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Nominating conventions, National

Previous to 1816 the custom was to hold a congressional caucus, canvass the subject, and name the candidates; then the several State legislatures selected the electors, who voted for whomsoever they pleased for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency. In May, 1812, when the congressional caucus was called, the members assembled “in their individual character,” which clearly indicates the drift of the opinion of the day. It is true, that Madison was unanimously nominated, but the “caucus” went further, and appointed “a committee on correspondence and arrangements of one from each State, to see that the nominations were duly respected.” In the congressional caucus of 1816, Mr. Taylor, of New York, offered a resolution to the effect that “congressional caucus nominations for the Presidency were inexpedient and ought to be discontinued.” This was a new move, and although the motion did not prevail, the subject once started in that manner in the caucus itself was not to be talked down. Up to 1824 the electors were usually chosen by the several State legislatures, as has been the custom in South Carolina, even down to a very recent date. In the year named the Federalists had ceased to be of political importance as a party, and the Republicans were not held together by any outside pressure. Local preferences entered into the canvass, and candidates multiplied. Nominations were made by legislatures and by mass-meetings throughout the country. The power of King Caucus was broken. It is a fact that William H. Crawford, of Georgia, was nominated in the old style by the caucus and backed by home conventions, but John C. Calhoun, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and John Quincy Adams also had home support, and entered the field, leaving Crawford away out of sight in the race. In 1828 local conventions multiplied, and the spirit of the movement manifested itself when (Sept. 16, 1831) the United States Anti-masonic Convention met at Baltimore and nominated William Wirt for the Presidency (see Anti-Masonic party). That was the time of the excitement in relation to the abduction of William Morgan, and the anti-masons made the first great move. Then the National Republican (Adams's and Clay's) party met as such for the first and last time at Baltimore, Dec. 12, 1831, and Henry Clay was nominated. In the same city, in the spring of 1832, the Democrats held their first national convention, and nominated Jackson and Van Buren. From that campaign date the national political conventions in the United States, which have become such an important factor in our politics. See United States.

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