A History of the Presidency - Electoral college



The electoral college has long been a contentious feature of the presidential elections. The opposition to it was especially clamorous after disputed canvasses, as those of 1824 and 1876 were, and that of 1888 when Benjamin Harrison (1889–1893) won in the electoral college despite receiving 100,000 fewer popular votes than Grover Cleveland (1885–1889; 1893–1897), his chief opponent, and that of 2000, when the Republican, George W. Bush (2001–), defeated Albert Gore although the Democrat received 540,000 more popular votes. In his inaugural address, Bush made no mention of how narrow his victory had been, but later conceded sardonically: "I wasn't exactly a landslide winner." Andrew Jackson (1829–1837), when he was finally in the White House after being bested in the electoral college in the election of 1824, proposed the direct election of presidents by the people in each of his Annual Messages to Congress. (He also wished to restrict presidents to one term of four or six years.)

When the Convention came to the end of its deliberations, the final phrasing of the finished document was referred to a Committee of Style that turned the work over to Gouverneur Morris of New York. Morris was the third major figure in the making of the presidency. A few years earlier he had had a large part in the writing of his state's constitution, which provided for a strong executive. Among many delegates in Philadelphia, New York's arrangement seemed an ideal model to follow. With respect to the presidency, Morris left standing the language already agreed upon, which is the heart of Article II of the Constitution: "The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America," with no qualifying statement whatsoever. The explanation was not far to seek. One delegate put it this way: "I do [not] believe the [executive powers] would have been so great had not many of the members cast their eyes toward General Washington as President; and shaped their Ideas of the Powers to be given a President, by their opinions of his Virtues." The expectation that Washington, who inspired unbounded confidence in his integrity and probity, would fill the chair of president, likely spurred the convention to make the president commander-in-chief and to provide for a four-year term renewable without limit.





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