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THE BOSS AND THE MACHINE, A CHRONICLE OF THE POLITICIANS AND PARTY ORGANIZATION
BY SAMUEL P. ORTH
I. THE RISE OF THE PARTY II. THE RISE OF THE MACHINE III. THE TIDE OF MATERIALISM IV. THE POLITICIAN AND THE CITY V. TAMMANY HALL VI. LESSER OLIGARCHIES VII. LEGISLATIVE OMNIPOTENCE VIII. THE NATIONAL HIERARCHY IX. THE AWAKENING X. PARTY REFORM XI. THE EXPERT AT LAST
THE BOSS AND THE MACHINE
CHAPTER I. THE RISE OF THE PARTY
The party system is an essential instrument of Democracy. Wherever government rests upon the popular will, there the party is the organ of expression and the agency of the ultimate power. The party is, moreover, a forerunner of Democracy, for parties have everywhere preceded free government. Long before Democracy as now understood was anywhere established, long before the American colonies became the United States, England was divided between Tory and Whig. And it was only after centuries of bitter political strife, during which a change of ministry would not infrequently be accompanied by bloodshed or voluntary exile, that England finally emerged with a government deriving its powers from the consent of the governed.
The functions of the party, both as a forerunner and as a necessary organ of Democracy, are well exemplified in American experience. Before the Revolution, Tory and Whig were party names used in the colonies to designate in a rough way two ideals of political doctrine. The Tories believed in the supremacy of the Executive, or the King; the Whigs in the supremacy of Parliament. The Tories, by their rigorous and ruthless acts giving effect to the will of an un-English King, soon drove the Whigs in the colonies to revolt, and by the time of the Stamp Act (1765) a well-knit party of colonial patriots was organized through committees of correspondence and under the stimulus of local clubs called "Sons of Liberty." Within a few years, these patriots became the Revolutionists, and the Tories became the Loyalists. As always happens in a successful revolution, the party of opposition vanished, and when the peace of 1783 finally put the stamp of reality upon the Declaration of 1776, the patriot party had won its cause and had served its day.
Immediately thereafter a new issue, and a very significant one, began to divide the thought of the people. The Articles of Confederation, adopted as a form of government by the States during a lull in the nationalistic fervor, had utterly failed to perform the functions of a national government. Financially the Confederation was a beggar at the doors of the States; commercially it was impotent; politically it was bankrupt. The new issue was the formation of a national government that should in reality represent a federal nation, not a collection of touchy States. Washington in his farewell letter to the American people at the close of the war (1783) urged four considerations: a strong central government, the payment of the national debt, a well-organized militia, and the surrender by each State of certain local privileges for the good of the whole. His "legacy," as this letter came to be called, thus bequeathed to us Nationalism, fortified on the one hand by Honor and on the other by Preparedness.
The Confederation floundered in the slough of inadequacy for several years, however, before the people were sufficiently impressed with the necessity of a federal government. When, finally, through the adroit maneuver of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, the Constitutional Convention was called in 1787, the people were in a somewhat chastened mood, and delegates were sent to the Convention from all the States except Rhode Island.
No sooner had the delegates convened and chosen George Washington as presiding officer, than the two opposing sides of opinion were revealed, the nationalist and the particularist, represented by the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, as they later termed themselves. The Convention, however, was formed of the conservative leaders of the States, and its completed work contained in a large measure, in spite of the great compromises, the ideas of the Federalists. This achievement was made possible by the absence from the Convention of the two types of men who were to prove the greatest enemy of the new document when it was presented for popular approval, namely, the office-holder or politician, who feared that the establishment of a central government would deprive him of his influence, and the popular demagogue, who viewed with suspicion all evidence of organized authority. It was these two types, joined by a third--the conscientious objector--who formed the AntiFederalist party to oppose the adoption of the new Constitution. Had this opposition been well-organized, it could unquestionably have defeated the Constitution, even against its brilliant protagonists, Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and a score of other masterly men.
The unanimous choice of Washington for President gave the new Government a non-partizan initiation. In every way Washington attempted to foster the spirit of an undivided household. He warned his countrymen against partizanship and sinister political societies. But he called around his council board talents which represented incompatible ideals of government. Thomas Jefferson, the first Secretary of State, and Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, might for a time unite their energies under the wise chieftainship of Washington, but their political principles could never be merged. And when, finally, Jefferson resigned, he became forthwith the leader of the opposition--not to Washington, but to Federalism as interpreted by Hamilton, John Adams, and Jay.
The name Anti-Federalist lost its aptness after the inauguration of the Government. Jefferson and his school were not opposed to a federal government. They were opposed only to its pretensions, to its assumption of centralized power. Their deep faith in popular control is revealed in the name they assumed, Democratic-Republican. They were eager to limit the federal power to the glorification of the States; the Federalists were ambitious to expand the federal power at the expense of localism. This is what Jefferson meant when he wrote to Washington as early as 1792, "The Republican party wish to preserve the Government in its present form." Now this is a very definite and fundamental distinction. It involves the political difference between government by the people and government by the representatives of the people, and the practical difference between a government by law and a government by mass-meeting.
Jefferson was a master organizer. At letter-writing, the one means of communication in those days, he was a Hercules. His pen never wearied. He soon had a compact party. It included not only most of the Anti-Federalists, but the small politicians, the tradesmen and artisans, who had worked themselves into a ridiculous frenzy over the French Revolution and who despised Washington for his noble neutrality. But more than these, Jefferson won over a number of distinguished men who had worked for the adoption of the Constitution, the ablest of whom was James Madison, often called "the Father of the Constitution."
The Jeffersonians, thus representing largely the debtor and farmer class, led by men of conspicuous abilities, proceeded to batter down the prestige of the Federalists. They declared themselves opposed to large expenditures of public funds, to eager exploitation of government ventures, to the Bank, and to the Navy, which they termed "the great beast with the great belly." The Federalists included the commercial and creditor class and that fine element in American life composed of leading families with whom domination was an instinct, all led, fortunately, by a few idealists of rare intellectual attainments. And, with the political stupidity often characteristic of their class, they stumbled from blunder to blunder. In 1800 Thomas Jefferson, who adroitly coined the mistakes of his opponents into political currency for himself, was elected President. He had received no more electoral votes than Aaron Burr, that mysterious character in our early politics, but the election was decided by the House of Representatives, where, after seven days' balloting, several Federalists, choosing what to them was the lesser of two evils, cast the deciding votes for Jefferson. When the Jeffersonians came to power, they no longer opposed federal pretensions; they now, by one of those strange veerings often found in American politics, began to give a liberal interpretation to the Constitution, while the Federalists with equal inconsistency became strict constructionists. Even Jefferson was ready to sacrifice his theory of strict construction in order to acquire the province of Louisiana.
The Jeffersonians now made several concessions to the manufacturers, and with their support linked to that of the agriculturists Jeffersonian democracy flourished without any potent opposition. The second war with England lent it a doubtful luster but the years immediately following the war restored public confidence. Trade flourished on the sea. The frontier was rapidly pushed to the Mississippi and beyond into the vast empire which Jefferson had purchased. When everyone is busy, no one cares for political issues, especially those based upon philosophical differences. So Madison and Monroe succeeded to the political regency which is known as the Virginia Dynasty.
This complacent epoch culminated in Monroe's "Era of Good Feeling," which proved to be only the hush before the tornado. The election of 1824 was indecisive, and the House of Representatives was for a second time called upon to decide the national choice. The candidates were John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and William H. Crawford. Clay threw his votes to Adams, who was elected, thereby arousing the wrath of Jackson and of the stalwart and irreconcilable frontiersmen who hailed him as their leader. The Adams term merely marked a transition from the old order to the new, from Jeffersonian to Jacksonian democracy. Then was the word Republican dropped from the party name, and Democrat became an appellation of definite and practical significance.
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