Read This Electoral College Quote From Hamilton

by Joanne Spataro

There's been a lot of talk about the left-leaning group called the Hamilton Electors, but what did their inspiration, Alexander Hamilton, actually say about the electoral college? The quote originally came from a letter Hamilton sent to his friend and fellow Federalist party member Theodore Sedgwick, per Independent Journal Review. This was during the time of the presidential election between then-President John Adams (the Federalist nominee) and Thomas Jefferson (the Democratic-Republican nominee) in 1800.

In the letter, Hamilton referred to Adams, a man he despised in his own party. Here's what he wrote to Sedgwick about Adams in the presidential race:

I will never more be responsible for him by my direct support—even though the consequence should be the election of Jefferson. If we must have an enemy at the head of the Government, let it be one whom we can oppose & for whom we are not responsible, who will not involve our party in the disgrace of his foolish and bad measures.

The quote would later be called "The Hamilton Rule" and inspire Hamilton Electors to organize against President-elect Donald Trump. According to their website, the group was founded by several members of the Electoral College who wanted to continue Hamilton's vision for an Electoral College whose members were free to "vote their conscience for the good of America." They believe Hamilton had a person like Trump in mind — unfit for the presidency — when he wrote the Federalist Papers: No. 68, published on March 14, 1788, just 12 years before this contentious election between Adams and Jefferson.

While Hamilton may have said this about the Electoral College in the heat of a controversial election, the full context of his words seem lost on the Hamilton Electors. Hamilton's strongest motive for denouncing a member of his own party, besides his strong ideological differences with Adams, according to historian Joseph Ellis, was he wanted to run the Federalist Party and he couldn't control Adams if he was still president. Hamilton succeeded in his effort to take away Adams' re-election bid and instead elected Jefferson to the presidency even though he was not even a member of his own party.

Today, Hamilton Electors are trying to convince at least 37 Republican electors to vote for alternative GOP choice John Kasich on Dec. 19, hoping for a similar result in the Adams-Jefferson presidential campaign. If this happens, the vote for president will be kicked up to the House of Representatives, although many commentators say it's unlikely to happen and more than that, potentially putting party over country. Given that Hamilton was, in his zeal to deride Adams, looking to become head of the party, the electors that have taken his name might need to review the entire context of why Hamilton really said what he said.