Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Electoral College, Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist Papers

Alexander Hamilton in the Uniform of
the New York Artillery by Alonzo Chappel
As many of you are preparing for Christmas and the holidays, political events, just like life, continue. Last Monday, the Electoral College voted to confirm President-Elect Donald Trump to become the 45th U.S. President. This should not have been a surprise as the Electoral College is ruled by mostly formal rules. Still, in recent weeks a forceful debate about the Electoral College was raging in the media, especially due to the fact that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in no uncertain numbers.
CNN columnist, Scott Piro, a few days before the Electoral College vote took place, made a case for abolishing the Electoral College in his article, "It's time for the Electoral College to fall on its sword". After stating that "The Electoral College has contradicted the popular vote in two of the last five presidential elections, electing a Republican president in both those splits", Piro says: 
"This archaic safeguard (i.e. the Electoral College) from our Founding Fathers, created to stop an unfit leader from becoming president but having the modern effect of blocking the will of the people, will have proved its harmfulness to everyone. The flipping of the presidency from Trump to Clinton would be collateral damage or a big fat bonus, depending on which side of the aisle you sit."

Let's now go to the background of this socalled "archaic safeguard", to The Federalist Papers, a collection of 85 essays written in 1787 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, using the pseudonym Publius, to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution.

Alexander Hamilton
, one of the Founding Fathers, who reportedly wrote the 68th essays of The Federalist Papers, titled "The Mode of Electing the President", said the following:

".....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......"
(You can also listen here to a Librivox recording of the 68th essay of The Federalist Papers.)

Well, that was then, we now know the outcome of yesterday's Electoral College vote and it will be up to future voters and Congressmen to do some serious thinking about the Presidential elections and the concept of the Electoral College. Clearly, reading The Federalist Papers and understanding the Founding Father's thinking will be of immense importance in solving this modern day conundrum.

See below The Federalist Papers (including The Articles of Confederation of the United States, and The Declaration of Independence) as well as The Constitition of the United States in hardcover and paperback editions:

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