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12 Beginnings of Party or Ganization and Growth of the Party System and Party Ma Chinery

caucus, parties, political, organ, organization, national, nomination and power

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12. BEGINNINGS OF PARTY OR GANIZATION AND GROWTH OF THE PARTY SYSTEM AND PARTY MA CHINERY. Political parties so-called have existed in the United States from the beginning of its independent national life. Even earlier, while the colonies owed alle giance to the governments of Europe, there were traces of political divisions and group ings among the colonists according to their inclinations to sympathize with one or an other of the political groups contending for power in the old home, or according to their differing views upon colonial and local affairs. But party organization there was none until near the end of the 18th century. Federalists and Anti-Federalists were the parties of the great discussion upon the adoption of the Con stitution, but they were unorganized groups of the leaders of opinion and their supporters, divided by their opposing views upon the sole question in debate. After that contest had been ended by the triumph. of the Federalists the party names persisted for a time, and the divi sions were upon questions of constitutional interpretation. No organs were developed for perpetuating these early parties or for enlarging their political functions. The beginnings of a form of organization which did permanently affect the development of the oldest of our true American parties appear during the first admin istration of Washington in the Democratic clubs that sprang up and spread rapidly through the country. These were in some cases organ ized in a manner remotely comparable to the organization of a.modern party and did effective service in strengthening the group which sup ported the views of Jefferson. They were, how ever, discredited by the turn of events and their development was checked.

Party organization arose out of the search for methods of political action which would secure in a representative democracy the choice of men as servants of the people who would be truly acceptable to the people. To this end and in order that the electoral forces might not be scattered and lost, it was found necessary to make use of some form of nomination of candi dates previous to an election. After the adop tion of the Constitution the irregular and vary ing local methods previously in use (the secret caucus, the open public meeting, the local unor ganized convention, assisted by systems of cor respondence and consultation) were rapidly ex tended and made more effective, while more central agencies of nomination for State and national officials were developed. The difficul ties and expense of travel led to the rise of the legislative caucus system for the nomination of State officers as early as the year 1790. The opposing parties were both represented in the State assemblies by prominent members and it seemed but a natural expansion of their regular duties that they should choose suitable candi dates for the State offices. Their recommenda

tions were made known by proclamations signed by members of the caucus. Against constant and severe criticism the legislative caucus con tinued in most of the States to exercise the power which had almost by accident fallen into its hands down to the year 1824, and even later. in a few States; then, under the pressure of popular demand, it gradually gave way to the growing convention system. In many instances during the period of its prevalence the legisla tive caucus of the States assumed the privilege of nominating Presidential candidates.

The last years of the 18th century were marked by the rise of a distinct party organ for the nomination of national elective officers. This was the Congressional caucus which was of an origin similar to that of the legislative caucus of the States and grew out of the prac tice of the Federalist members of Congress of meeting, with more or less formality and offi cial sanction, for the discussion of party policy. It was easy to carry over into the field of nomi nation the party power in their hands. Ham ilton is credited with suggesting the first formal action of the Congressional caucus of the Fed eralists in favor of a candidate for the Presi dency in 1800, and so of originating the party organ. Evidences of such use of the Repub lican party caucus are to be found, however, in the history of the previous campaign. Both parties did so nominate candidates for the elec tion of the year 1800. The efficiency, conven ience and economy of the new agency, together with a natural human reluctance to surrender power once grasped, led to its continued use against constant and growing popular opposi tion. It was seen to have become fully estab lished as a party organ when, in 1808, the Re publican caucus was called by the senator who had presided over that of 1804, in pursuance of the powers vested in him." By the Jeffer sonian Republican party it was made so able and efficient a party engine as to render the acceptance of its decisions a practical test of party loyalty, not only in the official circle but throughout the rank and file of party member ship in the country. Party discipline was firmly enforced and the Republican represen tatives in Congress saw that the behests of the caucus were respected in all the States. The nominating agencies in the States were manip ulated in a manner to strengthen the national party organ, and the minority became almost helpless before it.

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