Constitutional Journal [BYJeffrey St. John
-Tuesday, Sept. 4, 1787
Yesterday, fearing corrupt bargains between Congress and the President, the Convention prohibited members of Congress from holding any other office.
THE Committee of Eleven today submitted to the Convention a complex compromise plan for electing a President and proposed to make the office far more vigorous and independent than many delegates had earlier been willing to accept.
The Committee's report recommends that the President and Vice-President be chosen for a four-year term rather than for seven years as previously approved. The President would not be restricted to one term, and would be elected by an Electoral College - not by the State legislatures or national Congress. Each State would appoint, as its legislature directs, a number of Electors equal to its whole number of members in the Senate and House of Representatives. The Electors would meet in their respective States and by secret ballot vote for two candidates for President, one of them not a resident of the same State as the Electors.
Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, a Committee member, explained one reason for the cumbersome Electoral College: ``As the Electors would vote at the same time throughout the US and at so great a distance from each other, the great evil of cabal [would be] avoided. It would be impossible also to corrupt them.''
The ballots of the Electors would be counted, certified, sealed, and sent to the seat of the national government. The president of the Senate would count the ballots before witnesses, and the candidate with an absolute majority would be declared President. If no such majority were found, the Senate would vote for a President from among the five candidates with the most ballots. The vice-presidency would go to the candidate who placed second in either vote.
The Convention took no action today on the proposed presidential election plan in order to give the delegates time to study it. Delegates with diverse points of view did agree that the plan erased one potential evil that has obsessed them; namely, the corruption of elections by the intrigue of power-hungry factions.
``It is in truth the most difficult of all on which we have had to decide,'' James Wilson of Pennsylvania said of the long-debated presidency issue.
One observer points out that the Electoral College compromise proposal is the only political innovation of this Convention and that it overcomes every objection that has been raised against all other methods. It meets, for example, the strong objection of many delegates to direct popular election of the President. It satisfies the large States as well as the small States, which will share equally in the election of the President when the Senate votes to break an Electoral College tie.
The Committee report today also proposes that the President have the power of appointment, including that of judges and ambassadors, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. The power to make treaties, originally given to the Senate, was shifted to the President, but it requires the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senate.
In proposing these changes, the Committee is making the President independent of Congress by giving him the power to initiate appointments and treaties. But at the same time the States, being equally represented in the Senate, would have the power to check the President. If the changes are accepted by the delegates, the legislative and executive branches will become co-equals, with the responsibility and power to keep an eye on each other.
These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.