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ever, for himself the last word as to these matters and as to all others. Where legalized primaries exist, he must, in substance, submit his report as a nominating committee of one to such voters of his party as may choose to attend these primaries; and it is possible that his report may be, wholly or in part, rejected and his ticket turned down, just as it is possible that the report of our committee on nominations may be rejected and its ticket turned down at this meeting; the probability that this will happen is about the same in each case. In any event, the legal voters will pass upon his recommendations at the polls, and experience shows that the character of these recommendations, or, in other words, the merits of his candidates, depend very largely on what he may reasonably expect from the voters. In a “one party city” the dominant boss (who, in such a city, is sole boss, so far, at least, as the municipal government is concerned) selects candidates to suit himself, there being, in truth, no good business reason, from his stand-point, why he should select them to suit anybody else. In a "two-party city ", however, especially when the two parties are fairly well balanced and a considerable body of “independents” can turn the scales to one side or the other at their will, the two parties and their respective bosses are usually obliged to compete, at least in some measure, for the favor of the voters and particularly of these independents; and this situation may result, in fact, I have known it to result, in nominations by one or both of the parties more nearly in accord with the standards of this League than could have been reasonably expected of any other method then and there available. But, whether he exercise his power well or ill, there is, to my mind, no room for doubt that, under existing conditions, in a typical American city government, the boss, and only the boss, holds the power of authoritative initiative to which I allude in my title.
I have spoken of the boss as habitually encircled by a ring of advisers and lieutenants with, substantially, only consultative
powers; just as the primitive patriarch or chiefRings
tain gathered around him a circle of notables, entitled, by custom gradually hardened into law, to give him advice, advice which he was expected to weigh, but not necessarily to follow: for the sake of clearness, however, it should be here noted that sometimes the boss-ship is, so to speak, put in commission, and two or three, even five or six, men collectively discharge its duties. Of a "ring" of this character I need only say that, according to my own experience and observation, its rule is usually more oppressive and less enlightened than that of an individual boss, mainly for the same reasons which have often rendered a regency a period of divided counsels and corrupt and incapable government: for our particular purpose this evening, it is altogether immaterial whether by the “boss" we mean one big politician or three or four medium-sized specimens of the same genus.
It can hardly be said with justice that the boss has usurped the power of initiative with respect to elective municipal offices; he
has rather inherited it, or acquired it through a Origin of
gradual and unpremeditated accretion of his Parties
authority, resulting from the profound change in our ideas as to the nature of a political party. The original conception of a party was a group of citizens gathered about a prominent man with whose views as to public affairs they were in sympathy and whose suggestions they wished to see adopted in the conduct of the government. Far from the party's electing its leader, the leader created his party: no primary put Hamilton at the head of the Federalists or Jefferson at the head of the Republicans of their day, any more than a primary put Gladstone at the head of the Liberals or Disraeli at the head of the Conservatives of theirs. The party, it is true, generally survived the man who founded it; but his successor as leader was chosen, not by the ballots of all who had voted its ticket, but by a practical test of superior eminence; that man became the new leader whom it was found by experience other leaders were willing to obey. Nobody thought for a moment that every citizen who “belonged to a party in the sense that he usually voted for its candidates, was for that reason entitled to a voice in determining its policies: the party was regarded as essentially a school of political thought, and the teacher or the few teachers who guided it were held to speak with authority because of exceptional personal qualities, not because of any delegation from the pupils who listened and followed. Moreover, the notions that a party constitutes a quasi corporation, and that every member of the community, or, at all events, every legal voter, normally belongs, or ought to belong, to some one such corporation, are comparatively recent in modern times; prior to the French Revolution we find mere traces of these conceptions as applicable to modern states.
The radical change from the old view of a party to that now practically universal in America, and apparently becoming so
everywhere, has been regretted by very high Party Spirit
authorities, especially because of the greatly increased bitterness and pertinacity of partisan prejudice thereby caused. In the words of Hood:
“Of all the spirits of evil fame
To praise and enforce
A temperate course,
And in the Farewell Address, Washington says:
“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you, in the most solemn manner, against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally. . There is an opinion that parties, in free countries, are useful checks upon the administration of the government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This, within certain limits, is probably true; and in governments of monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged.
be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume."
During the campaign which has just closed in Maryland, I heard an intelligent and well-informed speaker deplore and con
demn the general legalization of primaries : he Legalized Pri
said primaries ought to be, not regulated, but maries Needed
abolished and forbidden by law, and "party leaders ”, as he called them, ought to be obliged to present their candidates to the voters on their own avowed and individual responsibility; so that we should know A. B. as the candidate of C. D. or E. F. and not as the candidate of the Democratic party or of the Republican party, when we came to vote for or against A. B. As a matter of sentiment, I found myself much disposed to sympathize with him: in the course of a fairly long life, having been now for some thirty-five years always interested in public affairs and often more or less concerned with politics, although always avowing myself a party man, I have never voted in a party primary. But we must deal with the world as we find it, and in the American political world of to-day it would help and not hinder Boss C. D. or Boss E. F. in passing off on the voters his own chosen friend A. B. as the choice of the Democratic or the Republican party, if local Democrats or local Republicans had not even the imperfect and unsatisfactory opportunity afforded by legalized primaries to repudiate A. B. altogether. It seems to me more to the purpose to inquire whether we cannot secure somebody else, somebody more nearly in sympathy with the principles and purposes of this League, to exercise the powers of initiative which have fallen to the eminent bosses in question; so that Democratic voters or Republican voters when they come into the primaries may not be compelled to vote for A. B. simply because the only other candidates are the ridiculous G. H., who has had the impudence to nominate himself, and the equally preposterous I. J., who has been nominated by a self-constituted committee of cranks because he agrees with them as to the habitability of Mars.
To attain this end, we must first realize that the duties thus discharged by the boss are laborious and unpleasant duties, unpleasant even to the boss and which would be found much more unpleasant by such a substitute as I have suggested. Men of the right sort for the office to be filled must be, not only discovered, which, of itself is a toilsome process, but urged, entreated, persuaded, even hectored, wheedled or in some sort bullied into making the sacrifices involved for a capable and well-trained American of high character in serving the public. Now and then, here and there, such a man is found with a healthy political ambition and the means to keep his pot boiling ; but this is a piece of rather unusual good luck. Nine Americans out of ten, if not ninety-nine out of a hundred, who are reasonably fit for public office, either must, in justice to their families, devote their time to gainful labor, or else find public office so distasteful and unprofitable that they can be induced to take up its burdens only through urgent and persistent appeals to their conscience, their patriotism and their party loyalty. Meantime men of the wrong sort swarm like bees around every candidacy, and to shut and bar in their faces the door of hope for political preferment means chronic wrangling, personal enmities, calumny, disaffection and party treason. Certainly the job is not altogehter alluring, and, since it must be wholly gratuitous, the problem of finding the man for it is not easily solved.
Next it must be remembered that the boss can do this work because and only because his control of the party organization and his practical monopoly of patronage open to its members make his veto virtually fatal to any candidacy: the would be official whom the boss “turns down” doesn't "kick” because, and only because, he knows from long observation, and perhaps from personal experience, that to “kick” will only hurt the “kicker". If we take away this sanction from the decree of our proposed substitute for the boss, we must find some other no less potent or the decree in question will become a brutum fulmen.
It has been my purpose rather to arouse thought and invite discussion as to the problem I have presented than to definitely suggest a solution. I cannot say truthfully that I am altogether certain I have found a solution satisfactory to my own mind: I think it but right, however, to submit, at the conclusion of this prolonged trespass upon your attention, some rather nebulous thoughts looking toward a possible solution. I would have every voter appearing on the registration lists to be affiliated with a political party given a blank slip when he receives his official ballot at a legal election; and required to write in his own hand on this