During the debate over the ratification of the Constitution in the late 1780s, a series of essays known as the Federalist Papers were written. Primarily written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, the purpose of the Federalist Papers was to promote the ratification of the Constitution and expressed the underlying principles of the new American government. In addition to discussing numerous issues relating to the American national government, the Federalist Papers also examined the roles and responsibilities of the Presidency. One example of a Federalist Paper that discusses a critical issue regarding the Presidency is Federalist No. 68, which goes over the methods of electing both the President and the Vice President, and the roles of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the event of an electoral tie.
In Federalist No. 68, Alexander Hamilton continues his discussion of the executive branch, specifically the subject of what is the most efficient way to elect the President. In his argument, Hamilton states that a system based on the Electoral College is the proper way to select the President for several reasons. One such reason as to why Hamilton backed the electoral college system is because it would give individuals the right to have a say in who was to be elected President while at the same time maintaining the stability of the American political system. Hamilton argues that the direct election of the President could result in a corrupt leader taking power without the will or the people, or ultimately the downfall of the American national government. Hamilton further explains that the Electoral College would consist of capable people free of any bias resulting from the fact that they do not hold political office and are unaffiliated with electors from any other state. As a result of such factors, Hamilton believes that the Electoral College process would afford a “moral certainty” that the office of the Presidency is filled by highly qualified and trustworthy individual.
Federalist No. 68 goes on to describe the procedures to select the electors and what is to occur in the event of a tie in the Electoral College. Hamilton mentions that the people in each state will choose who will serve as the electors, equal to the number of Senators and Representatives of such state in the national government. Their votes, as Hamilton describes, are to be transmitted to the federal government and the person with the highest number of votes is to be the winner of the Presidency. In the event of a tie, the House of Representatives is to select out of the candidates with the five highest number of votes, the one who is the most qualified in their eyes. Hamilton goes further and references several specific guidelines that the electors must follow. The guidelines mentioned by Hamilton are meant to prevent any bias in the selection of the Presidency and are intended to encourage everyday individuals to gain a level of involvement in the electoral process in the respective states.
Alexander Hamilton also discusses the methods for the election of the Vice President in Federalist No. 68. The selection of the Vice President its to occur in a similar manner to the President, but instead, the Senate has the authority to vote in the case of a tie in the electoral vote as opposed to the House of Representatives. Hamilton is highly critical towards the idea that the Senate should elect the Vice President and goes over two arguments against that particular point. The first argument is that if the Vice President is elected by the Senate, they would be beholden to that particular body. As a result, the Vice President’s vote in the case of a tie in the Senate may be influenced by the opinions of other senators. The second argument is that the Vice President assuming the office of the Presidency without being selected by the Electoral College may raise questions about their legitimacy as a leader. Considering such factors, Hamilton expresses opposition to the idea that the Senate should play the primary role in electing the Vice President.
Overall, Alexander Hamilton makes several valid arguments for the Electoral College in Federalist No. 68. The strongest argument that he makes is the fact that it allows for impartiality and reduces the chances of a corrupt or unqualified individual from becoming President. Furthermore, the electoral college system may encourage an increased level of citizen participation in politics and foster a higher level of political knowledge. On the contrary, it can also be argued that the Electoral College is unnecessary in the contemporary political environment because it compels Presidential candidates to focus primarily on campaigning in the states with the highest number of electoral votes. Additionally, it can be argued that the direct election of the President through popular vote is more in accord with longstanding democratic principles and will give people an increased say in who will govern them.
In Conclusion, the issues surrounding the election of both the President and the Vice President are explored by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 68. The system that Hamilton advocates for is the Electoral College. Throughout Federalist No. 68, Hamilton makes a compelling argument for the Electoral College. With a Presidential election process based on the Electoral College, Hamilton argues that the selection of the President will occur in a way that preserves the stability of the American political system and that the office of the Presidency will be held by a highly qualified person free of any corruption. Furthermore, Hamilton also explores the procedure is which Presidential electors are appointed and the election process of the Vice President in Federalist No. 68 as well.
Hamilton, Alexander. “Federalist No.68.” The Library of Congress. The Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2016.