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The act of July 6, 1790, for the permanent seat, called for occupation on the first Monday in December 1800; and though there had been many unexpected obstacles, financial difficulties, and delays, both the President's House, now called the White House, and the Capitol were habitable by that time, and the laying out of the city which L'Enfant had planned well started, so that President Adams, Congress, and the other elements of the government moved in. It took many years, however, to make it a real national center; the enlarged Capitol as it now stands was not finished until the Civil War, the soaring dome being the last feature. But the modern model city is still the result of L'Enfant's skill and Washington's consideration. The interest of the first President in the capital that was given his name continued after he retired, but he died a year before it became the seat of the national government.
The ordinance for the organization of its successor was the last important act of the Continental Congress. Its work was done, work which had been accomplished under conditions greatly in contrast to the powers given to the new Congress by the Constitution; but, in the light of those conditions, not ill done. The next step was the action of the state legislatures, for which this ordinance and the resolution of the Philadelphia Convention called.
STATE PROBLEMS OF NATIONAL ELECTIONS
FROM Paris on January 8, 1789, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Rev. Richard Price in England:
A change in their [states'] dispositions, which had taken place since I left them, has rendered this consolidation necessary; that is to say, has called for a federal government which could walk upon its own legs, without leaning for support on the State legislatures. A sense of this necessity, and a submission to it, is to me a new and consolatory proof that wherever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.1
The Continental Congress having done its duty in the premises, the next step had to be taken by those state legislatures, the necessity of whose support Jefferson belittled. This future President of the United States, whose greatest service to his country was to insist that the people should be able to set things right when they saw the necessity, was correct, of course, in his statement of the direct action which the new government was to possess; none the less, the instrumentality of the state legislatures in putting the national government on its feet and keeping it there remained important.
The Constitution of the United States, based on a representative government, demanded frequent elections, and the machinery of these was in various respects left in the hands of the state legislatures. The election of members of the national House of Representatives was to be popular; the election of United States senators a task of the state legislatures; and the election of the President an indirect one, the first step of which was left to the choice of these same legislatures. In all three of these varieties of election there was a choice of method, which the members of the Convention of 1787, in making a frame of government and not a code of laws, left open. Moreover, the resolution of the Continental Congress was confined entirely to the election of President and Vice President,
and the resolutions of the Convention of 1787 said no more than that senators and representatives "should be elected," and should convene at the place and time established for commencing proceedings under the Constitution. There was in neither any prescription upon the states except as to the presidential election. The choice of representatives and senators was left to the initiative of each state legislature.
As respects representatives, the Constitution declared the number to which each state should be initially entitled, and stated the qualifications of the representatives themselves and of those who should have the right to choose them; but this last, being those "requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature," continued to be one within the jurisdiction of the separate states. Representatives in Congress should be of a required age, length of national citizenship, and state residence; and the question immediately arose whether these qualifications were exclusive. It is to be noticed that there was no definition of citizens of the United States in the Constitution until Amendment XIV was added; citizenship continued to be on a state basis or under the common law. Naturalization was under the Constitution a power of Congress and was considered an exclusive power; but an alien then made a citizen of the United States was not necessarily a citizen of a state. Should the representatives be elected by districts or at large; and if a division into districts was allowable, had the legislature a right to require residence within the district, since the Constitution did not? Should there be any prescribed method of announcing candidature? Should a plurality elect or must a successful candidate have a majority vote; and if a tie under the plurality rule or no majority, how should the matter be resolved? How should the successful candidate be commissioned; and since they were to be paid out of the United States Treasury, should there be any advances made to them?
The qualifications of United States senators were like those of the representatives-age, length of citizenship, and state residence; and since they were chosen "for a State" and not "in a State," as were the representatives, the question of their particular residence was of less importance, though it did become a matter of consideration and in one state was legally prescribed. Since the senators were to be chosen by the state legislatures, should there be a preliminary law passed respecting the method, or merely an agreement between the two houses (except when the legislature was unicameral)? Should there be a joint ballot or a concurrent one, and a plurality or majority
required; and where should be the initiative in the case of a concurrent vote, and the method to be employed in order to bring the houses to an agreement? Obviously, in the case of a joint ballot, the lower house would exercise the real power.
Presidential electors were not qualified in the Constitution except by the elimination of national legislators and officials; and since there were as yet no such legislators or officials (unless postmasters and bureau officials of the Old Congress at New York could be so considered), the choice in each state was limited only by its number. Also the state legislatures had complete control over the method of appointment; it might be popular, by the legislature, by some combination of these, or given to the governor or to the council. In case of a popular election, there might be a general one or by districts, with or without residence therein; and these districts might be different from those for representatives, or the same with a separate provision for the election of the other two electors of the state's quota. The vote required for election had also to be stated. The time and method of voting by the presidential electors were fixed, and they were required to "meet" for this purpose; but the place was left open, and provision for their compensation was also left to the states.
The elections preliminary to the organization of the national government did, indeed, present a sufficiency of problems to the state legislatures. Let us see, in geographical order, what each of the eleven states did about the matter.
THE GENERAL Court of New Hampshire was called in special session by President John Langdon to meet at Concord on November 5, 1788. Next day the two houses had a joint conference on the ordinance of the Continental Congress. Langdon presided and suggested the legislative appointment of electors. John Sullivan wanted a popular election of them, and election of representatives by districts. A joint committee was appointed to take action. Sullivan and Ebenezer Webster, father of Daniel, were members of it; and it reported a bill for the election of representatives and electors. This passed the House by 59 to 17 on November 10, and the Senate on November 12. It provided that on the third Monday of December, which was the 15th, the freemen of the state should vote at large for three representatives and five electors, the returns to be sent to the secretary of state and laid before the General Court. A majority vote was required in all cases; and if there were not majorities for three representatives, the ranking candidates double the required
number should be sent back to the freemen for a second vote on the first Monday in February, which was the 2d. If there were ties, the secretary should draw the number necessary to complete the list. The highest votes would necessarily elect at the second election. The representatives-elect were to be commissioned by the president of the state, with the secretary's countersign. If there were not the necessary majorities for five electors at the first election, no second one being possible, the General Court was to appoint out of the highest of double the number in such way as the members should agree. On February 7, 1789, the General Court passed an act on vacancies, made necessary by the refusal of one of the representatives-elect to serve. By this, the president and council were to issue a precept to the towns, and a second one of the two highest names if there was no majority at the first by-election.
It is not known whether the joint conference of November 6 considered the election of senators. No act or resolution was passed about the election; but on November 11 the House voted for senators, in accordance with a decision made the day before, but which was not entered in the journal. Langdon was named by 60 to 3; evidently the vote for the second senator was not successful, but there is no further record. On November 12 the House also named Nathaniel Peabody by 40 to 36. This same day the Senate, on receiving the decision of the House, concurred for Langdon, but rejected Peabody by 8 to 2, naming Josiah Bartlett instead. The House in its turn then concurred in Bartlett by a vote of 61 to 16. He declined, and later Paine Wingate was elected, the House offering him. Both senators-elect had seen service in the Continental Congress.
The popular election on December 15 resulted in no majorities either for representatives or electors. There seems to have been little popular interest in the election. In Portsmouth only a fourth of the freemen attended, and in the whole state probably about 5200 voted. The highest vote for representatives was 2374 and the lowest of the six returned to the towns for the second vote was 861, Benjamin West being the highest, and Nicholas Gilman, a signer of the Constitution, the lowest of the six. Between were Samuel Livermore, Paine Wingate, Abiel Foster, and John Sullivan. All were Federalists and all had been members of the Continental Congress except West. Some 70 men received votes. In the second election on February 7, 1789, West, Livermore, and Gilman were elected; West declined and Foster came in on a by-election.
Congress had resolved that the presidential electors were to be