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The Miner Electoral Bill

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The New York Evening Post gives the arguments for the constitutionality of the Miner electoral bilĂ­ and the procedents for it,andcompletely demolishes the arguments of Gen. Cutcheon, in a leading editorial last week, which is so good that we quote it entire: The Michigan Republicans show a disposition to test in the courts the validity of the law passed by the democratie legislature providing for the choice of presidential electors by districts next year, but there is little prospect of the success of such a movement. The man who is put forward to make the argument of unconstitutionality is ex-Congressman Cutcheon, who has written a long letter on the subject to the Detroit Tribune, but his whole argument is based upon an ignorance of our political history which is as astounding as it is discreditable in one who is a gradĂșate of the Michigan university and of its law school. He begins with this statement: "The bill is revolutionary in its character, and if carried out and extended to other states would effect a radical change in our form of government. Hitherto, in the fifty-five years of the history of the State of Michigan, under whatever political party, presidential electors have been uniformally chosen by the state at am not aware that any State since the formation of the Government has ever departed f rom this ruk. In some states electors have been appointed by the legislature of the state, representing the state at large, but never before, to my knowledge, has it been attempted to confer the power to appoint presidential electors upon congressional districts and vulgar fractions of a state. It remained for the illustrious legislature of 1891 to initiate this great reform and to reconstruct the constitution of the United States." This ignorant statesman will be interested to learn that at the very first presidential election, in 1789, the state of Massachusetts adopted the district system, the people of each congressional district bringing in their ballots for two candidates and the legislature choosing oneof these, as well as the two electors-at-large; that the system of choice by districts continued in Massachusetts for many years; and that several other states chose presidential electors by popular vote in the ' sional districts, exactly as is now ' proposed in Michigan, until well on ' in the present century. North olina was so accustomed to the J tem of choice by districts that great l excitement was' caused in 181 1 r when, upon the excuse that there J would probably be an increse in c the number of the state's electoral ( i votes by the new appointment based on the census of 1810, but that it would come too late for a redistricting of the state, the legislature passed a law that the electors in 1812 should be chosen by the legislature. So late as 1828 New York and Maine in the north, and Maryland and Tennessee among the slave States, clung to the system of choosing electors by districts, with the result of a divided vote, except from Tennessee's unanimity for her " favorite son," New York choosing 20 Jackson electors and 16 for Adams, Maine 1 Jackson and 8 Adams, and Maryland 5 Jackson and 6 Adams. Maryland did not finally abandon the district system until after the election of 1832, in which year she chose three Jackson electors and five supporters of Clay, her vote having been divided between the candidates also in 1796, 1800, 1804, 1808, 1812, 1824, and 1828. What shall be thought of a man who has been four times elected to congress, and yet who confesses that he never even heard of such a thing as an attempt to confer the power to appoint presidential electors upon congressional districts, when it was a common thing in our early history? Naturally enough, Mr. Cutcheon's constitutional argument is as weak as his historical one. The constitution provides that each state shall appoint its presidential electors " in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct." Story, the great commentator upon the constitution, in his remarks upon this clause points out that it allows the legislatures to "prescribe the mode in which the elecjors should be chosen, whether it should be by the people at large, or in districts, or by the legislature itself. " Story wrote in 1840, in the light of fifty years' experience by the nation of all three of these systems, and after observing the operation of the district system, not only in his own state of Massachusetts, but in several other States, until Maryland at last gave it up after the election of 1832. It is to be remembered that the method of choice by congressional districts was adopted and maintained while the men who framed the constitution were still alive and active in public affairs, and that nobody ever questioned the fact that it was justified by the constitution. The Michigan republicans have a good argument against the jusiice of a democratie law introducing the district system in a single state for the avowed purpose of securing a temporary partisan advantage; but they should not make themselves ridiculous by ignorant claims that the action of the legislature is without precedent in our history or warrant in the constitution, when it is abundantly sustained by both.