« AnteriorContinuar »
gations, to pay for past electoral services as well. Lincoln himself happened to be in this predicament, and he was the first to do as he was bid. At the Republican national convention of Chicago the wire-pullers who supported Lincoln concluded, without his knowledge, a bargain with two important delegations, those of Pennsylvania and Indiana, by the terms of which the latter promised to vote for Lincoln, who in return was to give their favourites, Caleb Smith of Indiana and Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, posts in the cabinet. As typical "politicians,” both of them had little to recommend them in point of moral qualities for the highest positions in the Republic. The appointment of Cameron in particular gave rise to strong protests from respectable citizens of his own State. But the managers of the convention, who had carried the vote in favour of Lincoln, insisted on his redeeming the promise made by them for his benefit. Lincoln's position was a most embarrassing one. He is supposed to have said: “All that I am in the world,- the Presidency and all else, -I owe to that opinion of me which the people express when they call me 'honest old Abe.' Now, what will they think of their honest Abe, when he appoints Simon Cameron to be his familiar adviser?”? He made the appointment. The result was what might have been expected. The war department entrusted to Cameron, which had just at that time to cope with exceptional difficulties of organization, became a hotbed of corruption. The numerous bargains and contracts entered into for the requirements of the war by Cameron's administration were tainted with fraud, to the greater advantage of the Secretary's relations and friends. At last Lincoln was forced by public opinion to intervene; he relieved Cameron of his post and appointed him to an important embassy in Europe. Probably the same considerations of “honour and safety” which, according to Lincoln's biographer, had prevented him from repudiating the compact made by the wire-pullers, precluded him from simply dismissing the man of the Chicago convention. In very many cases of less importance Lincoln showed the same deference to the demands of the influential personages of the party Organization; he let them have places for their protéyés, even for unworthy ones.? Besides making more than once appointments inspired solely by the interests of the party, the President had no scruple about intervening, if necessary, in election contests to support the "regular" candidates with all the weight of his authority.”
1 Lamon, The Life of Lincoln, p. 460. Cf. A. K. McClure, Abraham Lincoln and Men of War Times, Philad., 1892, 3d ed., pp. 138-147.
Throughout the whole of the Civil War the situation was too critical to dispense with the services of the system of party organization which, in the terrible struggle that the Government of the North had to maintain, placed its rear in safety. After the victory the Organization had to receive its share in the results, and while the opponents of slavery tried with feverish ardour to gather up and preserve the moral fruits of the victory, the Republican Organization showed no less eagerness to grasp its material advantages. It flung itself at a bound on the reconquered States of the South, and carried out to the letter the famous maxim of “the spoils to the victor.” The territory which the Organization invaded had hitherto almost escaped from the system introduced by the Jacksonian Democracy after the eclipse of the leadership embodied in the legislative Caucus. The social and economic conditions which favoured the establishment and the development of the popular party Organization in the North and in the West did not exist in the South. The South and the rest of the Union formed practically two nations, two different races, each with a distinct civilization.
1 G.W. Julian records a typical case, in which, having warned the President against a bad appointment which he was about to make, he received the following reply: “There is much force in what you say; but in the balancing of matters, I guess I shall have to appoint him” (Political Recollections,
2 Julian also relates a case of this official pressure exerted in his own favour: In 1814 the local convention in Indiana nominated Julian as candidate for Congress; but the editor of a local newspaper set to work to patronize Julian's opponent, who had been rejected by the convention, and was standing as an independent candidate. And as the editor of the newspaper was at the same time a federal office-holder, Julian appealed to Lincoln. You can rest assured,” replied the President, “that Mr. Holloway (this was the name of the editor-official] shall support you openly and unconditionally, or lose his head." As a matter of fact, Holloway, on a threat of dismissal, had to give way (ibid., p. 241).
With the steam era in full swing, the slave-holding South remained an essentially agricultural country, of scattered populations, and relatively few and unimportant urban agglomerations, in which manufacturing industry was barely represented, and the arts and crafts had attained a very moderate degree of development. Slave labour excluded all free effort, and kept the South apart from the economic movement which carried away the North and the West in a sort of whirlwind. It prevented the rise of a powerful middle class, composed of small farmers, like those who constituted the moral force of New England, of captains of industry, of manufacturers, of leading traders, of superior artisans, who drew from their material independence and from the success achieved by their dogged and untrammelled will the consciousness of their dignity as men and citizens. Immediately beneath a somewhat limited number of planters, in addition to the coloured slaves, came a wretched mass of men of white race, “mean whites,” sunk in ignorance and poverty, physically free, but kept by their wretchedness in a close economical and political dependence on the planters. The latter, as the sole possessors of wealth, formed a ruling class in the State which was the flat negation of democracy; in the South the republican form required by the Constitution of the Union covered an oligarchical power wielded by a few thousand rich planters. They formed an élite which in more than one respect presented a striking resemblance to the old gentry of England, and combined with the chivalrous qualities of a feudal race a fair intellectual culture, which they derived not so much from authors as from orators, like the Greeks in the agora, and a great breadth of mind, except in what concerned the institution of slavery, which warped their judgment and impaired their moral sense. Drawing into their orbit the less wealthy planters and the men of liberal professions in the cities, this élite wielded an even vaster and stronger social and political leadership than that which obtained in England in the old days, for the reason that the structure of the society of the South and of its political life was more égalitaire, more levelled; that there was no hereditary aristocratic class, separated, if not by the law, at all events by social conventions, from the rest of the population; and that all the members of the white race, down to the wretchedest, were united, owing to slavery, in the same feelings and prejudices and in the same interests; in a word, because the moral cohesion of society in the South was perfect, and made it a sort of vast family or clan, in which the younger members followed their elders spontaneously and naturally. Respect for authority in all its forms was absolute.
This state of things created a political atmosphere which was anything but favourable to the birth and development of the two primordial elements of political life in the Northern States, that is to say, of the democratic formalism which took possession of the public mind, and of the race of mercenary politicians who, under cover of this formalism, laid hands on the political machinery. The great mass of voters had no need of the abstract notion of “regularity” and of cut-and-dried resolutions of the would-be representative conventions for shaping their policy; they followed implicitly the men to whom they were bound as if by feudal ties; every great family had its political following, with a crowd of dependents, great and small, who rushed up at the first summons. Again, even apart from the restrictions on the suffrage which prevailed in the old States of the South, politics and the principal public functions were practically a monopoly of the ruling class. Politics were for this class not so much a career as a vocation; young members of good families were initiated into it at an early age, and tempered their southern ardour in the controversies of the day on constitutional law in which the women themselves took an interest. It was almost always from this class, and from among the men who gravitated towards it, that the members of the legislative assemblies, and of Congress in particular, were recruited. As a rule, they were kept in their posts for years together, the great Democratic principle of rotation being by no means in favour. The executive offices were also unaffected by it, and attracted men of distinction all the more naturally that the latter were seldom able to find a situation in commerce or industry, which were in a very backward state. The elective functions were few in number; most of the offices were filled up by the executive or by the Legislature. In one of the most important States,in South Carolina, — down to 1861, the presidential Electors themselves were not chosen by the people, but appointed by the Legislature, as was the practice in some States of the North in the days of the congressional Caucus.
The need, therefore, of a party election machinery did not make itself felt here to the same extent as in the North and in the West, and the convention system did not acquire the same importance in the South. There was little of the same formal regularity in it; the lower grades of local conventions, those of counties and of districts, hardly existed at all in practice; besides, the communal elections were generally uninfluenced by party considerations; the State conventions were more gatherings of leading men, who were brilliant speakers as well, than the product of successive delegations formed according to rule. This was the case especially in the old States,-Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, - where the social leadership was particularly strong and the drift of public opinion was all in one direction. In the newer States of Tennessee and Kentucky, in which society was more democratic and parties were evenly balanced, the party Organization was more highly developed. But, taken as a whole, it was far behind that of the North, leaving the electorate a very considerable amount of independence in the South. Very often the candidates came forward of their own accord, without having received the investiture of any convention, a thing which had become wellnigh a physical impossibility in the North. Nor was there the same need, in the South, of the committees which canvassed the voters in concert with the candidates. The candidates as a rule did not meddle with electioneering; their special field of activity was the stump, in which they broke a lance with their opponents, and in debates with the rival candidates they treated the public and themselves to tournaments of eloquence which flattered their chivalrous tastes. The victor in the debate was afterwards the victor at the polls. The necessary amount of wire-pulling, more of a patriarchal kindl, was done, not by professionals, but by natural go-betweens, the most important of whom were the overseers of slaves on the large plantations. These individuals, who played a considerable part in the economy of Southern society, served as a connecting link
1 “The best man in debate won the votes at the polls" (The Life and Times of W. L. Yuncey, by J. W. Du Bose, Birmingham, Ala., 1892, p. 139).