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Meetings of Presidential Electors in Maryland, 1789-1980 1785-1791
Volume 207, Preface 11   View pdf image (33K)
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ment when they gave protection to civil rights and the right to organize. President Madison
warned that political parties would become a tyrannical majority that could be avoided
through a representative form of government - an elected body of wise, patriotic citizens.
He considered democracy akin to mob rule.
Party organization became more formalized at the turn of the century; until then no one
group had a name that was accepted nationally. Jeffersonians were referred to as Republi-
cans and branded by their opponents as Anti-Federalists, disorganizers. Jacobins, Demo-
crats, all considered unflattering terms linking them to mob rule. The formation of Federal-
ists, Anti-Federalists and Democratic-Republican parties were the first to emerge officially.
The label Democratic-Republican was used by Jefferson in several states but never
widely used as a party label. Historians refer to Jeffersonians as Democratic-Republican to
avoid confusion with the unrelated Republican party founded in 1854.
The rise of parties forced a change in the selection of the President. Delegates to the
Constitutional Convention in 1787 settled on the electoral college system as a compromise
because of the diversity of the states in regard to size, the issue of slavery, distrust of govern-
ment, etc. Rather than trust the people with a direct vote, the choice was entrusted to elec-
tors, looked upon as wise leaders. This led to the formation of the caucus system. Strong
political parties developed, removing presidential elections from the electors. From 1796 to
1824, congressional caucuses chose candidates for President, then the electors chose the can-
didate from the party nominees. From 1800 to 1824, this was decided by the House of Repre-
The first election in 1789 centered in the electoral college, each member casting two
votes. The one with the majority was named the candidate for President, the runner-up for
Vice President. By this time, the two party system was emerging with considerable strength
supported by such stalwarts as Van Buren, who was convinced that "we must always have
party distinctions."
The Whigs, in 1840, appealed to the voter in a new style of political campaign. Whoop
and holler parades, torchlights, campaign slogans, witty and raucous songs aroused the elec-
torate and brought 40% more voters to the polls than in any previous presidential election.
The birth of the national convention system occurred in 1831 when the Anti-Masonic
Party held a meeting in Baltimore. Another minor party, the National Republican Party,
followed suit a few months later. The first major party of that time, the Democratic Party,
held their first national political convention in that same city in 1832, nominating Andrew
Conventions continued to play an important role in the political life of our Country.
While the subject of much criticism, no substitute has been found for nominating candidates
for a presidential ticket, adopting a party platform, or for attending to the many housekeep-
ing duties required for the smooth operation of Party functions. British historian Sir Denis
William Brogan, in "Politics in America," (1954), wrote ". . . the convention, imperfect
organ of representative government as it is, is an essential part of the American system. It
has rendered far more good service than it has done harm, and no really effective substitute
for it has ever been suggested. . . . They are, in fact, a consequence of the separation of
powers and of the federal system."
Maryland's own, H. L. Mencken, reflecting on the National Convention system, in
1924, had this to say; "There is something about a national convention that makes it as fasci-
nating as a revival or a hanging. It is vulgar, it is ugly, it is stupid, it is tedious, hard upon
both the cerebral centers and the gluteus maximus, and yet, it is somehow charming. One
sits through long sessions wishing heartily that all delegates were dead and in hell and then
suddenly there comes a show so gaudy and hilarious, so melodramatic and obscene, so
unimaginably exhilarating and preposterous that one lives a gorgeous year in an hour."

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Meetings of Presidential Electors in Maryland, 1789-1980 1785-1791
Volume 207, Preface 11   View pdf image (33K)
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