Page images
PDF
EPUB

censure was passed by a vote of 26 to 20. The President sent a protest against this action, which the Senate declared was a breach of privilege, and talked of im. peachment. So the fight went on. The House - the immediate representatives of the people - tabled the resolution of censure. Benton, with his characteristic earnestness, ability, and persistency, determined that the resolution of censure ought to be, and should be, ex. punged from the Journal of the Senate. From time to time he introduced several resolutions on the subject. In the meantime, the State legislatures were acting, instructing their Senators, and superseding those who were fixed in their hostility. Finally, on January 14, 1837, by a vote of 24 to 19 the resolution was ordered to be expunged; and it was done in the presence of the Senate and crowded galleries, amidst intense but suppressed excitement.

It was not until 1843, long after Jackson had retired to the Hermitage, that a further vindication of his course was enacted by Congress. While in command at New Orleans he had suspended the writ of habeas corpus; and for refusing to obcy such writ he was fined $1000 by Judge Hall. Jackson promptly paid the fine, but under protest, refusing to let friends pay it for him. After the passions of party had waned by his withdrawal from pub. lic life, this fine, with interest, was refunded by a vote of Congress.

[graphic][merged small]

DEMOCRATS—WHIGS-ANTI - MASONS-ABOLITIONISTS—

'LIBERTY PARTY-FREE-SOILERS

1828-1852

IT

T is impossible for all men to think alike, if they think

at all. This is especially true in republics, where thought is untrammelled, and where every citizen, having a share in the responsibility of government, is in duty bound to form an opinion as to what is demanded for the best interests of the country, and to ally himself with those holding similar views. The Federal party having died a somewhat lingering death, such of its old adherents who could not, or would not, join the Democrats, united with all who, for any reason, were opposed to the domi. nant party, and formed the Whig party. The new party, starting with the prestige and patronage of the Chief Executive, fought many battles, and suffered many de. feats before it became extinct.

For several years a feeling of hostility to what was later called the slave power had been growing in some of the Northern States. This feeling was nurtured, not only by those who had strong convictions upon the abstract question, but also by those who were seeking ground to weaken, divide, and destroy the Democratic party. There was a long and bitter fight over the ad. mission of Missouri as a State, recognizing slavery in its

50

constitution. The immediate issue was settled by a com. promise, but the question remained to rankle, and ulti. mately to produce a fearful and bloody condict.

In 1828 the Legislature of Tennessee placed Andrew Jackson in nomination for the Presidency. Several other State legislatures expressed a preference for Jackson. He entered the field as the Democratic candidate. His successful competitor of four years before, John Quincy Adams, was pitted against him, as the National Repub. lican, or, more properly, the Whig, candidate. In the Congress of that day the members were classified as Democrats and Whigs. The result was a sweeping vic. tory for Jackson, he having received 178 electoral votes, while Adams had but 83. The popular vote stood:

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

In the contest of 1824, for the first time, there had been record made of the popular vote. And it was necessarily imperfect, for the reason that the electoral vote in eight. of the thirty-four States was cast by their respective legislatures.

Coming back to the more consccutive order of events, 1832 witnessed the inauguration of a radical and impor. tant change in the method of selecting candidates. Delegates were chosen by the people to meet in national convention, and nominate the candidates to represent and be supported by the party sending such delegates. These conventions soon took to themselves the authority to promulgate a party platform, or declaration of the polit. ical principles and policy to which their candidates and their party stood pledged. National conventions, for the purposes indicated, became a recognized institution of the country from that year forward, and their action was generally accepted as having the binding force of statute law. As a rule, the platforms have been received with as ready acceptance, within their limits, as the Thirtynine Articles, or the Westminster Catechism. Loyaliy to party has been demanded, as but little, if at all, less obligatory than allegiance to the government.

The first National convention was held in Philadelphia in September, 1830, for the purpose of organizing the Anti-Masonic party. It was based upon one idea, and that a narrow one; and hence its existence was ephemeral. One William Morgan, a citizen of Western New York, had disappeared mysteriously in 1826. It was alleged that he had been abducted by the Free. masons because he had revealed the secrets of the asso. ciation. Constant agitation had aroused a bitter feeling in some localities, and an effort was made to magnify this into a national issue, by denouncing secret orders as hostile and dangerous to republican institutions. At the preliminary convention referred to, there were delegates from ten of the twenty-four States and from the then Territory of Michigan. The second, or first formal, convention of the Anti-Masons was held in Baltimore on September 26, 1831. Thirteen States were repre. sented. William Wirt, of Maryland, was nominated for President, and Amos Ellmaker, of Pennsylvania, for Vice-President.

The National Republican, or Whig, convention met in Baltimore on December 12, 1831, with delegates from seventeen States. The change of naine was not yet fully effected, but the identity of the party could not be mistaken. Henry Clay was nominated for President, and John Sergeant of Pennsylvania for Vice-President.

Neither the Democrats, the Anti-Masons, nor the Whigs adopted any platform. But, at a ratification meeting held by the Whigs in Washington on May 11, 1832, in which many of the States were represented, resolutions were passed in favor of “ adequate protection to American industry" as it then existed, in favor of a uniform system of internal improvements," and " against the spoils system."

The Democratic convention met in Baltimore on March 22, 1832. The call for this national convention originated in New Hampshire, and was cordially re. sponded to, every State, except Missouri, sending dele. gates. Andrew Jackson was nominated by acclamation for President, and Martin Van Buren for Vice-President.

This convention was unmarked by any of the incidents inseparable from similar modern assemblages. There were no outside, or as are now called "booming" delega. tions; no flaunting of banners; no blaring of bands; no scattering of likenesses of the "favorite sons"; no display of badges or buttons: there was not even the studied oratory and accompanying enthusiasm of nominating specches. But the earnestness of those in attendance was proved by their presence at great inconvenience; many of them having travelled hundreds of miles on horseback.

The convention adopted the rules reported by a com. mittee appointed to prepare them. One of these rules provided that two thirds of the whole number of votes of the convention shall be necessary to constitute a choice in making nominations. At every national convention since, this has been reaffirmed as the law of the Demo. cratic party. This setting aside of the doctrine that the majority should control has been defended upon the ground that otherwise the delegates from States domi. nated by the opposition party, aided by a sufficient number - although a small minority — from Democratic States, might force upon the convention a candidate to whom the great mass of the party was decidedly opposed. Jackson was considered so perfect an embodiment of Democracy that it was not thought necessary to make a formal declaration of political principles. The action of the convention upon this subject was somewhat unique.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »