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had been excluded from the presidency by the action of his personal enemies at Washington. In the legislature of Jackson's state, the following protest against the caucus system was introduced, by Mr. Grundy, a Jackson man:
The general assembly of the state of Tennessee has taken into consideration the practice which, on former occasions, has prevailed at the city of Washington, of members of the congress of the United States meeting in caucus, and nominating persons to be voted for as president and vice-president of the United States: and, upon the best view of the subject which this general assembly has been enabled to take, it is believed that the practice of congressional nominations is a violation of the spirit of the constitution of the United States.
That instrument provides that there shall be three separate and distinct departments of the government, and great care and caution seems to have been exercised by its framers to prevent any one department from exercising the smallest degree of influence over another; and such solicitude was felt on this subject, that, in the second section of the second article, it is expressly declared, "That no senator or representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector." From this provision, it is apparent that the convention intended that the members of congress should not be the principal and primary agents or actors in electing the president and vice-president of the United States so far from it, they are expressly disqualified from being placed in a situation to vote for those high officers. Is there not more danger of undue influence to be apprehended when the members of congress meet in caucus and mutually and solemnly pledge themselves to support the individuals who may have the highest number of votes in such meeting than there would be in permitting them to be eligible to the appointment of electors? In the latter case, a few characters, rendered ineligible by the constitution, might succeed; but, in the former, a powerful combination of influential men is formed, who may fix upon the American people their highest officers against the consent of a clear
The caucus the Constitution.
The principles of the separation of powers
The independence of the executive is destroyed.
majority of the people themselves; and this may be done by the very men whom the constitution intended to prohibit from acting on the subject. Upon an examination of the constitution of the United States, there is but one case in which the members of congress are permitted to act, which is in the event of a failure to make an election by the electoral colleges; and then the members of the house of representatives vote by states. With what propriety the same men, who, in the year 1825, may be called on to discharge a constitutional duty, can, in the year 1824, go into a caucus and pledge themselves to support the men then nominated, cannot be discerned, especially when it might so happen that the persons thus nominated, could under any circumstances, obtain a single vote from the state whose members stand pledged to support them.
This practice is considered objectionable on other accounts: so long as congress is considered as composed of the individuals on whom the election depends, the executive will is subjected to the control of that body, and it ceases, in some degree, to be a separate and independent branch of the government; and an expectation of executive patronage may have an unhappy influence on the deliberations of congress.
Upon a review of the whole question, the following reasons which admit of much amplification and enlargement, more than has been urged in the foregoing, might be conclusively relied on, to prove the impolicy and unconstitutionality of the congressional nominations of candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency of the United States: 1st. A caucus nomination is against the spirit of the constitution. 2d. It is both inexpedient and impolitic. 3d. Members of congress may become the final electors, and therefore ought not to prejudge the case by pledging themselves previously to support particular candidates. 4th. It violates the equality intended to be secured by the constitution to the weaker states. 5th. Caucus nominations may, in time, (by the interference of the states), acquire the force of precedents and become authoritative, and thereby endanger the liberties of the American people.
49. Jackson's First National Convention
The first national party convention was held at Baltimore in Circum1831 by the Anti-Masonic party, which sprang up suddenly in opposition to Free Masonry and as speedily disappeared. The second convention was held in the same year by the Anti-Jack- convention sonians, who nominated Clay and assumed the name of National was called. Republicans. It was, of course, settled that Jackson should be his own successor; but he was extremely anxious to have his friend Van Buren nominated for the vice presidency. Accordingly, he contrived, through his agent, Amos Kendall, to have a national convention called "spontaneously" by his supporters in the New Hampshire legislature. On this call an assembly of delegates "fresh from the people" met at Baltimore and nominated Van Buren, as had been contemplated. The purpose of the assembly was set forth by Mr. Sumner in the opening address, which follows:
GENTLEMEN - The proposition for calling a general convention of delegates, to act on the nomination of a candidate for president, and to select a suitable candidate for the office of vice-president of the United States, originated in the state of New Hampshire, by the friends of democracy in that state; and it appears that the proposition, although opposed by the enemies of the democratic party, has found favor in nearly and perhaps all the states in the union; so that we find collected at this time and place a greater and more general delegation from the people than was ever before assembled upon an occasion of the sort.
The object of the representatives of the people of New Hampshire who called this convention was, not to impose on the people, as candidates for either of the two first offices in this government, any local favorite; but to concentrate the opinions of all the states. They believed that the great body of the people, having but one common interest, can and will unite, in the support of important principles; that the operation of the machinery of government confined within its legitimate sphere is the same in the north, south, east and west; that although designing men, ever since the adoption of the constitution, have never ceased in their exertions to excite sectional feeling and sectional interest, and to array one
of the con
of the meet
ing a union of all ele
An example set for the future.
and fall of the caucus system.
portion of the country against another, the great and essential interests of all are the same. They believed that the coming together of representatives of the people from the extremity of the union, would have a tendency to soothe, if not to unite, the jarring interests, which sometimes come in conflict, from the different sections of the country.
They considered the individuals, who might be selected as candidates for office, to be of much less consequence than the principle on which they are designated; they thought it important to ascertain the fact, whether the people themselves, or those who would frustrate the voice of the people, should succeed in our elections. They believed that the example of this convention would operate favorably in future elections; that the people would be disposed, after seeing the good effects of this convention in conciliating the different and distant sections of the country, to continue this mode of nomination.
50. Benton's Criticism of the Convention System
The convention system which appeared to be such a popular institution, compared with the congressional caucus, nevertheless encountered the same objections; namely, that it was a mode by which a small group of politicians could control presidential nominations. Senator Benton advanced this view shortly after the convention had been adopted as a permanent institution.
This presidential election of 1824 is remarkable under another aspect as having put an end to the practice of caucus nominations for the Presidency by members of Congress. This mode of concentrating public opinion began to be practised as the eminent men of the Revolution, to whom public opinion awarded a preference, were passing away, and when new men, of more equal pretensions, were coming upon the stage. It was tried several times with success and general approbation, public sentiment having been followed, and not led, by the caucus. It was attempted in 1824, and failed, the friends of Mr. Crawford only attending others not attending, not from any repugnance to the practice,
as their previous conduct had shown, but because it was known that Mr. Crawford had the largest number of friends in Congress and would assuredly receive the nomination. All the rest, therefore, refused to go into it: all joined in opposing the "caucus candidate," as Mr. Crawford was called; all united in painting the intrigue and corruption of these caucus nominations, and the anomaly of members of Congress joining in them. By their joint efforts they succeeded, and justly in the fact though not in the motive, in rendering these Congress caucus nominations odious to the people, and broke them down.
degenerates into an office
They were dropped, and a different mode of concentrating The conpublic opinion was adopted that of party nominations by conventions of delegates from the States. This worked well at first, the will of the people being strictly obeyed by the delegates, and the majority making the nomination. But it quickly degenerated, and became obnoxious to all the objections to Congress caucus nominations, and many others besides. Members of Congress still attended them, either as delegates or as lobby managers. Persons attended as delegates who had no constituency. Delegates attended upon equivocal appointments. Double sets of delegates sometimes came from the State, and either were admitted or repulsed, as suited the views of the majority. Proxies were invented. Many delegates attended with the sole view of establishing a claim for office, and voted accordingly. The twothirds rule was invented, to enable the minority to control the majority; and the whole proceeding became anomalous and irresponsible, and subversive of the will of the people, leaving them no more control over the nomination than the subjects of kings have over the birth of the child which is born to rule over them. King Caucus is as potent as any other king in this respect; for whoever gets the nomination no matter how effected -becomes the candidate of the party, from the necessity of union against the opposite party, and from the indisposition of the great States to go into the House of Representatives to be balanced by the small ones.