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and power. When they had settled it they separated, and used each their particular influence within his own circle. He and his friends would furnish themselves with ballots, including the names of the parties fixed upon, which they distributed on the day of election. By acting in concert, together with a careful and extensive distribution of ballots, they generally carried the elections to their own mind. In like manner it was that Mr. Samuel Adams first became a representative for Boston.” 1
Another description of the Caucus, dating from February, 1763, is given in the journal of John Adams, who was himself about to become one of its most important members: “This day learned that the Caucus club meets at certain times in the garret of Tom Dawes, the Adjutant of the Boston regiment. He has a large house, and he has a movable partition in his garret which he takes down, and the whole club meets in one
There they smoke tobacco till you cannot see from one end of the garret to the other. There they drink flip, I suppose, and they choose a moderator who puts questions to the vote regularly; and selectmen, assessors, collectors, fire-wards, and representatives are regularly chosen before they are chosen in the town." 2
The club now had such a recognized authority with the public that it addressed open appeals to the electorate signed with its title of “The Caucas.” Soon afterwards, probably for more forcible action in different parts of the town, two other Caucuses were formed, the South End Caucus and the Middle District Caucus, which, in concert with the first, the North End Caucus, promoted the cause of the Patriots. It was the North End
i The History of the Independence of the United States of America, Lond. 1788, I, 365.
2 The Works of John Adams, Boston, 1850, Vol. II, p. 144.
3 The Boston Evening Post of the 14th May, 1764, contains the following notice: “To the freeholders, etc. – Modesty preventing a personal application (customary in other places) for your interest to elect particular persons to be your representatives, we therefore request your votes for those gentlemen who have steadily adhered to your interest in times past, especially in the affair of Trade by sending timely instructions requested by our agent, relative to Acts of Trade, late pending in Parliament.
“ Your humble servants,
" The Caucas." (Reproduced in R. Frothingham, The Rise of the Republic of the United States, Boston, 1872, p. 169.)
4 Life and Times of Joseph Warren, by R. Frothingham, Bust. 1858, p. 50. 1 History of the Siege of Boston, B. 1849, pp. 29, 30, by R. Frothingham, and Life of Warren, 238,240, by the same author, who had in his possession the anthentic minutes of the North End “Caucas” for the period from 1772– 1774. The book bore the inscription, “ Began 1767 records lost.”
Caucus which decided to resist "with their lives and fortunes" the introduction of the tea on which the home government had imposed a duty, and instigated the famous demonstration in Boston harbour when the English cargoes were thrown into the sea.It was also to the initiative of the members of the Caucus, and especially of one of them, Samuel Adams, that was due the creation of the "corresponding committees,” of that formidable organization of the patriotic party which paved the way for the Revolution and independence. The corresponding committee of Boston, composed of twenty-one members chosen in public meeting by all the duly qualified electors, took up the agitation openly, at the instigation of the Caucus, which operated secretly. In imitation of the Boston corresponding committee numerous committees were formed throughout the colony of Massachusetts, chosen in each town either in public meetings or by the legal voters. The other colonies, with Virginia at their head, followed this example; their committees were appointed by the colonial assemblies, but before long popular committees arose by the side of them, elected in the towns by the votes of the inhabitants. The corresponding committees kept up regular relations between all the parts of the future republic, convened conferences of delegates of the district, exhorted the population to unity, and implanted in the public mind the resolve to withstand British oppression; acting in broad daylight, they mobilized, so to speak, the opinion of the colonies, to intimidate the government of George III and bring it to its knees. Then when the means of an amicable solution of the conflict were exhausted, the combustible matter accumulated by the corresponding committees caught fire and kindled the great conflagration which destroyed England's rule over her American colonies forever.
2 The minutes of the Caucus which have just been referred to disclose that the Caucus summoned the correspondence committee before it ..."appointing a committee of three to wait on the committee of correspondence and desire their attendance...."
3 The Rise of the Republic, 313, 327.
The secession of the colonies put an end to the task of the corresponding committees. The constitutional liberty for the defence of which they had risen was assured by arms. But it was often menaced by the Americans themselves during the early years of the new republic, which were so full of troubles. The great economic distress which afflicted the whole country after the close of the war, and which often made men seek a remedy in such panaceas as the unlimited issue of paper money or still more extravagant measures, brought out groups of malcontents, who organized representative conventions to remonstrate with the constituted authorities, with the Assemblies, or even to step into their place. This movement gave rise, during the years 1784-1786, to a whole mass of “county conventions" in the States of New England, especially in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. These conventions of delegates, however, in which the petty extempore politicians held forth, had an ephemeral existence; after a noisy session of a few days they dispersed. A few years afterwards, when the Constitution was already firmly established, the contagion of the French Revolution produced in the United States, as in England, political organizations on a permanent basis, in the form of Democratic Societies," which were an imitation of the Paris Jacobins Club. They soon spread into all the States, into the towns and the villages, and, by means of corresponding committees, kept up relations with each other. Under the pretence of defending liberty and the rights of man, they indulged in demonstrations which constantly grew noisier and more extravagant. They voted resolutions denouncing tyrants and approving the Paris Jacobins, applauded all the excesses of the Terror, glorified the French Revolutionists at banquets, and furiously attacked all the constituted authorities in the United States. The Democratic Societies became an element of disturbance and a menace to public order, so much so that President Washington, in his message to Congress of the 4th of November, 1794, felt obliged to call the attention of the country to these “self-created societies.” They tried to defend themselves, but did not find favour with the public. The defeat of the French Terrorists on the 9th Thermidor, which shortly supervened, completed the discredit of the American political clubs, and after a few years they expired, while continuing up to their last moments to vent their malignant invective and to envenom the election campaigns.
1 Cf. McMaster, History of the People of the United States, 1, 306-312, 337. & See above, Vol. I, p. 124.
The election contests, which were too often exceedingly keen in those days, were not so much between parties clearly divided by principles and programmes, as between factions torn by local and personal rivalries. Even on the great stage of the political life of the new republic, in the Congress of the United States, the division into parties produced by divergent interpretations of the Constitution took some time to consolidate itself and acquire an organization. Washington's great authority imposed, during his presidency, a sort of truce, not strictly observed, however, on the animosities of the extreme Democrats, led by Jefferson, and of their “Federalist " opponents, whose most brilliant representative was Hamilton. The local organization of parties was consequently still more slow to grow up; in any event, it had at the outset no need of a rigid structure, for the reason that the number of voters was generally limited by the qualifications for the franchise, that the elective offices were not numerous, and finally because in American society, especially in New England, there was still a ruling class, that is to say, groups of men who, owing to their character, their wealth, and their social position, commanded the confidence of their fellow-citizens and made them accept their leadership without a murmur. The candidates were nominated in town meetings or county meetings, but in reality these general gatherings simply ratified selections made beforehand by the small coteries of leaders in their private caucuses, so that it may be said with an excellent historian that the latter “were still the skeleton of the party organization."
1 Thus on the occasion of the presidential election of 1796, John Adams was attacked with extraordinary violence in Pennsylvania by the democratic clubs (cf. McMaster, II, 297).
2 Alexander Johnston's Nominating Conventions (Lalor's Cyclopædia of Political Science).
In Pennsylvania, where the strife of factions was particularly keen, a rough outline of an elective organization of parties appeared sooner than elsewhere, but for a considerable time it proceeded by uncertain and unconnected spurts in which it would be difficult to discover a regular evolution. We do find at a pretty early stage traces of meetings composed of delegates who were supposed, more or less rightly, to have been chosen by their respective townships (as was the case with the ephemeral county conventions of 1786 in Massachusetts), but more often these county meetings, where candidatures were adopted, were mass-meetings open to all, in which the people of the neighbourhood were numerous, while the inhabitants of the more remote localities were barely represented. To nominate candidates for elective offices which went beyond the limits of the county, the views of the inhabitants of various counties were often ascertained by means of a very extensive correspondence; a number of circulars were despatched, and from the replies received a list was drawn up of the candidates who had received the most votes, and it was returned by the same channel for ratification by the counties. These consultations were led by a few public-spirited men with a taste for election work, who made themselves a corresponding committee for the occasion. Side by side with this mode of proceeding another was also practised, which consisted of making the nomination of the candidates for the Senate of the State or for the Federal Congress in conferences of representatives of various counties (“conferees," "electors "), appointed for this purpose in county meetings, and of submitting the selections to the ratification of the general county meetings, which, as in the primitive democracies, theoretically retained their full powers. The practice of delegation gained ground, however, and in the first years of this century it seems to have been already fairly common in the counties. There were a few isolated attempts, the first of which even goes back to the year 1788,' to bring together delegates from the whole State for nominating candidates for Congress or for the elec
1 Two more instances are perhaps to be found in Pennsylvania, during the twenty-five or thirty years after 1788, to wit, in 1792 and 1812. relating to these conventions and for the other antecedents of the organization of parties in Pennsylvania, see Nominating Conventions in Pennsylvania, by J. S. Walton (The American Historical Review, January, 1897).
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