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PARTY METHODS.—The most important of all are the methods of party management. These have been so highly organised and elaborated and so universally followed, that they might be described with as much precision as the details of the constitutional system. In some few cases the law or the Constitution takes notice of the existence of parties, but as a rule they and their ordinances are wholly conventional. We have already noticed the solidarity of party as one of the forces making for union in the American system. In every State the people are massed into two great bodies, one of which leans to the side of Federal authority, the other to that of State-rights; but in no State or group of States is there now a party which stands for the particular local interests against the main body of the States. Both parties are organised on a theoretically popular basis. The Republican or Democratic electors of a given precinct meet in "primary meeting” to nominate candidates for the public offices of that precinct, and also delegates to a Convention which will represent the electors of the next wider area—say, the county. The county committee thus constituted will nominate candidates for the county public offices, and delegates to a still higher Convention, which shall represent the whole electors of the State. That State Convention will in like manner nominate the candidates for State offices, and, when occasion requires, delegates to the great national Convention which assembles to choose the party candidates for the offices of President and Vice
President of the United States, and to formulate the creed of the party on the pressing questions of the day. The choice of each of these Conventions determines the regular candidate who will be voted for by the faithful members of the party. So many offices have to be filled up by election, that it is generally found convenient to have all the elections on one day—that is to say, in any given precinct an elector will vote for candidates to fill up city, county, Staté, and national offices in one election. The names of the party candidates are printed on one paper or ticket, and the “regular” vote is that which adopts the whole ticket as it stands.
No system, it might seem, could be better calculated to place the control of a party in the hands of a real majority than this. The representation of a given area in the Convention for the area next above it is proportional, and the prevailing rule in each circle is the rule of the majority. Yet it is this very system, copying as it does the State organisation at every point, which has brought American politics under the control of the “bosses” and the professional politicians, and which is alleged to have driven the best class of Americans out of public life. How this result has been brought about is a question which it would require the knowledge of an expert to answer. One or two of the admitted causes may be adverted to. One undoubtedly is the power of money. So vast and complicated a machine cannot be worked without a large expenditure, and much of the money is obtained by assessments
levied on the candidates for the various offices. There is often a regular tariff for these appointments. An interesting statement was published only the other day, which professes to give the authentic figures for the City of New York.* A candidate for the office of Mayor of New York pays from
25,000 to 30,000 dollars. Judge of Supreme Court
10,000 to 20,000 Registrar
15,000 to 40,000 County Clerk
10,000 District Attorney
5,000 In an ordinary New York election, the sum raised by the machines from the candidates for the various offices is estimated at 211,200 dols. There is no need to speculate on the effect of such a system on the character of the officials selected for the public service. Its effect on the electorate is not less deplorable. Between the men appointed by law for work in connection with elections and those appointed and paid by the machines there is in New York “a total of 45,475 who are under pay on the day of election, and are, consequently, affected by the enormous amount of money involved. At the last election about 220,000 votes were cast, and of this number 45,000 or one-fifth were receiving pay for their services.”
The same authority declares that the aggregate of salaries (Federal and Municipal) dependent on the result of elections in New York alone
* See the New York Nation of March 3, 1887. Mr. W. M. Ivins, the City Chamberlain, is responsible for the figures.
+ New York Nation, March 3.
is $10,000,000. It is by the manipulation of these vast sums that the “bosses” obtain control of the party organisations. The want of good election laws : accounts for many of the abuses of the present system, but the excessive resort to popular election in the appointment of public officers is perhaps responsible for more.
It must not be supposed, however, that even in the most unscrupulously managed organisations there is nothing but corruption. The vast majority of voters doubtless quite honestly vote with the only organisation that represents their general political convictions. Moreover, the smaller associations, on which the great machines rest, are often held together by social rather than political ties. The reader who is curious about the actual working of the party machine will find an excellent account of its operations in the city of York by Mr. Roosevelt in the Century Magazine for November 1886.
THE LEGAL ELEMENT IN POLITICS.—Another remarkable feature in American politics is the predominance of lawyers. This class has always played an important part in public affairs, but its influence was probably never greater than it is now. The present Cabinet consists almost entirely of lawyers, and they abound in both Houses of Congress, and in the State Legislatures. They are the leaders of the “campaign” movements and the orators at the great public meetings. The reason, no doubt, is that the lawyers constitute in the United States the great class of speech-makers. Everybody who has a turn that
way, and no special avocation otherwise, proceeds naturally to practise at the bar, frequently after having passed through a preliminary stage of teaching school or editing a newspaper. As a class, they abound in men of culture and varied ability; and, in the absence of a leisured class with an inclination for politics, they easily hold the field. The circumstances of political life also favour their influence. Political controversy, as must be apparent from what we have stated in previous chapters, has been largely of a legal character; and the existing relations of National and State Governments have been settled to a large extent by legal interpretation. Another favouring circumstance is the existence of what may almost be called a legal habit in the American mind—everybody seems to be a little of a lawyer. The wide distribution of property in land, and the simplicity of title and registration, tend to familiarise laymen with one very important department of the law.
The State laws, moreover, are very generally codified, and service in the State Legislatures spreads some knowledge of the Code over a large portion of the people. Whether the predominance of the legal class in political and official life is a good thing or the reverse is a question about which opinions will differ; but it is only fair to point out that there are liberalising influences connected with the practice of the law in America which do not exist elsewhere. One is the existence of nearly fifty different legal systems, with any one of which a lawyer may be required to make himself acquainted. A comparison