Creating the United States Constitution


Americans were all too familiar with the oppressive rule that could come from a too powerful executive, whether king or governor, who held office for life or an indefinite term of office. All American constitutions sought to limit that power. Some wanted an executive to be chosen for a single, limited term. Some wanted a multi-person executive. Others wanted an executive chosen by the states or by the national legislature. The response of the Philadelphia delegates was to choose a single executive (the president) with a single back-up (the vice president) who could serve for multiple short terms (four years) of office. They would be selected by a combination of electors chosen under the direction of state legislatures and in the case of disputed, contested, or unresolved elections, by the national legislature. Where did this idea come from? »

Report of the Committee of Style, Executive section

Sect. 1. The executive power shall be vested in a president of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the vice-president, chosen for the same term, be elected in the following manner: as follows:

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 Congress: . . . The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves.