Which of the founding fathers of the United States won the argument that led to implementation of the Electoral College?
You’ve likely never heard of them, because it was a team effort; and some of the people on the team went on to argue against adopting the Constitution on the whole (and so don’t get talked about much at all).The Framer who gets to claim, “First!” was James Wilson of Pennsylvania, one of the foremost legal scholars and political scientists of the day. He introduced the first concept of what would become the Electoral College on June 2, 1787 :[T]hat the Executive Magistracy shall be elected in the following manner: That the States be divided into • districts: [and] that the persons qualified to vote in each district for members of the first branch of the national Legislature elect • members for their respective districts to be electors of the Executive Magistracy, that the said Electors of the Executive magistracy meet at • and they or any • of them so met shall proceed to elect by ballot, but not out of their own body • person• in whom the Executive authority of the national Government shall be vested.At the time that Wilson made his motion, the Executive was designed to be elected by the Legislature. Wilson believed that the people should have direct say in the election of the Executive in order to maintain its independence from the Legislature. He was opposed, however, by delegates who saw little issue with the Executive being appointed by the legislature, delegates who thought that it would strip the states of their sovereignty, and delegates who didn’t trust the people to make a sound decision.As such, his proposal was voted down almost unanimously, with only Pennsylvania supporting it. For weeks thereafter, the draft Constitution held that the Executive would be appointed by the Legislature. They heatedly debated whether the Executive should be one person or several, whether it or they should be subject to impeachment and removal by the Legislature, and the term of service.During this period of debate, Mr Wilson put forward (successfully) the need for there to be a single executive and the need for the branches of government to be independent of each other. On the latter point, he started to gain momentum.Then on July 17, in the midst of furious debate about whether the Executive had been tied too closely to the Legislature, Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania (in self-imposed exile from New York), supported by Wilson, moved to have the Executive selected directly by the people.Right after his motion failed (again, with only Pennsylvania in support), Luther Martin of Maryland - who would eventually quit the Convention and become a leading Anti-Federalist - “moved that the Executive be chosen by Electors appointed by the several Legislatures of the individual States.”It failed without debate, with only Maryland and Delaware in support.After the motions of Morris and Martin failed, the delegation took up the issue of whether the Executive - still, at this point, being chosen by the Legislature - should be eligible for more than one term, or for a period of “good behavior.”At this point, James Madison started getting passionate about the need to split up the Executive and the Legislature, as did Morris. Others, too, chimed in that the Executive was starting to take on powers that would be too tempting for the Legislature to usurp for itself.On July 19, Edmund Randolph of Virginia - who would also go on to become an Anti-Federalist - called everyone’s attention back to Martin’s failed motion, which was formally revived by Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut (another future Anti-Federalist, if you haven’t picked up the pattern) and passed by a 6–3–1 vote .In all of this, Wilson is recorded to have wryly “perceived with pleasure that the idea was gaining ground, of an election mediately or immediately by the people.”…Except the delegates then couldn’t agree on the number of electors to be chosen, as Ellsworth’s motion had called for there to be a ratio of electors in accordance with states• populations. Then concerns were raised about whether to specify how the electors should be chosen, the convenience of assembling them for a vote, whether they could be corrupted by the candidates, whether they could even agree on a candidate, and so forth.Within a week of its adoption, the Convention chucked the nascent Electoral College into the “too hard” basket on a 7–4 vote, with the states of the College’s primary backers Pennsylvania (Wilson & Morris), Connecticut (Ellsworth), Maryland (Luther), and Virginia (Randolph & Madison) against its being scrapped . Morris tried two more times to revive the Electoral College, but was twice defeated, although by only narrow margins.By the end of August, with the Convention seeing the end in sight, there was general agreement that nobody was really happy with how the debate about the Executive had shaken out - in addition to a number of other unresolved questions. So the Convention proposed to appoint a committee to address the remaining, unresolved issues; and Morris moved that the method of choosing the Executive be included. He succeeded, and then further succeeded in getting appointed to the Committee (along with Madison).Lo and Behold!, on September 4, the Committee reported its view to have the Executive chosen as follows:Each State shall appoint in such manner as its Legislature may direct, a number of electors equal to the whole number of Senators and members of the House of Representatives, to which the State may be entitled in the Legislature. The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same State with themselves; and they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each, which list they shall sign and certify and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Genl Government, directed to the President of the Senate—The President of the Senate shall in that House open all the certificates, and the votes shall be then & there counted. The Person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of that of the electors; and if there be more than one who have such a majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the Senate shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President: but if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list, the Senate shall choose by ballot the President, and in every case after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes shall be vice-president: but if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them the Vice-President. The Legislature may determine the time of choosing and assembling the Electors, and the manner of certifying and transmitting their votes.The first, full version of what we know as the Electoral College.It triggered days of debate - during which Wilson balked at the proposal , taking Morris by surprise - but for all the other issues they debated, on September 6, effectively less than a week before they finalized the Constitution as we know it, the Convention settled (9–2) to have the Executive chosen by the Electoral College .So if you want to assign credit, Wilson gets “First!” for coming up with the concept, Luther gets credit for proposing that the states act as a mediary mode of election, Ellsworth gets credit for introducing the idea of the number of electors being in some proportion to the states• population, and Morris for continually agitating for the idea up to the finish line (the “Win,” if you will).Footnotes Online Library of Liberty Online Library of Liberty Online Library of Liberty Online Library of Liberty Online Library of Liberty Online Library of Liberty Online Library of Liberty Online Library of Liberty Online Library of Liberty Online Library of Liberty