory in its results, no one can deny; but that a failure to take up the question and to settle it will result in civil war or other disaster, past experience at all events contradicts.

The history of presidential elections begins with the evolution of the system by the Convention of 1787. On the 29th of May, Edmund Randolph submitted a plan of a national government, in which he proposed “ a national executive to be chosen by the national legislature for the term of — years," "and to be ineligible a second time.” Charles Pinckney, at the same time, proposed “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 re-eligible.” The first decision of the Convention was that the term of the Executive should be seven years. On the 2d of June, James Wilson proposed that there should be certain districts in each State which should appoint electors to elect outside of their own body." In these three propositions were the germs of nearly all the features of the plan ultimately adopted.

The Convention first adopted a resolution that the Executive should be chosen by Congress; next that the exec

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