The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 07-04-2004, 02:13 PM
aaslatten aaslatten is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Did George Washington run against someone for U.S. president?

My girlfriend asked me the other day whether someone had run against George Washington for the presidency. At first, I said, "Nah, I don't think so. I seem to remember it was a unanimous decision to put Washington into office."

To make sure, I looked it up on my handy Encyclopedia Brittanica CD. This ended up confusing matters even more.

The article on George Washington states, "In no state was any other name considered. The electors chosen in the first days of 1789 cast a unanimous vote for him ..."

Yet another article on John Adams in the same encyclopedia says that Adams lost to Washington 1789, with the vote being 69 to 34. How is this unanimous? Later in the same article on Adams, it cites the Adams-Jefferson election as the first "contested" presidential election. Were Adams and Washington of the same party, and therefore the first two elections were not considered contested?

Some expert on presidential elections please explain.
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 07-04-2004, 02:23 PM
Duckster Duckster is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 13,024
See http://www.uselectionatlas.org/USPRE...AL/pe1789.html
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 07-04-2004, 02:59 PM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: A better place to be
Posts: 26,718
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaslatten
Yet another article on John Adams in the same encyclopedia says that Adams lost to Washington 1789, with the vote being 69 to 34. How is this unanimous? Later in the same article on Adams, it cites the Adams-Jefferson election as the first "contested" presidential election. Were Adams and Washington of the same party, and therefore the first two elections were not considered contested?

Some expert on presidential elections please explain.
Prior to the adoption of the 12th Amendment in 1804 (this is the 200th anniversary of it!!), each elector cast two votes, the man getting the most votes becoming President and the man in second place becoming V.P.

So 69 electors cast 138 votes (2 each), with Washington getting a unanimous vote of 69, and the V.P. choice scattered among Adams, Jefferson, and others, with Adams gaining a plurality of 34 and becoming the first Vice President.

So the results reported in that poll are accurate, but they erroneously imply to modern people an adversarial race between Washington and Adams. If there was any adversarial race, it was between Adams and Jefferson for VP, not between anybody and Washington, who was nearly as unanimous a national hero in his own day as he is today.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 07-04-2004, 03:01 PM
zev_steinhardt zev_steinhardt is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Posts: 6,860
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaslatten
Yet another article on John Adams in the same encyclopedia says that Adams lost to Washington 1789, with the vote being 69 to 34. How is this unanimous? Later in the same article on Adams, it cites the Adams-Jefferson election as the first "contested" presidential election. Were Adams and Washington of the same party, and therefore the first two elections were not considered contested?

Some expert on presidential elections please explain.
For the first four presidential elections, the runner-up of the presidential race became the vice president. This was changed after the passage of the 12th Ammendment. Each Elector cast *two*electoral votes. Every Elector cast one for Washington. The second vote was split among the other candidates. Adams received the second-most votes and so became the nation's first vice president.

Zev Steinhardt
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 07-04-2004, 03:39 PM
aaslatten aaslatten is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Thanks. All these posts helped to clear it up for me. I remembered that the guy in second place became v.p. but really had no idea how that worked.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 07-04-2004, 05:28 PM
stuyguy stuyguy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
One element that has gone unsaid is that the result was essentially engineered to come out the way it did.

Remember, each state got to choose its electors any way it wanted. Most picked them through the state legislature, a few (one or two, IIRC) had direct elections of some sort, and others (notably the great state of New York -- my home) could not get its act together in time to figure out what to do. What I'm getting at here is that the electors did not come to the election process with binding political commitments, so there was a lot of behind-the-scenes stagecraft going on to insure a pretty result.

It was a given that Washington was going to be picked president, so the stage managers -- IIRC, Alexander Hamilton was the main manipulator -- made sure everyone voted for him so his mandate would appear utterly unchallenged. The prevailing consensus was that Adams should be VP, so the stage managers directed most of the electors to vote for him, but not so many as to challenge GW's primacy. It is no coincidence that JA ended up with a hair less than half of GW's tally. The remaining votes were scattered among all the remaining also-rans, making sure that no one came close to GW of JA numbers.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 07-04-2004, 06:16 PM
adirondack_mike adirondack_mike is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by stuyguy
One element that has gone unsaid is that the result was essentially engineered to come out the way it did.

Remember, each state got to choose its electors any way it wanted. Most picked them through the state legislature, a few (one or two, IIRC) had direct elections of some sort, and others (notably the great state of New York -- my home) could not get its act together in time to figure out what to do. What I'm getting at here is that the electors did not come to the election process with binding political commitments, so there was a lot of behind-the-scenes stagecraft going on to insure a pretty result.

It was a given that Washington was going to be picked president, so the stage managers -- IIRC, Alexander Hamilton was the main manipulator -- made sure everyone voted for him so his mandate would appear utterly unchallenged. The prevailing consensus was that Adams should be VP, so the stage managers directed most of the electors to vote for him, but not so many as to challenge GW's primacy. It is no coincidence that JA ended up with a hair less than half of GW's tally. The remaining votes were scattered among all the remaining also-rans, making sure that no one came close to GW of JA numbers.
I fear it is more sinister than that.

JA votes 34 = 3 +4 = 7. AND we know the significant of that number for the Freemasons.

The 69 votes that GW received is 6+9 = 15 =1+5=6. This is one less than the mystical 7. So the hidden message revealed here is that it they wanted it to appear unanimous to the general public but those in the know would know better.

Of course 138 = 13+8 = 21 which is a trinity of sevens. Those wacky masons.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 07-05-2004, 12:06 AM
stuyguy stuyguy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Alright adirondack_mike, I can't tell if you're mocking me or not. In any case here is a cite for you.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 07-05-2004, 01:56 PM
BobT BobT is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Adams was not particularly happy with the way the electoral votes were arranged. He had a lot of pride and assumed that anyone who wanted to vote for him should and not because Alexander Hamilton told him not to.

Men like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson wanted to project the image that they were all above partisan politics. They weren't, but they wanted people to think that they were.

By the time Andrew Jackson came around, it was pretty clear that people running for president were partisan politicians and by the 1840 election, presidential elections started to resemble "races".
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:52 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.