MADISON, James. Autograph letter signed in the third person ("J. Madison") as Secretary of State, TO VICE-PRESIDENT AARON BURR, [Washington, D.C.], [11 December 1803]. 1 page, 4to (9 11/16 x 7 7/8 in), integral address leaf, in very fine condition.
MADISON SUBMITS THE 12TH AMENDMENT TO AARON BURR, WHOSE ACTIONS HAD RESULTED IN THE ELECTORAL CRISIS OF 1800
The election of 1800 "stands almost alone in United States history as a drama with the fate of the Constitution at stake" (Bernard A. Weisberger, America Afire: Jefferson, Adams and the First Contested Election, New York, 2001, p.299). The resolution of the crisis validated the republican experiment incorporated in the Constitution by exemplifying the successful transference of Executive power from one party to another, but exposed a dangerous flaw in the electoral process. As prescribed by the Constitution, the candidate who garnered the highest total of votes in the electoral college became President while the office of Vice President was awarded to the man who tallied the second highest number. Efficient pre-election campaigning by Jefferson's supporters, anxious to prevent Federalist John Adams from becoming Vice President, had resulted in an electoral tie between Jefferson and Aaron Burr; when Burr, the acknowledged Vice Presidential candidate, refused to relinquish his claim on the Presidency, the election was forced into the House (see notes to lot 31).
As Jefferson prepared in 1804 to run for a second term, Republicans in Congress took steps to ensure there would be no repetition of the crisis Burr had precipitated, by introducing an amendment to the Constitution providing that in future elections, electors would cast separate votes for President and Vice-President. Here, Madison transmits information on the process that is to be followed with the proposed 12th amendment, now ready to be submitted for ratification by the states: "J. Madison presents his respects to the Vice President who will find in the inclosed, the information afforded by the office of State, on the subject of former amendts. to the Constitution. Mr. Beckley recollects that in one of the instances copies equal to the no. of states were made out in the Clk's office of the H. of Reps. In the other, I understand from him, that the copies were not furnished to the Executive, but it does not appear from any thing in the office of State, whether this was or was not the case."
The 12th Amendment, submitted to the states in December 1803, had received the necessary thirteen votes for ratification, in spite of Federalist opposition, by June 1804 and went into effect in September. In the 1804 campaign, though, the Republican caucus deliberately passed over Burr and selected George Clinton as Jefferson's vice-presedential running mate.
Provenance: Sale, R.G. Kauffman, 9 September 1989, lot 64.