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The Making of the Constitution


Part 4: The Presidency

Now that the Congress was taken care of, the delegates moved on to the chief executive, the President.

Alexander Hamilton, a delegate from New York, proposed that the President be elected by the people but serve as President for the rest of his life. This idea was very unpopular with the other delegates, many of whom had just fought in a war against a tyrant king.

The delegates finally agreed that the President would serve a four-year term. But how would he be elected? Some delegates thought that the same voters who selected the members of the House of Representatives should select the President. Most of the delegates, however, disagreed. They thought that people who were educated and knew a lot about government and politics should select the President.

The result was another compromise. This one created the Electoral College. It sounds like a complicated idea, but it's really very simple. Here's how it works:

  • The people of each state would choose electors. The number of electors each state could have was based on population, and each state could decide how it would choose its electors.
  • The electors would then meet as one body and vote for President. They would vote for two people: The person receiving the most votes would be President, and the person receiving the second-most votes would be Vice-president.
  • If no one candidate received a majority of votes cast by these electors, then the House of Representatives would select the president, based on a simple majority vote.

Another power given to the President was the veto. The President could veto, or reject, any bill passed by Congress. If this happened, Congress would have to approve the bill by a two-thirds margin for it to become a law.

The President was also given the power to appoint federal judges, who served for life.

Next page > The New National Government > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

 

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