Cartoon: On The Creation of the Electoral College


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This cartoon was largely inspired by reading “The Proslavery Origins of the Electoral College ,” by historian Paul Finkelman .  Here’s a quote from Finkelman’s paper:

The  most  influential  delegate,  Madison  argued  that   “the  people  at  large”  were  “the  fittest”  to  choose  the   president.    But  “one  difficulty  .  .  .  of  a  serious  nature”   made  election  by  the  people impossible.  Madison noted that the  “right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the  Southern States; and the  latter  could  have  no  influence  in  the   election  on  the  score  of  the Negroes.” In   order   to   guarantee    that   the   nonvoting   slaves   could   nevertheless  influence  the   presidential  election,  Madison  favored  the  creation  of  the   electoral  college.

Hugh  Williamson  of  North  Carolina was more open about the reasons  for southern opposition to  a  popular  election  of  the  president.     He  noted  that  under  a  direct election of the president, Virginia  would not be able to elect her leaders president because “[h]er slaves  will have no suffrage.” The same of course would be true for the rest of  the South.

None of the records we have indicate that the framers even discussed protecting the interests of small states when electing the President. As far as anyone can tell, that wasn’t a consideration.

Drawingwise, the fun part of this cartoon was drawing Madison’s outfit, which is  pretty much one of the outfits worn in the musical Hamilton.  At least to my eyes, Madison really did have a sharp pointy nose, although of course I’ve exaggerated it by a thousand. I could have drawn several delegates to be Madison’s straight man here, but I chose Rutledge because I wanted to draw his huge puff hairdo.

Thanks, as always, to my patrons; this is a slightly bizarre subject for a political cartoonist to take. The support I get from you folks is what allows me to take my own path, and I really appreciate it.


Panel 1
This panel has a big caption labeling the scene “1787.” Two white men in Colonial-style clothing are speaking; one of them, who is labeled “James Madison,” is smiling and holding up a sheet of paper. The other man, listening, is labeled “John Rutledge.”
MADISON: I’ve figured out how we will elect Presidents!
RUTLEDGE: What’s the plan, Mr. Madison?

Panel 2
Madison presses a hand to his chest, looking reverent. Rutledge cheerfully offers his idea.
MADISON: My Virginia is the largest state in the Union! And I want to protect Virginia’s interests.
RUTLEDGE: So we’ll have people vote directly for the president, to take advantage of Virginia’s large population?

Panel 3
Closer shot of Madison, who is angrily shooting Rutledge’s idea down.
MADISON: Are you on crack? 40% of Virginia is slaves. Salves can’t vote. Direct democracy would be a disaster for us!

Panel 4
A shot of Madison, spreading his arms and smiling as he explains.
MADISON: In my plan, we’ll have “electors” who vote based on the total population, including slaves! That’ll make Virginia the biggest, most powerful state!

Panel 5
Madison is still grinning, but his expression looks a bit evil now. He’s clutching one fist in the air.
MADISON: In fact, all the slave-owning states will get a boost! Which we’ll use to protect slavery! I call it “The Electoral College.”

Panel 6
A large caption says “TODAY.” The image shows a hand holding a smart phone; on the smart phone’s screen, a pundit-type white lady is talking directly to the camera.
PUNDIT: …and then James Madison created the Electoral College to protect small states!

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One Response to Cartoon: On The Creation of the Electoral College

  1. 1
    JutGory says:

    This cartoon misses two important points:
    Electors were based upon the number of Representatives (population based) and Senators (2 per state) from each state. This factor gives an advantage to smaller states.

    The 3/5 compromise, which allowed slaves to be counted toward the number of Representatives a state could have (thus affecting the number of electors), but with the slaves not counting equally.

    It seems to me that you could have an electoral system that is race neutral, but you can’t have a 3/5 compromise that is. It is the compromise that tilts everything.