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Many of them, when their methods have been exposed
about the candidates for governor; but as to the rest he probably knew almost nothing.
The natural result of a long ballot is that only the inside, or professional, politician knows what he is doing. To vote for fifty officers at one time is not really government by the people; it is government by the “machine.” A very unfit candidate may be smuggled into office by this method. It deserves to be called “unpopular government” rather than “popular government.”
The plan proposed to remedy this is the short ballot. The principle of this is first, that only those offices should be elective which have to do with the policy of the government and are important enough to attract and deserve public interest; second, that very few offices should be filled by election at any one time, so as to permit the people to find out what sort of men they are voting for.
STEPS TOWARD GREATER SELF-GOVERNMENT
O. step toward more direct self-government was
soon taken. The roundabout way of choosing the President by electors was never abolished, but the people found a way to vote directly for President. A candidate was nominated before the electors were chosen. A set of electors who would vote for this candidate was then chosen, at first by the legislatures of the states, later by popular vote after having been nominated by party conventions. So at the last election the Democratic Party nominated Woodrow Wilson, the Republican Party Charles E. Hughes, the Prohibition Party J. Frank Hanley, the Socialist Party Allan L. Benson. In every state each of these parties also nominated a set of electors. The voter cast his vote for the electors. But he paid no attention to who these electors were. He knew that he was really voting for Wilson, Hughes, Hanley, or Benson. He knew that no elector on the Democratic ticket would dare to vote for anybody but Wilson. Nothing is said in the Constitution about political parties. Until very recently they have not been recognized by law in any way, and yet we all know that when any one is to be chosen for any office the first question asked is, What party does he belong to? We know that if any one is to be elected governor or President, he is first nominated by some political party. 241
Function of the electoral college
Early fear of parties
Why is this, and how did it come about that the real government is carried on by an agency which was not thought of at all in the Constitution?
The party really arose to supply the lack which men felt as soon as they began to carry on the government under the new Constitution. The Constitution had made it difficult for any one body to do anything unless several other bodies consented. If now the people who thought alike on some matter wanted to make laws to carry out their views, there was no machinery by which to do it. It was natural for them to combine and choose men as senators or representatives or President who would carry out their policy. The party was then a necessary means of self-government.
The makers of the Constitution were afraid of parties. They thought that parties tended to split up and divide the people. In his farewell address Washington said:
“There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true and in governments of a monarchical class, patriotism may look with indulgence if not with favor, on the spirit of party. But in those of a popular character, in governments purely elective it is a spirit not to be encouraged.”
The Federalist, a series of papers written chiefly by Hamilton and Madison in support of the Constitution, speaks of the “pestilential influence of party animosities.” But it was soon found that while the system of checks and balances might prevent government from doing harm, it made it almost equally difficult for government to do any good.
It soon turned out that there were two great groups with different interests. The one wanted a strong central government, the other a government which would interfere very little in states’ rights. The military group, who had seen the evils of a weak government in time of war, wanted a strong government. Those who wished to develop banking, commerce, and manufacturing felt the same way. These largely made up the Federalist Party. On the other hand, Jefferson did not believe in encouraging manufactures. He said:
“While we have land to labor, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a workshop or twirling a distaff.
. . Let our workshops remain in Europe. It is better to carry provisions and materials to workmen there than to bring them to the provisions and materials and with them their manners and principles. . . . The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government as sores to the strength of the human body.”
Moreover, Jefferson had great faith in the masses. “He still adhered to his doctrine,” says Professor Dodd, “that most farmers are honest, while most other people are dishonest.” A great new population along the upland border region of the South were very favorable to Jefferson's views. He introduced a new line of divisions. Instead of the first line separating North from South “he had drawn a line from northeast to southwest, from the town of Portsmouth in New Hampshire to Augusta in Georgia, west and north of which almost every man was his devoted admirer.” The party which he formed was, in the words of Professor Dodd, “a party of practical idealists in this country, never likely to reappear—a party of peasant farmers led by a great peasant planter in a nation ninety-five per cent. of whom were peasant farmers.”
At a later period, under the leadership of Southern