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present with the sobering influences of the past," and as uniting in his personality “the finest instinct of true statesmanship as the effect of his early environment, and the no less valuable capacity for practical application achieved through subsequent endeavours in another field." I Five years later, in March 1911, the same authority, in discussing the rift in the Democratic Party, and the improbability of the election of Mr. Bryan, again proposed as the ideal candidate “Woodrow Wilson, the highly Americanized Scotch-Irishman, descended from Ohio, born in Virginia, developed in Maryland, married in Georgia, and now delivering from bondage that faithful old Democratic Commonwealth, the State of New Jersey." 2
If the earlier appreciation was in advance of contemporary party opinion, the latter faithfully reflected it. The election of Mr. Wilson to the Governorship of New Jersey, and the vigour of his administration from the day of his assumption of office, brought his personality under searching public scrutiny, and a large section of the Democratic Party were already convinced that in the New Jersey Governor they had found the preordained candidate for an election which promised, owing to the Republican split, to introduce to the White House the second Democratic President since the Civil War. In the same year, 1911, Mr. Wilson, who took the position that he was justified neither in seeking nor in declining the weighty responsibilities of Presidential office, consented to address a series of meetings through the Middle and Far West, and in January 1912, by a powerful speech delivered at the Jackson Day banquet at Washington in the presence of members of the Democratic National Committee, confirmed the hold he had already established on a growing section of the party throughout the Union. The support accorded to the prospective candidate was essentially popular and spontaneous. He had no command over the national party machine. A campaign organization was established in his interest by one of his old Princeton pupils, Mr. William F. McCombs, of New York, subsequently Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and at the National Convention at Baltimore in June 1912 the New Jersey delegation brought forward the name of their State Governor for President.
1 Address to Lotos Club of New York, February 1906, 2 Address to Hibernian Society of Savannah, Ga
For what principles did the Democratic Party stand in national politics in 1912 ? The question cannot be answered without some reference to the history of party divisions in America. The two great opposing sections date back under different names to the first administration of the Republic. The antagonistic forces in Washington's Cabinet were represented by Hamilton and Jefferson, the one standing for the concentration of power in the hands of the central Government, the other for a jealous guardianship of the rights of the individual States. Hamilton, with Washington giving him such tacit support as his high position permitted, headed the Federalists, Jefferson the party at first known as Democratic-Republicans, then as Republicans, and for the last ninety years as Democrats. The Federalists were in power for the first three Presidential terms (1789-1801), but with Jefferson's election in 1800 a long term of Republican success at the polls began. Federalism had disappeared from American politics by about 1815, and for the next ten or twelve years (the “Era of Good Feeling ") a single party held the field. Out of the controversies that marked John Quincy Adams's election in 1824 a new grouping arose, and Andrew Jackson was elected for the first of his two terms in 1828 as a Democrat, the opposition, headed by Henry Clay, acquiring the name of Whig.
Whigs and Democrats divided office and spoils till the middle fifties, when attempts to hedge on the slavery question worked the dissolution of the Whigs. Their traditions were bequeathed to the great party that opposes the Democrats to-day. Frémont ran unsuccessfully for the Presidency as a Republican in 1856 and Lincoln successfully in 1860. Since that day there has been no new party alignment, despite periodic threats of secession and disintegration in either camp. While party nomenclature has changed, the broad lines of division have been in the main preserved. The two sections may with rough accuracy be described as apostles of centripetal and apostles of centrifugal action ; Federalists and States Rights men ; the party of Order and the party of Liberty ; loose constructionists (of the terms of the Constitution) and strict constructionists ; conservatives and radicals ; but always with the proviso that distinctions valid over a period of generations may be found to have little application to the situation existing at particular moments. In recent years the demarcation has become increasingly indeterminate, and the only generalization on which it would be safe to venture is that of the parties of the twentieth century the Republicans stand, in principle at least, for a strong central Government and a high protective tariff ; the Democrats for the rights of the individual State and a tariff for revenue only. It may perhaps be added that Republicans are, on the whole, more favourably disposed than Democrats towards an Imperialist policy, a question that has become more immediate since the acquisition by America of overseas dominions as a consequence of the war with Spain.
The Democratic Party met in its National Convention at Baltimore in 1912 uncommitted to any definite constructive policy. It had been so long in a minority that opposition had almost come to be regarded as its main function. The controversy on the free coinage of silver had receded into the background, and on the tariff question the attitude of the party was so fixed by tradition that no new issue arose. The Democrats, like the Republicans, though in a less marked degree, were divided into conservatives and radicals, the latter represented by Mr. W. J. Bryan, of Nebraska, who had run unsuccessfully for the Presidency against McKinley in 1896 and 1900 and against Taft in 1908. The “platform ”
adopted on July 2nd was calculated to consolidate the support of all sections of the party. It called, inter alia, for downward revision of the tariff ; anti-trust legislation ; the institution of Presidential primaries (i.e. the expression by each voter in the party of his personal preference instead of the existing nominations by conventions of delegates); a federal income-tax; publicity of campaign contributions ; restriction of a President's tenure to a single term ; rural credits ; free passage through the Panama Canal for coastwise shipping ; conservation of national resources ; independence for the Philippines soon as a stable Government can be established."
A Party Convention in America is an institution sui generis. Its main business is to formulate a platform and adopt a candidate. It is composed of a specified number of delegates from each State, and one of the first duties of the Committee on Credentials, appointed at the beginning of the Convention, is to scrutinize the claims of the rival delegations in cases where a party division in a State has resulted in the dispatch to the Convention of two sets of delegates. When those preliminaries have been settled, and extravagant speeches of nomination have been duly enunciated and elaborately applauded by each potential candidate's supporters, the solid business of balloting is taken in hand.
The first day or two devoted to that process is of little account.
While there are usually three or four outstanding candidates, on of whom the final choice is certain to fall,