Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Bizarre Moments in Presidential Elections


10
1788-89: The Campaign That Wasn't
George Washington reluctantly accepted the wish of the American people for him to be their first president. No one campaigned for the office. Currier and Ives/SuperStock/Getty Images
George Washington reluctantly accepted the wish of the American people for him to be their first president. No one campaigned for the office. Currier and Ives/SuperStock/Getty Images

The first presidential election didn't bear much resemblance to the ones we have now. For one thing, only 10 of the original 13 states were involved, since North Carolina and Rhode Island hadn't yet ratified the U.S. Constitution, and New York's legislators got involved in a time-consuming squabble and didn't get around to appointing electors in time. Additionally, it wasn't a popular election. In four states, legislators reserved for themselves the privilege of deciding who would be sent to cast votes in the Electoral College, and the remaining six states only allowed white male adults to cast ballots [source: Gordon].

But the oddest thing was that there was no real campaign with rival candidates vying for the presidency. Instead, everybody seemed to want George Washington, the general who had led the American colonies to a hard-fought victory over the British and independence. Scores of Americans sent letters to Washington's home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, telling him that his country needed him and that he could not refuse. As Washington himself jokingly a friend, "I feel very much like a man who is condemned to death does when the time of his execution draws nigh" [source: Miller Center].

Thus, when the Electoral College met in January 1789, Washington was the only president to be elected unanimously, with all 69 electors casting one of their two votes for him. John Adams, who got 34 of the remaining votes, was chosen vice president [source: Archives.gov]


More to Explore