CAUCUS (of uncertain origin; possibly from Med. Lat. caucus. Gk. Kakov, kankos, cup, as being originally an informal festal gathering). A term applied (1) to an informal meeting of the voters of a political party within a limited district for the purpose of nominating candi dates for office or of naming delegates to a nominating convention, and (2) to a conference of the memhers of a political party in a legisla tive body for the purpose of determining in de tail the course to be pursued by the members of the body belonging to such party. In its former application the word is said to have been de rived from the "Caulkers' Club," a political or ganization of some prominence in Boston during the activity of Samuel Adams (q.v.). Until within a comparatively brief period this informal meeting of voters was a well recognized and widely established feature of the American polit ical system. In the party caucus all 'regular' members of the party were considered entitled to he present and to be heard. Its participants named the party's candidates for local office and determined the policy of the party in the polit ical district from which the members of the (-aliens were drawn. From the caucus of a small political unit, such as the town or the Assembly district, were sent the various constituent mem bers of a larger and similar conference repre senting, and acting for, the voters of a Congres sional district or of an entire State. Within the past two decades the typical caucus of the past has assumed a new form through the statutory control of nominations to office, especially in the establishment of a system of so-called "pri maries," the composition and procedure of which have in several States been made the object of as detailed and specific legislative control as are the elections themselves. The informalities which
earlier made possible many questionable prac tices in the effort to 'capture' a caucus have thus gradually disappeared, and have been super seded by the of secret balloting by the legally registered members of a party. The nominating caucus appeared also in American politics in a conspicuous form, until 1824, in the caucus of members of Congress of each party which for a couple of decades named the candi dates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, until the system of national nominating conven tions was introduced.
The second type of caucus has not only sur vived, but has increased in influence and has become recognized as a legitimate feature of legislative procedure. Both in local legislative bodies and also in the various State legislatures, and still more conspicuously in Congress. the Members of cash party participate in a caucus, by which are named the party's candidates for the offices of the body and by which are deter mined the lines of policy to be followed within the larger body. Such action is as binding not only upon all the part ieipants in the caucus, but also upon all members of the Legis lature belonging to the party holding the caucus; and very rarely do any dissentient member, a party have the will, or the desire, to 'bolt' the aetion of their caucus.