Saturday, May 16, 2009

History of the Electoral College Part 2: 1804-1816

When we last left the electoral college, Thomas Jefferson had just become the first President to unseat an incumbant. During his first term in office, Jefferson had made a move which was at the time technically not Constitutional, yet still wildly popular with the citizenry. This was the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, in which the 3rd President purchased 828,800 square miles of land on the North American continent from Napoleon for $15,000,000. The original proposition had been to purchase the city of New Orleans for $10,000,000, for a scant $5,000,000 more Bonaparte through in a land mass which doubled the size of the United States.

Winner: Thomas Jefferson
Electoral Votes: 162 out of 176

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney - 14

While the Louisiana Purchase increased Jefferson's popularity with the people, Alexander Hamilton's Federalist party was incensed. To them the purchase was unconstitutional, and they attempted to block the purchase in the House of Representatives. Thus the United States grew, and the Federalists lost a good deal of political capital. They would lose even more after Vice President Burr shot Hamilton dead.

The party was in poor shape heading into the election. Thomas Jefferson's opponent would once again be Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. By this time, the 12th Amendment had been ratified. Now, rather than casting two votes for President, each elector would cast one vote for President and one vote for Vice President. Jefferson chose as his running mate George Clinton, and Pinckney chose New York senator Rufus King.

With his overwhelming popularity with the people coupled with disarray in the Federalist party, Jefferson easily defeated Pinckney in the electoral college. Cotesworth obtained only 14 electoral votes; 9 from Connecticut, 3 from Delaware, and 2 of Maryland's 11.

Here is how electors were chosen in 1804:

Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New York, South Carolina, and Vermont had their electors chosen by the state legislature.

New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia chose electors via popular vote by the citizens.

Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, and Tennessee were divided into electoral districts. Voters from each district chose one elector.

Massachusetts had two electors chosen by voters statewide. Then every Congressional district in the state voted for one additional elector.

With Jefferson's reputation soaring, Federalists were unable to mount a successful campaign against him. The Democratic Republicans were riding high, and would coast to victory again in 1808.


Winner: James Madison
Electoral Votes: 122 out of 175

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney - 47
George Clinton - 6

With Democratic-Republican goodwill riding high across the nation, James Madison secured the victory over Charles Pinckney. However, Pinckney picked up quite a bit more support than he had in the previous go-round. The reason for this gain can be traced to electoral votes the Federalists picked up in New England. Following the Embargo Act of 1807, the Democratic-Republicans were not at all popular in the Northeast. Pinckney retained all electoral votes he had received in 1804, and picked up many more in New England.

Jefferson's Embargo Act, which forbade trade with foreign nations, devastated the New England economy. Smuggling became widespread, and the public outcry was overwhelming as many saw it as a violation of their rights. As a result, the people spoke out at the ballot box. The Federalists picked up 33 more electoral votes, but still not enough to close the enormous gap between them and the party in power. Jefferson repealed the Embargo Act 3 days before leaving office.

Also in this election, we see an example of Faithless Electors. As referenced before, electors are under no obligation whatsoever to vote alongside the popular vote of the state they represent. 6 electors from New York, where electors were appointed by state legislature, chose to vote for Clinton as President rather than Vice President. Of those 6, 3 voted Madison for Vice President, the other 3 voted James Monroe into the second-in-command slot. George Clinton became the first Vice President to serve under two consecutive Presidents.

In 1808:

Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, and Vermont all had electors appointed via state legislature.

New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia had electors chosen by popular ballot.

Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, and Tennessee divided themselves into electoral districts, with voters choosing one elector per district.

Winner: James Madison
Electoral Votes: 128 out of 217

Runner-Up: DeWitt Clinton
Electoral Votes: 89 out of 217

A fairly straightforward election, notable for the gains made by the Federalist party. DeWitt Clinton, nephew of the now-late Vice President George Clinton, was head of the Erie Canal Commission in New York, and had also served as its Senator. Unhappy with living in DC, he resigned his position and returned home, where he was elected Mayor of New York City. He simultaneously served as Lieutenant Governor of the State following a special election in 1811. Clinton was very popular, and carried New York for the Federalist Party. This was especially important as 1812 was the first election in which New York overpowered Virginia in electoral votes, making it the biggest prize a candidate could win.

With the Napoleonic Wars raging in Europe, the spillover was becoming more and more of an issue in the states. Increasingly, American ships were being attacked and sailors impressed at sea. This led to the United States declaring war on Great Britain, and the War of 1812. DeWitt Clinton took an interesting approach to this contentious issue; in the anti-war parts of the country, he ran a campaign speaking out against the war. In the south and west, where the war was popular, he promised the people he would pursue the war eagerly.

Despite his popularity, Madison still defeated Clinton. The candidate who actually received the most votes, however, was Vice President Elbridge Gerry with 131. Gerry enjoyed all 128 of Madison's electoral votes, and also picked up 3 from Massachusetts. Immensely popular in his home state, the electors from Massachusetts chose him for Clinton's Vice President over the actual Federalist candidate, Jared Ingersoll. One elector from Ohio abstained.

Electors were chosen as follows in 1812:

Connecticut, Delware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Vermont all had electors chosen by state legislature.

New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virigina chose electors via popular election.

Kentucky, Maryland, and Tennessee were divided into electoral districts, with one elector chosen via popular election from each district.

Massachusetts had two electors chosen by statewide voting, and one picked by popular ballot in each congressional district.


Winner: James Monroe
Electoral Votes: 183 out of 217

Runner-Up: Rufus King
Electoral Votes: 34 out of 217

American sentiment towards the Democratic-Republicans was once again riding high following the War of 1812. Very pleased with the resolution to the war, the American people were more than happy to sweep James Monroe into office over the candidate of the collapsing Federalist party, Rufus King. During the war, the Federalists had spearheaded secessionist sentiment in New England at the Hartford Convention. After the war ended, they were disgraced, and even disbanded in several places.

James Monroe had served as Madison's Secretary of State, and was seen as preordained to take the spot as President. Rufus King was not even formally nominated as the Federalist candidate, as the party was in such disarray. Rather, he was simply the person the majority of still-active Federalists ended up supporting. James Monroe and Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins from New York soundly carried the election. Of the 3 states which did cast their votes for King, none voted for the same Vice President. The collapse of the Federalist party would lead to Monroe running unopposed in 1820.

The only real issue of note in this campaign was the inclusion of the electoral votes from Indiana. John W. Taylor of New York challenged the authority of Indiana to cast electoral ballots, as it was still a territory at the time of the election. The argument against him stated that as Indiana had already formed a state constitution and government, and indeed, there were seated representatives from Indiana present, that Indiana was already a state. The dispute stemmed from the fact that the government had set a deadline of admission into the Union as December 11th, 1816, and the election occurred on December 4th. However, Indiana had fulfilled the requirements set before it as early as June 29th.

The question was eventually tabled indefinitely, and all of Indiana's votes were included.

In 1816, the electors were chosen as follows:

Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, and Vermont all had electors appointed by state legislature.

New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia chose electors via popular ballot.

Kentucy, Maryland, and Tennessee were divided into electoral districts, with one elector chosen from each district via popular ballot.


ali d said...

Want to know the real story behind the duel between Burr and Hamilton? It's all right here:

ali d said...

So post-1804 the candidates were choosing running mates to join their campaign as vice presidential candidates, but the electors could still vote for whomever they wanted for VP with their second vote? Did they ever split a presidential candidate from his running mate by electing a different VP?