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the Presidency by the Caucus were not so much its creatures as men designated beforehand by public opinion, or by a very considerable section of it, owing to their great services and their character. The Caucus has none the less produced untoward effects, which were destined to weigh heavily on the whole future of the Republic, by establishing disastrous precedents and habits of mind which American political life has never been able to throw off: nullifying the scheme devised by the framers of the Constitution for the presidential election and transforming the Electors into lay figures, the Caucus has made the chief magistracy of the Union an object of wire-pulling; and to get its schemes sanctioned by the people, it has implanted within them a respect for party conventionalism, for its external badge, has drilled them into a blind acceptance of regular nominations,
As the authors of the manifesto issued on behalf of the last Congressional Caucus had foreseen, its collapse entailed that of the whole system of nomination for elective offices by caucuses. The legislative caucuses in the States had also to retire before the rising democratic tide. Their ranks had already been broken into before the explosion of democratic feeling, which began with the third decade of this century. In the legislative caucuses composed only of members of the party in the Legislature the districts in which their party was in a minority were left unrepresented, and yet decisions were taken in them which bound the party in the whole State; sometimes, even, the caucus represented only the minority of the party in the State. To meet the complaints made on this score, caucuses decided, towards the latter part of the first decade, to take in delegates elected ad hoc by the members of the party in the districts which had no representatives in the Legislature. In this way a popular element was introduced into the oligarchical body of the caucuses and with powers expressly conferred. It mattered little that this innovation was not due, in the first instance, to the feeling that the caucus was usurping the rights of the people, but to the fact that it did not provide the party with a materially complete representa
tion. The gap was made, and it was destined to go on widening until the whole people could enter by it. Rhode Island is perhaps the first to supply an example of a “mixed” caucus, about the year 1807, for the nomination of candidates to the high offices of the State. The following year we see it introduced into Pennsylvania, after a campaign in which the proposal to entrust the nomination of the candidates to special delegates did not find much favour with the population, which held that the sending of delegates would cause "trouble and expense" and divisions in the party into the bargain. It was the Republican caucus which, to silence the rival faction, itself invited the counties represented by non-Republicans to send delegates on the basis of local representation to the Legislature, to join with the Republican members of the Legislature in nominating candidates for the post of Governor and Lieutenant-Governor. This first mixed caucus met on the 7th of March, 1808, at Lancaster. The violent strife of factions which filled the political life of Pennsylvania produced in about ten years a new variation in the constitution of the bodies which made the nominations of the candidates. The sharp attacks of the faction of the "Old-school Democrats ” on the “intrigues of the Executive, and of his servants the Assembly men,” decided their rivals to summon, in 1817, at Harrisburg, a popular convention of delegates from the counties, in which the members of the Legislature were to sit only in the absence of special envoys from their county. The name of convention, which, from the very beginning, was used to designate gatherings of citizens from several places, or “ general meetings," became in the meantime the regular appellation of the representative meetings of delegates. The Harrisburg convention was attended by sixty-nine delegates and forty-four members of the State Assembly. The “mixed caucus” thus made room for the “mixed convention,” the principle and basis of which were of a popular nature, and to which the members of the Legislature were admitted on a subsidiary footing only. Very often they received a quasi
1 Neil Andrews, The Develop. of the Nomin. Conven, in Rhode Island.
2 Pennsylvania Politics early in this Century, by W. M. Meigs (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XVII, Philad. 1873).
2 M. Carey, The Olive Branch, 1818, p. 462. - Meigs, the article just quoted.
mandate to this effect: the populations, who did not care about choosing special delegates, "authorized” their representatives in the Legislature to sit in their stead; or, again, the convention admitted them by a special vote, they were
voted in as members.” 1
The mixed convention was destined to be replaced eventually by the pure convention, composed solely of popular delegates elected on each occasion ad hoc. This last form of convention gave a definitive and permanent form, in party government, to the principle and the practice of the authority delegated by the people, the haphazard antecedents of which we have seen arise at the dawn of the American Republic, in the conferences of delegates of the townships of the county, or of delegates of several counties, or even in the sporadic conventions of State delegates. The first pure convention was organized in Pennsylvania in opposition to the first mixed convention of Harrisburg, and on the same day, by the rival faction, which declared beforehand that the Harrisburg convention was only a "mongrel Caucus,” and convened its own at Carlisle. Yet the “ mongrel Caucus” won the day, and it was not till 1823 that both parties adopted the system of pure conventions.
In most of the other States the legislative caucus disappeared more slowly. In the State of New York the democratic society of Tammany demands, as early as 1813, the summoning of a convention of delegates for the nomination of candidates for the posts of Governor and Lieutenant-Governor. But no effect is given to this recommendation; the legislative caucus holds the field. The first mixed caucus appears in New York, as a party move, only in 1817, and in 1824 it is still the caucus which makes the State nominations. But in the course of the same year the conventions of delegates started by the convention of Utica, which was "called to put down the caucus," are permanently established. “The whole caucus system,” as was proclaimed at this convention, “had been execrated deep from the hearts of the people. A
1 This procedure was followed in Rhode Island, in 1825. See Neil Andrews, op. cit.
2 Meigs, loc. cit.; Walton, loc. cit. For the nomination of presidential Electors precedents are found of pure conventions in Pennsylvania, even before 1817.
3 Hammond, I, 437; II, 156.
tone of indignation and disgust at it had gone forth in the land. It could no longer stand.” In Massachusetts it is only in 1823 that special delegates are added to the members of the legislative caucus.” In Rhode Island, where the participation of popular delegates in nominations made by the members of the Legislature was introduced at an early stage, the people shows no readiness to depute its delegates. In 1824 it appears that barely a few towns responded to the appeal to send delegates; that in a convention of more than seventy members there are not more than twelve or sixteen who have been really elected. In several States the pure legislative caucus continued to make the nominations of Governor and Lieutenant-Governor even for some time after 1824.
These facts, which show how great the popular inertia, the force of habit, or the prestige of the leadership, were in face even of the rising tide of democracy, explain in a concrete way how the Congressional Caucus was able, in spite of the attacks made on it, to hold its own for no less than a quarter of a century and wield its oligarchical power, with the aid of a few small groups of men scattered throughout the Union. But if democratic feeling did not at once become an irresistible force, if it did not advance by leaps and bounds, it none the less accumulated in the mind of the nation by a daily, hourly process, while the legislative caucus, giving birth to the mixed caucus and the mixed convention, was itself paving the way for the new cadres; only an accident was required to make the pent-up force explode and shatter the old ones. This accident was the fall of the Congressional Caucus of 1824, which sheltered the old leadership, which supplied it with a centre of action. And its collapse was all the more complete that the “ party on which it leaned had long since lost all vitality, having no longer any distinctive principles or object and aim of its own. Everything therefore tumbled down at
1 Tro speeches delivered in the New York State Convention, September, 1824, with the proceedings of the convention, N. Y. 1824, p. 11. -Cf. the Autobiography of Thurlow Weed, Boston, 1883, p. 117, who says that the convention which met at Utica in August (24 September?), 1824, was the beginning of a new political era.
2 Niles, XXIII, 343. And even this mixed caucus did not make State nominations, but busied itself with the impending nomination for the Presidency of the Union.
3 Neil Andrews, op. cit.