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A summary of the difficulties presented by the creation of the executive

by npcole

Cite as: Dr Nicholas Cole, ‘A summary of the difficulties presented by the creation of the executive’ in N. P. Cole, Grace Mallon and Kat Howarth, The Creation of the Electoral College, Quill Project at Pembroke College (Oxford, 2016), item 72.


The views expressed in these speeches capture the range of opinions and the difficulties of resolving them. On the one hand, some members of the Convention favoured popular election, whereas some feared it; some favoured a choice by legislative bodies or the national legislature, but the mode of election had implications for their view on the length of term and the question of re-eligability. Members of the Convention considered the effects of different arrangements upon the behaviour of those in office, but their conclusions were supported by little more than competing speculations and assertions.

That said, the role of the office was now becoming more sharply expressed by some as a guardian of the people. This was not a new view of the role of a chief magistrate. It had had its fullest expression in revolutionary writing in the 1774 pamphlet by Jefferson, 'A Summary View of the Rights of British America'.[1] There is a clear statement by Morris of two principles that would inform the eventual shape of the executive and its understanding in the early republic. The one was that the veto powers of the executive were meant to protect the people against an encroachment of their liberties by the legislative branch; the other was that a republic the size of the United States required a 'vigorous' executive---such vigour implied both relatively extensive powers and independence from the legislature it was supposed to be controlling.

[1] https://www.wdl.org/en/item/117/

Approved for publication