Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER 26: Political Imbecility; Constituting a Government (1784 to 1789) - The Life of George Washington
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CHAPTER 26: Political Imbecility; Constituting a Government (1784 to 1789) - John Marshall, The Life of George Washington 
The Life of George Washington. Special Edition for Schools, ed. Robert Faulkner and Paul Carrese (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
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Political Imbecility; Constituting a Government (1784 to 1789)
Differences between the United States and Great Britain.—Mr. Adams appointed Minister to Great Britain.—Discontents excited by the commercial regulations of that power.—Parties in the United States.—Convention at Annapolis.—Virginia appoints deputies to a convention at Philadelphia.—General Washington chosen one of them.—Insurrection in Massachusetts.—Convention at Philadelphia.—Form of government submitted to the several states.—Ratified by eleven of them.—General Washington elected President.—Meeting of the first Congress.
1784–85While the friends of the national government were making these unavailing efforts to invest it with a revenue which might enable it to preserve the national faith, many causes concurred to prepare the public mind for some great and radical change in the political system of America.
Scarcely had the war of the revolution terminated, when the United States and Great Britain reciprocally charged each other with violations of the treaty of peace. A serious difference of opinion prevailed, on the construction of that part of the seventh article which stipulates against the “destruction or carrying away of any negroes, or other property of the American inhabitants.” In addition to this circumstance, the troops of his Britannic majesty still retained possession of the posts on the American side of the great lakes; which gave them a decided influence over the warlike tribes of Indians in their neighborhood.
On the other hand, the United States were charged with infringing the fourth, fifth, and sixth articles, which contain agreements respecting the payment of debts, the confiscation of property, and prosecution of individuals, for the part taken by them during the war.
These causes of mutual complaint, being permitted to rankle for some time in the bosoms of both nations, produced a considerable degree of irritation.
But the cause of most extensive disquiet was, the vigorous commercial system1 pursued by Great Britain. While colonists, the Americans had carried on a free and gainful trade with the British West Indies. These ports were closed against them, as citizens of an independent state; and their accustomed intercourse with other parts of the empire, was also interrupted by the Navigation Act. To explore new channels of commerce, was opposed by obstacles which almost discouraged the attempt. On every side, they met with rigorous and unexpected restrictions. Their trade with the colonies of other powers, as well as with those of England, was prohibited; and they encountered regulations in all the ports of Europe, which were extremely embarrassing. From the Mediterranean, they were excluded by the Barbary powers; whose hostility they had no force to subdue, and whose friendship they had no money to purchase.2
With many, the desire of counteracting this injurious system triumphed over the attachment to state sovereignty; and the converts to the opinion that Congress ought to be empowered to regulate trade, were daily multiplied. Meanwhile, the United States were unremitting in their endeavors to form commercial treaties. Three commissioners had been deputed for that purpose; and at length, Mr. John Adams was appointed minister plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James.3 His endeavors were not successful. His overtures were declined, because the government of the United States was unable to secure the observance of any general commercial regulations.
Many other causes contributed to diffuse such a general dissatisfaction with the existing state of things, as to prepare the way for some essential change in the American system. In the course of the long war which had been carried on in the bosom of their country, the people of the United States had been greatly impoverished. Their property had been seized for the support of both armies; much of their labor had been drawn from agriculture for military service; the naval power of the enemy had almost annihilated their commerce; those consumable articles which habit had rendered necessary, were exhausted; and peace found the American people not only destitute of the elegancies, and even of the conveniences of life, but also without the means of procuring them, otherwise than by anticipating the proceeds of future industry. On opening their ports, an immense quantity of foreign merchandise was introduced into the country; and they were tempted, by the sudden cheapness of imported goods, and by their own wants, to purchase beyond their capacities for payment. Under the impression made by paper-money, many individuals had made extensive purchases, at high prices, and had thus contributed to prolong the deception imposed upon themselves by those who supposed that the revolution was a talisman whose magic powers were capable of changing the nature of things. The delusive hopes created by these visionary calculations, were soon dissipated; and a great proportion of the people found themselves involved in debts they were unable to discharge.
The consequence of this unprosperous state of things was, a general dissatisfaction with the course of trade, and a desire to compel foreign nations, by retaliatory restrictions, to the adoption of a more liberal and equal system. These dispositions displayed themselves in angry publications, animated resolutions, and addresses to the state legislatures and to the general government, urging the necessity of investing Congress with power to regulate commerce.
During these transactions, the public attention was called to another subject, which increased the impression made on every reflecting mind, of the necessity of enlarging the powers of the general government.
The uneasiness occasioned by the infractions of the treaty of peace on the part of Great Britain, has been noticed. To obtain its complete execution, constituted one of the objects for whichNov. 1785 Mr. Adams had been deputed to the Court of St. James. A memorial from that minister, pressing for a full compliance with the treaty, was answered by an explicit acknowledgment of the obligationsFeb. 1786 created by the seventh article, to evacuate every post within the United States. But the British minister insisted, that the obligation to remove every lawful impediment to the recovery of bona fide debts, was equally clear; and concluded his letter with the assurance, “that whenever America should manifest a real determination to fulfil her part of the treaty, Great Britain would not hesitate to prove her sincerity to co-operate in whatever points depended on her for carrying every article of it into real and complete effect.”
Copies of both documents were immediately transmitted to Congress, by whom they were referred to Mr. Jay, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.4 The report of that upright minister did not affect to exculpate his country.
The government of the United States did not possess the power to carry the treaty into execution on their part; and this inability rendered any attempt to obtain its prior execution on the part of Great Britain entirely hopeless.
The discontents arising from the embarrassments of individuals continued to increase. At length, two great parties were formed in every state, which pursued distinct objects with systematic arrangement.
The one struggled for the exact observance of public and private contracts. Those who composed it were the uniform friends of a regular administration of justice, and of a vigorous course of taxation, which would enable the state to comply with its engagements. By a natural association of ideas, they were also in favor of enlarging the powers of the federal government, and of enabling it to protect the dignity and the character of the nation abroad, and its interests at home.
The other party marked out for themselves a more indulgent course. They were uniformly in favor of relaxing the administration of justice, of affording facilities for the payment of debts or of suspending their collection, and of remitting taxes. The same course of opinion led them to resist every attempt to transfer from their own hands into those of Congress, powers which others deemed essential to the preservation of the Union. Wherever this party was predominant, the emission of paper-money, the delay of legal proceedings, and the suspension of taxes, were the fruits of their rule. Even where they failed to carry their measures, their strength was such as to encourage the hope of succeeding in a future attempt. Throughout the Union the contest between these parties was annually revived, and the public mind was perpetually agitated with hopes and fears on subjects which affected essentially the fortunes of a considerable portion of society. This instability in principles which ought to be rendered immutable, produced a long train of ills; and is believed to have been among the operating causes of those pecuniary embarrassments which influenced the legislation of almost every state. The wise and thinking part of the community, who could trace evils to their source, laboured unceasingly to inculcate opinions favorable to the incorporation of some principles into the political system, which might correct its obvious vices, without endangering its free spirit.
While the advocates of union were exerting themselves to impress its necessity on the public mind, measures were taken in Virginia which, though originating in different views, terminated in a proposition for a general convention to revive the federal system.
Commissioners were appointed by the legislatures of that state, and of Maryland, to form a compact relative to the navigation of the rivers Potomac and Pocomoke, and part of the bay of Chesapeake, who assembled in Alexandria in March 1785. While at Mount Vernon on a visit, they agreed to propose to their respective governments the appointment of other commissioners, with power to make conjoint arrangements with the assent of Congress, for maintaining a naval force in the Chesapeake; and to establish a tariff of duties on imports. Virginia also directed that the resolution relative to the duties on imports should be communicated to all the states in the Union, who were invited to send deputies to the meeting.
A few days after the passage of these resolutions, another was adopted appointing commissioners, “who were to meet such as might be appointed by the other states in the Union, at a time and place to be agreed on, to take into consideration the trade of the United States,” “and to report to the several states such an act relative to this great object, as, when unanimously ratified by them, will enable the United States in Congress assembled, effectually to provide for the same.”
Annapolis in Maryland was proposed as the place, and the ensuing September as the time of meeting. Before the arrival of the time at which these commissioners were to assemble, the idea was carried, by those who saw and deplored the complicated calamities which flowed from the inefficiency of the General Government, much farther than was avowed by the resolutions of Virginia.
Sept. 1786The convention at Annapolis was attended by commissioners from only five states. Perceiving that more ample powers would be required to effect the beneficial purposes which they contemplated, and hoping to procure a representation from a greater number of states, the convention determined to rise without coming to any specific resolutions on the subject referred to them. They agreed, however, on a report to be made to their respective states, in which they represented the necessity of extending the revision of the federal system to all its defects, and recommended that deputies for that purpose be appointed by the several legislatures, to meet in convention in the city of Philadelphia, on the second day of the ensuing May.
Nov. 1786A copy of this report was transmitted to Congress, and to the legislatures of the respective states. On receiving it, the legislature of Virginia passed an act for the appointment of deputies to meet such as might be appointed by other states.
In communicating this act to General Washington, Mr. Madison, its most effective advocate, intimated the intention of aiding it by the influence and character of the chief of the revolution.
“Although,” said the General in reply, “I have bid a public adieu to the public walks of life, and had resolved never more to tread that theatre; yet, if upon an occasion so interesting to the well-being of the confederacy, it had been the wish of the assembly that I should be an associate in the business of revising the federal system, I should, from a sense of the obligation I am under for repeated proofs of confidence in me, more than from any opinion I could entertain of my usefulness, have obeyed its call; but it is now out of my power to do this with any degree of consistency—the cause I will mention.”
The General then proceeded to state, that the triennial general meeting of the Cincinnati was to be held in Philadelphia at the time the convention was to assemble. He had, a few days previously, addressed a circular letter to each state society and to the Vice-President, informing them of his intention not to be at the meeting, and of his desire not to be re-chosen President. He could not consent to appear at the same time and place, on any other occasion.
Dec. 1786Notwithstanding this letter, the name of General Washington was not withdrawn, and he was unanimously chosen a member of the convention. On receiving private information of this appointment, he addressed a second letter to his confidential friend, detailing more at large the motives which induced him to decline a service the importance of which no man felt more sensibly.
His name, however, was continued in the appointment. The gloomy state of affairs in the North was supposed to render this the more necessary.
The Governor of Virginia,5 who was himself elected a member of the convention, transmitted to him the act and the vote of the assembly in a letter, pressing most earnestly on him all those motives for yielding to the general wish, which were furnished by the importance of the crisis, and the gloomy state of American affairs. He was urged, at all events, not to decide positively against it, but to leave himself at liberty to be determined by future events.
General Washington, however, still thought that the delicacy of his situation obliged him to decline the appointment. But it was obvious, that he refused himself reluctantly to the anxious wishes of the wisest of his countrymen; and the executive, unwilling to relinquish the advantages which the legislature expected to derive from exhibiting his name at the head of the Virginia delegation, refused to consider him as having declined the appointment. In the meantime those who expected much good from the proposed convention, continued to urge him, with delicacy but with earnestness, not to withhold on this great and particular occasion, those inestimable services which the confidence so justly reposed in his talents and character enabled him alone to render.
Earnestly as General Washington wished success to the experiment about to be made, he could not surrender his objections to the step its friends urged him to take, without the most serious consideration. In addition to that which grew out of his connexion with the Cincinnati, and to his reluctance to be drawn, on any occasion, into a political station, there were others which could not be disregarded. A convention, not originating in a recommendation of Congress, was deemed by many an illegitimate meeting; and, as the New England states had neglected the invitation to appear by their delegates at Annapolis, it was apprehended they might be equally inattentive to the request now made them to assemble at Philadelphia. To appear in a public character for a purpose not generally deemed of the utmost importance, would not only be unpleasant to himself, but diminish his capacity to be useful on occasions which subsequent events might produce. His enquiries therefore into the public sentiment were carefully and assiduously made.
The ultimate decision of the states on this interesting proposition seems to have been influenced, in no inconsiderable degree, by the commotions which at that time agitated all New England, and particularly Massachusetts.
Those causes of discontent which existed in every part of the Union, were particularly operative in New England. The great exertions which had been made by those states in support of the war had accumulated a mass of debt, the taxes for the payment of which were the more burdensome, because their fisheries had become unproductive. The restlessness produced by the uneasy situation of individuals, connected with lax notions concerning public and private faith, and erroneous opinions which confound liberty with an exemption from the control of law, produced a state of things which alarmed all reflecting men.
Aug. 1786This disorderly spirit was stimulated by unlicensed conventions, which, after voting their own constitutionality, and assuming the name of the people, arrayed themselves against the legislature, and detailed, at great length, the grievances by which they alleged themselves to be oppressed. Its hostility was directed principally against the compensation promised to the officers of the army, against taxes, and against the administration of justice. A depreciated currency was required, as a relief from the pressure of public and private burdens, which had become, it was alleged, too heavy to be longer borne. To such a dangerous extent were these dispositions indulged, that, in many instances, tumultuous assemblages arrested the course of law, and restrained the judges from proceeding in the execution of their duty. The ordinary recourse to the power of the country was found an insufficient protection, and the appeals made to reason were unavailing. The forbearance of the government was attributed to timidity, rather than to moderation, and the spirit of insurrection appeared to be organized into a regular system for the suppression of courts.6
Oct. 1786In the bosom of Washington, these tumults excited attention and alarm. To a member of Congress, who suggested the idea of resorting to his influence for the purpose of quieting them, he said—“You talk, my good sir, of employing influence to appease the present tumults of Massachusetts; I know not where that influence is to be found; nor, if attainable, that it would be a proper remedy for these disorders. Influence is not government. Let us have a government, by which our lives, liberties, and properties will be secured; or let us know the worst at once. Under these impressions, my humble opinion is that there is a call for decision. Know precisely what the insurgents aim at. If they have real grievances, redress them, if possible; or acknowledge the justice of them, and your inability to do it in the present moment. If they have not, employ the force of the government against them at once.”7
Dec. 1786Finding that the lenient measures adopted by the legislature, to reclaim the insurgents, only enlarged their demands; and that they were proceeding systematically to organize a military force for the subversion of the constitution, Governor Bowdoin determined, with the advice of his council, on a vigorous exertion of all the powers he possessed, for the protection and defence of the commonwealth. Upwards of four thousand militia were ordered into service, and were placed under the command of the veteran General Lincoln. The difficulty arising from an empty treasury was removed by the patriotism of individuals. A number of gentlemen in Boston, preceded by the Governor, subscribed8 a sufficient sum to carry on the proposed expedition.
Jan. 1787In the depth of winter, the troops from the eastern part of the state assembled near Boston, and marched towards the scene of action. Those from the western counties, met in arms under General Shepherd, and took possession of the arsenal at Springfield. Before the arrival of Lincoln, a party of insurgents attempted to dislodge Shepherd, but were repulsed with some loss.
Lincoln urged his march with the utmost celerity, and soon came up. Pressing the insurgent army, he endeavored by a succession of rapid movements, in which the ardor of his troops triumphed over the severity of the season, to disperse, or to bring it to action. Their generals retreated from post to post, with a celerity which, for some time, eluded his designs; and, rejecting every proposition to lay down their arms, used all their address to procure a suspension of hostilities until an accommodation might be negotiated with the legislature. “Applications were also made,” says General Lincoln, “by committees and selectmen of the several towns in the counties of Worcester and Hampshire, praying that the effusion of blood might be avoided, while the real design of these applications was supposed to be, to stay our operations until a new court should be elected. They had no doubt, if they could keep up their influence until another choice of the legislature and of the executive, that matters might be moulded in general court to their wishes. To avoid this was the duty of government.” In answer to their applications, Lincoln exhorted those towns who sincerely wished to put an end to the rebellion, without the effusion of blood, “to recall their men now in arms, and to aid in apprehending all abettors of those who should persist in their treason, and all who should yield them any comfort or supplies.”
Feb. 1787The army of the government continued to brave the rigors of the season, and to press the insurgents without intermission. At length, with the loss of a few killed, and several prisoners, the rebels were dispersed, their leaders driven out of the state, and this formidable and wicked rebellion was quelled.
The same love of country which had supported the officers and soldiers of the late army through a perilous war, still glowed in their bosoms; and the patriot veterans of the revolution, uninfected by the wide-spreading contagion of the times, arranged themselves, almost universally, under the banners of the constitution and of the laws.
The most important effect of this unprovoked rebellion, was a deep conviction of the necessity of enlarging the powers of the general government; and the consequent direction of the public mind towards the convention which was to assemble at Philadelphia.
In producing this effect, a resolution of Congress had also considerable influence.
New York, by giving her final veto to the impost system, had virtually decreed the dissolution of the existing government. The confederation was apparently expiring from mere debility. Congress was restrained from giving its sanction to the proposed convention, only by the apprehension that taking an interest in the measure would impede rather than promote it. That body was at length relieved from this embarrassment by the legislature of New York. A vote of that state, which passed in the senate by a majority of only one voice, instructed its delegation to move a resolution in Congress, recommending to the several states to appoint deputies to meet in convention, for the purpose of revising and proposing amendments to the federal constitution. On the succeeding day, the 21st of February, 1787, it was declared, “in the opinion of Congress, to be expedient that, on the second Monday in May next, a convention of delegates, who shall have been appointed by the several states, be held at Philadelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the articles of confederation, and reporting to Congress, and the several legislatures, such alterations and provisions therein as shall, when agreed to in Congress, and confirmed by the states, render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the Union.”
This recommendation removed all objections to the regularity of the convention; and co-operated with the impressions made by the licentious and turbulent spirit which had lately endangered the peace and liberty of New England, to incline those states to favor the measure. By giving the proposed meeting a constitutional sanction, and by postponing it to a day subsequent to that on which the Cincinnati were to assemble, it also removed one impediment, and diminished another, to the attendance of General Washington as a member. He persuaded himself, that by repairing to Philadelphia previous to the second Monday in May, in order to attend the meeting of the Cincinnati, he should efface any unfavorable impressions which might be excited in the bosoms of his military friends. On the 28th of March, he addressed a letter to the Governor of Virginia, declaring his purpose to attend the convention, provided the executive had not turned their thoughts to some other person.
May 1787At the time and place appointed, the representatives of twelve states convened. Rhode Island alone refused to send deputies. Having unanimously chosen General Washington for their President, the convention proceeded, with closed doors, to discuss the interesting and extensive subject submitted to their consideration.
More than once, there was reason to fear that the rich harvest of national felicity which had been anticipated from the ample stock of worth collected in convention, would be blasted by the rising9 of that body, without effecting the object for which it was formed. At length, the importance attached to union triumphed over local interests; and, on the 17th of September, that constitution, which has been alike the theme of panegyric and invective, was presented to the American public.
The instrument, with its accompanying resolutions, was, by the unanimous order of the convention, transmitted to Congress, in a letter subscribed10 by the President, in which it was said to be “the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of their political situation rendered indispensable.”
Congress resolved, unanimously, that the report, with the letter accompanying it, be transmitted to the several legislatures, in order to be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each state, by the people thereof.
1787–88Neither the intrinsic merits of the constitution, nor the imposing weight of character by which it was supported, gave assurance that it would be adopted. Its friends and its enemies were stimulated to exertion by motives equally powerful; and, during the interval between its publication and adoption, every faculty of the mind was strained to secure its reception or rejection. The press teemed with the productions of genius, of temperate reason, and of passion.
To decide the interesting question which agitated a continent, the best talents of the several states were assembled in their several conventions. So balanced were parties in some of them, that even after the subject had been discussed for a considerable time, the fate of the constitution could scarcely be conjectured; and so small, in many instances, was the majority in its favor, as to afford strong ground for the opinion, that had the influence of character been removed, the intrinsic merits of the instrument would not have secured its adoption.
Nov. 1788At length, the conventions of eleven states assented to, and ratified the constitution; and the preparatory measures were taken for carrying it into operation.
The attention of all was directed to General Washington, as the first President of the United States. He alone possessed so entirely the confidence of the people, that under his auspices, the friends of the government might hope to see it introduced, with a degree of firmness which would enable it to resist the open assaults and secret plots of its numerous adversaries. Fears were entertained, by all who knew him, that his fondness for private life would prevail over the wishes of the public; and, soon after the adoption of the constitution was ascertained, its friends began to press him on a point which was believed to be essential to the great work on which the grandeur and happiness of America was supposed to depend. The interesting correspondence of the time evinces with how much difficulty he yielded to the very earnest representations and arguments of the friends of a government which might preserve the Union.
1789After the elections had taken place,11 a general persuasion prevailed, that the public will, respecting the chief magistrate of the Union, had been too unequivocally manifested not to be obeyed; and several applications were made to General Washington for those offices in the respective states which would be in the gift of the President of the United States. The following extract from one of the many letters written to persons whose pretensions he was disposed to favor, speaks the frame of mind with which he came into the government. “Should it become absolutely necessary for me to occupy the station in which your letter presupposes me, I have determined to go into it perfectly free from all engagements, of every nature whatsoever. A conduct in conformity to this resolution, would enable me, in balancing the various pretensions of different candidates for appointments, to act with a sole reference to justice and the public good. This is, in substance, the answer that I have given to all applications (and they are not a few) which have already been made.”
The impotence of the late government, added to the dilatoriness inseparable from its perplexed mode of proceeding, had produced such habitual disregard of punctuality in the attendance of members, that although the new government was to commence its operations on the 4th of March, 1789, a House of Representatives was not formed until the 1st, nor a Senate until the 6th day of April.
At length the votes for President and Vice-President of the United States were opened and counted in the Senate. Neither the animosity of parties, nor the preponderance of the enemies of the new government in some of the states, could deprive General Washington of a single vote. By the unanimous voice of the people, he was called to the chief magistracy of the nation. The second number of votes was given to Mr. John Adams.12 George Washington and John Adams were therefore declared to be duly elected President and Vice-President of the United States, to serve for four years, from the 4th day of March, 1789.
[1. ]Marshall uses “system” with a broader meaning than today’s “policy”—a set of principles or practices which form a particular political plan or mode of governing.
[2. ]The Barbary states of northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, Tripolitania) were small kingdoms nominally under the Ottoman Empire but actually autonomous; pirates acting with the full knowledge of these governments raided shipping in the Mediterranean and nearby Atlantic, and many governments purchased protection from them by treaty and tribute.
[3. ]A plenipotentiary minister is invested with full power to negotiate on behalf of his government. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were authorized by Congress in 1784 to negotiate commercial treaties with several European countries, and in 1785 Adams was specifically designated to negotiate a range of issues with England.
[4. ]John Jay (1745–1829) of New York, lawyer, state revolutionary leader, Continental and Confederation Congressman (1774–75, 1778–79; President in 1779), state chief justice (1777–79), Minister to Spain (1779–82), peace negotiator (1782–83), Secretary of Foreign Affairs (1784–90), co-author of The Federalist Papers, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1789–95), Governor of New York (1795–1801).
[5. ]Edmund Randolph (1753–1813) of Virginia, state legislator and attorney general, Confederation Congressman (1779–82), state governor (1786–88), U.S. Attorney General (1789–93), Secretary of State (1794–95).
[6. ]Marshall is alluding to the most famous of these insurrections, Shays’s Rebellion, which occurred in September 1786 when five hundred men under retired Continental army Captain Daniel Shays confronted six hundred Massachusetts militia under General William Shepherd who were guarding the state Supreme Court session in Springfield; Shays’s men forced the court to adjourn.
[7. ]To Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee of Virginia.
[8. ]To pledge a stipulated sum of money for the promotion or support of some undertaking.
[10. ]To consent or attest to by signing one’s name. Washington’s letter to Congress, September 17, 1787, is reprinted in appendix B below.
[11. ]Marshall refers to presidential elections in the plural because for the first few presidential selections the provisions of Article II, section 1, of the Constitution operated such that the presidential electors (the electoral college) exercised real choice in casting their votes, thereby producing a genuinely two-stage selection process. Prior to the predominance of a popular vote for specific candidates, or of parties which control the vote of particular electors—both of which substantially reduce the role of the Article II electors in the actual selection of the president—presidential electors were chosen either by state legislatures or by popular vote, and in a second round those electors cast their votes to choose the president. In the first presidential election, electors were chosen on January 7, 1789, and cast their votes for president on February 4, 1789. According to Article II, section 1, the President of the Senate, in the presence of the House and Senate, later opens and counts those votes.
[12. ]Prior to the Twelfth Amendment (ratified June 1804), Article II of the Constitution stipulated that each presidential elector was to cast votes for two different persons—one of which must be for a person not an inhabitant of their state (so as to diminish regional or state partisanship). The person with the greatest number of votes cast was elected president if that number was a majority of the number of electors (the vice-president was the next highest vote winner, simply). That is, the system was designed to permit the successful election of a president who received just one more than one quarter of the total number of votes, since it was assumed that it would be difficult for electors from a large republic to agree upon, or even give majority support to, a single candidate. Given the expectations and structure of the presidential selection system, Washington’s unanimous selection by the electors—receiving the maximum permissible one vote from each—is remarkable. Unanimity of votes cast by the electors has been achieved only one other time, in 1792.