Uriah Tracy’s Speech – Dec 2, 1803

Senate Debate on 12th Amendment

Uriah Tracy was one of the Senators from Connecticut who participated in the debate over the 12th Amendment. The reason that we have selected this speech is that Uriah Tracy expresses more precisely than anyone else the meaning and direction of Article II of the Constitution in selecting a President and Vice-President for the federation known as the United States of America. Being from a small State, he brought out the points that were so cojent in 1787 during the original discussion of a modified federation in the Constitutional Convention. By late 1803 however, the concept of constitutional federalism was all but gone and political parties were running the show. For those who want to restore federalism, his speech shows in great detail what the Framers had in mind as they laid out a plan to nominate and select only statesmen as candidates for President and Vice-President of the United States.

Unfortunately for Tracy and the other representatives of small States the 12th Amendment passed and was sent to the States for ratification. Unfortunately for the Nation the 12th Amendment was ratified and we quit looking for statesmen as presidential candidates and continued to run in party circles (sometimes pronounced circuses) to popularly elect President/Vice-President teams.

Some of the significant points that Tracy brings out are shown below:

  • The Constitution Structured a Modified Federation
  • The Framers Wanted a Compound Federation not a Consolidation or Simple Republic
  • States were Jealous to Retain Equal Representation in the Senate
  • Electors are to Nominate Two Individuals
  • The Public Will is Expressed either by a Majority of Electors or a Majority of States
  • There are Other Ways that the Public Will is Expressed
  • The Spirit of the Constitution is Political Moderation

Note: The majority of this speech is taken from Volume Five of The Founders Constitution and where this is the case as a new page begins, the page number will be shown in brackets in this fashion: [p. 463] The parts of the speech that are taken from The Founders’ Constitution appear in black while parts not available from this source are included in a different color and marked [Annals of Congress].*

* The Specific Citation for Uriah Tracy’s speech is Annals of Congress, 8th Congress, Senate Debates, 1st session pages 159-180 memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwaclink.html#anchor8. Pages quoted from this source are also noted in brackets at the start and end of those quoted pages on this website. —Gary Alder 2-14-2017

Page numbers for the Annals of Congress are now included throughout the entire document. —Gary Alder 2-17-2017

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Uriah Tracy’s Senate Speech Against the 12th Amendment Dec 2, 1803 –

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One from His Own State
Modified Federation
Simple Republic
Simple Republic 2
Simple Republic 3
Nominate Two Individuals for President
Federative vs. Popular
Public Will
Political Moderation

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