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existing prior to 1832, the president is elected by 261 electors. And to prevent the person in office at the time of the election from having any improper influence on his re-election, by his ordinary agency in the government, it is provided that no member of Congress, nor any person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be an elector; and the constitution has in no other respect defined the qualifications of the electors. These electors meet in their respective states, at a place appointed by the legislature thereof, on the first Wednesday in December in every fourth year succeeding the last election, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, (for this last officer is elected in the same manner, and for the same period as the President,) and one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with the electors. They name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and, in distinct ballots, the person voted for as Vice-President; and they 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 sign, and certify, and transmit, sealed, to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the president of the senate. The act of Congress of 1st of March, 1792, sec. 2. directs that the certificate of the votes shall be delivered to the president of the senate before the first Wednesday of January next ensuing the election. The president of the senate, on the second Wednesday in February succeeding every meeting of the electors, in the presence of both houses of Congress, opens all the certificates, and the votes are then to be counted. The constitution does not expressly declare by whom the votes are to be counted and the result declared. In the case of questionable votes, and a closely contested election, this power may be all-important; and I presume, in the absence of all legislative provision on the subject, that the president of the senate counts the votes and deter
a Art. 2. sec. 1.
mines the result, and that the two houses are present only as spectators, to witness the fairness and accuracy of the transaction, and to act only if no choice be made by the electors. The house of representatives, in such case, are to choose immediately, which, I presume, may be while the two houses are so together, though they may vote after they have retired, for the constitution holds their choice to be valid, if made before the fourth day of March following. And in the cases of the elections in 1801 and 1824, the house of representatives retired and voted, and the senate were admitted to be present as spectators. The person having the greatest number of votes for President is President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; but if no person have such majority, then, from the persons having the highest number, 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. 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 VicePresident 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 VicePresident, is 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 thall consist of two thirds of the whole number of senators, and a majority of the whole number is necessary to a choice ; and no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President, shall be eligible to that of VicePresident of the United States. The constitution does not specifically prescribe when or where the senate is to choose a Vice-President, if no choice be made by the electors, and, I presume, the senate may elect by themselves, at any time before the fourth day of March following.
a Amendments lo lhe Conslilution, art 12.
It is provided by law, that the term of four years, for which a President and Vice-President shall be elected, shall, in all cases, commence on the fourth day of March next succeeding the day on which the votes of the electors shall have been given.
In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the office, the same devolve on the Vice-President; and Congress are authorized to provide, by law, for the case of the vacancy in the office, both of President and Vice-President, declaring what officer should then act as President, and the officer so designated is to act until the office be supplied. In pursuance of this constitutional provision, the act of Congress, of March 1st, 1792, sec. 9. declared, that in case of a vacancy in the office, both of President and Vice-President, the president of the senate pro tempore, and in case there should be no president of the senate, then the speaker of the house of representatives, for the time being, should act as President, until the vacancy was supplied. The evidence of a refusal to accept, or of a resignation of the office of President and Vice-President, is declared by the same act of Congress, sec. 11. to be a declaration in writing, filed in the office of the secretary of state. And if the office should, by the course of events, devolve on the speaker, after the Congress for which the last speaker was chosen had expired, and before the next meeting of Congress, it might be a question who is to serve, and whether the speaker of the house of representatives, then extinct, could be deemed the person intended.
a Amendments to the Constitution, art. 12. b Act of Congress, March 1, 1792. e Art. 2. sec. 1.
The mode of electing the President appears to be well calculated to secure a discreet choice, and to avoid all those evils which the partisans of monarchy have described, and the experience of other nations and past ages have too clearly shown to be the consequence of popular elections. Had the choice of President been referred at once to the people at large, as one single community, there might have been reason to apprehend, and such no doubt was the sense of the convention, that it would have produced too violent a contest, and have been trying the experiment on too extended a scale for the public virtue, tranquillity, and happiness. But still a greater and more insuperable difficulty was, that such a measure would be an entire consolidation of the government of this country, and an annihilation of the state sovereignties, so far as concerned the organization of the executive department of the Union. This was not to be permitted or endured, and it would, besides, have destroyed the balance of the Union, and reduced the weight of the slave-holding states to a degree which they would have deemed altogether inadmissible. Had we imitated the practice of most of the southern states, in respect to their state executives, and referred the choice of the President to Congress, this would have rendered him too dependent upon the immediate authors of his elevation, to comport with the requisite energy of his own department; and it would have laid him under temptation to indulge in improper intrigue, or to form a dangerous coalition with the legislative body, in order to secure his continuance in office. All elections by the representative body are peculiarly liable to produce combinations for sinister purposes. The constitution has avoided all these objections, by confiding the power of election to a small number of select individuals in each state, chosen only a few days before the election, and solely for that purpose. This would seem, prima facie, to be as wise a provision as the wisdom of man could have
devised, to avoid all opportunity for foreign or domestic intrigue. These electors assemble in separate and distantly detached bodies, and they are constituted in a manner best calculated to preserve them free from all inducements to disorder, bias, or corruption. There is no other mode of appointing the chief magistrate, under all the circumstances peculiar to our political condition, which appears to unite in itself so many unalloyed advantages. It must not be pronounced to be a perfect scheme of election, for it has not been sufficiently tried. The election of 1801 threatened the tranquillity of the Union; and the difficulty that occurred in that case in producing a cor.stitutional choice, led to the amendment of the constitution on this very subject; but whether the amendment be for the better or for the worse, may be well doubted, and remains yet to be settled by the lights of experience. The constitution says, that each state is to appoint electors in such manner as the legislature may direct; and in New York, and some other states, the electors have always been chosen by the legislature itself, in the mode prescribed by law. But it is to be presumed that there would be less opportunity for dangerous coalitions, and combinations for party, or ambitious, or selfish purposes, if the choice of electors was referred to the people at large, and this seems now to be the sense and expression of public
opinion. His term of (4.) The President, thus elected, holds his office for the
term of four years, a period, perhaps, reasonably long for the purpose of making him feel firm and independent in the discharge of his trust, and to give stability and some degree of maturity to his system of administration. It is certainly short enough to place him under a due sense of dependence on the public approbation. The President is re-eligible for successive terms, but in practice he has never consented to be a candidate for a third election, and this usage has indirectly established, by the force of public opinion, a
salutary limitation to his capacity of continuance in office. Hin salaiy.
(5.) The support of the President is secured by a provi