The Transformative Twelfth Amendment

By Hawley, Joshua D. | William and Mary Law Review, April 2014 | Go to article overview

The Transformative Twelfth Amendment


Hawley, Joshua D., William and Mary Law Review


III. A REVOLUTION IN FORM

Most observers have missed the significance of the Twelfth Amendment because of what it did not do. It did not abolish the electoral college; it did not institute a direct national plebiscite; it did not direct the states to choose their electors by popular vote. (296) At first glance, the Amendment seems to have done relatively little, even to be, as Bruce Ackerman has recently said, "the very opposite of a serious attempt to think the problem [of presidential selection] through." (297)

First glances can be deceiving. The Amendment in fact fundamentally altered the operation of the electoral college, and with it, the relationship between the executive and legislative branches. The Amendment accomplished this by directing electors to designate their ballots for President and Vice-President and by reducing Congress's role in presidential elections in favor of greater and more direct control by the people. The effect was to facilitate political competition for the Executive, further unify the branch under the political control of the President, and make the President the choice of popular majorities. These innovations converted the Philadelphia presidency into a political one for good, shifting the structure of the constitutional order along the way. In the end, the Republicans' Twelfth Amendment gave the President's executive powers new scope and potentially new meaning, even as it produced a different sort of politics from the one the Framers had anticipated--one no longer congressional, but centered on the President.

A. Enter the Twelfth Amendment

The Amendment began life on October 17, 1803, when Representative John Dawson, Republican from Virginia, introduced the following resolution on the floor of the House:

   That, in all future elections of President and Vice President, the
   persons shall be particularly designated, by declaring which is
   voted for as President, and which as Vice President. (298)

De Witt Clinton, Republican from New York, introduced substantially similar language in the Senate four days later. (299) Debate began first in the House, on October 19, (300) and lasted for nine days, with the House voting to approve an amendment proposal on October 28. (301) Meanwhile, Senators began debate on October 24, but kept at it only briefly before various exigencies, including the need to debate the Treaty of Paris with which President Jefferson proposed to purchase the Louisiana territory, (302) forced delay. The Senate eventually returned to the Amendment on November 23. (303) After a week of robust and sometimes heated debate, the Senate approved on December 2, 1803 a version different from the House's text in a modest yet, as we shall see, critical way regarding the number of candidates referred to the House in the case of a disputed election. (304) The House ultimately accepted the Senate's version on December 8. (305)

As the Amendment cycled through Congress, debate narrowed to three major issues. First was the Amendment's leading feature, the designation of ballots for President and Vice-President. (306) Amendment supporters in fact called the text the "designating" Amendment. (307) Designation was not a new idea; it had previously enjoyed bipartisan support. (308) But in the Eighth Congress, the designating principle proved controversial. Once raised, it invited two additional and difficult questions--the proper number of candidates to be referred to the House in the event of a disputed election (309) and the status of the vice-presidency. (310) These three issues together formed

the core of congressional debate. Raised in sequence, each was logically, even inseparably, connected to the other, and by the conclusion of debate in early December, Republicans offered essentially one argument on all three subjects: it was the right of popular majorities to choose the President. (311) Listening to their case, the Federalist John Quincy Adams realized that Amendment sponsors wanted to "reform [the Constitution's] federative institutions upon popular principles. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Transformative Twelfth Amendment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.