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the people. At each successive remove, the voice of the people will become less full and distinct, until at last it will become so faint and imperfect as not to be audible. To drop metaphor, I hold it impossible to form a scheme more calculated to annihilate the control of the people over the presidential election, and vest it in those who make politics a trade and who live or expect to live on the government.” Then Calhoun points out that the convention, the representation of which is modelled on that of the States in the Congress, is in no way a faithful reflection of the party in the different States, the States where the party is in a minority, even in a hopeless minority, sending to the convention as complete a number of delegates as the States where the party is in a very large majority, so that a small fraction of the party can thrust its candidate on the majority, upon which the President and his Administration will have to lean. “Objectionable," proceeds Calhoun, "as I think a congressional caucus for nominating a President, it is in my opinion far less so than a convention constituted as is proposed. The former had indeed many things to recommend it. Its members, consisting of senators and representatives, were the immediate organs of the State Legislatures, or the people; were responsible to them, respectively, and were for the most part of higher character, standings, or talents. They voted per capita, and, what is very important, they represented fairly the relative strength of the party in their respective States. In all these important particulars it was all that could be desired for a nominating body, and yet could not be borne by the people in the then purer days of the republic. I, acting with General Jackson and most of the leaders of the party at that time, contributed to put it down, because we believed it to be liable to be acted on and influenced by the patronage of the government - an objection far more applicable to a convention constituted as the one proposed than to a congressional caucus. Far, however, was it from my intention in aiding to put that down, to substitute in its place what I regard as a hundred times more objectionable in every point of view.”
1 Works, Vol. VI, pp. 240-249.
An anonymous pamphlet published about the same time at Washington under the title of " An Appeal to the Democratic Party on the principles of a
The triple eclipse, compulsory or voluntary, of Van Buren, of Clay, and of Calhoun, witnessed by the presidential year of 1844, marked in a definitive way the transfer of the supreme power, under the system of the conventions, to the inferior set of men. Those of the great surviving leaders who attempted to return to the charge only exposed themselves to bitter humiliation. Pursued by his dream of becoming President, Clay stood again in 1848, but the Whig National Convention again rejected him as "unavailable" and once more gave the preference to an obscure "military hero.” The meanness of the devices resorted to at the national convention for keeping out the great Whig leader must have thrown into the shade the odiousness of the first“ base betrayal ” of 1810. But this conduct was now in no way exceptional, as a friend of Clay pointed out when he wrote to him in his letter of condolence: “The party leaders, the men who make Presidents, will never consent to elevate one greatly their superior; they suffer too much by the contrast, their aspirations are checked, their power is circumscribed, the clay cannot be moulded into an idol suited to their worship.” 1 Or as Benton said in less figurative language: “The man they choose must always be a character of no force, that they may rule him; and they rule always to their advantage, constituting a power behind the throne greater than the throne.” 2
When the nomination of Polk at the convention became known, there was a general cry of astonishment throughout the land: “Who is Polk?" But the country was destined to receive at the band of the conventions even more inferior candidates for the succession to the Washingtons, the Jeffersons, and the Jacksons. Polk was only the first of a long line of “dark horses ” who at the last moment won the party race. As an eminent man could not be agreed on at the convention, after a good many intrigues a dark horse was put forward. After a number of fruitless ballots the dark horse appeared all at once on the course, labouring along with a few votes behind
national convention for the nomination of President and Vice-President of the United States," and reprinted in the Charleston Mercury and then in Niles: Register, Vol. LXIII, pp. 258 seq., develops the same considerations in an argument of remarkable logical power which unquestionably betrays Calhoun's authorship.
1 Private Correspondence of Jinry Clay, quoted by Holst, Vol. I, p. 597. 2 Thirty Years' View, Vol. II, p. 595.
the cracks; but gradually he outstripped them, and before long was seen to be leading. Thus in 1852 Franklin Pierce was proposed for the first time at the twenty-fifth ballot by fifteen supporters; at the forty-fifth he had not more than twentynine; at the forty-eighth he managed to get fifty-five; at the forty-ninth he obtained two hundred and eighty-two, almost a unanimous vote. Completely unknown the day before, he was placed at the head of the nation. Pierce was succeeded by Buchanan, also a weak man. And it was with helmsmen of this calibre that the ship of the Union was nearing the terrible storm which the slavery question was preparing for it.
The people were helpless. Imprisoned in the convention system and the dogma of “regularity,” they could only ratify unconditionally the selections made for them, and Benton was not far from the truth when he said: “The people have no more control over the selection of the man who is to be the President than the subjects of kings have over the birth of the child who is to be their ruler.” “And,” added this old associate of Jackson and Van Buren, "until this system (the convention system) is abolished, and the people resume their rights, the elective principle of our government is suppressed.”] The democratic evolution appeared to contradict these apprehensions; in face of the convention system, the elective principle was continually extending in the government, it was applied even to judicial functions. For more than half a century the appointments to judgeships in all the States (excepting Georgia) had been quite beyond the reach of the fluctuations of the popular vote; they rested with the executive or the Legislatures; but the West became impatient of the conservative barrier of an irremovable judiciary, and in 1832 the State of Mississippi inaugurated the system of judges elected for a term of years by the people. This system spread from one State to another in the West and in the East, and even forced itself on the large and old State of New York, which sanctioned it in its new constitution, in 1846. The terms of the elective judgeships even then often appeared too long, and they were shortened in a good many States. All the more was the same course pursued with regard to administrative appointments, the tenure of which became more and more precarious. “The good democratic doctrine of short terms of offices — immediate responsibility to the people ”1 — willed it so. But the more the number of elective offices increased, and the more the short duration of the terms made elections of frequent occurrence, the wider became the sphere of activity of the conventions and the greater their electoral monopoly, as was generally admitted by all thoughtful citizens. Thus the more the theory of radical democracy added to the prerogatives of the people, the more their power diminished in reality, under the convention system.
1 Thirty Years' View, Vol. II, p. 596. 2 Allen's speech in the Senate already quoted.
In the meanwhile the knot fastened round the body of American democracy by this system was being drawn tighter, owing to the increased strength of the old bonds as well as to the new ones which were added to them. loyalism embodied in the Organization was becoming more enthusiastic and more intolerant. The party became a sort of church, which admitted no dissent and pitilessly excommunicated any one who deviated a hair's breadth from the established dogma or ritual, were it even from a feeling of deep piety, from a yearning for a more perfect realization of the ideal of holiness set before the believer. The Democratic party was specially conspicuous for the strict discipline which it enforced on its followers, and on the slightest breach individuals or groups were made to feel the weight of its hand. As far back as Jackson's time, towards 1835, a small group arose within the Democratic party desirous of making the practice of its principles more earnest, of reverting to the purity of the Jeffersonian creed, without the smallest idea of starting a schism. But the promoters of this party of equal rights" did not venture at first to come forward openly, they felt obliged to keep their meetings secret and to continually
1 Senator Sevier's speech at the same sitting (of the 14th of May, 1846).
2 " It has, therefore," relates a distinguished foreign observer, who visited the United States in 1852, “ become a common mode of expression that the
people' have in reality very little to do with any of those elections, but that they are wire-pulled' by the individuals who make it their business to manage them" (H. Seymour Tremenheere: The Constitution of the United States Compared with Our Own. L. 1854, p. 220).
change the place, like conspirators; then, when their position became clearly defined, a torrent of abuse and invective was showered on them; they were branded as worse than malefactors, they were "disorganizers.” The inquisitorial spirit of the party spread even to relations which were entirely nonpolitical in character. Thus, on the denunciation of a Democratic convention committee, two officers of the federal army were brought before a court-martial, at Baltimore, on the charge of having made purchases for the commissariat of the army from members of the Whig party. No harm had been done to the Treasury by it; on the contrary, it was proved that the stores had been purchased at a cheaper rate than could have been obtained from supporters of the administration. But, held the convention committee, to buy everything from enemies and not from friends was an insult to the Democratic party which deserved punishment."
The opponents of the rival Organization, however, were recognized as belligerents, but the neutrals, the independents, who had not enlisted in either army, were put beyond the pale. The two Organizations united against them in a common outburst of hatred and contempt and in one and the same wish to “exterminate this pestiferous and demoralizing brood."
??? Blind devotion to the party, to the label of the party, became so imperative that even very sensible men came to conceive of the “party” as an entity independent of the principles which it was to promote or oppose. Several anti-slavery Democrats (among whom were men who afterwards attained
1 Quoted by Holst, Vol. I, p. 307, from a speech of H. Clay, of the 10th of July, 1840.
2 The semi-official democratic paper, the Globe, of July, 1843, having denounced the non-descripts, the no-party men, as public plunderers and pirates, hostes humani generis, who are entitled to no favor or mercy from any honest man,” the Whig paper, The Richmond Whig, declared: “We shake hands with the Globe on this. We concur with it heartily in desiring the extermination of this pestiferous and demoralizing brood, and will do whatever we can to effect it. Let the Whigs and Democrats everywhere resolve that the gentry who are too pure to associate with either of them, or t belong to either party, shall not use them to their own individual aggrandizement. Let them act upon the principle that the Whig or Democrat who has sense enough to form an opinion and honesty enough to avow it, is to be preferred to the imbecile, or the purist, or the mercenary who cannot come to a decision, or is ashamed of his principles, or from sordid considerations is afraid to declare them” (Niles, Vol. LXIV, p. 331).