In the absence of major Political Parties, the election of 1824 became a free-for-all with Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William H. Crawford and Henry Clay, all running for President with regional support from their backers. The two major contenders were Adams and Jackson. Andrew Jackson won 99 electoral votes and John Q. Adams won 84. Jackson also won the popular vote.
Since neither received a majority in the Electoral College as required by the Constitution, the selection was thrown into the House. Jackson fully expected to win since he had a clear plurality of both the popular vote and the electoral vote. However, Henry Clay who came in forth in the Electoral College vote was also the powerful Speaker of the House and a bitter rival of Jackson. Using his influence, he persuaded Congress to choose Adams. After assuming office as President, Adams then appointed Clay as Secretary of State.
Quite naturally, Jackson and his supporters denounced the decision as a “corrupt bargain”. However, later analyses of the voting by mathematicians using “game theory” have suggested that the majority in Congress supported their speaker, Henry Clay who was constitutionally ineligible, having come in forth in the electoral balloting. Unable to vote for their first choice, they voted for their second or third choice instead. Regardless, the appearance of impropriety was enough to mar the presidency of Adams and doom him to being a one term President like his Father before him.
For his part, Jackson resigned his Senate Seat in 1825 and began putting together a political organization in preparation for the 1828 election. He enlisted the support of John C. Calhoun, Martin Van Buren and Thomas Ritchie. With the help of his friends in Philadelphia and Richmond, particularly those in the Tammany Society, he established the Democratic Party and quickly built it into a national organization. In the 1828 election, he easily defeated John Quincy Adams with 178 electoral votes to Adams’ 83. Andrew Jackson did not invent “patronage” or “machine politics”. He did, however, elevate them to a political art form.
The “Tammany Societies” were started sometime late in the seventeenth century. They were named for the Delaware Indian Chief, Tamanend (Tammany), leader of the Lenni Lanape Tribe that befriended William Penn in Pennsylvania. The early Societies were admirers of many of the native customs, particularly their social and political structures. To them the Indians symbolized freedom and independence. Their study of the native way of life led them to adopt many of their ideas into their own thinking, aiding in the development of a “colonial identity” distinct from the European cultures. The thirteen arrows clutched by the eagle in the Great Seal of the United States, for example, are taken from the Iroquois symbol of war.
The Tammany Societies and the Sons of Liberty, an affiliated group, played an important role in the colonies’ struggle for independence. Both societies followed a similar practice of using Indian symbols in their ceremonies and activities. Members frequently dressed as Indians when engaging in political protests such as the Boston Tea Party and Shay’s Rebellion. Among prominent American patriots, Tammany members included Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, both Adamses, Hancock, Washington and many others. The Tammany Society was officially incorporated in New York on May 12, 1789.
Aaron Burr, a prominent New York Politician and future Vice President to Thomas Jefferson was successful in turning the Tammany Society from a social club into a “political machine” destined to dominate New York politics for years to come. Modern historians consider Burr to be the father of “machine politics”.
Martin Van Buren, who helped Jackson organize the Democrat Party in 1825 and ran his campaign for President in 1828, was a protégé of Burr and a leader in the N.Y. Tammany Society. In 1817 he expanded Tammany’s “political machine” to encompass all of New York. Members of the machine were called “the Bucktails”. It’s leaders were known as “The Albany Regency”. The strength of the Society was based on political patronage and the use of “ward bosses”. The Tammany Society endured until 1960 and the name eventually became synonymous with political corruption and graft. The corruption reached its apex in the 1860’s under the infamous “Boss” Tweed, resulting in the Tammany Hall scandal.
Jackson and Van Buren made patronage and the “spoils” system a staple in national and local politics. As Senator William Marcy, a Jackson supporter, said in response to criti-cism of the spoils system, “To the victors go the spoils”. Under the spoils system, government jobs were handed out on the basis of party loyalty rather than ability and talent. By making party loyalty and work performed on behalf of the party the determining factor in employment and promotions, those in power were able to strengthen the party and their control over it.
It also led to widespread corruption as party loyalists competed for prime political appointments and worked to promote the party in order to hold on to their jobs. Attempts at reform generally proved ineffective until a rejected office-seeker assassinated President Garfield in 1881. Garfield’s death brought about the Pendleton Act of 1883 and the establishment of the Civil Service Commission. The spoils system continued in state and local politics, however, and is still the primary source of power for big city political bosses to this day.
In spite of the Pendleton Act and the later Hatch Act, patronage continues in most of our Democratic controlled major cities. With the Shakman Decrees of 1972 and 1983, the City of Chicago agreed to end the patronage system. However, as late as 2006 violations of the decrees were alleged in the Congressional Campaigns of Rahm Emanuel and others. Chicago now has a “Shakman Monitor” appointed by the courts and operating with questionable results; i.e., the 2004 - 2006 “hired truck” scandal resulting in the conviction of several city executives.
The National Republicans
The period following the War of 1812 is known as the “era of good feelings”. Part of the reason for that good feeling was the fact that there were no serious political rivalries. The floundering Federalist Party lost all credibility with the voters because of its opposition to the War of 1812 and ceased to exist as a political force in 1816. The conflicts between the Hamiltonian Federalists and the Jeffersonian Republicans over the role of government and the Constitution had settled into a background controversy and the national debate over slavery had not yet reached the point of a major national controversy.
During the Administration of James Monroe (1817-1825), the Republican-Democrat Party broke into an array of warring factions and by 1824 had lost its identity and infrastructure, ceasing to exist as an organized party. The era of good feelings was not destined to continue for long, however. A bitter rivalry developed between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson over the outcome of the disputed election of 1824. In addition, the proper role of government again became a major source of contention between supporters of John Q, Adams and Henry Clay, and the supporters of Andrew Jackson. The rematch election between Adams and Jackson sharpened the distinction between the two sides.
By 1830, the anti-Jackson forces had formed into a new party called the National Republicans, with Henry Clay as its leader replacing J.Q. Adams. Supporters of Jackson continued to use the name Democratic-Republicans, but gradually dropped it in favor of the name Democratic, which more accurately reflected Jackson’s political philosophy.
In 1831, the National Republicans held the first nominating convention nominating Henry Clay as its presidential candidate with John Sergeant as his running mate. The 1832 platform of the National Republican Party featured Henry Clay’s “American System”, originally called the “American Way”, based on the American School of economics originating with the ideas of Alexander Hamilton and later expanded by Friedrich List.
The main features of the National Republican’s 1832 platform was a high tariff to protect American manufactures from the competition of cheap imports from Great Britain; internal improvement such as roads and canals to promote commerce; the preservation of the Bank of the United States, re-chartered in 1816 to stabilize the currency and regulate state and local banks; and the maintenance of high land prices to generate federal revenue. The National Republicans emphasized America as a single entity rather than as a federation of separate states. They attacked those advocating “state’s rights” as pandering to regional interests. After a 55% to 37% defeat by Jackson and the Democrats the National Republicans disbanded and reorganized as the Whig Party.
The Whig Party
Opposition to Jackson policies involved a number of issues, his opposition to the Second National Bank and his objection to internal improvements were among the most prominent. In addition, his opponents objected to what they considered excessive use of his executive authority. Presidents before Jackson had usually kept the members of the previous cabinet in order to maintain continuity of government. On assuming office, Jackson had his entire cabinet resign in mass, replacing them with men who had actively supported his election. Prior Presidents only used their veto powers to veto bills they thought were unconstitutional, believing Congress best represented the will of the people. Jefferson vetoed bills he disagreed with, without regard to their Constitutionality. This earned him the epithet of “King Andrew I”.
The name Whig was taken from the “Whigamores” of Scotland, a radical group of Presbyterians who objected to King James II, fearful that his Monarchy would lead to a dynasty of Catholic Kings. The name was later used for the patriots who agitated for independence from England and supported revolution. By 1776, it had come to represent those who opposed tyranny and stood for liberty. The new Whig Party had the same leadership as the former National Republicans, Henry Clay, John Quincy Adams, and Daniel Webster. It also continued the same political platform as the National Republicans.
The Whigs were a coalition of regional parties, and their leaders were not widely recognized nationally. In the Presidential election of 1836, the Party ran three candidates, each in a different region. Henry Clay of Kentucky, William Henry Harrison from Ohio, and Daniel Webster of Massachusetts. Their strategy was to deny Martin Van Buren a majority of the votes throwing the election to Congress, where Clay had a strong following. They almost succeeded. The trio of Whig candidates amassed 739,000 votes to Van Buren’s 765,000. In 1840, the Whigs ran William Henry Harrison as a single candidate and received 53.1 of the vote defeating Van Buren’s bid for reelection.
In an effort to belie the epithet “petticoat General” that had been given him by his enemies for resigning from his military commission before the War of 1812 ended, Harrison insisted on taking the oath of office outside without an overcoat or hat. The weather was cold and damp and he gave the longest inaugural address in history, lasting over two hours. Harrison contracted a cold on March 26 and died of pneumonia and pleurisy on April 4, 1841. His was the shortest term of any American President, serving only thirty days and twelve hours. He was succeeded by his Vice President, John Tyler.
Tyler had formerly been a Jacksonian Democrat and still harbored a number of its views. When a bill to resurrect the Second Bank of the United States was presented to him by Congress he vetoed it as being unconstitutional. Doing so, infuriated the Whigs. Congress passed a second bill with language they hoped would be more to the President’s liking, but he vetoed that one as well. In protest, his entire cabinet resigned, with the exception of Secretary of State Daniel Webster. In the end, he was forced to fill his cabinet positions with conservative Democrats. Two days after his second veto, enraged Whig leaders expelled him from the party and demanded that he resign, to be replaced by the President Pro Tem of the Senate. He refused. Continued...
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Philosophy of Evil Socialism in America
"The struggle of History is not between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; it is between government and the governed."