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title:“John Dickinson to George Logan”
authors:John Dickinson
date written:1802-1-16

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:27 a.m. UTC
retrieved:April 20, 2019, 2:47 p.m. UTC

Dickinson, John. "Letter to George Logan." Supplement to Max Farrand's The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Ed. James H. Hutson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987. 300-02. Print.
Autograph Letter Signed, Historical Society of Pennsylvania

John Dickinson to George Logan (January 16, 1802)

Wilmington the 16th of the 1st Month 1802 ... In the first section of the second Article it is said—"Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives, to which the state may be entitled in the Congress" etc. After the word "Electors" should be inserted these words"to be chosen by the people," which will be agreeable to the true Meaning of the Constitution. This is manifest from a fair Interpretation of the whole Instrument by comparing the different parts and from the most reputable contemporary Exposition of it. As I was one of the Convention who framed the Constitution, I can affirm, that the Intention of that Assembly was that the Electors should be chosen by the People and not appointed by the Legislatures of the States.1 There was a Committee of one delegate from each state appointed by the Convention, to consider of and report the most adviseable Mode of chusing the President. I do not pretend to be exact as to words, as I write from Recollection. I was the Member from Delaware. One Morning the Committee met in the Library Room of the State House, and went upon the Business. I was much indisposed during the whole Time of the Convention. I did not come into the Committee till late, and found the members upon their Feet. When I came in, they were pleased to read to Me their Minutes, containing a Report to this purpose, if I remember rightly-that the President should be chosen by the Legislature. The particulars I forget. I observed, that the Powers which we had agreed to vest in the President, were so many and so great, that I did not think, the people would be willing to deposit them with him, unless they themselves would be more immediately concerned in his Election-that from what had passed in Convention respecting the Magnitude and accumulation of those powers, We might easily judge what Impressions might be made on the Public Mind, unfavorable to the Constitution We were framing-that if this single Article should be rejected, the whole would be lost, and the States would have to work to go over again under vast Disadvantages-that the only true and safe Principle on which these powers could be committed to an Individual, was-that he should be in a strict sense of the Expression, the Man of the People-besides, that an Election by the Legislature, would form an improper Dependence and Connection. Having thus expressed my sentiments, Governieur Morris immediately said—"Come, Gentlemen, let us sit down again, and converse further on this subject." We then all sat down, and after some conference, James Maddison took a Pen and Paper, and sketched out a Mode for Electing the President agreeable to the present provision. To this we assented and reported accordingly. These two Gentlemen, I dare say, recollect these Circumstances. The full Exercise of this momentous Right being positively secured to the People, by Terms that will admit of no Controvercy, it should be further provided, that the Electors of the President, should be chosen by those of the people in each State, who shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature. Perhaps, it may also be adviseable, to provide for the Case of two or more persons voted for as Electors of the President having an Equality of Votes. I have a heartfelt Pleasure in trusting, that the practice of appointing the Electors of the President by the Legislature of any States, will be for ever abolished. Whatever advantages we Republicans derive at present from such a practise, which tho devised by our Opponents has, like all the rest of their Contrivances, turned against them, Yet—we ought with a Magnanimous Integrity to cast them away from us, and putting our Trust in Divine protection, with singleness of Heart, make Truth, Justice, and the Happiness of our Country, the only Objects of our political Attentions. . . . By the Constitution it was designed, that the President should entirely owe his Elevation to the will of the people directly declared through their Organs the Electors. This was a broad and solid Base for him to stand upon. There was no Cloud interposed between him and the people, to Obscure Objects. The electors having performed their ephemeral Duty, melt at once into the common Mass. No standing Body or Bodies whatever, can consider the President as their Creature, and an unbecoming Connection between him and the Legislatures of the several states is utterly prevented. The Constitution evidently contemplates a Repartition of Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Powers: But, what a strange Departure from this simple Principle appears, when we see the Legislatures of the several states creating the President of the Union-which they as absolutely do, by appointing his Electors, as if they themselves elected him and also creating the Senate vested with such large legislative, executive, and judicial Authority. They not specifying who is Voted for a President, and who is Vice President may cause Confusion....

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