Special to the Cape Charles Mirror by Paul Plante
After reading the Washington Post article “Why efforts to persuade the electoral college to ditch Trump probably won’t work” by Sean Sullivan and Ed O’Keefe, December 6, 2016, and the Politico article “Rogue electors brief Clinton camp on anti-Trump plan – Kasich emerges as the group’s alternative Electoral College pick” By Kyle Cheney and Gabriel Debenedetti, 12/05/16, where we are informed about the existence of a group calling itself the “Hamilton Electors,” I thought it time, past time, perhaps, to revisit the subject of American presidents as was actually laid out by the founding fathers in the Federalist Papers, which have to be read as a body to properly understand them, and what they have bequeathed to us in our own times here in the USA.
According to the Washington Post, the name of this group calling itself the “Hamilton Electors” nods to Alexander Hamilton’s writings in the Federalist Papers, which the founders of this group and other Trump critics hold up as an argument that the electoral college should serve as a safeguard against allowing someone unfit for the presidency to serve.
In actuality, the first time we come across mention of the Electoral College in the Federalist Papers, it is not by Alexander Hamilton, at all; to the contrary, it is John Jay, this nation’s first chief justice, in FEDERALIST No. 64 from the New York Packet on Friday, March 7, 1788 to the People of the State of New York, wherein Jay, writing as Publius, informs us as follows with respect to selection of this nation’s chief magistrate, to wit:
The power of making treaties is an important one, especially as it relates to war, peace, and commerce; and it should not be delegated but in such a mode, and with such precautions, as will afford the highest security that it will be exercised by men the best qualified for the purpose, and in the manner most conducive to the public good.
The convention appears to have been attentive to both these points: they have directed the President to be chosen by select bodies of electors, to be deputed by the people for that express purpose; and they have committed the appointment of senators to the State legislatures.
They (the founding fathers in the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention) have directed the President to be chosen by select bodies of electors, to be deputed by the people for that express purpose.
But are these “electors” today deputed by “the people?”
Or are they selected by the very political parties that have given us endless bickering and gridlock in our federal government?
Getting back to John Jay and FEDERALIST No. 64, we are further informed that the mode chosen, the so-called “electoral college,” has “vastly the advantage of elections by the people in their collective capacity, where the activity of party zeal, taking the advantage of the supineness, the ignorance, and the hopes and fears of the unwary and interested, often places men in office by the votes of a small proportion of the electors.”
Getting to the “electoral college,” itself, Jay, writing as Publius, gave us this to consider in our own times concerning the make-up of the electoral college:
As the select assembly for choosing the President will in general be composed of the most enlightened and respectable citizens, there is reason to presume that their attention and their votes will be directed to those men only who have become the most distinguished by their abilities and virtue, and in whom the people perceive just grounds for confidence.
While it may have been true in his time, some 228 years ago now, that the “select assembly” for choosing the President would in general be composed of the most enlightened and respectable citizens, is that still true today?
Jay then continues as follows:
The Constitution manifests very particular attention to this object.
The inference which naturally results from these considerations is this, that the President will always be of the number of those who best understand our national interests, whether considered in relation to the several States or to foreign nations, who are best able to promote those interests, and whose reputation for integrity inspires and merits confidence.
That seems to bring us to the heart of the matter here, does it not, this inference that the President will always be of the number of those who best understand our national interests and who are best able to promote those interests, and whose reputation for integrity inspires and merits confidence?
Do any of the presidential contenders put before us this election season really understand our national interests, whether considered in relation to the several States or to foreign nations?
More to the point, perhaps, do any of the “main-stream” presidential candidates have a reputation for integrity that inspires and merits confidence?
Getting back to the Federalist Papers, in FEDERALIST No. 62, for the Independent Journal by either Hamilton or Jemmy Madison, to the People of the State of New York, we were informed as follows concerning our national government the president is supposed to understand:
A good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained.
Fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people.
Are we a happy people today?
And that thought brings us to HIP-HOP star Alexander Hamilton and FEDERALIST No. 68, entitled “The Mode of Electing the President” from the New York Packet, Friday, March 14, 1788, to the People of the State of New York, where Rapper extraordinaire Hamilton informs us as follows:
It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided.
This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture.
Which takes us back to the important question of who it actually was who selected these “electors” of today, because it sure was not “the people.”
According to Alexander Hamilton:
It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.
Is that really who we have in the electoral college of today, men and women most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station of United States president?
Or do we instead have a bunch of political hacks chosen by the two political parties because they can be reli8ed on to be rubber-stamps?
Which thought takes us back to Alexander Hamilton and FEDERALIST No. 68:
A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.
But we, the people, did not select those people, the political parties did, so has the spirit of the Federalist Papers as outlined by Alexander Hamilton on March 14, 1788 been violated here?
With respect to the electoral college today, Hamilton continued by stating:
It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder.
This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States.
But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief.
As one reads the afore-mentioned Washington Post and Politico articles above here, one has to seriously question whether Alexander Hamilton was feeding us a line of BULL****, or if he really believed a word he was saying when he stated it was peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States, but the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief.
A serious question for our times, indeed!