Original posting: 13 October 2009

TheGreenPapers.com

by whom U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORS were "appointed":
1789 through 1832

by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON: TheGreenPapers.com Staff


The table below covers the period from the first Presidential Election in 1789 through that of 1832 because, by the time of this latter contest, all States of the American Union save one (South Carolina) allowed for "appointing" by the People of the Presidential Electors from their respective States every four years.

Article II, Section 1. clause 2 of the United States Constitution provides that [e]ach State shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of Electors who will then be the persons who actually elect the President (and Vice-President) of the United States (as is still the case to this very day, by the way). Up through 1832, the manners and methods so directed by the legislatures of the several States of the Union varied from Presidential Election to Presidential Election and this table is an attempt to make systematic sense of it all.

It should easily be seen, from even a cursory perusal of the table below, that there were two principal methods of "appointment" of Presidential Electors utilized throughout the period covered by this table- "appointment" by the Legislature itself or "appointment" by the People (the latter through the vehicle of what would come to be known as "the Popular Vote"- that is: the result of returns of ballots actually cast by voters in a scheduled election).

by the Legislature:

This is not the place to address all the diverse and sundry variants involved within "appointment" of Presidential Electors: even where a State utilized the Legislature, rather than the People themselves, as the appointing agency for a lengthy period of time (that is, through several successive Presidential Elections), the details of legislative appointment often changed.

The two most common methods used were joint ballot (in which both houses of a bicameral Legislature met together in a Joint Session in which the members of each chamber had an equal vote [that is, the members of the more numerous chamber- almost always the lower one- could outvote those from the upper chamber]) or mere "concurrence" (in which each chamber would separately, in effect, "nominate" Presidential Electors and then the two houses would later have to have "concurred" on the nominees [where both chambers happened to have agreed on an Elector-candidate in their separate votes, said person would, thereby, have been immediately "appointed"; remaining vacancies caused by any disagreement over just who should fill the remaining Presidential Elector "slots" would often have to be filled through compromise: a joint committee of selected members from both chambers would agree on the remaining Electors, said compromise thereafter having to be agreed to by joint resolution voted on favorably by each chamber separately]).

In New York State, as will be noted in more detail within the footnotes below this table, a dispute between the two chambers of that State's legislature over which method to use- joint ballot (favored by the more numerous Assembly, for obvious reasons) or concurrence (favored by the State Senate)- for choosing New York's United States Senators also kept New York out of participating in the first Presidential Election in 1789 because the proposed enabling legislation in each chamber mandated that the method ultimately used for choosing Senators also had to be used to "appoint" Presidential Electors.

In the earliest years of the Federal Republic, it should be noted, there were a few States which had unicameral Legislatures (most notably: Georgia, Pennsylvania and Vermont) in which disputes between two competitive chambers over just how Presidential Electors should be "appointed" by the Legislature would, obviously, not prove to be at all a problem!

Two interesting further variants on how legislatures "appointed" Presidential Electors should be noted here, however, if only to illustrate that the method of "appointment" by a State's Legislature could take many a strange form: in the very first Presidential Election (that in 1789), New Jersey had its upper house, the Legislative Council, alone "appoint" (actually, the law specifically stated "Governor in Council" but, for all intents and purposes, it was the upper house itself that did the choosing of) Presidential Electors. Meanwhile, in North Carolina for the 1792 Presidential Election, that State was divided into 4 Electoral districts, each of which would have 3 Presidential Electors "appointed" solely by the legislators from a particular such district (but all 12 Presidential Electors from North Carolina in that Election would, thereafter, be said to have been "appointed by the Legislature", even though it was not by the legislature as a whole!).

by the People:

This is, again, the Presidential Electors (whether chosen individually, or merely as part of a slate Statewide) being "appointed" through the means of Popular Vote: that is, the returns of ballots actually cast by the voters of a given State. The problem is that "the People", as so defined, did not, throughout the period covered by this table, mean all the people who would otherwise be eligible to vote (per their age, mental capacity, etc.): in other words, many- if not most of those- who might make up the Popular Vote in a Presidential Election of nowadays would not have been allowed to so vote had they been alive to do so back during the period covered by this table and this fact deserves no little explanation herein. While, yes, this is not at all the place to detail all the arcana of Suffrage and Election Laws in each State during the earliest years of the Federal Republic, more than a few salient observations might well be in order here:

Above all else keeping the number of eligible voters below the number that would otherwise be eligible throughout the 1789-1832 period were the use of qualifications related to ownership of [Real] Property or Taxpaying status, where not (as was more usual) both. I will come back to this below but one has to keep in mind that, while there was a movement towards Universal [White Male] Suffrage already well underway within the United States of America by the 1832 Election (as part and parcel of what has been called "the Jacksonian Revolution"), it was far from completed come 1832.

Meanwhile, women generally could not vote at all: only one State- New Jersey- allowed women to vote (and this only because the State's original Constitution had placed no gender- or, for that matter, racial [for free blacks could also vote in New Jersey]- restrictions on the elective franchise) but such women had to be widows or otherwise unmarried women who owned the requisite amount of Real Property (that is, land); since the property of a married couple was held to be owned by the husband in the household's name, married women were disenfranchised. While the New Jersey Constitution of the time, again, did not specifically restrict the suffrage on gender/racial grounds, there was nothing in that document which at all prevented the State's legislature from doing so on its own: accordingly, in 1807, both women and free blacks were stripped of the vote by statute specifically limiting the elective franchise to white men. (Thus the only Presidential Electors during the entire period for whom women could have voted anywhere in the country during the period covered by this table were, as it turns out, those from New Jersey re: the 1804 Presidential Election).

As for the aforementioned African-Americans: at the time of the first Presidential Election (that of 1789), only three States- Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia- specifically restricted the elective franchise to those who were white (men only, as aforesaid); but Delaware joined this group in 1792 (though, at the same time, it also took the "appointment" of Presidential Electors from the People in any event), followed by the following amongst the 13 original States of the Union: Maryland in time for the 1804 Election, New Jersey by that of 1808 (as already noted above) and Connecticut by 1820. By the end of the period covered by this table, only six of the original 13 did not specifically restrict the suffrage to white men (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania and- strangely, perhaps- North Carolina [but, in order to vote there, a black man had to, of course, be free- hard to come by in the slaveholding North Carolina of that time!]) though, in all cases, any African-American participation in elections was kept low because of the burden of property/taxation requirements (indeed, New York- in its 1821 Constitution- dropped all property requirements re: suffrage for whites... but not for blacks!)

In the States admitted to the Union after the original 13, the situation as regards Black Suffrage was to prove even more onerous: of these, only Vermont and Maine did not specifically restrict the suffrage to white men throughout the period: Kentucky so restricted the elective franchise to whites in time for the 1800 Presidential Election and every State admitted from Ohio (in 1802/1803) on- except for, again, Maine- so restricted suffrage pretty much as a matter of course. Tennessee would not specifically restrict the elective franchise to whites until the mid-1830s (just after the period covered by this table), at about the same time original 13'ers North Carolina and Pennsylvania also joined this unfortunate trend (indeed, by 1850- a decade and a half before the 15th Amendment to the Federal Constitution would render all of this moot- 25 of the then-31 States of the Union would not at all allow African-Americans to vote and by very provision of their respective State Constitutions [only Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York (though the Empire State maintained its property requirements for non-whites) Rhode Island and Vermont did not specifically prevent black men from voting by law: just don't get all heady about the apparent "progressivism" of mid-19th Century New England, for many of these same States similarly disenfranchised Native Americans: Maine, for example, did not allow "Indians not taxed" (meaning those still active members of a Tribe) to vote and most of the 'Plantations' that were not fully Town(ship)s in Massachusetts were purposely so so as to contain Indian tribal land (only residents of Town[ship]s could vote in State [and, by extension, Federal] Elections because members of the General Court- the Commonwealth's legislature- were chosen at Town Meeting: 'Plantations' had no such Town Meetings); and, of course, Native American Indians were outright kept from exercising the elective franchise in those many States that required a voter to be a white man in any event]).

But even for white men of the time covered by the table below, property/taxpaying qualifications kept many of these from so qualifying to vote. Universal White Male Suffrage (in which any white man achieving a certain age- usually 21 years old- was eligible to cast a ballot in all elections) existed only in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Vermont from their very beginnings as States of the Union and in original 13'er Maryland beginning only in 1810; however, this meant that, in 17 of the then-24 States as late as the 1832 Presidential Election, some form of property/taxpaying requirement re: suffrage was still on the books and, therefore, many a white man of 21 or older was, thereby, disenfranchised in these States throughout the entire period covered by this table.

Yes, the qualifications for voting in a Presidential Election (that is, where a State's legislature had directed that the People of that State were to "appoint" the Electors), as defined by the Federal Constitution, were always the same as those for voting for Representative in Congress- per Article I, Section 2, clause 1: the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislature- but it was these very qualifications that were so hemmed in by [real] property ownership and taxpaying requirements in most States- again, even as late as 1832, despite the waves of the "Jacksonian Revolution" already well breaking upon the American political landscape by that year.

And that is the essential point of all of the above: again, throughout the period covered by this table [1789-1832], "appointment" of Presidential Electors by "the People" (where permitted) did not necessarily mean all the people, not even all of the white male adult people!


*) asterisked cells within the table below, usually referring to methods of "appointing" Presidential Electors other than simply by the Legislature or by the People (each subject to the caveats above), are further explained in footnotes to be found beneath this table

 
 
the 13 ORIGINAL STATES of the American Union (in geographical order: North to South)
STATE 1789 1792 1796 1800 1804 1808 1812 1816 1820 1824 1828 1832[-1860] STATE
NEW HAMPSHIRE *the People[/Legislature]* *the People (with Runoff)* *the People[/Legislature]* Legislature from 1804--the People-- NEW HAMPSHIRE
MASSACHUSETTS *nomination by the People/
"appointment" by Legislature*
1792--*the People[/Legislature]*--1796 Legislature the People Legislature the People Legislature from 1820--the People-- MASSACHUSETTS
RHODE ISLAND did not ratify the U.S.
Constitution until 1790
1792--Legislature--1796 from 1800--the People-- RHODE ISLAND
CONNECTICUT 1789--Legislature--1816 from 1820--the People-- CONNECTICUT
NEW YORK *failed to "appoint"
Presidential Electors
*
1792--Legislature--1824 *the People[/district Electors]* from 1832--the People-- NEW YORK
NEW JERSEY 1789--Legislature--1800 1804--the People--1808 Legislature from 1816--the People-- NEW JERSEY
PENNSYLVANIA 1789--the People--1796 Legislature from 1804--the People-- PENNSYLVANIA
DELAWARE *the People
(restricted choice)*
1792--Legislature--1828 from 1832--the People-- DELAWARE
MARYLAND from 1789--the People-- MARYLAND
VIRGINIA from 1789--the People-- VIRGINIA
NORTH CAROLINA had not yet ratified the
U.S. Constitution in time
for this Presidential Election
Legislature 1796--the People--1808 Legislature from 1816--the People-- NORTH CAROLINA
SOUTH CAROLINA 1789--Legislature--1860 SOUTH CAROLINA
GEORGIA 1789--Legislature--1792 the People 1800--Legislature--1824 from 1828--the People-- GEORGIA
STATE 1789 1792 1796 1800 1804 1808 1812 1816 1820 1824 1828 1832[-1860] STATE
 
 
those STATES admitted to the American Union subsequently during the period in question (in order of their respective Admissions)
STATE 1789 1792 1796 1800 1804 1808 1812 1816 1820 1824 1828 1832 STATE
VERMONT admitted to the
Union: 1791
1792--Legislature--1824 from 1828--the People-- VERMONT
KENTUCKY admitted to the
Union: 1792
from 1792--the People-- KENTUCKY
TENNESSEE admitted to the
Union: 1796
*1796--State 'electors'--1800* from 1804--the People-- TENNESSEE
OHIO *admitted to the
Union: 1802/1803
*
from 1804--the People-- OHIO
LOUISIANA admitted to the
Union: 1812
1812--Legislature--1824 from 1828--the People-- LOUISIANA
INDIANA admitted to the
Union: 1816
1816--Legislature--1820 from 1824--the People-- INDIANA
MISSISSIPPI admitted to the
Union: 1817
from 1820--the People-- MISSISSIPPI
ILLINOIS admitted to the
Union: 1818
from 1820--the People-- ILLINOIS
ALABAMA admitted to the
Union: 1819
Legislature from 1824--the People-- ALABAMA
MAINE admitted to the
Union: 1820
from 1820--the People-- MAINE
MISSOURI *admitted to the
Union: 1820/1821
*
*Legislature* from 1824--the People-- MISSOURI
 
 

*) the following footnotes intend to further explain the asterisked items in the table above:

NEW HAMPSHIRE

1789: for this Presidential Election, the People were to "appoint" the State's Electors; where Elector-candidates failed to gain a majority of the total vote, the Legislature (called the General Court) would "appoint" Presidential Electors to fill any remaining unfilled slots.

1792: for this Presidential Election, the People were to "appoint" the State's Electors; where Elector-candidates failed to gain a majority of the total vote, there would be a second election (in effect, a "runoff") involving the top vote-getters in the first election up to twice the number of Elector slots left unfilled.

1796: for this Presidential Election, NEW HAMPSHIRE returned to the system used back in 1789 (see above).

MASSACHUSETTS

1789: for this Presidential Election, the People in each Congressional District "elected" 2 Elector-candidates between which the Legislature (called the General Court) would later "appoint" one (in essence, the District Presidential Electors were being nominated by the People with the Legislature doing the actual "appointing"); the General Court also "appointed" the Commonwealth's two remaining (at-Large) Presidential Electors.

1792 & 1796: for these Presidential Elections, the People were to "appoint" the State's Electors; where Elector-candidates failed to gain a majority of the total vote, the Legislature (called the General Court) would "appoint" Presidential Electors to fill any remaining unfilled slots. (The main difference between these two Presidential Elections in MASSACHUSETTS was that, in the former [1792] all Presidential Electors were, thus, "appointed" out of 4 large 'Electoral districts' while, in the latter [1796], only Electors "appointed" out of the Commonwealth's Congressional Districts were subjected to this system; the General Court ever retained the power to "appoint" the Commonwealth's two remaining [at-Large] Presidential Electors).

NEW YORK

1789: for this Presidential Election, NEW YORK failed to agree on a method of "appointment" of Electors in time to so "appoint" them by 7 January 1789, the date mandated for doing so by the enabling legislation enacted by the outgoing Confederation/Continental Congress.

The State's Legislature did not even meet in Special Session until 11 December 1788 to begin with (thus, too late to allow the People to "appoint" NEW YORK's Presidential Electors in any event) and, after so convening, a dispute immediately arose between the chambers over how to go about choosing United States Senators and "appointing" Presidential Electors. the more numerous Assembly opting for Joint Ballot (in which the lower house would outnumber the upper) while the State Senate opted for each house coming up with their own respective list of Electors with "appointment" by concurrence (that is, where the same Elector-candidates appeared on the lists from both houses, they would be automatically "appointed") and, where necessary, later compromise over any remaining unfilled Elector slots. Various attempts at a compromise methodology (such as each chamber "appointing" half the Presidential Electors and the like) subsequently failed of passage (even where the houses moved closer to each other's position, there were disagreements over just how many Elector-candidates [and Senatorial candidates] could appear on a chamber's list from which same would later be considered for "appointment" by Joint Ballot and such).

Neither 7 January 1789 (the date set by the Confederation Congress for "appointment" of Presidential Electors) nor 4 February 1789 (the date set by same for Electors so "appointed" meeting in order to cast their respective votes for President) were considered by the State's Legislature to be "drop-dead dates" for "appointing" Presidential Electors (interestingly, on specific grounds that the already, by then, adjourned forever Congress under the Articles of Confederation had no legal authority over the new Federal Government yet to come into being thereafter): thus, so long as NEW YORK could still get its Electoral Vote certificates down to New York City by the time the new Federal Congress would be convening there no earlier than 4 March 1789, the Legislature would- at least at first- continue to work on trying to come up with an method of "appointing" Presidential Electors (as well as the State's first two United States Senators) agreeable to each chamber.

Nevertheless, although still attempting such agreement beyond 7 January, it became increasingly apparent that no agreement was at all to be had and, even before 4 February, the Legislature had decided that the effort to "appoint" Presidential Electors in time was to, in the end, prove altogether fruitless. Thus the effort was abandoned by the end of January and, although having ratified the United States Constitution, NEW YORK did not at all participate in this very first Presidential Election (it would not be until July 1789, by the way, that the Legislature would appoint the State's first United States Senators and this could occur only because an election had intervened giving the Federalist faction a political control of both chambers it had not, till then, enjoyed).

1828: for this Presidential Election, the People "appointed" Electors in their respective Congressional Districts; the District Presidential Electors themselves thereafter "appointed" the two remaining (at-Large) Presidential Electors.

DELAWARE

1789: for this Presidential Election, the People "appointed" the State's Electors; but each voter was restricted to choosing only one Elector-candidate (whereas the State was entitled to 3 Presidential Electors): the 3 Elector-candidates with the most votes were so "appointed".

TENNESSEE

1796 & 1800: for these Presidential Elections, the State was divided into three 'Electoral districts': Electors from each County were appointed by the Legislature; these 'State Electors' in each Electoral district would thereafter meet together to "appoint" the one Presidential Elector from their respective District.

OHIO

Statehood, 1802/1803: This dual date of Statehood is due to the fact that OHIO was once considered to have become a State on 29 November 1802 but the actual date of Statehood has since become, officially, 1 March 1803 (this anomaly is further explained in an essay entitled 'Clearing up the Confusion surrounding OHIO's Admission to Statehood).

MISSOURI

Statehood, 1820/1821 & the Presidential Election of 1820: Congress enacted an Enabling Act for the Territory of MISSOURI (permitting it to frame a Constitution and from a State government thereunder) on 6 March 1820 (3 Stat. 545): accordingly, the Territory drafted a State Constitution on 19 July 1820 which was ratified on 28 August 1820; in response, Congress adopted a Joint Resolution recognizing the State's new Constitution and the government thus formed thereunder on 2 March 1821 (3 Stat. 645) and, on 10 August 1821, President James Monroe issued a Proclamation formally admitting MISSOURI as a State of the American Union on grounds that conditions for same set in the aforementioned Joint Resolution had been satisfactorily met. Yet, back on 6 December 1820- before Congress had even adopted that Joint Resolution, let alone President Monroe having issued his Proclamation formally admitting MISSOURI as a State- Presidential Electors met in that State to cast their respective votes for President and Vice-President, Electoral Votes that were counted and tabulated before a Joint Session of Congress come 14 February 1821!

At the same election at which the State's first Constitution had been ratified- that of 28 August 1820- the People also elected State and County officers, including its first Legislature (called the General Assembly); both houses of this General Assembly first convened (as specifically required by the new State Constitution) on 18 September 1820 and the General Assembly later directed, by law, that it "appoint" MISSOURI's first Presidential Electors itself: subsequently it did so and these were the very Electors who would meet to cast their respective votes for President and Vice-President on 6 December 1820. There was no objection, in the Tabulation Joint Session of Congress the following February to their Electoral Votes being so counted and tabulated (after all, MISSOURI was already "up and running" under its own Constitution: State courts had already replaced the Territorial Judiciary, a State Governor had already been elected as a replacement for the Federally appointed Territorial Governor, etc.)

Nonetheless, this remains the only time in American History a jurisdiction cast its Electoral Vote for President and Vice-President before the official, formal date of its own Statehood.