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answered by committing the right of election, not to any pre-established body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and under such circumstances as would best ensure the freedom and purity of the election. It was also desirable that the immediate election should be made by men capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favourable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination and comparison of all the reasons and inducements proper to govern their choice; and it was fairly and reasonably supposed that a small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, would be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such an investigation. It was, moreover, peculiarly desirable to afford, as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder; and it was therefore considered that the choice of several, to form an intermediate body of electors, would be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent emotions, than the choice of one, who would himself be the first object of the public wishes; and by requiring the electors chosen in each state to assemble and vote in the state in which they are appointed, it was intended that they should be less exposed to heats and ferments communicated to them from the people, than if they were all to be assembled at the same place.
Nothing more was to be desired, and nothing was more anxiously attempted, than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These deadly foes to Republicanism were naturally to be expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter ; but chiefly from abroad—from the desire of foreign powers to gain an improper ascendency in our public councils;
and it was apprehended that they might effect this, by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union. The Convention, therefore, guarded against all danger of this sort with the most provident and judicious attention. Another, and not less important object was, that the President should be independent for his continuance in office on all but the people themselves. This object was also designed to be secured by making, as we have seen, his re-election depend upon a special body of representatives, deputed by the nation for the single purpose of his election, instead of permitting his continuance in office to depend on the will of Congress; to whose favour he might, in that case, be tempted to sacrifice his duty and official consequence.
Such were the advantages intended to be combined and ensured by the plan devised by the Convention. Whether they have been altogether realized, we shall hereafter have occasion to inquire ; for the present, it is as well to suggest that the contest which arose in 1801 has not been imitated, at least by none of equal violence, since the adoption of an amendment of the Constitution, intended to prevent such violence for the future. It has, nevertheless, been deemed expedient, by some of our ablest and most experienced statesmen, to propose a farther amendment, disqualifying the President from re-election.)
The Constitution ordains that each state shall appoint, in such manner as its Legislature may direct, a number of electors equal to the whole number of senators and representatives which the state is entitled to send to Congress; and to prevent the President in office at the time of the election from having an improper influence on his re-election by his ordinary agency in the government, it is declared that no senator or representative in Congress, nor any person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector. In no other respect has the Constitution defined the qualifica. tions of the electors. In several of the states the electors were formerly chosen by the Legislature itself, in a mode prescribed by law, and this method still prevails in Delaware and South Carolina. But it is to be presumed that there will be less opportunity for dangerous coalitions, for ambitious, selfish, or party purposes, where the choice of the electors is referred, as, according to the clear sense of public opinion, it now almost universally is, to the people at large. The electors are directed by the Constitution to meet in their respective states on the same day throughout the Union, which, in pursuance of the discretionary power vested in Congress, has been fixed by law on the first Wednesday in December, in every fourth year succeeding the last election. The place of meeting rests in the discretion of the state legislatures, and is usually at the seat of the state government. When thus assembled, and fully organized, by filling up vacancies occurring from the death or absence of any of their number, the electors proceed to vote by ballot for two persons, one of whom, at least, must not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. According to the original Constitution, they were not to designate which of the two they vote for as President, and which as Vicepresident ; who was, nevertheless, to be elected at the same time, in the same manner, and for the same term as the President. It was merely provided that the person having the greatest number of votes should be the President, if such number were a majority of the whole number of electors chosen, and that the person having the next greatest number of votes of the electors should be the Vice-president. But the difficulty already alluded to as having occurred in 1801, in procuring a constitutional choice from an equality in the electoral votes between two individuals, which threatened the peace, if not the stability of the Union, the Constitution was so amended as to require the electors to name in distinct ballots the persons voted for respectively as President and Vicepresident. They are, then, by this amendment directed to make distinct lists of all voted for as President and Vice-president, and of the number of votes given for each respectively. These lists they are to sign, certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of gov. ernment of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate, before the first Wednesday in January next ensuing the election. An act of Congress, passed in March, 1792, requires that body to be in session on the second Wednesday in February, when the President of the Senate, in the presence of both houses of Congress, opens the certificates received, and the votes are then counted. The Constitution does not explicitly declare by whom the votes are to be counted, and the result proclaimed; but the practice has been for the President of the Senate to perform those duties, the two houses being present as spectators, to witness the fairness and accuracy of the proceeding, and to be ready to act in case no choice be made by the electors.
The person having the greatest number of votes for President is declared to be elected to that office, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed ; but if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers, not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives are immediately, by ballot, to choose the President. But on this occasion the votes are to be taken by states, ihe representation from each state having one vote. A quorum for the purpose, of a member or members from two thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states, is necessary to a choice. Although the Constitution directs that, when no person is found to have a majority of the electoral votes, the choice shall be immediately made by the House of Representatives, yet it is not held obligatory upon that house to proceed to the election directly upon the separation of , the two houses, but it may proceed to it either at that time and place, or omit it until afterward. This construction was adopted before the amendment of the Constitution, and there can be no question since in regard to its correctness, as the amendment expressly declares the choice of the house to be valid, if made before the fourth of March following the day on which the electoral votes are counted. Accordingly, in 1825, when there was again no choice by the electors, the House of Representatives retired to their own chamber, and on both occasions the Senate were allowed to be present as spectators only of the result.
In case no choice of President be made by the House of Representatives before the time thus limited for their action, it is declared that the Vice-president shall act as President, as in the case of the death or constitutional inability of the President. The amendment in question provides, farther, that the person having the greatest number of votes for that office shall be Vice-president, if such votes be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed ; and that if no person have such majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list the Senate shall choose the Vice-president. A quorum for this purpose consists of two thirds of the whole number of senators, and a majority of the whole is necessary to a choice.