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  • Lawn signs sprouting everywhere.

  • Round-the-clock ads on radio and television.

  • The phone rings. It's a robo-call from the president, or his opponent,

  • asking for your money, and your vote.

  • And while you're at it, watch their YouTube videos and like them on Facebook.

  • Election time. We all know the look and feel of modern campaigns.

  • But what was it like in the early days of the Republic, when, say,

  • George Washington ran for office?

  • Well, in fact, he didn't run.

  • When Washington became the first president in 1789,

  • there were no political parties, no conventions or primaries,

  • no campaign, no election season.

  • Not really any candidates.

  • Even the year was odd.

  • Literally. 1789 was the only presidential election ever held in an odd year.

  • After the framers invented the constitution and the presidency 225 years ago,

  • the country set about the business of choosing its first executive.

  • Agreeing with Ben Franklin, many people thought "The first man at the helm will be a good one,"

  • and by that, Franklin meant George Washington.

  • Greatest hero of the Revolution, Washington presided over the convention that created the constitution,

  • rarely speaking. He never discussed the job of president,

  • or of wanting it. And when the first presidential election took place,

  • it was a crazy-quilt affair, with many hands stitching the pattern.

  • Under the new constitution, each state was given a number of electors.

  • who would cast a vote for two names.

  • The man with the most votes would be president,

  • the second-place finisher was vice president.

  • Ah, but who picked the electors? That was left up to the states.

  • Six of them let the people decide, or at least white men over 21 who owned property.

  • In New Jersey, some women voted, a right later taken away.

  • But in other states, the legislature picked the electors.

  • At that time, many people thought democracy was one step away from mob rule

  • and a decision this important should be left to wiser men.

  • These electors then voted for president.

  • All the states had to do was get their votes in on time.

  • But there were glitches.

  • Only 10 of the 13 states voted.

  • Rhode Island and North Carolina hadn't ratified the constitution and couldn't vote.

  • New York missed the deadline for naming its electors, and also was not counted.

  • When the votes were tallied, it was unanimous.

  • George Washington won easily. John Adams trailed far behind, finishing second, and became the vice president.

  • Told of his victory, George Washington was not surprised.

  • At Mount Vernon, his bags were already packed.

  • He moved to New York City, the nation's temporary capital,

  • and he would have to figure out just what a president was supposed to do.

  • Since that first election, American democracy and elections have come a long way.

  • The constitution has been changed to open up voting to more people:

  • black men, women, Native Americans, and eighteen-year-olds included.

  • Getting that basic right extended to all those people has been a long, hard struggle.

  • So when you think you can't stand any more of those lawn signs,

  • and TV ads, just remember:

  • the right to vote wasn't always for everyone,

  • and that's a piece of history worth knowing.

Lawn signs sprouting everywhere.

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B1 US TED-Ed president election constitution george washington washington

【TED-Ed】The oddities of the first American election - Kenneth C. Davis

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    Kevin Tan posted on 2014/09/17
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