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The Electoral College – A Power Move by the Slave-Owning Elite Class

As we all should know by now, Madison and the founding fathers were not fans of democracy. Please read James Madison’s Ideas on Protecting the Opulent Minority Against the Tyranny of the Majority

Let us now briefly discuss the Electoral College and its relationship to slavery.

On Thursday July 19, 1787, at the Philadelphia Constitutional 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:

Mr. MADISON. If it be a fundamental principle of free Govt. that the Legislative, Executive & Judiciary powers should be separately exercised, it is equally so that they be independently exercised. There is the same & perhaps greater reason why the Executive shd. be independent of the Legislature, than why the Judiciary should: A coalition of the two former powers would be more immediately & certainly dangerous to public liberty. It is essential then that the appointment of the Executive should either be drawn from some source, or held by some tenure, that will give him a free agency with regard to the Legislature. This could not be if he was to be appointable from time to time by the Legislature. It was not clear that an appointment in the 1st. instance even with an eligibility afterwards would not establish an improper connection between the two departments. Certain it was that the appointment would be attended with intrigues and contentions that ought not to be unnecessarily admitted. He was disposed for these reasons to refer the appointment to some other source. The people at large was in his opinion the fittest in itself. It would be as likely as any that could be devised to produce an Executive Magistrate of distinguished Character. The people generally could only know & vote for some Citizen whose merits had rendered him an object of general attention & esteem. There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to fewest objections.

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 would instead let each southern state count its slaves, albeit with a two-fifths discount, in computing its share of the overall count.

The wealthy merchant, Elbridge Gerry – famous for “Gerrymandering” – responded in support:

Mr. GERRY. If the Executive is to be elected by the Legislature he certainly ought not to be re-eligible. This would make him absolutely dependent. He was agst. a popular election. The people are uninformed, and would be misled by a few designing men. He urged the expediency of an appointment of the Executive by Electors to be chosen by the State Executives.

So, besides the usual reference to the stupidity of the masses, the southern states of the newly formed union were not as populated as the northern states, thus they feared that a popular vote for a Presidential candidate would always favor the northern states.

In order to protect themselves and combat the size of the voting population of the Northern states, Madison and his supporters removed the idea of a popular vote for the Presidency. Instead, the Presidency would be decided by “Electors”.

So how did the States get their Electors? The answer is always slavery!

One of the contentious issues at the 1787 Constitutional Convention was whether slaves would be counted as part of the population in determining representation of the states in the Congress or would instead be considered property and, as such, not be considered for purposes of representation. Delegates from states with a large population of slaves argued that slaves should be considered persons in determining representation, but as property if the new government were to levy taxes on the states on the basis of population. Delegates from states where slavery had become rare argued that slaves should be included in taxation, but not in determining representation.

The three-fifths figure was the outgrowth of a debate that had taken place within the Continental Congress in 1783. The Articles of Confederation had apportioned taxes not according to population but according to land values. The states consistently undervalued their land in order to reduce their tax burden. To rectify this situation, a special committee recommended apportioning taxes by population. The Continental Congress debated the ratio of slaves to free persons at great length. Northerners favored a 4-to-3 ratio, while southerners favored a 2-to-1 or 4-to-1 ratio. Finally, James Madison suggested a compromise: a 5-to-3 ratio. All but two states–New Hampshire and Rhode Island–approved this recommendation. But because the Articles of Confederation required unanimous agreement, the proposal was defeated. When the Constitutional Convention met in 1787, it adopted Madison’s earlier suggestion and became known as the Three-Fifths Compromise.

The Three-Fifths Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, which reads:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

The Three-Fifths Compromise gave a disproportionate representation of slave states in the House of Representatives relative to the voters in free states until the American Civil War. As a result, Southern states had disproportionate influence on the presidency, the speakership of the House, and the Supreme Court in the period prior to the Civil War.

In a previous article titled Slave Masters: A Quick Note on the First Aristocracy of the U.S., I note the following:

In the first half of the 19th century, the largest single industry in the United States, measured in terms of both market capital and employment, was the enslavement (and the breeding for enslavement) of human beings.

Over the course of this period, the industry became concentrated to the point where fewer than 4,000 families (roughly 0.1 percent of the households in the nation) owned about a quarter of the enslaved people. Another 390,000 (call it the 9.9 percent) owned all of the rest.

The great political mystery is that these families convinced 5 million non-slave-holding southerners and 20 million non-slave-holding northerners to aid and abet them in this repugnant enterprise.

620,000 killed, 476,000 wounded, and 400,000 captured/missing. We are talking about 1.5 million persons severely affected due to the practices of a few thousand elite families. Just so you’re aware, the population of the U.S. during the Civil War was 31 million (including ~4 million slaves).

This slave-holding elite dominated not only the government of the nation, but also its media, culture, and religion. Their votaries in the pulpits and the news networks were so successful in demonstrating the sanctity and beneficence of the slave system that millions of impoverished white people with no enslaved people to call their own conceived of it as an honor to lay down their life in the system’s defense.

The Southern states constituted a powerful voting bloc in Congress until the 1960s. Their representatives which were re-elected repeatedly controlled numerous chairmanships of important committees in both houses on the basis of seniority, giving them control over rules, budgets and important patronage projects, among other issues. Their power allowed them to defeat federal legislation against racial violence and abuses in the South which continue till this day.

So…Yes. The Electoral College is nothing more than a power move by the slave-owning families of the newly-formed nation. And it worked.

It’s safe to assume that the Electoral College will be with us for a very long time. Ask yourself: Would you give up the tools which helps keep you in power?

Thanks for reading,


The Troubling Reason the Electoral College Exists:

Convention debates:

The Three-Fifth Compromise:

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