In Essay #68, The Mode of Electing the President, Alexander Hamilton is specific about the goal of the process to select the President of the United States.
Here is that goal, in Hamilton’s words:
“The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
The intent of the Founding Fathers in creating a government was that it should be based on the will of the people, but designed in such a way to prevent mob rule – the very fault that had brought down historical democracies.
In designing the electoral college, therefore, the founders sought to insulate the selection of president from the convulsions of the multitudes. The college was essentially an extra layer of security to help guarantee that the president would be a truly capable individual. The people would be insulated and protected.
In Hamilton’s words, “It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.”
Thus it became possible for one candidate to win the popular vote – yet lose in the electoral college.
Credit for the summary and analysis of Essay #68 is given to Brittany Nelson and Christopher Higgins (second revision 09/15/2011). Weinbloom, Elizabeth ed. “The Federalist Papers Essay #68 Summary and Analysis”. GradeSaver, 30 December 2011 Web. 17 February 2019.