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in nature that the individual elected by these means should not feel his dependence on those to whom he owes his office, or forego the practices which are essential to ensure its continuance, or its transmission in the desired succession. I dare not promise that the adoption of this amendment by the States will put an end to cabal, intrigue, and corruption in the appointment of a President. No human means can be adequate to that end. But I believe it demonstrable that this amendment will deprive cabals of facility in combination, render intrigue less systematic, and diminish the opportunities of corruption. ... Faction cannot but exist, but it will be rendered tolerant."
But the general ticket had its ardent defenders, who dwelt with vehemence on the dangers which the substitution for it of the district system would present from the standpoint of the rights of the States and the balance of power between the small States and the large ones. At the same time some of the most virulent champions of the general ticket admitted the serious abuses which had crept into the presidential election by declaring, like Randolph, that the appointment of Electors had become “a mockery - a shadow of a shade." But they insisted that the district system was no remedy, that the mischief lay, not in the electoral system, but in the practice of the Caucus: “Divide the State into districts, will that destroy the Caucus? Oh, no; the men whose interests it may be to preserve the monster will still protect him. He will laugh at your vain attempts, and again and again trampling down the weak defences of the Constitution, he will, as it shall please him, or rather as it shall please the existing Executive, make and unmake Presidents with the same ease as did the Prætorian cohorts the masters of the Roman world. ... No, Sir, let the majority of Congress cease to do evil. Let them scorn to be made the instrument of party, to elevate any man in violation of the Constitution. Let them meet no more in Caucus. Thus, and thus only, Sir, can the object be accom
1 Annals of Congress, ibid., speech of Gaston, pp. 842, 843; see also the speeches of Gholson, same sitting; of R. King and of Harper in the Senate, March 20, 1816.
Ibid., 14th Congress, 2d session; speech of Randolph, of the 18th December, 1816; of Grosvenor, of the 20th December, 1816; of Barbour in the Senate, January,
plished.”] The partisans of the district system, on their side, persisted in asserting that the “so objectionable practice was inseparable from any mode of undivided vote,” that it was this which made the Elector a machine set in motion by the caucusticket.
From year to year these arguments were repeated on both sides, but the solution of the question made no progress. The House of Representatives - where the populous States, which derived additional power from the general ticket system or from the appointment of the Electors by the Legislature, easily commanded a majority - systematically rejected all proposals for amending the Constitution. In the Senate, where the small States were represented on the same footing as the large ones, the district system met with a much more favourable reception. Three times the amendment obtained the constitutional majority in the States' chamber, but it was never able to command two-thirds of the votes in the popular section of Congress. The fortress of the general ticket thus remained intact, and, under its shelter, the Caucus continued its existence.
Yet the external defences with which the general ticket encircled the Caucus could not long protect it, for its own forces were giving way, the two great forces, social and political, of the leadership and of the categorical imperative of the party. They had been slowly but steadily declining almost from the beginning of the century which witnessed the elevation of Jefferson and the triumph of democratic doctrines in the theories of government. The annihilation of the Federalists put an end to the division into parties, and Jefferson's famous remark, “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists," was destined shortly to represent the real state of things. The survivors of the Federalist party gradually fused with the Republicans, and when Monroe came into power, the old landmarks were definitively obliterated; the Constitution which had aroused so many passions and animosities now inspired every citizen with sentiments of admiration and
1 Speech of Grosvenor, quoted above.
adoration; under its ægis the country was advancing with giant strides, released from all party preoccupation; "the era of good feelings” had dawned in political life. And yet the Congressional Caucus, in putting forward its candidates, repeated the old refrain which exhorted the people to rally round them to confront the enemy, when there was no enemy; it invoked the sovereign cause of the party when the "party" no longer had any particular cause and represented only a memory of the past. But the less the ruling politicians were separated by differences on points of principle, the more readily did their narrow circle become a field for intestine strife and for intrigue. Hardly had Monroe's second administration begun (in 1821), when they were seized with the “fever of president making.” Several candidatures arosc; all the candidates claimed to represent the firm of the Republican "party"; each candidate had his friends in Congress, who intrigued and plotted for him, waging a secret and pitiless war on all his rivals. They would have been glad enough to back up their claims with principles, with "great principles,” but no distinctive principles could be discovered, not even with a magnifying glass. One of the candidates for the Presidency, Crawford, hit upon another expedient: being Secretary of the Treasury in Monroe's administration, and disposing of a somewhat extensive patronage, of places and favours to bestow, he did not scruple to use them to secure adherents. These bargainings and cabals seemed to justify the complaints of the intervention of members of Congress in the presidential elections, so often made in the course of the periodical debates on the general ticket. The prestige of the leadership could no longer shield the practices which were indulged in at Washington, for this prestige was profoundly impaired; it had been systematically undermined for a quarter of a century by the social and economic revolution which was going on in the American republic.
The politico-social hierarchy which Puritanism had set up in New England, and which was the outcome of an alliance
1 "Could we only hit upon a few great principles and unite their support with that of Crawford " (one of the candidates), wrote a Senator on his side,
we should succeed beyond doubt." (Martin Van Buren, by E. M. Shepard, p. 92).
between the magistracy, the clergy, property, and culture, was collapsing. The eclipse of the Federalists, who were the living image of government by leaders, robbed it of one of its strongest supports. The influence of the clergy, which had been one of the main props of the Federalists, was being thrust out of lay society. On the other side of the Alleghanies, on the virgin soil of the West, a new world was growing up, free from all traditions, because it had no past; instinct with equality, because its inhabitants, who were all new-comers, parvenus in the elementary sense of the word, resembled each other. And this country of the West was advancing daily in population, in wealth, and in political importance. The old States were also celebrating great triumphs, due to the marvellous rise of their commerce and their industry; but their new prosperity acted rather as a dissolvent of the old order of things, it created a new class of rich men, composed of successful merchants and manufacturers; these nouveaux riches supplanted the old ones, without, however, taking their place in the esteem and the reverence of the people. The rapid growth of the cities helped to destroy the old social ties. At the same time the individual was being directly urged by men and things to shake off the old servitudes, or what was represented to him as such. The triumph of Jefferson, in 1801, without effecting a democratic revolution in habits, gave an extraordinary impulse to the propaganda of democratic ideas, made them the object of an almost ritual cult. Politicians vied with each other in repeating that the voice of the people is the voice of God, that before the majesty of the people everything should bow. Writers popularized and gave point to these ideas. In pamphlets composed for the farmers and the mechanics they preached a crusade against “money power, banks, judges appointed by the government, and against all the other aristocratic institutions, the sole existence of which was an insult to the sovereign people.
The lesson which the American citizen learnt from things was not less stimulating. Material comfort was increasing
1 Cf. W. Duane, Politics for American Farmers, being a series of tracts exhibiting the blessings of free government as it is administered in the United States, compared with the boasted stupendous fabric of British monarchy. Washington, 1807.
with unprecedented rapidity. The series of great inventions which marked the beginning of the century, the steamers which sped to and fro over the vast republic, at that time richer in large rivers than in roads, the natural wealth which sprang from the soil, gave each and all a share in the profits of the economic revolution. Endless vistas of activity opened before every inhabitant of the Union; the soul of the American citizen swelled with pride, with the confidence of the man who is self-sufficing, who knows no superiors. The political sovereignty which was conceded to him with so much deference soon appeared to him as a personal chattel. And then to exercise his proprietary right over the commonwealth, he had no need of another person's intelligence; was it necessary for his success in private life? The leading citizens, therefore, who in Congress or in the Legislature of his State, meeting in caucus, dictated to him his line of conduct, the choice of his representatives, became a set of usurpers in his eyes. Jealous of their pretended superiority, he grew impatient of their domination.
The small group of these trained politicians, assembled in the capital of the Union, was now plunged in intrigues aiming at the chief magistracy of the republic, and these intrigues were about to have their dénouement in the Congressional Caucus, if the established precedent were followed on this occasion again. Would it be followed? Would they dare to do it? - were questions asked in various quarters. And before long the Union became the scene of a violent controversy about the next meeting of the Congressional Caucus; it was discussed in the Press, it occupied the public meetings, the State Legislatures voted resolutions upon it. One of the candidates for the Presidency, Andrew Jackson, who was not a politician, and who was in more than one respect a homo novus, could count but little on the favour of the Congressional Caucus; so his electoral managers came to the conclusion that to make his success more certain it was indispensable to overthrow the Caucus, and they therefore took an important part in the campaign started against it. Most of the numerous manifestations of public opinion were hostile to the Caucus.
1 On this point we have the evidence, not to say the avowal, of Jackson's principal election agent, Major Lewis, in the Narrative which he supplied to Parton, Jackson's biographer (Life of A. Jackson, III, 21).