« PreviousContinue »
tally in kind, however much in degree, from that which New York encountered at the hands of Mr. Tweed and his followers.
The Abuses of Political Organizations
With the development of powerful national, state,1 and municipal political machinery there came innumerable specific abuses. In order to secure pliant tools as delegates to conventions and members of committees, the political directors frequently devised practices which excluded the honest voters from participation in the party primaries. They instituted the "snap primary," that is, one held without proper notice, or unexpectedly, or at some unusual date. They packed primaries with their henchmen, who would drive out or overwhelm any dangerous opponents. They padded the rolls of party members with the names of dead men, or men who had long ago left the community. They stuffed the ballot boxes and they prepared the slates which were forced through the nominating conventions in the face of opposition. They entered into alliance with railway and other corporations from whom they received campaign contributions or levied tribute in other forms. It was thus that Jay Gould was able to declare, with a note of triumph: "I wanted the legislatures of four states, and to obtain control of them, I made the legislatures with my own money; I found this plan a cheaper one." Municipal councils and state legislatures all too frequently granted franchises, special laws, and innumerable privileges without regard to public welfare or the future of the country, generally under the dominance of political leaders who had sold out to the privilege-seekers.
More open, though by no means as dangerous, was the continual extension of the spoils system under which public offices were distributed for party services, and efficiency in administration sacrificed to strengthen political machines. In cities, states, and at Washington the spoils system took possession of politics. 1 For Mr. Wanamaker's description of the Pennsylvania machine, see Readings, p. 128.
For an example, see Readings, p. 585.
For the practices of the Sugar Trust, see Readings, p. 572; see also Ostrogorski, Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties, Vol. II, pp. 149204; for the way the politicians sometimes laid tribute on railway corporations, see Readings, p. 478.
Even a man of the courage and integrity of Lincoln was unable to resist the demands of the spoilsmen. A member of Congress who had secured a local post mastership for a henchman demanded his removal on personal grounds; "and I must turn him out," said Mr. Lincoln; "I do not want to but I must, there is no help for it." When a friend asked Lincoln whether he or the congressman was President of the United States, Lincoln quickly replied that the congressman was President.
Standing on this firm economic foundation, the spoils of office and special privileges, the organizations of the two great parties seemed in a fair way to escape from popular control altogether. Men of great ability, who sought to work independently, were promptly shown that all avenues of advancement would be closed unless they consented to at least some of the leading schemes of the directors. "The party," says Ostrogorski,' "became a sort of church which admitted no dissent and pitilessly excommunicated any one who deviated a hair's-breadth from the established dogma or ritual, were it even from a feeling of deep piety, from a yearning for a more perfect realization of the ideal of holiness set before the believer." This spirit of party loyalty was reflected in an editorial of the Richmond Whig in 1843, on the "no-party man." "We heartily join," said the editorial, "in desiring the extermination of this pestiferous and demoralizing brood, and will do whatever we can to effect it. . . . Let the Whigs and Democrats everywhere resolve that the gentry who are too pure to associate with either of them or to belong to either party, shall not use them to their own individual aggrandizement. Let them act upon the principle that the Whig or Democrat who has sense enough to form an opinion, and honesty enough to avow it, is to be preferred to the imbecile or the purist, or the mercenary, who cannot come to a decision, or is ashamed of his principles, or from sordid considerations is afraid to declare them." The party alignment, sharp enough before the Civil War, became even sharper for a long time after that great crisis, so that political independence or sympathy with any "third party" principles came to be regarded as a species of treason and intellectual dishonesty.
Each of the two great party organizations rested upon the
1 Vol. II, p. 92.
supposedly popular basis of the party primaries, in which, theoretically, every party member could share in the choice of candidates and the determination of party policies. It was on the primaries, therefore, that the standing army of party workers, supported by the spoils of politics, concentrated their attacks; they were always busy; they knew when the term of every officer expired and new nominations must be made; they knew the dates and places of primary meetings, and, as eternal vigilance was the price of victory, they took possession of the field, leaving the ordinary citizen engaged in the pursuit of a livelihood in other than political methods to grumble at being dispossessed of his political power.
Attempts to Subject Parties to Legal Control
Amid the momentous changes which followed the Civil War, the rapid growth of industries, the swift development of the Great West, the citizens were so much engrossed in private affairs that they let the politicians have full and undisputed sway for almost a generation. Slowly, however, there came an awakening to the fact that, important and necessary as party organization was in a democracy, it might be perverted from its true function of representing and carrying into effect popular will. Thereupon public-spirited men began a struggle for legislation which would substitute regular, compulsory, and public practices for the voluntary customs which the parties had developed under the direction of leaders.
The first attack was made upon the ballot and elections. Up until about 1880 the printing and distribution of ballots was left entirely in the hands of the various political organizations, and, generally speaking, there was no secrecy at all about elections, for each party furnished its members with ballots of a certain color, and it was easy to see how every one voted. The cost of printing ballots deterred poor men from entering politics, and made it well-nigh impossible for a third party, with no spoils, to gain a foothold. In the early eighties, a cry went up from the reformers for the introduction of the Australian ballot system, according to which public authorities were to furnish the ballots for all parties and provide complete secrecy for the voters. The most extravagant claims were advanced for this new reform: "It
would not only put an end to bribery and intimidation of the electors and to frauds in the taking of the vote, but it would undermine the very foundations of the Machine: it would deprive it of a pretext for interfering with elections, for employing 'workers,' for levying assessments, and would strip its candidates of their privileged character; the assent of the Machine would no longer be required for getting on the printed list; the state, which would henceforth make up this ballot, would enter every candidate on it whether recommended by a party organization or not, would submit them all without distinction to the electors; a poor man would therefore have the same facilities as a rich man, and an independent the same chances as a party hack of entering public life. The promoters of the reform succeeded in creating a genuine current of opinion in its favor; sermons were preached in the churches for the Australian ballot, numerous petitions were addressed to the legislatures, and eventually the reformers ended by intimidating the politicians intrenched in those assemblies." 1 State after state adopted the Australian system, and assumed the responsibility of printing and distributing the ballots and safeguarding the secrecy of elections. To-day only two states, South Carolina and Georgia, have not adopted some form of the Australian ballot. It has failed to realize the high hopes of its promoters, but it has been of such undoubted service in purifying elections that no one would think of returning to the old methods.
The failure of this serious attempt to abolish party machines by merely regulating elections while leaving the preliminary nominating work to the untrammelled control of party organizations, soon raised a demand that the state should go behind the elections and supervise the primaries of parties, their committees, conventions, and campaign funds.
Even before the adoption of the Australian ballot, California seems to have opened this new phase in the evolution of party government by passing, in 1866, a tentative measure providing for regularity and publicity in the conduct of primaries and caucuses, but at the same time allowing party committees to decide whether the rules laid down in the statute should become binding on them. Five years later, Ohio enacted a law contain
1 Ostrogorski, Vol. II, p. 500. 2 See below, chap. xxx.
ing similar optional regulations; and in a short time other states followed with uncertain and halting steps the examples thus afforded. The notion of compulsory regulation of party concerns was vigorously combated, because it was urged that whenever the members of a party believed abuses existed the voluntary adoption of the statutory regulations would immediately follow. Logic, however, was defied by events, or rather by pressures which were not apparent to the logicians. Permissive statutes failed completely to accomplish the purpose for which they were at first deemed sufficient. After a lapse of a few years, during which the results of the Australian ballot were awaited, there began to come from our state legislatures a series of compulsory statutes, attacking first the minor features of party organization and operations, and then extending in every direction, until the laws of the last decade have made the party system an integral part of the legal framework of government. "The method of naming candidates for elective public offices by political parties and voluntary political organizations," runs the Oregon primary law of 1905, "is the best plan yet found for placing before the people the names of qualified and worthy citizens from whom the electors may choose the officers of our government. The government of our state by its electors and the government of a political party by its members are rightfully based on the same general principles."
A careful, but probably not exhaustive, review of the state legislation of the six years 1901-1906, reveals more than sixtytwo statutes, many of them broad and comprehensive, regulating political parties in their varied operations.2 The years
1 For this interesting preamble, see Readings, p. 132.
In 1901 statutes relating to primaries were enacted in Nebraska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, and Tennessee; in 1902, in Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, and New York; in 1903, in California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Rhode Island; in 1904, in Alabama, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsin; in 1905, in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana, and Oklahoma; in 1906, in Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. For a partial review of 1907-1908, see Political Science Review, Vol. II, No. 3, p. 417.