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Federalist No. 68

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The Mode of Electing the President
From the New York Packet
Friday, March 14, 1788.

Author: Alexander Hamilton

To the People of the State of New York:

THE mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure, or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents. The most plausible of these, who has appeared in print, has even deigned to admit that the election of the President is pretty well guarded. [1] I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm, that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent. It unites in an eminent degree all the advantages, the union of which was to be wished for.

It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture.

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.

It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention. They have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any preexisting bodies of men, who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but they have referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of America, to be exerted in the choice of persons for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment. And they have excluded from eligibility to this trust, all those who from situation might be suspected of too great devotion to the President in office. No senator, representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States, can be of the numbers of the electors. Thus without corrupting the body of the people, the immediate agents in the election will at least enter upon the task free from any sinister bias. Their transient existence, and their detached situation, already taken notice of, afford a satisfactory prospect of their continuing so, to the conclusion of it. The business of corruption, when it is to embrace so considerable a number of men, requires time as well as means. Nor would it be found easy suddenly to embark them, dispersed as they would be over thirteen States, in any combinations founded upon motives, which though they could not properly be denominated corrupt, might yet be of a nature to mislead them from their duty.

Another and no less important desideratum was, that the Executive should be independent for his continuance in office on all but the people themselves. He might otherwise be tempted to sacrifice his duty to his complaisance for those whose favor was necessary to the duration of his official consequence. This advantage will also be secured, by making his re-election to depend on a special body of representatives, deputed by the society for the single purpose of making the important choice.

All these advantages will happily combine in the plan devised by the convention; which is, that the people of each State shall choose a number of persons as electors, equal to the number of senators and representatives of such State in the national government, who shall assemble within the State, and vote for some fit person as President. Their votes, thus given, are to be transmitted to the seat of the national government, and the person who may happen to have a majority of the whole number of votes will be the President. But as a majority of the votes might not always happen to centre in one man, and as it might be unsafe to permit less than a majority to be conclusive, it is provided that, in such a contingency, the House of Representatives shall select out of the candidates who shall have the five highest number of votes, the man who in their opinion may be best qualified for the office.

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue. And this will be thought no inconsiderable recommendation of the Constitution, by those who are able to estimate the share which the executive in every government must necessarily have in its good or ill administration. Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of the poet who says: “For forms of government let fools contest That which is best administered is best,” yet we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.

The Vice-President is to be chosen in the same manner with the President; with this difference, that the Senate is to do, in respect to the former, what is to be done by the House of Representatives, in respect to the latter.

The appointment of an extraordinary person, as Vice-President, has been objected to as superfluous, if not mischievous. It has been alleged, that it would have been preferable to have authorized the Senate to elect out of their own body an officer answering that description. But two considerations seem to justify the ideas of the convention in this respect. One is, that to secure at all times the possibility of a definite resolution of the body, it is necessary that the President should have only a casting vote. And to take the senator of any State from his seat as senator, to place him in that of President of the Senate, would be to exchange, in regard to the State from which he came, a constant for a contingent vote. The other consideration is, that as the Vice-President may occasionally become a substitute for the President, in the supreme executive magistracy, all the reasons which recommend the mode of election prescribed for the one, apply with great if not with equal force to the manner of appointing the other. It is remarkable that in this, as in most other instances, the objection which is made would lie against the constitution of this State. We have a Lieutenant-Governor, chosen by the people at large, who presides in the Senate, and is the constitutional substitute for the Governor, in casualties similar to those which would authorize the Vice-President to exercise the authorities and discharge the duties of the President.

PUBLIUS.

1. Vide FEDERAL FARMER.

June 22, 2011 – Amendment XXV of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: William C. Duncan, Director of the Marriage Law Foundation

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Amendment XXV

1: In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

2: Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

3: Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

4: Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

 

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, answers open questions about presidential succession.

What happens when the president dies in office?

Under Article II, if the president is removed, dies, resigns or is unable to perform his duties, these duties fall to the vice president (section 1, clause 6). Alexander Hamilton said a vice president “may occasionally become a substitute for the president” (Federalist 68). While this seems clear, the exact status of the vice president when taking on the president’s duties or acting as a “substitute” was not certain. When William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia in 1841, Vice President John Tyler insisted on becoming the president rather than just an “acting president” as some urged. See Mark O. Hatfield, Vice Presidents of the United States, 1789-1993 (1997) at http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/pdf/john_tyler.pdf. All eight of the vice presidents who assumed the presidency on the death of the president followed this precedent.  Section One of the 25th Amendment formalized the precedent, specifying that if the president is removed, dies or resigns “the Vice President shall become President.”

What happens if there is a vacancy in the vice presidency?

The eight times a president died in office and the vice president became president there was a vacancy in the vice presidency, as occurred also when seven vice presidents died in office and two resigned. See John D. Feerick, “Presidential Succession and Inability: Before and After the Twenty-Fifth Amendment” 79 Fordham Law Review 907, 943-944 (2010). The Congressional Research Service notes, “for some twenty percent of United States history there had been no Vice President to step up.” CRS Annotated Constitution, “Twenty-fifth Amendment” at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/constitution/pdf2002/043.pdf.  Section Two of the 25th Amendment provides the solution for these instances by allowing the president to nominate individuals to fill vacancies in the vice presidency. The person nominated can take office when a majority of the House and Senate confirmed the nomination. Gerald Ford (in 1973) and Nelson Rockefeller (in 1974) became vice presidents following this procedure.

What happens if the president knows he or she cannot fulfill the duties of the presidency?

The Constitution did not specify the procedure to follow in the case of a president being incapacitated. If the president knows of the incapacitation beforehand, as in a planned medical procedure, section Three of the 25th Amendment allows the president to notify the President pro tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House that the Vice President will be Acting President during a period when the president cannot fulfill the duties of that office. When ready to resume the duties, the president notifies these same officials. President George W. Bush invoked this portion of the Amendment twice for routine medical procedures.

What happens when the president is incapacitated but cannot or will not step aside and let the vice president act as president?

Before his death by assassination, President James A. Garfield lived in a coma for eighty days. President Woodrow Wilson had a debilitating stroke a year and a half before the end of his final term. President Dwight D. Eisenhower experienced a heart attack and stroke while in office. See Calvin Bellamy, “Presidential Disability: The Twenty-Fifth Amendment Still an Untried Tool” 9 Boston University Public Interest Law Journal 373, 376-377 (2000). Until, the ratification of section four of the 25th Amendment there was no Constitutional direction for handling situations where the president could not function and could not or would not step aside. Now, the vice president “and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide” can notify legislative leaders of the president’s inability to fulfill the duties of the office and the vice president then begins acting as president. The president can resume office by notifying the legislative leaders that there is no inability. When the vice president (and the executive officials) disagree with the president about the president’s capacity and send dueling declarations to Congress, Congress decides the issue. Specifically, if 2/3 of members of Congress agree that the president is incapacitated, the vice president acts in the president’s stead, otherwise the president continues to function (and White House meetings are, no doubt, chilly).

William C. Duncan is director of the Marriage Law Foundation (www.marriagelawfoundation.org). He formerly served as acting director of the Marriage Law Project at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and as executive director of the Marriage and Family Law Research Grant at J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, where he was also a visiting professor.

June 3, 2011 – Amendment XII of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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Amendment XII

The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;

The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and 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 shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

The election of 1800 was a critical moment in the evolution of American republicanism, even more momentous than the decision of George Washington four years earlier not to seek election to a third term, an election he surely would have had won. Washington’s decision set the stage for the informal term restriction on Presidents that lasted a century and a half. It had to be formalized in the 22nd Amendment after Franklin Roosevelt became, in the phrasing of political opponents, a “Third Termite” and more. Washington’s move, all personal reasons aside, made the point that republics are endangered by long-serving executives. Such longevity, combined with the inherent powers of the office, promotes concentration of power, with a likely cult of personality and attendant corruption.

No less a threat to republics is the failure of the dominant political coalition to yield power when it loses at the polls. That is particularly true when the republic is young and its political institutions not yet fully formed and tested. The history of the world is rife with rulers, swept into office on revolutionary waves that establish formally republican systems, entrenching themselves in ever-more authoritarian manner when popular opinion turns against them. That first election when the reins of government are to be turned over from those who led the system from its founding to those who have defeated them is crucial to establish the system’s republican bona fides. For Americans, that was the election of 1800, when the Democratic Republicans under Jefferson defeated the Federalists under Adams.

If such a change of power is to occur peacefully, optimally the verdict of the voters is clear and the process of change transparent. Anything less greatly reduces the chance for peaceful transition. Judged by those standards, the election of 1800 was a bad omen for Americans at the time. The selection of the President was thrown into the House of Representatives, where it took 36 ballots and considerable political intrigue to select the leader of the victorious group, Thomas Jefferson. In a bit of historical irony, the delay was not due to Federalist plotting, but the fact that Jefferson and Aaron Burr received the same number of electoral votes. Though the latter was the intended vice-presidential nominee, he declined to step aside, making future relations between the two rather frosty. That lengthy and murky process promoted talk of the use of force by both sides, ultra-Federalists for whom the political chaos justified disregarding the election results and rabid Jeffersonians who called on state militias to march on Congress to compel the selection of their champion and to “punish their enemies,” to borrow a phrase.

Fortunately, Adams and (perhaps more reluctantly) Jefferson, along with other cooler heads in both groups, subordinated their immediate political advantage to longer-term republican stability. Adams left town. With political manipulation from, among others, Alexander Hamilton of all people, Jefferson was elected, after all. In turn, Jefferson, prodded by the pragmatic among his advisors, limited political retaliation against his vanquished opponents.

Contributing to the murkiness and indecision of the process was the formal constitutional structure for election of the President. It was anticipated that the system in Article II of electors chosen as directed by the several state legislatures would nominate several candidates for President. After the election of George Washington, it was surmised, no nominee likely would receive a majority vote from those electors. Instead, nominations of up to five individuals (based on each elector voting for two persons) would be presented to the House of Representatives, which would choose as President the person who received the approval of a majority of state delegations in that chamber. Worse, it turned out, the runner-up would be Vice-President.

On first glance, as I explained in connection with Article II, Section 1, clause 3, the system made great ideological and historical sense. Hamilton, one of the principal architects, wrote proudly in Federalist 68 that “if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.” The system would produce the most qualified nominees, as those would be selected by a small number of persons who were themselves chosen for their fitness to make wise selections and to avoid “cabal, intrigue, and corruption.” On a more practical level, the system contained checks and balances whereby unqualified local favorites might receive scattered votes, but a group of better-known and more qualified regional and national figures would receive enough votes to be nominated. The selection of the President from the nominees would then be made by the House, whose members’ decisions would, presumably, be reviewed for wisdom and lack of corruption by the voters at the next election.

In fact, the emergence after the Constitution’s adoption of nascent proto-parties spoiled the plan. Initially, a group of Congressmen coalesced around opposition to the ambitious Hamiltonian program of public finance and commercial development represented in the Treasury Secretary’s famous three reports to Congress in 1790 and 1791. Their enigmatic and at times reluctant figurehead was Thomas Jefferson, though most of the organizing was done by James Madison and others. This development had the classic characteristics of what has historically been called a political “faction,” a term that any righteous and self-respecting republican of the time found vile. Factions developed in support of (or, more likely, opposition to) some matter of political controversy or charismatic political figure. They tended to rise and fall with such single issues and figures.

Once a faction formed in opposition to Hamilton, the “spirit of party” (i.e. political self-interest or local parochial advantage, rather than the “common good”) was said to have been loosed in the land. Acting purely out of self-defense, as they assured the people (and themselves), Hamilton’s supporters, too, organized as a coherent group. And whatever charismatic ante the Jeffersonian faction might have from their leader in this political poker game, the Federalists could “see” with the personality and political skills of Hamilton and “raise” with the increasingly partisan stance of George Washington.

Both sides quickly organized into entities that more resembled modern political parties. Both were centered in Congress, but began to make mass appeals to the public. The Federalists were far superior in the number and reach of their newspapers (unlike today’s media, in those days newspapers were refreshingly candid about their political biases). But the Jeffersonians were more adept at public organizing, honing their skills in that arena because they were the minority in Congress during most of this time. Ultimately, it was that latter skill that proved crucial in 1800.

In practice the Congressional caucuses dominated the nomination process, and the discipline of the emerging party organizations—especially of the Jeffersonians–at the state level, effectively turned the electors into voluntary partisan non-entities.  As Justice Robert Jackson satirized them in a dissenting opinion in 1952, “They always voted at their Party’s call, And never thought of thinking for themselves at all.”

Prodded by the debacle of the election of 1800 and the emergence of a rudimentary two-party system, the Congress and the states adopted the Twelfth Amendment. Primarily, this changed only the process by which nominations for President and Vice-President were made and placed the election of the Vice-President in the Senate if there was no electoral vote majority. That has been enough, however, to avoid a repeat of the confusion of the election of 1800, at least once a stable two-party political structure emerged in the 1830s. The election of 1824, similarly chaotic, was the result of the breakdown of the existing structure into multiple competing political factions. Admittedly, there have been a few close calls, such as in 1876 and 2000. The system has worked, though critics might say it has done so in spite of itself. At the very least, it has worked in a manner unforeseen by the Framers.

Incidentally, as the Supreme Court opined in the 1952 case (Ray v. Blair) mentioned above, states can disqualify electors who refuse to pledge to vote for their party’s candidate. The Court reasoned that electors are acting for the states and can be regulated by them. Of course, “automatic” voting for the candidate to whom the elector is pledged can result in a surreal spectacle like that in 1872 when three Democratic electors cast their votes for their candidate, Horace Greeley—who had died.  Justice Jackson’s dissent emphasized the Framers’ design of the role of electors and argued that a state can no more control “the elector in performance of his federal duty…than it could a United States Senator who also is chosen by, and represents, the State.”  About half of the states have laws that purport to punish a “faithless” elector, but no such punishment has ever occurred.

An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law. He has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums. Read more from Professor Knipprath at: http://www.tokenconservative.com/.

April 18, 2011 – Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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Article II, Section 1, Clause 3

3:  The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not lie an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; a quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two-thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice-President.

When determining the mode for selecting the President, the Framers were faced with a conundrum.  The President was to be a leader who could act with energy and dispatch.  Yet he was to maintain his constitutional pedigree as a republican, and he must exercise wisdom and judgment.  It was hoped that the President would be, as Henry Lee said in his eulogy of George Washington, “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”  But the president was not to gain that position as an American Caesar, a man whose immense talents and genius also proved to be fatal to that ancient republic that Revolutionary War-era Americans so admired.

Perhaps even worse, because so much more likely in the ordinary case, would be the man who, lacking the genius of a Caesar, would gain office through “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity,” as Hamilton sneered in Federalist 68.  To Americans of the time, “popular” suggested a certain cravenness and lack of principle.  Such a person would do what advanced his political standing, rather than what was best for the country.  As Plato long ago warned in his description of the demagogue (Greek for “leader of the people”), this was a particular flaw of democracy.  Such a man was most likely to emerge in a system that placed no electoral barrier between the mass of the people and him.

Hamilton’s response during the Philadelphia Convention was a complex multi-layered proposal of election by electors selected by regional electors themselves elected by some class of voters.  Such a convoluted system resembles an electoral Rube Goldberg-contraption. However, the historically well-read Framers had the experience of other republics from which to draw, and Hamilton’s system was a simplified (if that can be imagined) variant of the election of the Doge of Venice.  A system of electors avoids the democratic pitfalls of election of unqualified flatterers by a people corrupted by promises of favors or bedazzled by a façade of handsome features and soaring, but empty, rhetoric.  But, without more, election by a council of the few does not avoid the oligarchic pitfalls and factionalism inherent in any cohesive and organized group, characteristics Madison warned against in The Federalist.  Hamilton’s proposal would increase the number of participants and disperse their decisions.  This made it more difficult for a candidate to gain office by corruption and intrigue through a small and cohesive faction.

The Framers did not go along with the particulars of Hamilton’s proposal.  But, after making the easy call against direct popular election and rejecting, as well, election by Congress or by the state legislatures, they settled on a system similar to the one proposed by Hamilton. In the process, they resolved several practical problems.  Every efficient electoral system has to provide for a means of nominating and then electing candidates. Moreover, civil disturbances over what is often a politically heated process must be avoided. There must be no taint of corruption. The candidate elected must be qualified.

As to the first, the Electoral College would, in many cases, nominate multiple candidates. Electors would be chosen as the legislatures of the states would direct. Though the practice of popular voting for electors spread, not until South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860 did appointment by the legislatures end everywhere. Once selected, the electors’ strong loyalties to their respective states likely would cause the electors to select a “favorite son” candidate. To prevent a multiplicity of candidates based on state residency, electors had to cast one of the two votes allotted to each for someone from another state. It was expected that several regional candidates would emerge under that process. There likely would be no single majority electoral vote recipient, at least not after George Washington. In effect, the Electoral College would nominate the candidates.  The actual election of the President then would devolve to the House of Representatives, fostering the blending and overlapping of powers that Madison extolled in Federalist 51.  The winner of the House vote would be President, the runner-up would be Vice-President.

That last step corresponded to the Framers’ experience with the election of the British prime minister and cabinet, and with the practice of several states. However, consistent with the state-oriented structure of American federalism, such election in the House had to come through a majority of state delegations, not individual Congressmen. Though modified slightly by the Twelfth Amendment as a result of the deadlock of 1800, this process is still in place.

As John Jay writes in Federalist 64, the Constitution’s system would likely select those most qualified to be President. Augmented by the Constitution’s age requirement for President, the electors are not “liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle.”

Having the voters select a group of electors, rather than the President directly, would also calm the political waters. By making that election something other than an immediate vote about particular candidates, the process would encourage reflection and deliberation by voters about the capacity for reasoned judgment of the electors chosen. The smaller number of wise electors, in turn, would exercise that judgment free from popular passion.

Hamilton and others assured Americans that corruption and the influence of faction would be avoided by the temporary and limited duty of the electors, the disqualification of federal office holders to serve, the large number of electors, and the fact that they would meet in separate states at the same time rather than in one grand national body. Presumably, those protections fall away when the House elects the President. But Congressmen have to worry about re-election and, thus, want to avoid corrupt bargains that are odious to the voters.

The system never quite worked as intended.  After Washington’s election, the nomination of Presidents was informally taken over by factions in Congress, in a process dubbed the Congressional caucus system.  That system immediately caused the untenable situation of a President (Adams) and a Vice-President (Jefferson) from opposing factions.  The debacle of the House-controlled election of 1800 brought about by the intra-factional rivalry of Jefferson and Burr placed the young American experiment in self-government in mortal danger. That, in turn, brought limited reform through the 12th Amendment.

Though the constitutional shell remains, much of the system operates differently than the Framers thought. The reason is the evolution of the modern programmatic party, that bane of good republicans, which has replaced state loyalties with party loyalties. The Framers thought they had dealt adequately with the influence of factions (political groups that focus on a particular issue or coalesce around a charismatic leader) in their finely-tuned system. As modern party government was just emerging in Britain and—in contrast to temporary and shifting political factions—unknown in the states, the Framers designed the election process unprepared for such parties.

Today, the nominating function is performed by political parties, while election is, in practice, by the voters. Elections by the House are still possible, if there is a strong regional third-party candidate. But the dominance of the two parties (which are, in part, coalitions of factions) suppresses competition, and the last time there was a reasonable possibility of electoral deadlock was in 1968, when Alabama Governor George C. Wallace took 46 electoral votes. Mere independent national candidacies, such as that of Ross Perot in 1992, have roughly similar levels of support in all states and are unlikely to siphon electoral votes and block the usual process.

An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law. He has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums.  Read more from Professor Knipprath at: http://www.tokenconservative.com/ .

April 15, 2011 – Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: Tara Ross, Author, Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College

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Article II, Section 1, Clause 2

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 shall appoint . . . a Number of Electors . . . .

 

On November 4, 2008, Americans went to the polls and expressed their preferences among Barack Obama, John McCain, or other candidates. Many Americans probably thought that they were actually casting ballots for one of these men: We have gotten used to thinking of presidential elections as ones in which we vote directly for the candidates. Yet that is not really how American elections work. In reality, the only people elected on Election Day are representatives, called electors, whose sole duty is to represent their states in a subsequent election among states. This latter election—the real presidential election—determines the identity of the President of the United States.

Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 provides the boundaries for the appointment of these electors.

The Constitution provides that each state is to decide, for itself, how its electors will be chosen. During the first presidential election, states relied upon a wide range of methods. Several state legislatures appointed electors directly, on behalf of their citizens. No presidential election, as we think of it, was ever held in those states. Other states relied upon popular votes, but in different ways. For instance, Maryland directed that certain numbers of electors were to be elected from designated parts of the state. Virginia created 12 districts specifically for the election of electors; these districts were separate from the ten districts created for the election of Congressmen.

Today, every state relies upon a popular election among its own citizens. Most states then allocate their electors in a winner-take-all fashion based upon the outcome of these elections. So, for instance, when a majority of Californians expressed their preference for Obama in 2008, these votes were translated into votes for a slate of 55 Democratic electors. If McCain had won the election, an alternate slate of 55 Republican electors, committed to McCain, would have been appointed to represent California instead.

 

The state’s authority to choose its own method for appointing electors is not in doubt. However, a few other issues remain unresolved:

 

First, may Congress step in if there is controversy regarding which of two slates of electors rightfully represents a state? Congress has taken such action in the past, and it claimed authority to act in the Electoral Count Act of 1887 and subsequent measures. However, some scholars argue that such federal laws impinge on the states’ authority, as outlined in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2.

Second, is a state’s discretion truly unlimited? An anti-Electoral College movement (National Popular Vote) hopes so. This group asks states to change their manner of elector allocation: Instead of allocating electors to the winner of state popular votes, participating states would allocate their electors to the winner of the national popular vote. These states would sign an interstate compact (a contract) to this effect. If enough states sign, the Electoral College would be effectively eliminated. NPV supporters reject the claim that their compact is an end run around the Constitution, but the question will ultimately be tested in court: NPV could be enacted with as few as 11 states, whereas 38 states are required for a constitutional amendment. Such a process seems questionable, to say the least. Justice Thomas once observed, “States may establish qualifications for their delegates to the electoral college, as long as those qualifications pass muster under other constitutional provisions.” NPV may not satisfy this test.

 

In such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct. . . .


Another open legal question exists regarding the meaning of the word “Legislature” in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2. Does this use of “Legislature” refer specifically to the lawmaking body or does it refer to a state’s entire lawmaking process? In the latter case, the legislature and governor must act together to determine the manner for appointing electors. Also, voter referendums would be able to trump the legislature in some circumstances. The Supreme Court has not directly addressed the question, but it has come down on both sides of the issue in other contexts.

The question may seem purely academic, but it has particular importance today because of NPV. In three states, NPV’s legislation has been approved by the legislature, only to be vetoed by the state’s governor. Will these vetoes stand or will they be deemed irrelevant?

 

Equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress . . . .

 

States are allocated one elector for each of their representatives in Congress—both Senators and Congressmen. Each state therefore automatically receives a minimum of three votes, as it is entitled to at least two Senators and one Congressman in the Congress, regardless of population. Puerto Rico and the Island Areas are not given electors, as they are not states. The District of Columbia did not initially receive votes because it is not a state; however, adoption of the 23rd Amendment in 1961 provided it with at least three electoral votes.

This method of allocation is consistent with the rest of the Constitution and echoes the states’ representation in Congress. A portion of a state’s congressional representation is based on population (the House of Representatives; one person, one vote), and a portion is based on a one state, one vote philosophy (the Senate).

 

But no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.


Some scholars believe that electors were meant to independently deliberate: The Founders wanted a body of wise men, entrusted with the power to select the President at a time when communication was slow and unreliable. Other scholars maintain that the role of elector was created only because the delegates to the Constitutional Convention left it to states to determine how their electors were to be chosen. Either way, creation of an independent electoral body was thought to provide special benefits in the presidential selection process.

In Federalist No. 68, Alexander Hamilton wrote that the election process should minimize the opportunity for “cabal, intrigue, and corruption” in the selection of the President. Article II, he believed, accomplished this. Electors could not be bribed or corrupted because their identities would not be known in advance. Presidents would not be indebted to (potentially biased) legislators for their elections, thus reinforcing the separation among the branches of government. Separating the meetings of the electors (one in each state) would make these individuals less susceptible to a mob mentality. Finally, the selection of electors was tied to the people of a state, reminding the President that he owed his office and his duty to the people themselves.

Some of Hamilton’s logic has perhaps become less applicable, given the advent of mass communication and decreasing expectations that electors are to independently deliberate. But the state-by-state presidential election system created by Article II continues to provide many benefits for a country as large and diverse as America. The White House can only be won by a candidate who wins simultaneous victories across many states; thus, candidates must appeal to a broad range of voters in order to succeed. Successful candidates bring a diverse citizenry together, building national coalitions that span regional and state lines. Such a system is as healthy now as it was in 1787.

Tara Ross is the author of Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College

April 29, 2010 – Federalist No. 2 – Janine Turner

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Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Howdy from Texas! I thank you for joining us today! I am thoroughly enjoying this process and I am learning so much from the readings, our exceptional scholar’s essays and from all of you who are blogging. I want to say how appreciative I am that Marc S. Lampkin joined us today as our “guest scholar” and I thank him for his wonderful interpretation and explanation of Federalist Paper #2 by John Jay. Thanks Marc!

There are many aspects in our readings of the United States Constitution and “The Federalist” that are relevant today. However, as I was juggling many pertinent points from Federalist Paper #2, suddenly a more general observation manifested.

Our forefathers were intent on explaining the Constitution to the people of the United States. They wanted the Republic to understand what was in the “bill,” and they undertook great pains and efforts to make sure that happened – 85 different Opinion Editorials published in newspapers and spearheaded by Alexander Hamilton.

Not only did they go to great pains to explain the contents of the Constitution, which was only seven pages, they knew that the American public would demand to know what was in it before they ratified it. This brings about two conclusions:

1. The American people of the 18th century wanted to know what their government was doing, felt very much involved in the process, and were passionate about the direction of their country
2. Publius and the signatories of the United States Constitution felt obligated to explain it to them, and did so in great detail and they could – as they had written it and they understood it.

A very different atmosphere exists today. Both the American people and the United States government are to blame for the obscurity in which we wander. The bloated bills and ignorance of their intentions are the fault of both the governor and the governed. We, as collective countrymen and women, grew discordant and lax in the affairs of the state, and like a child pushing the boundaries with their parents, the United States government got away with what they could. It’s human nature. Men are not angels – hence, the Constitution.

But times have changed. Our country’s woes are like trying times for the soul. Difficult times are God’s way of shaping our character – making us into the people He wants us to be – a light, a leader. Now Americans are waking up and realizing that we must once again demand to understand. What is really in the bill and what is really the direction of our country? We are realizing that we must vet, vote and find our voice. In our blood is the ancestry of righteousness.

We must stress to our elective officials that we will accept nothing less than clarity. In Federalist Paper #62 James Madison zeros in on this point:

It will be of little avail to the people, that
the laws are made by men of their own choice,
if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before
they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes, that no man who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known or less fixed.

The title of John Jay’s Federalist Paper No. 2, “Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence,” is applicable today as well. If we do not gain control of the economy we are going to be like Greece and times of economic stress are ripe for tyranny.
If we do not gain control of our spending and deficit then we are a sitting duck for the hunters who wait in the night – “Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence.” As Benjamin Franklin said, “Think, when you run into debt, you give to another power over your Liberty.”

John Jay’s ends this paper, from over two hundred years ago, with a Shakespearean quote, it echoes eerily across our current environment. It is a battle cry and ominous warning of something we do not want to ever shout, “FAREWELL! A LONG FAREWELL TO ALL MY GREATNESS”

As the present necessity of unity prevails, we the people will gather with the mission of preserving our great country and we will be spurred by our patriotism and launched by our learning.

God Bless,

Janine Turner

6 Responses to “April 292010 – Federalist No2 – Janine Turner

  1. Richard Gruver says:

    Janine, Those are great thoughts on our current state of government. When the press and the governed decided that character no longer mattered but only progressive press aligned political ideology and many of the governed became incessantly dependent on government handouts and fixated on class envy promoted by progressives and the media we lost our way. The Bible says don’t covet thy neighbor’s property, wife, goods…etc. but preogressive envy everything of those who work hard and want it all taken and redistributed to the envyors. It will take dedication, courage and a divine hand once again to re-establish our nation to its’ founders principals. It starts a the ballot box and voting for elected officials who put the constitution and the people above themselves. I hope we can be sucessful as the alternative is not very good for our future generations.

  2. Seij De Leon says:

    I find it very interesting how when the country was being constructed, the people were so ready and willing to learn about the constitution. Nowadays I think this overall involvement in the direction of the country has definitely weaned, which is understandable as they are not dealing with the insecurity and troubles of forming a new system of government after the relatively ineffective and weak Articles of Confederation. If more people were to take an active role in examining politicians and seeing what they put first, instead of trusting the news media, then the nation could start to head in a better direction, like how Gruver says, it starts at the ballot box.

  3. Kellie says:

    Given this new passion sweeping the country, which our current leadership has so graciously created, I am anxious and excited to see what happens in November. I am hoping and praying that it will be the catalyst for the people of this country to continue to pay attention, spread the word and make their voices heard. We may be on the eve of a scary, yet possibly exciting, new revolution…

  4. Charles Babb says:

    Janine; you and Cathy have provided a wonderful service by making this educational tool available.

    How, and why has the practice of writing such confusing and lengthy bills evolved? Was it just to confuse the electorate so that we would have less control over our legislators?

    How we go about demanding clarity in the way legislation is written will be another story, but with the armor of knowledge and the weapon of truth, we will prevail.

  5. tommy says:

    Just wanted to say I really liked the post. You have really put a lot of energy into your posts and it is just awesome!

  6. Jim S says:

    Charles & All,

    Legislation has become more lengthly because we expect it to be specific. The Constitution, on the other hand, is simply the framework for our government. If we wanted to fairly compare the two, we should include with the Constitution Congress’ rules of order, the Uniform Code of Military Justice and all military regulations, rules of decorum for the Supreme Court, and Executive procedures. This compendium would outline exactly how the government should be run, as the healthcare bill outlines for its role. Then we may complain about our 2000+ page Constitution.

    Jim

 

 

June 18, 2010 – Federalist No. 38 – The Same Subject Continued, and the Incoherence of the Objections to the New Plan Exposed, From the New York Packet (Madison) – Guest Blogger: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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Friday, June 18th, 2010

While Federalist 37 defends the Philadelphia Convention and the Constitution by recalling the difficulties involved in completing such a complex and novel undertaking, Federalist 38 is a full-throated attack on the Antifederalists. To counter the accusations—at least formally defensible—that the Convention was a revolutionary body that threatened liberty, Madison first reminds his readers that the Convention differed from historical procedures for constitutional innovation. Traditionally, such change was put in the hands of (or seized by) a single law-giver. The danger to liberty posed by such a charismatic leader was avoided by the use of a multitudinous assembly. On the other hand, such an assembly has all the characteristics of faction that he described in the previous essay as making the Convention’s work so difficult.

After this rather mild prologue, Madison sets to work. He likens the United States to an imperiled patient and the Convention to a panel of physicians. The latter agree that the situation is critical, but not so desperate that it cannot, “with proper and timely relief…be made to issue in an improvement of his constitution.” [Here the reader pauses briefly to acknowledge the clever pun.] Then a prescription for relief is made, only to trigger an invasion of nay-sayers who, though they admit the danger, alarm the patient against the cure and prohibit its use. This reminds one of risk-averse bureaucracies that prohibit or stall the use of new drugs for grave conditions because the potential side-effects are not entirely ascertained.

Worse, the objectors cannot agree exactly why the cure is bad. Nor can they agree on an alternative. Madison obviously relishes the opportunity to list various objections, all arranged for maximum ridicule. Though he avoids names, Madison’s examples likely would have brought to readers’ minds various specific opponents, particularly in the New York and Virginia ratifying conventions. Mocking the opponents’ portrayed disunity in order to blunt the dangerous calls for a new convention that were resonating with the public, Madison uses the variety of the objections to declare that the Constitution would likely be immortal if it were put in effect “not until a BETTER, but until ANOTHER should be agreed upon by this new assembly of lawgivers. [Emphasis in original.]”

His role as a champion of the Constitution prevents him from giving rhetorical quarter to his opponents, but they were not the intemperate and intellectually vapid lot Madison portrays through his caricatured compilation. Opposing specifics of the Convention’s product hardly makes one deserving of ridicule. Madison should know. Of 71 proposals he made or strongly and openly supported at the Convention, he lost 40 votes. His desired constitution would have looked remarkably different and more nationalized than what emerged.

Both sides were composed of patriots who ardently desired the success of the republican experiment and the United States. Both sides also had partisans who pursued the more parochial interests of their respective states, as well as their own personal objectives. Usually these conflicting interests operated in the same individuals to varying degrees. The strategic disadvantage the opponents suffered was that they were not a tight-knit cadre, as the writers of The Federalist were. And, of course, they lost. The victor writes the history. But many of them were leading intellectuals, lawyers, politicians, and other educated members of the country’s elite. As Publius infrequently identifies the writers to which he is responding in a particular paper, I should like to take a few lines to mention some of the opposition leaders.

The many effective and famous Antifederalists included Patrick Henry and George Mason of Virginia, Samuel Chase and Luther Martin of Maryland, and Samuel Adams and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Some opposed the whole project; Henry declared he did not attend the Convention because he “smelt a rat.” Others just wanted a bill of rights. George Mason was one of the most important contributors at the Convention, but, along with Gerry, declined to sign when the Convention refused consideration of a bill of rights. Still others eventually supported the Constitution with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Many Antifederalists used pseudonyms, in the custom of the day. There was Robert Yates, writing sixteen papers as “Brutus.” Judge Yates was a New York delegate who attended the Philadelphia Convention with Hamilton but left when the delegates moved beyond their charge only to consider revisions to the Articles. A moderate opponent, he was later recruited as a Federalist Party candidate for governor. His influential writings were widely circulated and known for their constructive and analytical criticisms, many of which, unfortunately, have manifested themselves over the years in the federal government that has evolved. Contrary to Madison’s claim, Yates often made suggestions for alternatives. It is curious that Publius never mentions Brutus by name (as he does a few others), although reading the former’s writings, it is clear from the language and the order of argument that he is often responding to the latter’s critiques.

George Clinton, likely author of seven “Letters of Cato,” was the longest-serving governor in American history at 21 years and a two-term U.S. Vice President. He presided over the New York convention and was a moderate opponent of the Constitution who favored adoption conditioned on amendments. His “letters” were widely read, and some historians believe that the effectiveness of his letters impelled the Constitution’s supporters to write The Federalist in response. Cato is specifically mentioned by Publius.

“A Federal Farmer” is traditionally associated with Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, a career politician who was, among many other things, a member of the Confederation Congress. More recent scholars believe that the writer is attorney Melancton Smith, a member of the Confederation Congress and the New York ratifying convention. Hamilton considered the Federal Farmer the most persuasive of the Antifederalists, and refers to him in Federalist 68. The tone in the two pamphlets containing eighteen letters is generally analytical, readable, and moderate. That makes it less likely that Lee, an emotional and powerful orator, is the author. Smith eventually voted for the Constitution, with amendments.

Towards the end of the paper, Madison engages in a dubious tactic of defending the Constitution by declaring the ways that the Confederation has exercised broad powers. That may seem good in theory, but it is unlikely strategically to convince those who are weighing arguments for and against the Constitution. Though the point is to make the Constitution sound tame, one can just as easily draw a different conclusion: If the Confederation Congress is so dynamic, why is there need for change? That said, inducing most of the states to cede their western territorial claims to the United States, taking control of the territory, and passing the Northwest Ordinance as a model of colonial administration for the territory was probably the Confederation’s finest domestic policy success and showed the—ultimately unrealized—potential of the Articles.

An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law.  Prof. Knipprath has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums.  His website is http://www.tokenconservative.com

 

August 2, 2010 – Federalist No. 68 & Federalist No. 69 – Janine Turner

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Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Howdy from Texas! As I read Federalist Papers No. 68 and 69 it becomes evident in a factual way how earnestly and tenaciously our founding Constitutional forefathers strove to protect our liberties and our Republic. Once again, they based their decisions, not on rhetoric or reason but on the wisdom wrought by history.

In no circumstance was this more evident than in regard to the election of the President of the United States. In Federalist Paper No. 68, Alexander Hamilton, states this with precision and clarity.

“Nothing was more to be desired, than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of Republican government, might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”

Could this be more relevant throughout our history and even today? We, and democracy, have been under continuous attack from varied countries for the past two centuries and we are under attack today. “The enemy is in the field,” whether it be via the insidious silencing by an overzealousness of  “political correctness” or a literal attack on our soil.

America represents hope and hope is the envy of the enemy.

Our founding fathers wanted to protect our Republic from intrigue and corruption with the establishment of the electoral process. This provided a sort of perspective permeating through the passions of the people as well as a balance of power throughout the country. In times of peace and prosperity the perspective of an electorate seems redundant. Never have we seen, nor experienced the horrors that our forefathers endured that warranted and verified the need to establish such a window of wisdom laid in the hands of a few. Tyranny can easily slide in our backdoor while we slumber. Today, soldiers don’t beckon at our door to spend the night in our homes – this doesn’t mean it may not happen yet again.

Our only guarantee lies within the guarding and respecting and understanding the premise and principles upon which our Constitution was established.

We must never let ourselves be so far removed from the history or teaching of tyranny that we relinquish the reigns to the horse that pulls the cart. If we do this, our horse will pull our cart over a cliff into an oblivion of despair that will then be beyond our control.

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.” John Adams.

Liberty cannot be sustained without a general knowledge of the United States Constitution.

The Electoral College is also important because it balances the power between the states. If we abolished the electoral process then the more populated states, such as California, Texas and New York would control the policies and direction of the country. One has to wonder about the “winner takes all” policy regarding the electorate that exists presently in all of the states except Maine and Nebraska. My understanding of “winner takes all” is that it undermines the electoral process. It also may falsely represent the political inclination of the states and eliminate electoral votes from certain regions that could, when added all together, actually determine an election. Is, “winner takes all” a violation of the United States Constitution? Does it circumvent the amendment process?

Federalist Paper No. 68 is enlightening and intriguing. Federalist Paper No. 69 is a smart, insightful comparison of our United States Constitution with the British rule of the king. Revealing are the nine points Alexander Hamilton makes by this exercise: Term limited, Impeachment possible, Checks by the legislative body, Power to command the military but not declare war or raise arms, Treaties made with concurrent power of the legislature, Appointment of officers with approval of the legislature, No power to convey privileges, Can prescribe no rules concerning commerce or coins, No particle of spiritual jurisdiction.

The comparison of the United States Constitutional restrictions to those of the British crown are awesome and revealing. Brilliant were the checks instilled upon the Executive branch of the United States’ government. This, of course, begs the question how have these limits prevailed today?

My curiosity is peeked by Alexander Hamilton’s statement about the President’s power of nomination being just that – a nomination – approved by the Senate – in ALL categories.

“The President is to nominate, and, WITH THE ADVICE AND CONSENT OF THE SENATE, to appoint ambassadors and other public ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, and in general all officers of the United States established by law, and whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by the Constitution.

The President’s nominations of ambassadors, public ministers, judges, and in general all officers of the United States established by law and whose appointment are not otherwise provided for by the Constitution must be held to the scrutiny and “consent of the senate.”

How does the bloating of our modern day federal government, with unapproved and unchecked “bureaucrats and czars,” fair under this Constitutional scrutiny? These are the bleeds that rupture the heart of a Republic and threaten a seizure of the people.

Thoughts to ponder.

God Bless,

Janine Turner

 

July 30, 2010 – Federalist No. 68 – Cathy Gillespie

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Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Greetings from Long Beach Island, New Jersey! The Gillespies are on our family vacation, and it has been a little hard to keep up with the essays, but I am determined to catch up!  In case you are wondering, the weather has been beautiful, the water warmer than usual, and we have been visiting with Ed’s extended family, his brothers and sisters and all the Greco cousins! There are at least 30 members of the Gillespie and Greco families here now, with the Moore cousins on the way, on Thursday!

The electoral college, the subject of Federalist No. 68, is one of the least understood components of the United States governmental structure.  I recommend this website for anyone who wants to brush up on the subject:  http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/

It is so important we all understand the electoral college and its importance to our republican form of government.  There has a been a recent movement to abolish the electoral college.  But another movement to persuade states to adopt proportional voting, instead of the traditional “winner-take-all” method, is also gaining momentum.

My daughter, Mollie Gillespie, writes about the advantage of states adopting a proportional system of allocating their electoral college votes on Juliette Turner’s new Kids’ Blog.  Click on this link and scroll down for Mollie’s essay:  http://constitutingamerica.org/juliette/?p=18

Check out Juliette’s Blog, and ask your kids to participate!  Juliette is reading the Making of America, and writing about it.  She is also encouraging kids to start Patriot’s Clubs!

Inspire our next generation to want to learn about the Constitution and our country’s founding principles! Forward out links to Juliette’s blog, and help your kids start Patriots’ clubs.  Take the time to teach your kids about the electoral college!  They find this subject fascinating, when it is explained to them.  Use the website   http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/ as a guide.

As we have said numerous times on these pages, knowledge is power! Let’s make sure our next generation is knowledgable, so they have the power to determine their future, and the future of our great country.

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 30, 2010 – Federalist No. 68 – The Mode of Electing the President, From the New York Packet (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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Friday, July 30th, 2010

Federalist 68 to 72 address the election and structure of the Presidency. Who better to address that than Alexander Hamilton, whose knowledge of executive power combines with an affinity for it that caused much suspicion during his political career?

The first essay is a brief foray into the Electoral College. The matter excited so little passion during the ratification debates that Hamilton barely gets his writing hand limbered up. He allows himself to wax poetic and substitute a couplet edited from Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man for some of the acerbic put-downs of his preceding efforts as Publius. Yet, the frivolity of the approach should not obscure the delicate political balances reflected in the constitutional settlement of the President’s election. The Framers’ had rejected direct popular election (an easy call due to its profound conflict with the idea of the United States as a confederated republic), election by Congress, election by the state legislatures, and election by electors selected by regional electors elected by the people (Hamilton’s multi-layered proposal).

The Framers wanted at once to have an energetic executive and to prevent the emergence of an American Caesar. The first would be accomplished by unity in the office, the latter through, among other things, care in the selection of the person. They also were deeply fearful that some foreign power might place a Manchurian Candidate among the presidential contenders. Hamilton mentions that concern in his defense of the system, a concern also reflected in the requirement that the President be a natural-born citizen. This was no small matter to the Framers. There were various plots and other connections between foreign agents and American politicians and military officers (the Wilkinson/Burr cabal with Spain, for example). Moreover, these kinds of intrigues to place a foreigner in executive office were familiar, both because they were common abroad, and because of the Confederation Congress’s offer in 1786, quickly withdrawn, to the republican-minded Prince Henry of Prussia to become regent of the U.S.

The Framers faced several practical problems. Every efficient electoral system has to provide for a means of nominating and then electing candidates. Moreover, civil disturbances over what is often a politically heated process must be avoided. There must be no taint of corruption. The candidate elected must be qualified.

As to the first, the Electoral College would, in many cases, nominate multiple candidates. Electors would be chosen as the legislatures of the states would direct. Though the practice of popular voting for electors spread, not until South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860 did appointment by the legislatures end everywhere. Once selected, the electors’ strong loyalties to their respective states likely would cause the electors to select a “favorite son” candidate. To prevent a multiplicity of candidates based on state residency, electors had to cast one of the two votes allotted to each for someone from another state. It was expected that several regional candidates would emerge under that process. There likely would be no single majority electoral vote recipient, at least not after George Washington. The actual election of the President then would devolve to the House of Representatives, fostering the blending and overlapping of powers that Madison extolled in Federalist 51.

That last step corresponded to the Framers’ experience with the election of the British prime minister and cabinet, and with the practice of several states. However, consistent with the state-oriented structure of American federalism, such election in the House had to come through a majority of state delegations, not individual Congressmen. Though modified slightly by the Twelfth Amendment as a result of the deadlock of 1800, this process is still in place.

The Electoral College also was to be the mediating device that would balance the desire for popular input with the realistic concern that a direct popular vote would promote candidates with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.” Hamilton, a skilled in-fighter, possessed very sharp elbows politically, but lacked those particular talents and despised them in others. As John Jay writes in Federalist 64, the Constitution’s system would likely select those most qualified to be President. Augmented by the Constitution’s age requirement for President, the electors are not “liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle.”

Having the voters select a group of electors, rather than the President directly, would also calm the political waters. By making that election something other than a vote about particular candidates, the process would encourage reflection and deliberation by voters about the capacity for reasoned judgment of the electors chosen. The smaller number of wise electors, in turn, would exercise that judgment free from popular passion.

There is also the problem of corruption of the electors. Every polity must address that. The Republic of Venice had a truly byzantine system of election and selection by lot of those whose sole responsibility it would be to elect the Doge (the executive). The sheer number of participants and the unpredictability of the eventual identity of the Venetian electors made vote-buying, influence-peddling, and intimidation impractical. In Federalist 68, as well, Hamilton assures the reader that, in the American system, corruption and the influence of faction are avoided by the temporary and limited duty of the electors, the disqualification of federal office holders to serve, the large number of electors, and the fact that they meet in separate states at the same time. Presumably, those protections fall away when the House elects the President. But Congressmen have to worry about re-election and, thus, want to avoid corrupt bargains that are odious to the voters.

Though the constitutional shell remains, much of the system operates differently than the Framers hoped. The reason is the evolution of the modern programmatic party, that bane of good republicans, which has replaced state loyalties with party loyalties. The Framers thought they had dealt adequately with the influence of factions in their finely-tuned system. As modern party government was just emerging in Britain and—in contrast to temporary and shifting political factions—unknown in the states, the Framers designed the election process unprepared for such parties.

Today, the nominating function is performed by political parties, while election is, in practice, by the voters. Elections by the House are still possible, if there is a strong regional third-party candidate. But the dominance of the two parties (which are, in part, coalitions of factions) suppresses competition, and the last time there was a reasonable possibility of electoral deadlock was in 1968, when Alabama Governor George C. Wallace took 46 electoral votes. Mere independent national candidacies, such as that of Ross Perot in 1992, have roughly similar levels of support in all states and are unlikely to siphon electoral votes and block the usual process.

Parties have had a beneficial effect in that they have prevented repetitions of the debacles of 1800 (when, due to the tie vote between Jefferson and Burr, it took the House 36 ballots and probable political intervention by Hamilton on the former’s behalf to resolve the election) and of 1824 (when the election dominated by just the regional candidacies anticipated by the Framers was thrown into the House and extensive bargaining precipitated charges of corruption that stymied the J. Q. Adams presidency). Had parties not emerged to provide necessary lubrication, the creaky constitutional machinery well might have had to be reformed. Though they have smoothed the process, parties arguably also have promoted the very evils (other than foreign intrigue) that Publius assured his readers were avoided under the electoral system designed by the Framers.

At the same time, the emergence of modern political parties has not made the Electoral College obsolete, as it still promotes important values. It reinforces the founding principle that the U.S. is a confederated republic and not a consolidated national government, as analyzed so persuasively by Madison in Federalist 39. Despite the occasional misfire, as in the election of 2000, the Electoral College often gives the narrow victor in the popular vote a mandate through a significant electoral college majority. The need to find a lot of electoral votes to overturn such a result reduces the likelihood of persistent challenges. Elections such as 1948, 1960, 1968, and 1992 come to mind. Proposals to change or abolish the Electoral College have appeared frequently since the Constitution’s adoption and are of predictable types. But they always lose steam, as there has been no showing that they will serve republican values better than the current system. Indeed, efforts to change the system have declined in the last half century, even after the contested election of 2000, a testimony to the enduring legitimacy of the Electoral College.

An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law.  Prof. Knipprath has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums.  His website is http://www.tokenconservative.com

 

August 3, 2010 – Federalist No. 69 & Federalist No. 70 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Greetings from Long Beach Island New Jersey!  What fun I’ve been having reading the Federalist Papers on the beach! And what interesting looks I get from passersby who take the time to glance at the cover of my book.

Federalist Papers 68-77 are especially interesting to me personally, as I have been fascinated by the Presidency for as long as I can remember. My first “political” experience was writing to President Nixon when I was in grade school, telling him I was praying for him during his struggles.  In Junior high, I begged my father to take me to SMU, in Dallas near where I grew up, to stand in a rope line in order to catch a glimpse of President Gerald Ford.  I voted for the first time in 1980, proudly casting my ballot for Ronald Reagan.  My first college course in political science at Texas A&M was taught by an expert in the Presidency, and although regretfully I can’t remember his name, I loved the course so much, I switched my major from business to political science that semester!

During the last decade, I got an even closer look at the Presidency through my husband’s work with President George W. Bush, and opportunities our family had to interact with him.  I had always admired President Bush’s steady leadership, and his unwavering commitment to certain values and principles, most notably keeping America safe. But getting to know him personally, I admired the way he carried the office of the Presidency.  When you are President, you are always President, whether relaxing in a small group or at public events.  President Bush respected the office, and lived every day in a way that could make our country proud.

Thank you to Professor Joerg Knipprath for your enlightening and thorough essays on Federalist Papers No. 69 (The Real Character of the Executive ) and 70 (The Executive Department Further Considered ).  The historical background you provide gives a useful prism from which to view these two papers that explore the President’s powers versus those of the British Monarch and the New York Governor, and the decision of the founders to have a unified executive, versus two or more heading that branch.

In Federalist No. 69 Publius makes a convincing argument that the United States Presidency, while powerful enough to head the country, is not as powerful as the King, or even the New York Governor (with the exception of the power to make treaties).  This is a fascinating comparison, and reveals the founders’ thought process on why the Presidency of our country is vested with certain powers and limited in others.

Some of the President’s powers originally outlined by the founders have waned, while others have increased. The President’s term in office still remains at four years, but is now limited to two terms by the twenty-second Amendment.

The President’s power to

“nominate, and, WITH THE ADVICE AND CONSENT OF THE SENATE, to appoint ambassadors and other public ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, and in general all officers of the United States established by law, and whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by the Constitution,”

has been expanded over the years by the President’s ability to create “Czar” positions.  These “Czar” positions sound eerily similar to the power Publius ascribes to the King, and denies the President having:

The king of Great Britain is emphatically and truly styled the fountain of honor. He not only appoints to all offices, but can create offices.”

Time Magazine provides an interesting history of “Czars” in the United States at this link: http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1925564,00.html

Time states the first Czar existed in President Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet during World War I, when Wilson appointed Bernard Baruch to head the War Industries board, and was known as the Industry Czar.  This must have been the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, as the use of “Czars” has mushroomed from that point forward.

In Federalist No. 70, Publius defends the decision of the founders to have a single executive in the office of the Presidency head the executive branch, versus two or more individuals.  The benefits of a unified executive make an extraordinary amount of sense, especially in protecting the people’s liberty through transparency, and accountability.  As difficult as it was to pinpoint blame in Watergate, for example, imagine how much more difficult it might have been had there been two Chief Executives.  Professor Knipprath quotes Harry Truman’s famous line, “the buck stops here,” and that indeed is one of the most important attributes of the United States Presidency.

The founders’ grasp of history, as they detail the failures of past plural executives, such as the Achaens, or the dissensions between the Consuls and the military Tribunes in Roman history once again illuminates their arguments.  And their grasp of human nature is equally as profound –

“Wherever two or more persons are engaged in any common enterprise or pursuit, there is always danger of difference of opinion. If it be a public trust or office, in which they are clothed with equal dignity and authority, there is peculiar danger of personal emulation and even animosity.”

“Men often oppose a thing, merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike. But if they have been consulted, and have happened to disapprove, opposition then becomes, in their estimation, an indispensable duty of self-love. They seem to think themselves bound in honor, and by all the motives of personal infallibility, to defeat the success of what has been resolved upon contrary to their sentiments. Men of upright, benevolent tempers have too many opportunities of remarking, with horror, to what desperate lengths this disposition is sometimes carried, and how often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals, who have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting to mankind. Perhaps the question now before the public may, in its consequences, afford melancholy proofs of the effects of this despicable frailty, or rather detestable vice, in the human character.”

Our United States Presidency is a unique institution, crafted thoughtfully and skillfully by our founding fathers!

On to Federalist #71!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

August 2, 2010 – Federalist No. 68 & Federalist No. 69 – Janine Turner

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Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Howdy from Texas! As I read Federalist Papers No. 68 and 69 it becomes evident in a factual way how earnestly and tenaciously our founding Constitutional forefathers strove to protect our liberties and our Republic. Once again, they based their decisions, not on rhetoric or reason but on the wisdom wrought by history.

In no circumstance was this more evident than in regard to the election of the President of the United States. In Federalist Paper No. 68, Alexander Hamilton, states this with precision and clarity.

“Nothing was more to be desired, than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of Republican government, might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”

Could this be more relevant throughout our history and even today? We, and democracy, have been under continuous attack from varied countries for the past two centuries and we are under attack today. “The enemy is in the field,” whether it be via the insidious silencing by an overzealousness of  “political correctness” or a literal attack on our soil.

America represents hope and hope is the envy of the enemy.

Our founding fathers wanted to protect our Republic from intrigue and corruption with the establishment of the electoral process. This provided a sort of perspective permeating through the passions of the people as well as a balance of power throughout the country. In times of peace and prosperity the perspective of an electorate seems redundant. Never have we seen, nor experienced the horrors that our forefathers endured that warranted and verified the need to establish such a window of wisdom laid in the hands of a few. Tyranny can easily slide in our backdoor while we slumber. Today, soldiers don’t beckon at our door to spend the night in our homes – this doesn’t mean it may not happen yet again.

Our only guarantee lies within the guarding and respecting and understanding the premise and principles upon which our Constitution was established.

We must never let ourselves be so far removed from the history or teaching of tyranny that we relinquish the reigns to the horse that pulls the cart. If we do this, our horse will pull our cart over a cliff into an oblivion of despair that will then be beyond our control.

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.” John Adams.

Liberty cannot be sustained without a general knowledge of the United States Constitution.

The Electoral College is also important because it balances the power between the states. If we abolished the electoral process then the more populated states, such as California, Texas and New York would control the policies and direction of the country. One has to wonder about the “winner takes all” policy regarding the electorate that exists presently in all of the states except Maine and Nebraska. My understanding of “winner takes all” is that it undermines the electoral process. It also may falsely represent the political inclination of the states and eliminate electoral votes from certain regions that could, when added all together, actually determine an election. Is, “winner takes all” a violation of the United States Constitution? Does it circumvent the amendment process?

Federalist Paper No. 68 is enlightening and intriguing. Federalist Paper No. 69 is a smart, insightful comparison of our United States Constitution with the British rule of the king. Revealing are the nine points Alexander Hamilton makes by this exercise: Term limited, Impeachment possible, Checks by the legislative body, Power to command the military but not declare war or raise arms, Treaties made with concurrent power of the legislature, Appointment of officers with approval of the legislature, No power to convey privileges, Can prescribe no rules concerning commerce or coins, No particle of spiritual jurisdiction.

The comparison of the United States Constitutional restrictions to those of the British crown are awesome and revealing. Brilliant were the checks instilled upon the Executive branch of the United States’ government. This, of course, begs the question how have these limits prevailed today?

My curiosity is peeked by Alexander Hamilton’s statement about the President’s power of nomination being just that – a nomination – approved by the Senate – in ALL categories.

“The President is to nominate, and, WITH THE ADVICE AND CONSENT OF THE SENATE, to appoint ambassadors and other public ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, and in general all officers of the United States established by law, and whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by the Constitution.

The President’s nominations of ambassadors, public ministers, judges, and in general all officers of the United States established by law and whose appointment are not otherwise provided for by the Constitution must be held to the scrutiny and “consent of the senate.”

How does the bloating of our modern day federal government, with unapproved and unchecked “bureaucrats and czars,” fair under this Constitutional scrutiny? These are the bleeds that rupture the heart of a Republic and threaten a seizure of the people.

Thoughts to ponder.

God Bless,

Janine Turner