The Presidential Elections of 1789 and 1792
This appeared in a four-volume history of presidential elections, each by a different author and each accompanied by a selection of source-readings. My own, necessarily long contribution, set the scene for subsequent presidential contests and covered the two elections in which George Washington, a non-campaigning non-"candidate," received unanimous support within the newly created Electoral College.
The nature of the presidential office proved to be the most recalcitrant issue that confronted the delegates at the Philadelphia convention in 1787. There were, James Madison reported to Thomas Jefferson, "tedious and reiterated discussions" on whether the executive should "consist of a single person, or a plurality of co-ordinate members, on the mode of appointment, on the duration in office, on the degree of power," and on whether the President should be eligible for reelection. True, the delegates fairly soon reached agreement on the need for a single executive. Other problems concerning the office were more intractable. A key difficulty, Madison recollected, was that "of finding an unexceptionable process for appointing the Executive Organ of a Government such as that of the United States . . . ; and as the final arrangement of it took place in the latter stage of the Session, it was not exempt from a degree of the hurrying influence produced by fatigue and impatience in all such bodies."
The Philadelphia convention began on May 25, 1787. Within a week the delegates had declared themselves in favor of a single "Executive Magistracy"