History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.

=The Nominating Convention.=—­As the suffrage was widened and the popular choice of presidential electors extended, there arose a violent protest against the methods used by the political parties in nominating candidates.  After the retirement of Washington, both the Republicans and the Federalists found it necessary to agree upon their favorites before the election, and they adopted a colonial device—­the pre-election caucus.  The Federalist members of Congress held a conference and selected their candidate, and the Republicans followed the example.  In a short time the practice of nominating by a “congressional caucus” became a recognized institution.  The election still remained with the people; but the power of picking candidates for their approval passed into the hands of a small body of Senators and Representatives.

A reaction against this was unavoidable.  To friends of “the plain people,” like Andrew Jackson, it was intolerable, all the more so because the caucus never favored him with the nomination.  More conservative men also found grave objections to it.  They pointed out that, whereas the Constitution intended the President to be an independent officer, he had now fallen under the control of a caucus of congressmen.  The supremacy of the legislative branch had been obtained by an extra-legal political device.  To such objections were added practical considerations.  In 1824, when personal rivalry had taken the place of party conflicts, the congressional caucus selected as the candidate, William H. Crawford, of Georgia, a man of distinction but no great popularity, passing by such an obvious hero as General Jackson.  The followers of the General were enraged and demanded nothing short of the death of “King Caucus.”  Their clamor was effective.  Under their attacks, the caucus came to an ignominious end.

In place of it there arose in 1831 a new device, the national nominating convention, composed of delegates elected by party voters for the sole purpose of nominating candidates.  Senators and Representatives were still prominent in the party councils, but they were swamped by hundreds of delegates “fresh from the people,” as Jackson was wont to say.  In fact, each convention was made up mainly of office holders and office seekers, and the new institution was soon denounced as vigorously as King Caucus had been, particularly by statesmen who failed to obtain a nomination.  Still it grew in strength and by 1840 was firmly established.

=The End of the Old Generation.=—­In the election of 1824, the representatives of the “aristocracy” made their last successful stand.  Until then the leadership by men of “wealth and talents” had been undisputed.  There had been five Presidents—­Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe—­all Eastern men brought up in prosperous families with the advantages of culture which come from leisure and the possession of life’s refinements.  None of them had ever been compelled to work with his hands

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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