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vented. Another member of the kitchen cabinet, Amos Kendall, put himself in communication with an influential member of the Legislature of New Hampshire, and brought about the meeting of a legislative Caucus, which issued a formal summons for a national convention. The famous “Globe” newspaper, edited by a third member of the kitchen cabinet (F. P. Blair), pronounced the idea an excellent one, explaining that it was the best plan for “obtaining unanimity in the party and ensuring it lasting power.” Jackson's satellites in the other States took up the proposal on their part, and finally the scheme was brought to a successful issue. The convention, which met accordingly, acclaimed Jackson and nominated Martin Van Buren for the Vice-Presidency by a considerable majority (208 out of 283 votes). The number of delegates present was 344, from every State except Missouri.

The convention adopted some rules in its procedure which had very pregnant results in the future. It decided first of all that the majority of the delegation of each State should appoint one of themselves to vote on behalf of the State, each State being entitled to a number of votes equal to that which it possesses in the Electoral College. In this way the majority of the delegation not only suppressed the opinion of the dissentient members but appropriated their votes. Besides this the convention resolved that for the choice of candidates, as well as for all decisions connected therewith, a majority of two-thirds of all the votes should be requisite.? The effect of this rule was that even a majority of half plus one was reduced to the position of a minority, and that to escape therefrom it was obliged to take up with a solution which, perhaps, was not in accord with its real wishes, yielding to the exigencies or the maneuvres of a fraction which constituted the true minority.

The triumphant re-election of Jackson, in 1832, confirmed his prestige with the masses and his power over the “politicians," who obeyed him implicitly,— so much so that during the whole of the second term of his Presidency he was able not only to continue and accentuate his autocratic policy, but was even in a position to designate his successor, like a Roman emperor. It was the trusty Martin Van Buren, Vice-President by the grace of Jackson, who was destined to inherit the presidential office. And on this occasion again it was by means of a national convention that he was to be proposed to the suffrages of the Electors as the deliberate choice of the party. The opposition to this plan, which began to show itself at an early stage, was declared by Jackson to be high treason against the people. While in certain States the Legislatures pronounced for the summoning of a national convention, in others they rejected it, 3 having resolved to run another candidate (Hugh White), the nominee of a dissentient fraction of the party, against Van Buren. The convention met on the 20th of May, 1835; it was composed to a great extent of officeholders, that is, of men absolutely under the thumb of the administration. “The whole proceedings of the convention,' says a Baltimore newspaper, “has been management, management, management." 4 The New York delegation, with its leader, Silas Wright, Van Buren's ex-colleague in the Albany Regency, beat time, and the convention executed the required movements. Martin Van Buren was chosen candidate for the Presidency. But the followers of White in Tennessee would not disarm; they refused to recognize the nomination, contesting the right of the convention to impose a candidate. It is curious that among the objectors was a representative of Tennessee in Congress, J. K. Polk, the future President of the United States, nominated himself for the Presidency eight years later, by a convention, and who but for this would never have been able to attain, even in his wildest dreams, to the chief magistracy.' Greater weight attached to the resolution voted by the Senate of the Illinois Legislature, which proclaimed that every person eligible to the office of President had an incontestable right to come forward as a candidate for it, without the intervention of caucuses and conventions. “We disapprove," concluded the Senate, “of the system of conventions which Van Buren's party is endeavouring to thrust upon the American people, and we hold that this system is destructive of freedom of voting, contrary to republican institutions and dangerous to popular liberties." 2

1 An outline of this plan was given in a private letter from Lewis to Amos Kendall, published by Parton, Vol. III, p. 382.

Summary of the Proceedings of a convention of Republican delegates from the several States in the Union, for the purpose of nominating a candidate for the office of Vice-President of the United States, held at Baltimore, in the State of Maryland, May, 1832. Albany, 1832.

1 * You are at liberty to say on all occasions," wrote Jackson, in a letter of the 23d of February, 1835, intended for publication, “ that regarding the people as th true source of political power, I am always ready to bow to their will and to their judgment; that discarding all personal preferences, I consider the true policy of the friends of Republican principles to send delegates fresh from the people to a general convention, for the purpose of selecting candidates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, and that to impeach that selection before it is made, as an emanation of executive power, is to assail the virtue of the people, and in effect to oppose their right to govern (Niles, Vol. XLVIII, p. 81). 2 Ibid., p. 39.

3 Ibid., Vol. XLVII, p. 378. 4 The Baltimore Patriot, quoted by Niles, Vol. XLVIII, p. 248.


These protests were fruitless; they were not destined to be repeated; the system of national conventions was installed for good and all in American political life, and its power to dispose of party nominations was no longer to be challenged. The system was not yet thoroughly settled, but this was only a matter of time, of a few years. The anti-Jacksonian party, which had for some time past taken the name of Whig, did not hold a national convention for the election of 1836; allied with heterogeneous groups whose sole bond of union was hostility to Jackson, it could not hope to carry a general convention to a successful issue. The opposition therefore nominated several candidates, Whig and others, at one time in State conventions, at another by Legislatures, at another in public meetings. But this was the last occasion on which this variety of modes of presidential nominations, which we have seen arise after the collapse of. the congressional Caucus in 1824, occurred simultaneously. At the presidential election of 1840V Whigs and Democrats both had recourse to national conventions, which from that time became the only central official party organ.


The working of the new Organization revealed almost at once the unhealthy politico-social conditions amid which it

1 Niles, Vol. XLIX, p. 4.

2 Ibill., p. 381. 3 Some isolated examples of presidential nominations made outside national conventions may be found later on, but they were rather manifestations in favour of certain candidates thau formal nominations.

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was introduced. In the East as well as in the West it was monopolized by the politicians; the representative meetings of the party, in which the choice of the candidates had to be made, were too often only so in name; the mode in which they were got up and their decisions were marked by fraud and flagrant abuses. The primary meetings out of which sprang all the successive delegations constituting the hierarchy of the conventions were deserted by the great body of citizens, and the politicians, aided by their friends, easily got control of them and bestowed on themselves the nominations to the more or less lucrative posts which they coveted or which they wanted to keep. The Organization in all its grades was full of office-holders; they not only acted behind the scenes, but attended the various conventions in a body as delegates, and very often formed the great majority in these assemblies; ? in election time they devoted all their energies to the support of the candidates of their party. Attempts were repeatedly made to prohibit the intervention of public officers in politics, but without success. The committee appointed to examine the most important of the many proposals submitted to Congress with this object, the bill introduced into the Senate by Crittenden in 1838, declared in its report that "it was not merely the right but the duty of office-holders to busy themselves in elections, to shape public opinion, and to influence and to direct the people in the choice of their representatives,

1 The historian of Illinois, already quoted, states that “the people did not attend the primary meetings; a few only assembled who were nearest the places of meeting, and those were too often professional politicians, the loafers about the towns, who, having but little business of their own, were ever ready to attend to the affairs of the public. . . . Conventions themselves were got up and packed by cunning, active, intriguing politicians, to suit the wishes of a few. The mode of getting them up was for some active men to procure a few friends in each precinct of a county to hold primary meetings where delegates were elected to county conventions, who met at the county seats and nominated candidates for the Legislature and for county offices, and appointed other delegates to district and State conventions, to nominate candidates for Congress and for Governor"... (p. 206).

2 " At the late State convention to nominate a Governor, etc., at Herkimer," writes Niles in 1831, “there were present 119 members, of whom there were 69 public officers, and of these 69 no less than 19 were officers of the United States. It is thus in every State of the Union, and it is not worth while to use the many particulars that are before 18" (Vol. XLIII, p. 100). Many instances of similar facts are given passim in the same volume and in the following volumes of the Register.



and that if they withdrew themselves from this high responsibility they would deserve to be declared infamous and to be stigmatized as idiots and mutes.” The assembly adopted the conclusions of this report and ordered ten thousand copies of it to be printed, which were distributed throughout the States.' The officials openly neglected their duties for their “work” in the party organizations, because this “work" alone counted and bore fruit. “Politics is the business of the office-holder," observed a newspaper of the day,

as much as agriculture is the business of the farmer. is his trade, the craft by which he thrives. Hence he is interested to establish some means by which he may control them, and the conver ns are the very thing for him. The multitude cannot go to caucuses and conventions; they are necessarily made up of the office-holders and their agents; and when they once agree upon their man, he is put forth as the regular nomination.” 2

These few sarcastic remarks, in fact, put the whole case in a nutshell, showing as they do the raison d'être of the conventions and the character of the men who manipulated them, as well as the means by which they managed to carry their schemes and impose their will on the electorate. Their decisions commanded respect, because they were taken in the formal conventions of the party, because they appealed to its common creed. The notion of “regularity” which had crept in under the congressional Caucus survived it. Even in the absence, or rather owing to the absence, of distinctive principles forming a natural line of demarcation between the parties, this notion haunted minds seeking for some landmark in the void of ideas, and, conventional as it was, the regular nomination appeared to supply them not only with a practical criterion but with an ethical principle which could not be disregarded on pain of moral forfeiture. True, if the voter refused to vote for the candidates chosen by the convention, “no one could be punished for treason in so doing otherwise than by

1 Cf. the speech delivered at Louisa, Va., on the 9th of September, 1839, by W. C. Rives, who had been accused of having supported the “ gag law," as Crittenden's bill was called, in the Senate (Niles, Vol. LVII, p. 109).

2 The Newark Daily Advertiser, July, 1835, quoted by Niles, Vol. XLVIII,

P. 364.

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