1789

August 24, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The first was held in February, 1789. It was unlike presidential elections today. There were no parties, so no party nominees. In fact there were no presidential candidates. There was no campaigning, and there were very nearly no voters.

Then as now, electors cast the actual votes for president. But unlike now, only four states allowed ordinary citizens to choose those electors. The other states gave their legislatures all or most of the power to select electors. Even in states where the popular will could be directly expressed at the polls, there was hardly democracy. In Maryland, for instance, only about 7,000 citizens, or 2 1/2 percent of the population, voted for the electors.

None of this really mattered. The election was a foregone conclusion. One American alone was considered to be appropriate for the new office -- George Washington, the hero of the Revolution and president of the Constitutional Convention. Every elector in every state who voted, voted for him.

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