Friday, February 19, 2016

Election of 1879: The First Election

On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the 9th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, effectively making it the new law of the land.  While it was clear who the first president would be, not so clear was who the first vice president would be.

At the time the constitution held that each state could choose their own electors, who in turn would cast two votes.  Whomever received the most votes would become president, and whomever received the second most votes would become vice president.

Also at this time only 10 states had ratified the constitution, so only Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and New York participated in the election.

Between the dates of December 15, 1788, and January 10, 1789, these ten states would decide how these electors were chosen.  Only Pennsylvania and Maryland decided to hold state elections whereby the voter were allowed to choose the electors.  The legislatures of a all the remaining states except New York chose electors. Raging disagreements between pro constitution federalists and anti-constitution anti-federalists in New York prevented that state from choosing any electors.

So, in total, 69 electors were chosen by the states, and they traveled to Philadelphia to cast their votes.

Technically speaking, all white males who supported the Constitution were candidates.  George Washington was named on all of the 69 ballots, and so he became the unanimous choice to become the first president. He would be the only president to be elected unanimously.  John Adams was named on 34 ballots, which was far more than any other candidate aside from Washington.  This made him the first vice president. 

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