Tuesday, January 7, 2014

First Electoral College Elected


Philadelphia*(JFK+50) The first selection/election of the first Electoral College to elect the first President of the United States was held 225 years ago today, January 7, 1789. 

You might be under the impression that this would be a very significant event in the history of our Republic.

The American Pageant, the Advanced Placement U.S. History textbook of more than a thousand pages, includes the following entry in a chapter titled "Launching the New Ship of State"...

"General Washington, the esteemed war hero, was unanimously drafted as president by the Electoral College in 1789--the only presidential nominee ever to be honored by unanimity."

That's it!  No more, no less.  The text moves on quickly to a description of Washington, his journey from Mount Vernon to New York City, and the selection of the cabinet.

So let's take a look at why this most significant event seems to be treated so insignificantly in our history books.

First, the first election was for the first Electoral College who then, in turn, would choose the first president.

These electors, who would not actually cast their ballots until February 4, 1789, 
were chosen by state legislatures in 11 states and were chosen by ballot in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Thus, the only role of THE PEOPLE consisted of the property-owning qualified voters in 2 of the 13 states.

Three states did not even participate in the first presidential election, 
New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island.

The breakdown of electoral votes for the 10 participating states follows...

Massachusetts 10, Pennsylvania 10, Virginia 10

Connecticut 7, South Carolina 7
New Jersey 6, Maryland 6
Georgia 5
Delaware 3

The Constitutional Convention's "Committee of Eleven" had worked out the details for the first election. 

Delegates James Wilson and James Madison expressed a preference for a popular vote but decided that while "ideal" it would be difficult with divisions over the slavery issue.  

Delegates representing the states with small populations preferred the Electoral College system as a means of evening the playing field with the states with large populations.

It was decided that each elector would get 2 votes, one for President and the other for Vice-President.

When the first Electoral College met on February 4, 1789, this was the result:

George Washington 69
John Adams 34
John Jay 9
John Hancock 4
all others 22

General Washington received 1 vote from every elector and accordingly was elected 1st President of the United States "unanimously."

According to the Constitution at the time, John Adams, having received the 2nd highest number of electoral votes, became the 1st Vice-President of the United States.

*Philadelphia was the capital of the Nation under the Articles of Confederation and during the Revolution, but with the termination of the Confederation in 1788, the capital was to be moved to New York City in March 1789 and the inauguration of the 1st president held in April.  


"The American Pageant," by David M. Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas A. Bailey, Advanced Placement Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2006.


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) President John F. Kennedy met with Retired US Army General Lucius Clay in the oval office at the White House 52 years ago today, January 7, 1962.

General Clay, JFK's adviser on Berlin, gave the order for the "Berlin Airlift" of 1948-1949 which allowed free West Berlin to survive a Soviet blockade of their city.  

The General is known as "the Father of the Berlin Airlift".

General Lucius Clay Reviews Troops
West Berlin, 1963

On May 9, 1962, the General made the statement that if West Berlin should ever be lost to the communists, "it would mean the end of the free world."

General Clay was with President Kennedy in West Berlin in June 1963. 

JFK said:

"I am proud to come here in the company of my fellow American General Clay who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis."