Federalist No.68 vs. Antifederalist No. 72: The Debate over How to Elect the President

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One of the most important topics of debate at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 concerned the executive branch, specifically the the requirements surrounding the act of electing the president and the measures that had to be taken in order to ensure that the election took place in a manner that the members of the convention could agree upon.  This was also one of the issues that continued to reinforce the stark division that had developed between the Federalists and Antifederalists, with the Federalists supporting the ratification of the Constitution and the Antifederalists opposing the ratification.  In Federalist Paper No. 68, Alexander Hamilton, writing under the alias of Publius, argues in support of the introduction of the Electoral College, now a modern day staple in the process of electing a president, while in Antifederalist Paper No. 70 the anonymous writer, known only by his alias Republicus, is totally against the electoral college as he feels it takes the power of having the responsibility of electing the president out of the hands of the people and places it in the power of a small group of individuals.

However, Hamilton does believe that these individuals, while along with being selected by those people that they are representing in determining the outcome of an election, “will most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations” (Hamilton, Federalist No. 68).  This shows that in his quick response to Antifederalist No. 72, Hamilton is taking into account the fact that one of the arguments of the Antifederalists is that the men being elected will not be qualified enough to represent the sentiments of the entire American voting population.  In fact, this is the major point of emphasis in the document by Republicus as he states unequivocally that it is simply not logical “that the sacred rights of mankind should dwindle down to Electors of electors, and those again electors of other electors” (Republicus, Antifederalist No. 72).  The aptly named Republicus was clearly concerned about the fate of the people in this government that was supposedly being designed so that the citizens of America could play an integral role in its outcome.  For these reasons, Federalist No. 68 and Antifederalist No. 72 will be eternally set against one another as the prominent documents advocating both sides of the spectrum on the debate over the process of presidential election.

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While the differences between Publius and Republicus are clear, there are still similar beliefs that both men hold as necessary for the success of the government and these become apparent through the use of Word Clouds.  The Word Clouds themselves give an interesting look into the key words that the authors considered to be important enough to use multiple times throughout the course of their respective documents.  The overlap between the two Word Clouds, displaying the similarity of the issues that were being debated by Publius and Republicus, are apparent on more than several occasions.  Words such as “one” and “president” display the agreement between Publius and Republicus on the idea of a single individual ruling over the nation.  However, while not overlapping, the words “legislative” and “Senate” display the fact that while the president was to be given a great deal of authority, the legislative branch of the government, which includes the Senate, would play an integral role in the system of checks and balances established to prevent one part of the government from having too much power.  Other words such as “people,” which overlaps both Word Clouds, displays the focus of both authors, although Republicus doubts it in the case of the Federalists such as Hamilton, on attaining a government in which the citizens of the United States can have a say.


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