Constitutional Convention. Remarks on the
Election of the President1
[Philadelphia, September 6, 1787]
Mr. Hamilton said that he had been restrained from entering into the discussions by his dislike of the Scheme of Govt. in General; but as he meant to support the plan to be recommended, as better than nothing, he wished in this place to offer a few remarks.2 He liked the new modification, on the whole, better than that in the printed Report.3 In this the President was a Monster elected for seven years, and ineligible afterwards; having great powers, in appointments to office, & continually tempted by this constitutional disqualification to abuse them in order to subvert the Government. Although he should be made re-eligible, still if appointed by the Legislature, he would be tempted to make use of corrupt influence to be continued in office. It seemed peculiarly desireable therefore that some other mode of election should be devised. Considering the different views of different States, & the different districts Northern Middle & Southern, he concurred with those who thought that the votes would not be concentered, and that the appointment would consequently in the present mode devolve on the Senate. The nomination to offices will give great weight to the President. Here then is a mutual connection & influence, that will perpetuate the President, and aggrandize both him & the Senate. What is to be the remedy? He saw none better than to let the highest number of ballots, whether a majority or not, appoint the President. What was the objection to this? Merely that too small a number might appoint. But as the plan stands, the Senate may take the candidate having the smallest number of votes, and make him President.
Hunt and Scott, Debates description begins Gaillard Hunt and James Brown Scott, eds., The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Which Framed the Constitution of the United States of America. Reported by James Madison (New York, 1920). description ends , 520–21.
1. H probably had returned to the Convention between September 1 and September 6, 1787.
2. On the last day of August the unfinished parts of the Constitution were referred to a Committee of Eleven consisting of one member from each state. On September 4, the committee reported its recommendations. Among them was a plan for the election of the executive which, with minor changes, became a part of the Constitution.
3. The printed report was the report of the Committee of Detail which had been appointed on July 26 to prepare and report a constitution conformable to the resolutions adopted by Congress. The new modification was the plan proposed by the Committee of Eleven. In the report of the Committee of Detail the President was to be elected by ballot by the national legislature and to hold office for seven years. In the report of the Committee of Eleven of September 4, he was to be chosen by electors in such manner as the legislature in each state should direct. If the electors gave no candidate a majority of votes, the choice was to devolve on the Senate.