« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
was introdunder the firstilen into contemptic effect the torbe oreld become effete aventions was his scheme also see will
states has now settled down in favor of having the vote of each state cast as a unit, by having the whole number of electors chosen on one ticket. Thus far, then, we have carried out the original idea, that the president is to be chosen by the votes of the people, reckoned by states and not by districts. ,5.
But the interposition of a Board of Electors has had an effect entirely contrary to the intention of the framers of the constitution. Instead of retaining the direction of the choice in the hands of the wisest and best men, as the theory was, it has passed it into the hands of the most ambitious and unscrupulous, by the occasion it has furnished for introducing the political machinery of caucuses and national nominating conventions. There was no national caucus or convention required to nominate Jefferson, or Jackson. The congressional caucus was introduced as the means of prolonging the party rule organized under the first. And when congressional caucuses had become effete and fallen into contempt, the plan of national nominating conventions was devised to effect the same object for the Jackson party. This scheme also seems to be about performning its functions for the last time, and will probably be laid aside after the present year. If, for no other reason, it will be banished as soon as the fact becomes palpable, that its use is to defeat and not to effectuate the will of a majority of the people.
The present aspect of affairs greatly resembles the state of things which preceded the election of 1824, and which broke down the power of the congressional cancns. Colonel Benton's description of the caucus system, and of the convention plan which succeeded it, is so clear, and so earnestly appropriate at this time, that we copy it entire :
• The presidential election of 1824 is remarkable under another aspect, as having put an end to the practice of caucus nominations for the presidency by members of Congress. This mode of concentrating public opinion began to be practiced, as the eminent men of the revolution, to whom public opinion awarded a preference, were passing away, and when new men of more equal pretensions were coming upon the stage. It was tried several times with success and general approbation; public sentiment having been followed and not led by the caucus. It was attempted in 1824, and failed, the friends of Mr. Crawford only attending; others not attending, not from any repugnance to the practice, as their previous conduct had shown, but because it was known that Mr. Crawford had the largest number of friends in Congress, and would aesuredly receive the nomination. All the rest therefore refused to go into it; all joined in opposing the caucus candidate, as Mr. Crawford was
choose five electors by a plurality vote. In such a case, it is easily practicable for the smallest of the three parties to carry three of the electors, and thus wield the power of the state, by giving 8,400 votes in those districts, while the other two parties are defeated by having 3,300 votes each. The elections in the state of New York were carried both in 1864 and 1865, by pluralities of this size-a bare fraction over one-third of the votes cast.
quiring Congress to be in session in October, for the purpose of counting and declaring the votes, so as to allow the second election, if necessary, to be held in December.
It is obvious that this method would be greatly simplified, and would therefore be more sure to respond in every instance to the actual will of the people, by retaining the original principle of the constitution, that the people should be reckoned by states, and not either by districts or nationally. Leaving the apportionment of political power unaltered, although it interferes in a great degree with the rule of the majority, by giving to the small states an advantage in the two senatorial electors, it might be safely left to the several state legislatures to prescribe the method in which their own proportion of votes should be determined, the result being properly certified to Congress. And in case no person should have a majority of these state suffrages, then let the House of Representatives, voting as they do at present, choose between the three highest candidates.
We are of opinion that the practical working of this mode of election would be farther improved by the restoration of the original principle of the constitution, which required both president and vice president to be voted for on one ticket, without distinguishing between them. This arrangement was incongruous with the election by a college of electors, but it would be perfectly harmonious with the election by direct vote of the people. Let every man give his vote for two candidates, one of whom shall not be a citizen of the same state with him. self. Then the person having the highest number of votes in a state shall receive the electoral suffrage of that state, for president, and the person having the next highest, shall have the suffrage for vice president. It is hardly within the compass of possibility that the direct votes of the people should be given under so rigid a discipline of party, as will produce a tie like that between Jefferson and Burr in 1800. One of the benefits of this return to the good old ways of onr fathers would be the restoration of the vice presidency to its proper rank, by securing, in every case, the election of a man for the second office, whom a majority, or at least a very large proportion of his fellow citizens, were willing to aid in elevating to the highest place.
This would lessen the probability of a failure of the people to elect. And in case of such an occurrence, it might be left to the House of Representatives to choose one of the three highest candidates for president, and then to the Senate to choose one of the two remaining for vice president.
It is a popnlar error which the politicians have industriously propagated as a means of holding the mass of the people in blind allegiance to their party arrangements, to suppose that the election of a president by the House of Representatives, voting by states, is a prodigiously great evil, or fraught with special danger to our frame of government. We have tried it twice, and it gave us such men for president as Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams. In the first case, the House carried into effect the known will of the people, and established a dynasty that ruled for a quarter of a century. In the other case, either the House made a mistake as to the will of the people, or else the political blunder in organizing the new administration changed the popular current; either way, the error was easily retrieved at the next election. An election by the House creates the greatest possible excitement in Congress, and the fermentation shows a prodigious tempest in that teapot, which subsides the moment the choice is effected—all parties agreeing in the result of the constitution. But whatever amount of evil may be apprehended from an election by the House, it is far less injurious than the present system, with its corrupt conventions, and its automaton colleges of electors.
At any rate, we agree with Colonel Benton in the opinion that it will be no easy matter to effect a constitutional change in the mode of election. Time will be required, and discussions, and probably a protracted popular agitation, by patriotic and resolute men who cannot be disheartened by temporary defeats. The constitution has made itself amendable, throughout its whole structure. There is not a provision in it so sacred but that it may be forced to yield in time to the will and wants of the people. But the method of effecting any change is slow and difficult-many will think too difficult to comport with the proper supremacy of the people's will in a republican government. Be that as it may, those forms must be followed, either by carrying the proposed reform through Congress, with a two-thirds vote in both Houses, and the ratifying of it by three-fourths of the states, or else it must begin in the state legislatures, which seems the more hopeful process, although hitherto wholly untried. Says Colonel Benton :
Select bodies are not the places for popular reforms. The reforms are for the benefit of the people, and should begin with the people; and the constitution itself, sensible of that necessity in this very case, has very wisely made provision for the popular initiation of constitutional amendments. The fifth article of that instrument gives the power of beginning the reform of itself to the states, in their legislatures, as well as to the federal government in its Congress : and there is the place to begin, and before the people themselves in their elections to the General Assembly. And there should be no despair on account of the
hoc or national experiente te likely to be peculier Cable thiet a politica in safety .. This cons when it up the preside the three
failures already suffered. No great reform is carried suddenly. It requires years of persevering exertion to produce the unanimity of opinion which is necessary to a great popular reformation ; but because it is difficult, it is not impossible. The greatest reform ever effected by peaceful means, * * that of the parliamentary reform of Great Britain, * p mn was effected but by forty years of continued exertion.' p. 79.
Our national experience points to an election in the house as a political crisis, which the national constitution is able to pass through in safety, and which is likely to be followed by changes durably beneficial. This consideration is peculiarly consolatory at the present juncture, when it appears inevitable that we are to have a triangular campaign for the presidency, with a very great degree of probability that neither of the three parties will be able to carry a majority of electoral votes. In that case the choice of a president will devolve upon the present House of Representatives, a majority of whom were chosen in 1854, and who are themselves divided into three parties, too well balanced for either to be able to organize the body or to guide its action. In the election of 1824, there were four parties, so divided that the choice between the two highest candidates, Adams and Jackson, was determined by the friends of the fourth party, who was not a candidate before the House. No such expedient will be available next winter, to mitigate the fierceness of the struggle. It will be a severer trial of the timbers of our ship of state than either of the preceding, and we may hope that, if happily surmounted, it will yield still more benficial results in the end.
It is all too late to look now for any preventive of an election by the House at the pending struggle, except by means of such an arrangement as will be likely to concentrate the votes of the three great states, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, upon one candidate, who shall also be able to unite the suffrages of most of the other free states. Let the right man be presented in the most unobjectionable way, and it will be easily practicable for the people to elect him. Or, if they fail to elect, and the election is carried into the House of Representatives, then one of two results is likely to follow. Either the House will elect the right man, or the people will be sure to choose him at the next election. And four years is but a short period in the history of a nation whose growth and power are as stable as ours.
The history of our government shows that the American Democracy may be relied on to establish reform, whenever the abuse becomes palpable and important enough to demand the uprising of the people. The masses have no interest but in good government and upright administration. At the same time, they are not disposed to unreasonable distrust or severity
most i, other the shall en forkely to com except tive of an