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Thu Dec 22, 2016, 05:07 PM

The Troubling Reason the Electoral College Exists - Slavery


The Founding Fathers had something particular in mind when they set up the U.S. presidential election system: slavery


Standard civics-class accounts of the Electoral College rarely mention the real demon dooming direct national election in 1787 and 1803: slavery.

At the Philadelphia convention, the visionary Pennsylvanian James Wilson proposed direct national election of the president. But the savvy Virginian James Madison responded that such a system would prove unacceptable to the South: “The right of suffrage was much more diffusive [i.e., extensive] in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.” In other words, in a direct election system, the North would outnumber the South, whose many slaves (more than half a million in all) of course could not vote. But the Electoral College—a prototype of which Madison proposed in this same speech—instead let each southern state count its slaves, albeit with a two-fifths discount, in computing its share of the overall count.

Virginia emerged as the big winner—the California of the Founding era—with 12 out of a total of 91 electoral votes allocated by the Philadelphia Constitution, more than a quarter of the 46 needed to win an election in the first round. After the 1800 census, Wilson’s free state of Pennsylvania had 10% more free persons than Virginia, but got 20% fewer electoral votes. Perversely, the more slaves Virginia (or any other slave state) bought or bred, the more electoral votes it would receive. Were a slave state to free any blacks who then moved North, the state could actually lose electoral votes.

If the system’s pro-slavery tilt was not overwhelmingly obvious when the Constitution was ratified, it quickly became so. For 32 of the Constitution’s first 36 years, a white slaveholding Virginian occupied the presidency.
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Reply The Troubling Reason the Electoral College Exists - Slavery (Original post)
Bill USA Dec 2016 OP
pbmus Dec 2016 #1
Bill USA Dec 2016 #2

Response to Bill USA (Original post)

Thu Dec 22, 2016, 05:13 PM

1. National popular vote

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Response to pbmus (Reply #1)

Thu Dec 22, 2016, 05:31 PM

2. a great source of information, thank you!

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