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ARTICLE — ' “I. The President and Vice-President shall be elected by the direct vote of the people in the manner following : Each State shall be divided into districts, equal in number to the number of Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress, to be composed of contiguous territory, and to be as nearly equal in population as may be ; and the person having the highest number of votes in each district for President shall receive the vote of that district, which shall count one presidential vote.
“II. The person having the highest number of votes for President in a State shall receive two presidential votes from the State at large.
“III. The person having the highest number of presidential votes in the United States shall be President.
“IV. If two persons have the same number of votes in any State, it being the highest number, they shall receive each one presidential vote from the State at large ; and if more than two persons shall have each the same number of votes in any State, it being the highest number, no presidential vote shall be counted from the State at large. If more persons than one shall have the same number of votes, it being the highest number in any district, no presidential vote shall be counted from that district.
“V. The foregoing provisions shall apply to the election of VicePresident.
“VI. The Congress shall have power to provide for holding and conducting the elections of President and Vice-President, and to establish tribunals for the decision of such elections as may be contested.
“ VII. The States shall be divided into districts by the legislatures thereof, but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter the same.”
My attention was called strongly to the necessity for action by an occurrence which took place at the counting of the electoral vote in February, 1873. We had at that time what was called the Twenty-second Joint Rule, providing a plan and method for counting the electoral vote, and declaring the election of a President. It provided that when the two Houses were assembled to witness the counting of the vote, if any Senator or member of the House should make an objection to the counting of an electoral vote, for any reason, however trivial or immaterial, the two Houses should at once separate, the Senate return to its chamber, and each House vote upon the objection without debate; and unless the objection was overruled by both Houses, the vote objected to was to be thrown out, and lost. When the State of Arkansas was called at that counting, an objection was made to receiving the vote of the State, because the Governor's certificate, showing the appointment of the electors, did not bear the impress of the great seal of the State. There was an impression of a seal upon the paper, which was very indistinct. By taking a glass and looking at it you could see upon it the words, “Secretary of State," and none others; and it was said that this impression was not made by the great seal of the State, but by a departmental seal kept by the Secretary of State. The House of Representatives overruled the objection. The Senate refused to overrule it; and the votes of Arkansas were thrown out, and nearly half a mil
a lion of people disfranchised.
The Constitution of the United States provides, that “Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled 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."
Each State is to appoint its electors in such manner as the legislature shall provide. This power of the State to appoint electors is conferred by the Constitution of the United States, and not by the constitution of the State ; and the exercise of it cannot be controlled by a State constitution. The method of appointing electors is always under the control of the State legislature, and the legislature may repeal at any time a law that may have been passed, providing for the election of electors by the people. It is a matter entirely within the control of the legislature, and there is no provision made in the Constitution whereby the appointment of an elector can be contested, and the States, except Louisiana, have made no provision for contesting the fraudulent appointment of an elector. Though electors may have been chosen by violence or manifest fraud, and though the whole world may know it, their votes must be received and counted; and there is no power in Congress or anywhere else to reject such a vote. This is clearly one of the great imperfections of our system, to begin with. The Convention of 1787 had more
difficulty in providing for the election of a President than with any other branch of the Constitution. Twice, by votes long debated, they decided that the President should be elected by Congress; twice they reconsidered that determination; and, at the last, the opinion of the Convention was entirely revolutionized upon the subject, and it was held to be necessary, not only that the President should not be elected by Congress, but that he should be made entirely independent of Congress; that the executive should be independent of the legislative; and for this purpose it was provided in the same section, that "no Senator or Representative or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States shall be appointed an elector.” The purpose was to cut off all connection between the legislative and the executive; so that the President should not be dependent upon the Legislature in any sense, but be beyond its control. The Constitution provides that the electors shall vote by ballot, so that one elector shall not know how the other votes.
Our fathers contemplated an electoral college as a deliberative body,— a body of men who should come together and consider who was the proper man for President; and then, to insure their perfect independence of the country and of each other, they were to vote by ballot, so that they might vote secretly; and, to further continue this secrecy and secure their independence, the votes were to be sealed up and sent to the President of the Senate, and to remain sealed and concealed until the very moment they were to be counted in the presence of the two Houses ; and if, when opened, there were imperfections or irregularities, it was then too late to mend or perfect them. As stated in a former paper, the theory of our fathers in regard to the electoral college originated in a profound distrust of the people. I have as much reverence for our forefathers as any one, but to assume that they were infallible or perfect would be a very great mistake indeed. They did not expect the legislatures would provide for appointing electors by the people; on the contrary, the history of the Convention shows that they were opposed to that. The proposition to choose electors by the direct vote of the people was voted down time and again, and the method of selection was left to the legislatures; and it was understood that they were to be chosen by the legislatures themselves. The idea of electing them by the people made slow
progress; and until 1861, the time of the Rebellion, South Carolina continued to choose her electors by the legislature. The idea was of aristocratic and monarchical origin. It had come down from ancient times, in countries where the nobility elected the monarch.
While this was the theory of our fathers, it has been completely overturned in practice. So far from these electors being left free and independent to make a selection of a President, it came to pass that in every instance they were pledged in advance. They were nominated expressly on the condition that they were to cast their votes for this or that man, or to represent this or that set of principles; and the very freedom and deliberation they were to exercise, and for which they were alone created, has been entirely abolished in practice. Our safety consists in having them overturned. The fact that electors are pledged in advance to vote for this candidate or for that is the only security the country has against corruption. If the electors were free to vote for whom they pleased, the patronage of a President is large enough to reach every man.
It is not large enough to reach the masses of the people in all the States; they cannot be corrupted by reason of their great number; but a small body of electors, of less than four hundred, are within the reach of the patronage of the President; and if these men were free to vote for whom they pleased, there would be the greatest opportunities for corruption and fraud.
The only purpose the electoral college could possibly subserve is gone, but the dangers connected with it are left; and we have
, made our escape within the last six months from that very source. True democracy consists in a government of the people and by the people, in which every man shall be allowed to vote for that candidate who meets his approbation. Experience has shown us that there is more safety in a large electoral body than in a small one. The amendment proposed is, to abolish the electoral college, to brush away rubbish, and bring the election of President to the people, and let every man vote for the candidate of his choice. As the matter now stands he cannot do that; we are obliged to vote for electors; and, to do that, we must have a convention to put in nomination a certain number of men, who, it is known, will act together. One man cannot do that; there must be a convention, or “caucus,” if you choose to call it by that name, and they must
ascertain that the men whom they select will carry out their views. Where that is not done you cannot vote for a President at all. Before the war in a number of States men could not vote for President unless they voted for candidates of a particular character; because those who agreed with them were not allowed to meet in convention and nominate electoral tickets; hence, under our present system, a convention or caucus is an absolute necessity. As the matter now stands, we have an election by the States; our present form denies our nationality ; it is a vote by states, and not a vote of the people. We vote by general ticket, running through the State at large. If in the State of New York, with a population of forty-five hundred thousand, the electors on one side have a majority of one hundred, they get the whole vote of the State, just as if the people were unanimous, and the voice of more than two millions of people is silenced. The minority is utterly subjected. Where parties are nearly equally divided, a successful fraud in one precinct may determine the result in the whole State. In New York, in 1868, there was a successful fraud perpetrated in the election in the city, repeaters marching from poll to poll and voting through the day, and this fraudulent vote carried the State for a particular candidate; whereas, if the people had voted by districts, the fraud would only have operated in the district where it occurred. The effect of the fraud was that a particular candidate got the vote of the State of New York for President, while eighteen representatives out of thirty-one were elected in the rural districts by the opposite party. This is one of the great dangers of our politics. Frauds committed in the great cities control the States in which they are situated; whereas, if the people voted by districts, they would affect the vote only in those particular districts, and there would be less inducement to defraud.
The electoral college has, as we said in a former article, never represented the will of the people; it has never come within ten per cent of it, while it has varied from it as much as forty per cent. As it stands now it is an election by the States. But if the voting was by districts, if the people voted directly for the man of their choice, and if the man who received the largest number of votes in any Congressional district should count one, then the election would be national. Instead of New York going solidly for a particular candidate by reason of a small majority, it is divided very evenly. In