I had the opportunity to mull over some books of a historical nature. I found them to be very interesting and possibly of some importance. I like to learn strange historical facts, and I found a good source in a book “Topics in American History” which was published when I was five years old. I used other books too, but this one just kind of stood out. Let us look at the formation of the Constitution first. Everyone says that the Constitution would be better understood if everyone could meet the framers of it and ask them questions on thorny issues. Well, that has already been done. James Madison was a young delegate to the formation of the Constitution, and he delivered his notes to the people at the Constitutional Convention.
What does that have to do with what the Constitutional fathers put into the mix? He wrote all of the arguments in his journal, so we know what everyone said. Suffice it to say that he kept arduous notes, with quotes from everyone, except the leader of the Convention, George Washington. Washington was reticient. He had little to say, probably because he did not want to be the person who framed the actual document. Other than that, delegates were free to espouse their ideas. And Madison wrote down exactly what they said. So we have the written arguments that the Forefathers made on behalf of themselves and their states.
In the beginning, there was no call for a Constitution. People were sent to Philadelphia to fix the Articles of Confederation. No one wanted, although many saw the need for a document, to frame a Constitution. They just wanted to fix the existing plan. But, it became evident that this was going to be larger than that, it was going to unite the states, who saw themselves as individual nations. Massachusetts had slavery for instance until 1802. Each state had their own money, and there was no plan to rescind that. They just printed their own money and gave it value. If another state did not agree with their sense of its value they just ignored the difference or fought it out. New Hampshire money probably was not as valuable as Massachusetts money. Just my educated guess, but that is probably the fact. The more established states had bigger purses.
Thus, there was a need to work over some differences, although some delegates left when they came to the conclusion that this was a convention that would make the Articles of Confederation obsolete. Not everyone agreed, and no one had cast a vote to make a Constitution. It is that which defined the entire meeting. The delegates agreed with their need for a Constitution. The people did not.
So what is our Constitution? Well, to me, it is a series of votes on the efforts of man (and women) to solidify their place in the history of their own kind. I often carry a copy of the Constitution because we are at a crisis point in our democracy. If I hear an argument or point made that seems especially foreign to me, I look for the answer in the Constitution and its Amendments. The answer is often difficult to find, but the document is cloudy enough to allow you to find a passage that seems to be geared towards an answer. Now, back to the original book mentioned earlier. The author describes the make up of the Electoral College. The Electoral College is there for a purpose: the original founders thought that the great majority of the voters would be uneducated and probably unable to read or write. They did not want these types to have something to do with electing a poorly educated man who could share his thoughts, and possibly be able to read himself, but who can ignite a fire under the average person, who may or may not be educated.
The other reason was that the largest states could control the Presidency. They would have the population to dictate the type of government that would take over. The smaller states would be able, through the Electoral College, to have a say in the election that would not have been possible under a vote based on population. Actually, the forefathers had a point. In Jefferson’s first election to the Presidency, the average voter voted for Aaron Burr. The vote was tied in the Electoral College and decided by the House of Representatives. Of course, Jefferson won with enemy votes stirred up by Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton could not run for the presidency himself because the Constitution clearly stated that the President had to be a person born in the United States. Hamilton had not been born here but he garnered the votes to swing the election to Jefferson. Aaron Burr would become one of two Vice Presidents to openly kill a man, Hamilton became Burr’s victim.
Aaron Burr lost, but he became the Vice President because that was how the Constitution was written. An Amendment was needed, passed during Jefferson’s term, that stated that the second-place finisher would not become the Vice President. Aaron Burr and John Adams had both been second-place finishers. John Adams became President, but Aaron Burr did not and even tried to take part of the Louisiana Purchase and form a nation out of it with himself as leader. That one did not work for Burr either.
So the Electoral College, passed because the majority of Americans could not read or write, works like this: It is the indirect election of Presidents. Few, but two in most of our lifetimes, have become President by winning the Electoral College. They are George W. Bush and Donald Trump. The author of the book states that this is one of the undemocratic features of the original Constitution. It allows for the indirect election of a President. There was also the indirect election of United States Senators, using the same logic about the uneducated not being important enough to vote for the Senator. For the first one hundred years or more, the Senator was chosen by a vote of the State Legislature.
Other areas of concern included slavery. But that is another story. The Electoral College is equal to its number of votes in the Congress. If New York, as an example, has 47 Congressmen and 2 Senators, then they have 49 votes in the Electoral College. It is not a law that a member of the Electoral College must vote for the person who won their state but it is expected that the Electoral College will do just that. They will vote for the person who won in their state’s presidential balloting. Sometimes one or two people may choose not to vote for a winner, or a loser, but usually it comes out that way.
So, that is the story of the Electoral College, a Constitutional effort perhaps, but one that can fly in the face of the winner of the popular vote.