The Election of 1789

The election of 1789 was the first presidential election in the United States and it was unlike any election that followed. There were no debates, no campaigns, no popular vote and only one candidate; George Washington. The constitution had been ratified the year before by nine of the thirteen states. North Carolina didn’t ratify the constitution until later in 1789 and didn’t get a vote in this first election. Rhode Island held out until 1790 and likewise did not get a vote.

The rules for electing the President were slightly different in the first four elections. Each State had as many electors in the Electoral College as the number of Representatives and Senators, just as is the case today. Unlike the procedure today, each elector had two votes and the candidate who had the most votes would be President, while the runner-up would be Vice-President.The seelction of the electors took place between December 15, 1788 to January 10, 1789. As I stated, North Carolina and Rhode Island could nor participate in this election and New York’s legislature was deadlocked and was unable to name any electors. So, only ten states participated. Of these only six had any form of popular vote at all, and the franchise was limited by property requirements. In most states, the legislatures either appointed the electors directly, or divided the state into electoral districts. In Maryland and Pennsylvania the electors were elected at large. In no case did any voter actually vote for the president.

George Washington was the only candidate considered for the post. In fact, much of the debate over the Presidency at the Constitutional Convention had been shaped by the idea that Washington would be the first President. In a way, the job was designed to fit Washington. Washington was the most famous and popular man in America. He had been the indispensible man in the Revolution. He was well known in all parts of the new nation, and although he was from Virginia, he was not thought to be tied to any one section of the country. Of his contemporaries, only Benjamin Franklin could claim a similar national status. Franklin was too old, however, and although he had been a successful businessman, he had little experience as a political executive and none at all in military matters.

Washington, however, did not especially want to be President. He was getting older himself. Although he was only 56 at the time of the Constitutional Convention, he had lived a hard life and he was feeling it. Washington was also aware that the males in his family tended not to be long lived and he felt his time was running out. Washington preferred to spend his final years tending Mount Vernon over the

George Washington
George Washington

difficult job of establishing a new government, especially since unlike all of his successors, he could not blame his problems on his predecessor. Washington was concerned that every action of his would be taken as a precedent and he was not sure he was up to the task  of not just being the President, but of establishing the pattern of behavior for all subsequent presidents. Washington had a strong sense of duty and was somewhat vain about his posthumous reputation so he agreed to be the first president.

There was no suspense when the Electoral College met on February 4, 1789. Each one of the 69 electors cast one of his votes for George Washington, making Washington the only president ever elected by a unanimous vote. John Adams got second place with 34 votes and John Jay was a distant third with 9 votes. There were a number of other men who received a scattering of votes.

 

 

John Adams
John Adams

As the runner up, Adams became the first Vice-President. He was not exactly thrilled with his new job, as he told his wife Abigail,

“My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived”. Everyone else was confident that this election would prove to be a bright beginning to the grand American experiment.

Crossing the Line

The Obama administration has determined that the Assad regime in Syria is using chemical weapons against the rebels and so has decided to send arms to the rebels. As CBS News puts it.

The Obama administration has concluded that Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s government used chemical weapons against the rebels seeking to overthrow him and, in a major policy shift, President Obama has decided to supply military support to the rebels, the White House announced Thursday.

“The president has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition that will involve providing direct support to the [Supreme Military Council]. That includes military support,” Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes told reporters.

President Obama has repeatedly said that the use of chemical weapons is a “red line” that, if crossed, would be a “game changer” for more U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.

“The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States,” said Rhodes in a separate written statement.

“The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has,” he continued.

In terms of further response, Rhodes said, “we will make decisions on our own timeline” and that Congress and the international community would be consulted.  Mr. Obama is heading to Northern Ireland Sunday for a meeting of the G8 group of nations; Rhodes indicated the president will consult with leaders of those countries.

“Any future action we take will be consistent with our national interest, and must advance our objectives, which include achieving a negotiated political settlement to establish an authority that can provide basic stability and administer state institutions; protecting the rights of all Syrians; securing unconventional and advanced conventional weapons; and countering terrorist activity,” Rhodes said.

To date, the U.S. policy on Syria has primarily focused on offering the rebels nonlethal assistance and humanitarian aid.

I think that this is a very bad idea. There are no good guys in this conflict. On one side there is a vicious secular Arab nationalist/socialist government that has an awful human rights record. On the other side there are rebels who are Islamist and almost certainly have ties to al-Qaeda and will probably impose Sharia law on Syria. Neither side is likely to be grateful for any aid we provide and both sides hate us and the West. As far as I can tell our only options are staying out of this conflict or, if we’re feeling especially cynical and Machiavellian, to keep the fighting going as long as possible.

And then there’s this from the Los Angeles Times.

Two years into a civil war that shows no signs of ending, the Obama administration is considering resettling refugees who have fled Syria, part of an international effort that could bring thousands of Syrians to American cities and towns.

A resettlement plan under discussion in Washington and other capitals is aimed at relieving pressure on Middle Eastern countries straining to support 1.6 million refugees, as well as assisting hard-hit Syrian families.

The State Department is “ready to consider the idea,” an official from the department said, if the administration receives a formal request from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, which is the usual procedure.

I don’t think this is a good idea either. Hasn’t the bombing of the Boston Marathon taught us anything about the wisdom of allowing refugees from war-torn Muslim countries? We really do not need to import more radicalized fanatics who hate us into this country. In fact, I would suggest, as a matter of policy, that no Western country accept Muslim immigrants under any condition and the Europeans should consider ways of evicting the immigrants who are slowly taking over their countries.