James Madison Papers

The Contested Georgia Election, [19 March] 1792

The Contested Georgia Election

[19 March 1792]

Mr. Madison replied generally to all the reasoning of the gentlemen who had gone before him in this business—he mentioned the general rule, that whoever had a majority of sound votes was the legal representative; he then recited several exceptions to this rule, and expatiated on the lex parliamentaria. In addition to the cases quoted by Mr. Giles and Mr. W. Smith, he mentioned one wherein corruption appeared in both candidates, and the seat was adjudged to him who had the greatest number of sound votes; but this, he said, was not a case exactly [in] point, he therefore believed it would be necessary to decide the present one agreeably to the Constitution and right reason—he had ventured an opinion formerly upon an occasion of this kind, and he would now confess that, if the house could, conformably to reason, to precedents, or conveniency, admit the petitioning member to a seat, he believed, that they ought to do it, in order to fill up the chasm in the house, so far as relates to the representation and interest of the state of Georgia—he differed in opinion with those who had argued, that the petitioner had not claimed his seat, and even admitting he had done so, or that he would resign, or refuse to accept of it, still the house are bound to declare and establish his right.1

Federal Gazette, 20 Mar. 1792.

1On 21 Mar. an amendment was added to the resolution to admit Jackson, “that the right of petitioning against the election of the said James Jackson, be reserved to all persons, at any time during the term for which he was elected.” JM voted for the amended resolution, but as the House was tied 29–29, the Speaker cast the deciding vote against it. The result was that neither Jackson nor Wayne was permitted to serve. The House then ordered a copy of the resolution declaring the scat vacant sent to the governor of Georgia “to the end that the said Executive may issue writs of election to fill the said vacancy” (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, 1789–1824 (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 2d Cong., 1st sess., 479).

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