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Appointment of Executive Electors resumed.

William Houston (GA) motioned, Richard Spaight seconded to return to Congressional appointment of the Executive instead of State Legislature appointment of Electors. He was skeptical that capable men would be appointed for distant, arduous journeys.

Elbridge Gerry (MA) opposed the change. The importance of the election would draw the best characters, including State Governors. If the motion carried, the Executive must be restricted to one term, less he becomes a tool of the Legislature.

Caleb Strong (MA) did not see the danger because new Senators would be present and the Executive could not be under the influence of many of the same men. He doubted the “first characters” would be disposed to become Electors. (When did the people get involved in the executive electoral process? We have long suffered from too much democracy.)

Hugh Williamson (NC) would go back the original framework of National Legislative appointment of Executive Electors, and limit him to one seven year term. The States would not send the best men. He did not like the single Executive and would divide the country into three districts from which to select three Execs. Unlike Great Britain, the US has varied interests such as North v. South, and carrying v. agricultural states. Another fear was that of an elective King, which he thought inevitable but could be delayed for some time. He would support almost any single term length up to twelve years.

Elbridge Gerry (MA) made motion for State Legislatures to appoint a number of Executive Electors equal (I think . . . ) to their number in the National Legislature. He made provision for an electoral tie.

Rufus King (MA) seconded. The motion was resoundingly defeated.

On the question of Mr. Houston's motion that the Executive be appointed by the National Legislature, it passed 7-4.

Luther Martin (MD) & Elbridge Gerry (MA) moved to reinstate second term ineligibility.

Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) thought a good man should be re-electable and a good one would so conduct himself. Better men would be attracted to the position.

Elbridge Gerry (MA) thought all agreed on one point; the Executive must remain independent of the Legislature. A single term of up to twenty years would do the trick.

Rufus King (MA) would make him re-eligible.

Luther Martin (MD) suspended his motion of re-eligibility to offer, “that the appointment of the Executive shall continue for eleven years.”

William Davie (NC), Elbridge Gerry (MA) and Rufus King (MA) offered terms ranging from eight to twenty years. Twenty was the average term of Princes according to Mr. King.

James Wilson (PA) was disappointed the appointment had been thrown back into the National Legislature, for it raised the difficulty of how to ensure independence. He would agree to almost any term, but it would not solve the problem unless the Executive held office under good behavior. Old age was not a problem, for elderly Popes, Doges of Venice and Prime Ministers of England served well. Appointment of the Executive by Congress was not the best method, and he moved the present question be moved to tomorrow.

(From the time spent back and forth discussing impeachment, I think it is clear this threat to the Executive was expected to be used, or at least threatened, far more often than it has. Our President has taken on Kingly attributes, one of which is near un-impeachability and certain non-conviction.)

Jacob Broome (DE) seconded to postpone.

Elbridge Gerry (MA) asked if it would be worthwhile to refer the issue to the Committee of Detail.

James Wilson (PA) suggested an off the wall solution. Select fifteen men by lot from Congress to immediately appoint the President. It would eliminate intrigue.

Governeur Morris (PA) thought Executive appointment by the National Legislature to be the worst of bad ideas. The Executive would be a creature of it. Removal of some sort must be provided for. Mr. Morris responded to Mr. Mason’s accusation of inconsistency regarding the trustworthiness of Legislatures.

(What follows is a lesson in political reality)

There is no danger when the interests of Legislators coincide with that of their constituents. Legislators cannot be trusted when personal interests are at odds with the general interest. There will be two interests in all political bodies and the Executive will be more attached to one than the other. Members of one party will find it personally advantageous to support the Executive and the other to oppose him. Yes, there will be political intrigues to get him into office. Just as surely there will be schemes to get rid of him.

Mr. Morris offered recent examples in British history.

(Without saying so, he deftly expressed fear of an elected Monarch) On one hand we would give the Executive a single short term and subsequently deny the country of his learned talents. On the other we give him a lengthy term then shut off the object of his desires while he possesses the sword and widespread loyalty. Expect civil war followed by despotism.

He was particularly apprehensive of the Executive. Original vice here could not be corrected. The difficulty was to determine proper balance. Without precise balance, the Legislature or the Executive would overwhelm the other. The best (not perfect) antidote was a short term, re-eligibility, but a different mode of election (Which I found disappointing that he did not specify). He considered Mr. Wilson’s sketch of chance appointment better than intrigue.

(Mr. Madison preserved a superb summary of a terrific speech. We are less well off for the lack of a professional court recorder at the Constitutional Convention.)

A motion to postpone consideration of the Executive was defeated, 6-4-1.

James Wilson (PA) (on support expressed by Mr. G. Morris I assume) motioned and Mr. Carroll seconded, Electors be chosen by lot from the National Legislature to select the National Executive.

Elbridge Gerry (MA) criticized the Electors-by-lot plan of Mr. Wilson. A bad set of members would select awful Executives. It had been shown that no method of Legislative election was good.

Rufus King (MA) said reason and not chance should be used. He wished to postpone the matter.

James Wilson (PA) did not offer chance as the best mode. Involvement of the people would be best. He seconded postponement.

On the question of order of the last motion, it was upheld, 7-4.

The question to postpone further consideration of the Executive passed without opposition.

Daniel Carroll (MD) warned the convention. If the Committee of Detail retained the clause that provided for direct taxation in proportion to representation before taking an accurate census, he reserved the right to oppose the plan.

Governeur Morris (PA) hoped the Committee would strike the clause entirely. It caused too much division and was only intended to bridge a monetary gulf.

Delegates John Rutlidge (SC), Governor Edmund Randolph, Nathaniel Gorham (MA), Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN), James Wilson (PA) were selected to the Committee of Detail to report a Constitution conformable to Resolutions passed.

Motions to discharge the Pinckney and NJ/Patterson plans passed without opposition.


(The Committee of Detail will submit a draft Constitution on August 6th. Notice the membership of two Northerners, two Southerners and a Middle Statesman. They were expected to polish and wordsmith all of the passed and amended resolutions into a smooth and non-contradictory document.)

1 posted on 07/24/2011 2:36:56 AM PDT by Jacquerie
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To: Lady Jag; Ev Reeman; familyof5; NewMediaJournal; pallis; Kartographer; SuperLuminal; unixfox; ...
Constitutional Convention Ping!

Debate surrounding the Executive would consume more time than any other topic. How many execs, appointed by whom, for how long were central questions. Fear of a strongman at one end of the spectrum and a weakling executive at the other typified by the Congressional executive committee under the Articles of Confederation framed the discussions.

IMO, issues surrounding the Presidency were more important than those concerning the Judiciary. The Framers knew that if they were not careful, a President could evolve into an elected authoritarian, something far worse than a hereditary monarch.

What they could not foresee was the widespread mid-20th century abandonment of legislative power from Congress to the President. Most the “law” we now live under originates not in Congress, but in the corner offices of unaccountable bureaucrats.

2 posted on 07/24/2011 3:22:19 AM PDT by Jacquerie (I know for certain the Constitution means what it says.)
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