The Electoral College: The faces of the young nation
The 2020 presidential election has been wild to say the least, and has had all American eyes on the Electoral College. What were the faces of the United States like when the Electoral College was first written into the Constitution?
The demographics and social make-up of the country was vastly different in 1776, the year the 13 Colonies declared independence from Britain. While the 13 Colonies were primarily white Protestants from Britain or the descendants of Brits, they certainly were not the only people on the continent.
The Colonists in New England who would become the first Americans, reaching from Maine down to Georgia were not even the only Europeans in the Americas. What is now the State of Michigan would not be wrested from the British until after the War of 1812.
The French still held parts of Canada and large swathes of land to the west that would be purchased by Thomas Jefferson from Napoleon, but that would not be for two decades. namely Quebec. Russians were poking around Alaska. The Spanish were still to the South by Florida, and Mexico was still part of the Spanish Empire.
All over the continent, Indigenous peoples were living, trading, allying, and fighting with the newcomers, and would continue to be in the center of the changing tides, their existences tied to the land and resources.
Along with the colonists of various European origins came the class and wealth systems which would affect the economic and social forming of the Americas. The rich land owners came and had need of cheap or free labor, and enslaved the Indigenous inhabitants, paying the way for the European working class in the form of indentured servitude, and also bringing Africans to the colonies, particularly the Caribbean.
Cotton was king in the Carolinas and Virginia, but the Caribbean was the land of sugar and coffee, two of the greatest exports headed back to Britain.
Freedom from European rule and old ideas had always fueled the rough, determined Colonist spirit Americans are most familiar with.
New France was still tied to the crown, but had an adventurous, entrepreneurial spirit, and was full of immigrants looking to start fresh and away from old debts or cramped Parisian streets, or Frenchmen trying to escape religious issues at home.
New Spain to the south was initially spearheaded by the legendary Conquistadors, an elite fighting force that had become its own social class after being raised up to take Spain from the Moors during the Spanish Inquisition. Perhaps the most famous of them was Hernan Cortez, who brought the once mighty Aztec Empire to its knees in search of gold. Others would take after Cortez and strike west and north, even into parts of California in search of “lost cities” that were supposed to be full of gold and silver.
The British colonists in the 13 Colonies were ambitious, focused on being self-made success stories who had initially left England to pursue religious freedoms.
The Colonies were not immediately a success, and faced multitudes of hardships including harsh weather, famines, diseases, wars with Indigenous populations, and more. The discovery of tobacco drew the British crown’s attention, and inspired added effort to seeing the Colonies survive and flourish.
As is the way with colonies, too much of the same old began to float over from the “Old World” and unrest took place among the more enterprising colonists, particularly the merchant and higher trades classes. Gentlemen in this field included American Founding Fathers and legends like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Samuel Adams.
Unrest among the Colonies began to rise after the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years War. Much to the disgust of the colonials, the British penned treaties with Indigenous peoples, promising that their settlements would not cross the Allegheny Mountains to the West, and those who did would do so without any kind of support.
Furthermore, the British crown began enforcing tax measures that they had not paid too much attention to before the French and Indian War. The following tax plans, which would become part of the “Intolerable Acts” were enforced in part to pay off the massive debts incurred during the French and Indian War, which ultimately allowed for the further expansion of the colonies, as well as keeping the Colonies from the French.
One of the largest cries for the Colonies became “taxation without representation,” seeing as they had no colonial-elected presence in Parliament.
The driving force behind the War for Independence was as the name implied; self-determination and representation for the colonists actually living in the Colonies. Why should men an ocean away be told what to do by a mostly absentee ruling body?
The next questions would be who would be represented, who would have actual say in the advancements and forward structures of life in America, and what that would look like.