'CONVENTION, Political, an assemblage of delegates representing the members of a political party, whose leading function is to nominate the candidates of that party for elec tive offices. In the early years of the nation candidates were often nominated at mass meet ings, but the growth of the country necessitated a change. Delegates were appointed by the local caucuses to confer with delegates from other caucuses in the city, county or district, with the object of malcing nominations for the next larger area. This method quicldy gained favor and early in the 19th century Pennsyl vania adopted the county convention and Massachusetts and other States both the county and Congressional conventions. The legislative caucus performed the functions of the State convention for many years because of the diffi citifies of travel and communication over so large an area; the legislative caucus method also was used in the nomination of national candidates, and, as the Congressional caucus, was used for more than 25 years to choose the party candidates for President and Vice-Presi dent. During the campaigns of 1f324 and 1828, owing to the failure of the Congressional nominating caucus, the factions of the Demo cratic-Republican party held nominating con ventions that were neither national nor sys tematically representative, and the first nominat ing convention that can be called national was held at Baltimore in 1831 by the Anti-Masonic party. Since that tune the system has grad ually developed into the present complicated but well-ordered system.
Minor Conventions, First in order of the nominating conventions is •the local primary, caucus or primary convention, called together by the primary comznittee, and consisting of those voters affi' Bated with the party who re side in ward, precinct or township. This primary makes nominations to local offices and selects delegates to the nominating convention of the county or district. The county conven tion nominates candidates to county offices and sends delegates from among its members to a district convention which selects candidates for Congress and elects delegates to the State con vention. In some States delegates to both district and State conventions are elected by the town primaries. The State convention nom inates candidates for State offices and sends delegates-at-large to the national convention. In the Democratic party the State convention may select all the delegates and instruct them. The State convention formulates party policy within the State and decides questions of party regularity, though appeal may be made to the national convention. The basis of representa tion in the State convention is the party vote at the preceding election—whether Presidential or gubernatorial, whereas the membership of the national convention is not concerned with party strength.
Party early times the con vention concerned itself only with the imme diately succeeding campaign; it had a chairman, secretary, treasurer and other necessary officer but the organization was purely temporary and had no permanency; on adjournment the or ganization lost its existence, and the next con vention might be called either by the officers of the previous convention or by an informal self appointed ' committee. Hence conventions adopted the plan of appointing permanent com mittees to act in their behalf during the interval between conventions. The Democratic con
vention of 1848 was the first to appoint a national committee but the committee's value was not generally recognized until after the Civil War. The national conunittee is now composed of one member from each State and Territory (chosen for four years or until the next national convention) and though sub ordinate to the convention exercises great authority—often possessing sufficient power and influence to control the convention and dominate its policies. It decides the place of meeting, arranges the seating of delegates, and, most =Portant of all, selects the temporary chairman of the convention, who sounds the keynote of the campaign. It has then per formed its duties and on the opening of the convention is dissolved to make way for the appointment of a new committee, the members of which are in harmony with the Presidential candidate. The chairman of the national com mittee, chosen by the President, who is the notninal head of his party, is both nominally and actually the head of the organiz.ation and is in close touch with the candidates. When the convention closes the new national com mittee organizes at once and is usually divided into subcommittees, such as the executive com mittee, the finance committee, the committee on bureau of speakers, the committee on publicity to supervise the literature, press matter and distribution of public documents. Though not organically connected with State and local com mittees, the national conunittee in effect, through its State member, directs the campaign in every minor division. There is also the national Con gressional committee, the organization of which differs in the two largest parties. The Republi can committee consists of one member from each State and Territory represented in C,on gress (provided that State has a representative in Congress) chosen in a joint caucus of the members of both Houses. The Democratic committee is chosen at separate caucuses of the two Houses, nine members being appointed by the Senate and one member being appointed for each State and Territory represented in Con gress. If a State has no Democratic repre sentative in Congress, a prominent Democrat of that commonwealth is appointed to the com mittee. The Congressional committees have charge of the mid-term elections when the two parties endeavor to elect a majority in Congress either as an endorsement or a condemnation of the party which has previously elected the President. Subordinate to the national com mittees arc the State central or State executive committees, varying in their machinery accord ing to the section of the country. Outside of New England, where the town committee holds the most important place, the. county committee is almost universally the important one, but no district is too small to be used as a basis for party work, the Congressional, senatorial, judi cial and school districts, and the city wards or precincts all having their share in the party organization. The State executive comtnittee (comprising as few as 13 members, as in Indiana, or more than 100 members, as in Pennsylvania) may be named by the chief candidates of the party or may consist of representatives of Congressional or State senatorial districts and of counties.