The New International Encyclopædia/Democratic Party

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1338252The New International Encyclopædia — Democratic Party

DEMOCRATIC PARTY. The term Democratic, as used in American party politics, was occasionally and loosely applied in the years 1789-92 to the group of Anti-Federalists (q.v.), and thereafter, in the last decade of the eighteenth century and the first two decades of the nineteenth, to the party then commonly known as the Republican. The vigorous adoption by these Anti-Federalist Republicans, especially during Washington's Administration, of French principles and sympathies led to the application to them of the term Democratic Republican, which remained in quite common usage for more than thirty years. This general attitude was one of opposition to all centralizing tendencies in the interpretation of the Federal Constitution. They wished the National Government to remain weak, somewhat as it had been under the old Confederation; and they regarded the States as sovereign in an extreme sense of that word. (See Strict Constructionists.) Upon the disappearance of the Federalist Party (q.v.), there gradually appeared within the only party then active two groups, one of which became known as the National Republicans, and the other of which retained the old name of Democratic Republicans. The former developed into the Whig Party (q.v.), while the latter was compactly organized as the Democratic Party, which has, since 1828, maintained an unbroken existence. This party, when thus organized by Jackson, adhered to the orthodox tenets of the old Anti-Federalists, the strict construction of the Constitution, and the limitation of the powers of the Federal Government. As slavery, however, soon became the most vital question in national politics, and as the Democratic Party was largely controlled by its Southern wing, it became finally the party of conservatism, in opposition to the new Republican Party's progressive platform of free men and free soil. The two sectional wings of this party became naturally separated during the course of the Civil War, and the subsequent process of rehabilitation was so prolonged that the party was not again able to elect a President (leaving out of account the disputed election of 1876) until 1884, when entirely new issues were involved. In its later course the party, in accordance with its old traditions, became particularly conspicuous as the advocate of tariff reform, and upon that platform its only post-bellum President, Grover Cleveland, was elected.

The founding of the present Democratic Party, although in large measure due to the bitter fight between the followers of John Quincy Adams and those of Andrew Jackson, occurred in a decade during which were effected certain significant changes in the American political system. Thus, the practice, which had been thitherto uniformly observed, of having the Presidential electors chosen by the State Legislatures, was in some States abandoned, and thereafter the present method, by which the voters at large were given a share in the choice of the electors, was gradually introduced. Moreover, the old method of leaving the choice of Presidential candidates to a caucus (q.v.) of the members of a party in Congress was vigorously attacked in 1824, with the result that after 1828 the people at large, through the medium of the national nominating conventions, had a direct share in the choice of candidates. Furthermore, in the same decade was felt for the first time the real significance of the political power of the new States beyond the Alleghanies, for, with the rise to power of the new Jacksonian Democracy, there was given full sway to the principles of equality and of thorough democracy, which were best illustrated in the region of which Jackson was the natural product. In large measure, the first conflict, in addition to being a largely personal one between the followers of Adams and those of Jackson, became a struggle between the old aristocracy of the East and the new democracy of the West, in which the latter, having almost won in the campaign of 1824, triumphed decisively in 1828, and brought to the Presidency the man who, in eight years, was to transform a personal following into a dominating national party. Jackson brought into his following not only the friends of Calhoun and of W. H. Crawford, but also the strong forces of the Albany Regency (q.v.), under the lead of his Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren. Accordingly, the Democratic convention — the first national convention of the party — which met at Baltimore, May 21, 1832, had little more to do than to name a candidate for the Viee-Presidency, and in that step they followed the will of their leader and named Van Buren. This convention originated the so-called ‘two-thirds rule.’ The election which followed indicated clearly that Jackson's policy as to the tariff and as to the National Bank had been approved, inasmuch as he received 219 electoral votes, while Henry Clay received only 49, Jackson carrying besides the Southern States, excepting Kentucky, the States of Maine, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and New York. The next convention of the party, that at Baltimore on May 20, 1835, was peculiar in having some 626 delegates, of whom 422 came from four States, Maryland, for instance, sending as delegates every member of the State Democratic convention. As was commonly expected, Van Buren was given the nomination, Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky, being named for the Vice-Presideiicy. The vote of the Whig candidate, William H. Harrison (q.v.), was increased to 73, while Van Buren's electoral vote fell to 170, a part of this Democratic weakening being accounted for by the 20 votes which were cast for Judge White, of Tennessee, and the 11 votes which were cast for Mangum by South Carolina. The whole responsibility for the results of the financial policy of Jackson and Van Buren was placed upon the Democratic Party, with the result that in 1840 General Harrison received 234 electoral votes and Van Buren received only 60. The Democratic convention of May 4, 1840, had been especially uncertain in its action because of a pronounced difference of opinion as to the claims of Vice-President R. M. Johnson. The convention adopted, in a series of resolutions, what was substantially a ‘platform,’ expressing their view of the limited authority of the Central Government, and of the impropriety of Federal laws establishing a national bank, providing for internal improvements, or fostering particular industries. The same platform, with additions, was adopted by the convention held at Baltimore on May 27, 1844, which pronounced for the reoccupation of Oregon and the reannexation of Texas. For the first time in a convention of the party, there was then a serious contest for the Presidential nomination. Upon the first ballot, Van Buren received a majority of the votes, and, although in the lead for four ballots, for the four subsequent ballots the leading candidate was General Cass, of Michigan, but on the ninth ballot the convention was ‘stampeded’ for an inconspicuous candidate, possibly advanced to preserve harmony, James K. Polk, of Tennessee. George M. Dallas, of Pennsylvania, was nominated for the Vice Presidency, and this ticket received 170 electoral votes, as against 105 votes cast for Henry Clay. The failure of Van Buren to secure the party's nomination in 1844 and the choice by Polk of William L. Marcy (q.v.), of New York, as his Secretary of State, brought into prominence the factional controversy between the ‘Barnburners’ (q.v.) and the ‘Hunkers’ (q.v.), in New York. Both of these factions sent delegations to the convention of May 22, 1848, at Baltimore, and both delegations were admitted to seats, the vote of the State being divided equally between them. Neither delegation took thereafter any part in the convention, although the Hunkers and Marcy supported the Administration and the party's nominee. On the fourth ballot. General Lewis Cass, of Michigan, was nominated for the Presidency; and for the Vice-Presidency Gen. William O. Butler, of Kentucky, was named, the convention also also readopting substantially the platform of 1844. The seceding ‘Barnburners’ held a State convention in June, in which delegates from four other States were present, and nominated Van Buren for the Presidency, and in August they took part in the national convention of the Free Soil Party at Buffalo, which nominated their leader for the Presidency, and Charles Francis Adams for the Vice-Presidency. This combination of ‘Free-Soilers’ and ‘Barnburners’ effected such a division of the Democratic vote in New York that Taylor carried the State and secured in the aggregate 163 electoral votes, while Cass received 127. Between 1848 and 1852 political conditions were materially changed, particularly through the progress of events attending the Compromise Measures of 1850 (q.v.), and also through the etfect upon the Whig Party of the differences between the ‘Conscience’ Whigs and the ‘Cotton’ Whigs. At the Baltimore convention of June 1, 1852, Cass, Buchanan, and Douglas were prominent candidates, but on the forty-ninth ballot Franklin Pierce, of New Hampshire, was named, William H. King, of Alabama, being nominated for the Vice-Presidency. The platform was similar to that of 1848, with the addition of the ‘finality’ plank, with an approval of the doctrines of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions (q.v.), and with a declaration of the justness of the war against Mexico. The Free-Soilers nominated John P. Hale (q.v.), of New Hampshire, while the Whigs, for what was the last campaign of the party, nominated Gen. Winfield Scott (q.v.), who received only 42 electoral votes, as against 254 cast for Pierce. In the convention of June 2, 1856, Pierce was again a candidate, being supported largely by Southern delegates, while the Northern delegates supported James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, who was chosen on the seventeenth ballot, John C. Breckenridge being named for the Vice-Presidency. The platform introduced a declaration in favor of insuring the ascendency of the United States in the Gulf of Mexico, and contained a declaration of the right of the Territorial governments of Kansas and Nebraska to allow slavery in those Territories. The convention of the American Partv nominated ex-President Fillmore, who received the eight electoral votes of Maryland, and the new Republican Party (q.v.) nominated John C. Frémont (q.v.), who secured 114 electoral votes, while Buchanan was elected with 174 electoral votes. The year 1860 was disastrous to the organization of the Democratic Party, inasmuch as it had become impossible to hold all factions of the party to the support of any one platform. Thus, the convention of the party, which met at Charleston, S. C., April 23, adopted resolutions which represented the middle view as to slavery rather than the distinctively Southern view, and this led to the withdrawal from the convention of the solid delegations of Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Texas, as well as of many delegates from Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Delaware. The portion of the convention remaining in session adopted a resolution that a vote equal to two-thirds of a full convention should be necessary for a nomination, and after several days of ineffectual balloting, in which Stephen A. Douglas (q.v.) was easily in the lead, adjourned to meet at Baltimore on June 10. At that time the places of the Charleston seceders were filled so uniformly with followers of Douglas that a new secession look place, under the lead of some of the Virginia delegates, whose example was followed by most of the delegates from the other Southern States. Finally, the delegates still remaining virtually rescinded the two-thirds rule, and declared Douglas to be their nominee for the Presidency. Herschel V. Johnson, of Georgia, was nominated for the Vice-Presidency. The delegates who had withdrawn from the Baltimore convention, representing in some manner twenty-one States, proceeded to nominate for the Presidency John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, and for the Vice-Presidency Joseph Lane, of Oregon. These nominations, furthermore, were adopted by those who had seceded at Charleston, and had later met in convention at Richmond. In the following election the combined popular vote of Douglas and Breckinridge exceeded the popular vote of Lincoln by more than 350,000, although the electoral vote of Lincoln was 180, while that of Breckinridge was 72, and that of Douglas only 12. Douglas secured the whole electoral vote of Missouri, and three votes from New Jersey. The Constitutional Union Party (q.v.) carried Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and the rest of the South went solidly for Breckinridge. The strength of the Democratic Party was thus plainly in the South, and the effect of the war was naturally to remove the party, for the time being, from its position as a factor in national politics. Even in 1868 the Southern States were still in such relation tn the National Government as to lose their electoral votes entirely. In the campaign of 1864 General McClellan (q.v.), standing as a candidate in the North on a platform which declared the war was a failure, secured only 21 electoral votes as against the 212 given to Lincoln. The party having taken an attitude of criticising both the conduct of the war and its results, its defeat was assured by the Republican nomination in 1868 of General Grant, who received 214 electoral votes, while his opponent, Horatio Seymour, received only 80, of which 33 were from his own State of New York. The intrenchment of the Republicans in power was emphasized in the following campaign, when Grant's vote rose to 286, and Thomas A. Hendricks (the Democratic candidate, Horace Greeley having died before the casting of the electoral votes) received only 42 votes. The character of the Republican administration, and the vigorous attacks upon it (see Crédit Mobilier), made possible the return to effective activity of the Democrats, particularly as they had at the juncture an especially strong leader in the man who as the reform Governor of New York, and as the successful opponent of Tweed (q.v.), had become the most conspicuous Democrat of his day. The energetic campaign of 1876, however, while seeming to give Tilden substantial success, resulted in the election of Hayes, through the intervention of the abnormal process of the Electoral Commission (q.v.). In the matter of popular vote, the following election was equally favorable to the Democrats, the vote of Garfield exceeding that of Hancock by fewer than 10,000. Garfield, however, received 214 electoral votes, while Hancock received only 155. In the ensuing campaign the Democrats were able to take advantage of the factional conditions within the Republican Party, and this advantage was greatly increased, on the one hand, by the Republican nomination of James G. Blaine, and the immediate development of the so-called Mugwump opposition to him (see Mugwump), and, on the other hand, by the Democratic nomination of the reform Governor of New York, Grover Cleveland. A revolt against the alleged Republican corruption, and other unusual elements, conspired to bring about, for the first lime since the war, the election of a Democratic President; although in 1888 Cleveland himself was defeated by Benjamin Harrison, only to be even more strikingly successful in 1892, receiving 276 votes to the 144 given to Harrison. The plank of tariff reform had thus within a decade carried the party through two successful campaigns, but the greatly increased power of the protectionists (see Tariff) made doubtful any further success in that line by the Democrats, while at the same time a faction in the party forced to the front a new issue, seemingly a sectional issue, and, having secured control of the convention of 1896, introduced the ‘free silver’ plank into the platform, nominated William J. Bryan for the Presidency, and thus made the beginning of what threatened to become an entire revolution in the character of the party. In spite, however, of the aid given to the Democrats by the Populists (q.v.), the principles of the gold standard and a high tariff were indorsed in the election of William McKinley (q.v.). Four years later the Democratic Party once more nominated Mr. Bryan, and was still more decisively defeated, President McKinley receiving 292 electoral votes — more than ever before given to a candidate at any election. The defeat had the effect of lessening the influence within the party of the silver and Populistic faction.

Consult: Gillet, Democracy in the United States (New York, 1868); Van Buren, Political Parties in the United States (New York, 1867); Johnston, in Lalor, Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and United States History (Chicago, 1881); id. American Politics (last ed., New York, 1900).