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The Republican Party
statesmen Jike Calhoun, the Democratic Party came to represent especially the great cotton plantation and slave-holding interest. It was the means by which all who agreed on the policy of extending slavery cooperated to elect presidents, senators, and representatives who favored slavery. Judges of the Supreme Court were naturally appointed from this same party, and hence so long as this party was in power there was unity in the government. In a similar way, those who were interested in commerce, and who believed that the government ought to build canals and make other “internal improvements," got together for common action in the Whig Party, although they did not succeed in getting control of all parts of the government in such a way as to carry out their plans effectively.
The most striking example of the party as an agency for carrying through a single great idea was the rise of the Republican Party. The Democratic Party, just before the war, had come to be controlled largely by the great cotton-planting and slavery interest. The northwestern portions of the country were interested in other things. They were willing to let slavery remain where it was. But the settlers in the new states, the pioneers, did not like to have all their policies controlled by that one interest, and so in the election of 1860 the old Democratic Party, which had been in control so long, split into three groups, no one of which could poll a majority of votes. The newly formed Republican Party, which numbered among its adherents the voters of the old Whig Party, together with many of the Democratic Party who were opposed to the spread of slavery, was able, as a result of the split in the Democratic Party, to elect Lincoln. For twenty-four years, beginning with 1860, the Repub
licans remained uninterruptedly in control of the national government, and of the state government in most of the Northern states. Indeed during the whole halfcentury from 1860 to 1912 it may be said broadly that government was carried on by the Republican Party, since there were only two Democratic administrations of four years each in that time. Thus, during the first half of the last century of our national life, the government was chiefly through one party, for the second half through another party. All important officers of government were selected by these two parties; all important laws and policies were decided by the members of these two parties.
Another step toward democracy in the sense of self- The government has been the great change in the presidency President by which the President has become the recognized head as agent
of democof his party. The party was a means of getting“ team
racy play.” But who should be captain of the party team? At first there were several “ captains,” or leaders, men who planned things. But they often worked in secret, and there was no recognized head who could be held responsible. It was quite foreign to the original idea of the presidency that the President should in any way influence Congress, much less that he could be held responsible for what his party did in Congress.
The original idea of the President was that he should The be independent of Congress and that Congress should original be largely independent of him. When the Constitution idea of was under discussion, some were afraid that the Presi- presidency dent would have too much power, although it was finally decided to give him the right of veto, with the provision that if a vetoed bill should afterward receive a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress it should become a law, notwithstanding the veto. The
thought was that the President would be a sort of wise and disinterested umpire. It was considered, further, that his chief duty would be to execute the laws which Congress had passed, without himself interfering with Congress. This was a part of the plan of checks and
The first great step toward changing the position of President the President was to nominate him by a political party.
At first members of Congress got together in a caucus by a
and “recommended ” candidates. Party leaders corparty
responded with one another and found out what the opinions were in different parts of the country; but in 1832 the various parties called conventions to nominate their candidates. The President thus became much more directly the representative of the people than he had been before. Indeed he might claim, and he soon did, that he was the only direct representative of the whole people, for senators and representatives were chosen by separate groups or sections, and not by the people as a whole. This was really working a revolution in the whole idea of the government. It came about largely through the great popularity of General Jackson, especially his popularity in the newer parts of the country, where the pioneers lived and
where the influence of the frontier was strong. Progress We may compare the change in our government with
a different change which has been effected in Great democracy Britain. In both countries, during the past hundred in Great Britain
years, there has been great progress toward democratic government. In Great Britain public sentiment has found one way of getting things done, in America another. In England, the king and Parliament were neither of them very directly under the influence of the great majority of the people of England until 1832.
Thus in the time of our Revolution the colonists blamed King George for their grievances. They did not blame the English people, for the English people did not have any direct voice in the government. The king appointed his own ministers; he controlled the election of many members of Parliament; and it was not uncommon to bribe members of Parliament by various kinds of favors to support the measures which the king desired. Three steps were necessary to give public sentiment control. First, the king must not act by himself but only under the advice (which practically meant the control) of his ministers. Second, the principle was gradually established that ministers could not expect to continue successfully in office unless a majority of Parliament supported them. Third, the election of members of Parliament must be changed so that a large part of the people should have the right to vote for them. The so-called “rotten boroughs which had the right to choose members of Parliament must be abolished. At present in Great Britain, if the people wish Home Rule for Ireland or a system of Old Age Pensions or any other policy, they secure it by electing a majority to Parliament in favor of the proposition. The king must select the ministers
* The House of Commons was made up of members chosen in two ways; (1Representatives from the “counties” called “ knights of the shire,” and (2) representatives of the towns or “boroughs.” In the course of the many centuries since these boroughs were first given representation, some of them like London had grown enormously, but others had decreased in size to almost a handful of persons. “At Old Sarum a deserted site, at Gatton an ancient wall, sent two representatives to the House of Commons. Eighty-four men actually nominated 157 members for Parliament. In one case the candidate called the meeting, proposed, elected, and returned himself.” (Goldwin Smith, The United Kingdom, pp. 320-321.) On the other hand, great cities like Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds had no representation at all.
responsible to the people
who are to carry on the government from the party which has carried the election. Thus in Great Britain the government is by ministers who are responsible to their party. The party is responsible to the people.
In the United States the tendency has likewise been toward government by the party. But, as it might happen that the party does not always have a President and also both houses of Congress, the party in that case cannot make laws and control their execution. Hence the party claims it is not responsible. The people, however, have been gradually looking to the President more and more to carry through what they desire. Andrew Jackson did much to promote this view that the President is the people's representative. In the Civil War, the President naturally had greater authority and influence than he would have had in time of peace. In recent years, Cleveland and Roosevelt regarded themselves as responsible to the people, not only for approving laws, but for urging the passage of legislation. President Taft was criticised because he did not secure the enactment by Congress of measures for tariff reform which the party was understood to have promised in its Platform. President Wilson has conspicuously and openly taken the position that he, more than any one else, is responsible for seeing to it that what he regards as the will of the people is carried out by legislation. We may say, then, that the American people, when it began to want a government that would do things instead of a government that could not do things, first hit upon the political party as the way of getting team play, and then made the President captain of the team. The people approve the President now for doing what would have been regarded as entirely wrong one hundred years ago.