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protest against the proceedings here to-night."

Just here Chairman Morrissey rushed around from behind the rail,
and, reaching up, pulled Mr. Quinn off the table, and two or three
other men jumped into the mtUe, and pulled Mr. Quinn violently
toward the door, as if they would throw him downstairs. Just here,
however, some of his friends reinforced him and brought him back
into the hall. All this time Mr. Quinn was calling on the police in
the name of the law, but they offered him no aid. He got up on the
table again and denounced in scathing terms the rum Democracy which
had made the ward captive and was trampling on the rights of the
people. He closed by calling for three cheers for Governor Russell and
asked his followers to go forth with him to elect a ticket for members
of the City Committee. At this point Chairman Morrissey rushed up
to a police officer and ordered him to put Quinn out of the room.
The officer was moving to do this when Mr. Quinn and his friends
went out of their own accord.


Journalists, however, are apt to exaggerate the details of
such scenes. Perhaps the testimony given before the special
Recess Committee appointed by the House of Representatives
of the Massachusetts Legislature of 1893, to investigate the
general subject of caucus reform, may be more authentic. 43

A Democratic member of the Massachusetts Legislature
stated that the Democratic caucuses in Boston are simply
meetings to ratify the dictates of the ward committees. In
each ward the ward committee, composed of ten or a dozen
men, make a " slate nomination " of those whom they desire to
be the party candidates for representatives in the legislature
from that ward. These slate nominations are sure to be vic-
torious at the caucus, no matter what the vote may be. The
voters who favor candidates other than those " slated " by the
ward committee find no effectual means except to make vio-
lent protest, and, as a result, a free fight usually ensues
between the opposing factions. At a caucus held in 1890, for
the purpose of nominating candidates for the Common Coun
cil, one of the voters present was seen to put a bunch of ballots
into the ballot-box. Immediately there was an uproar, the
lights in the hall were turned out, and a free fight took place
in the densely-packed hall. After the disturbance had sub-
sided, the chairman declared the polls closed, and the votes
being counted, it was found, of course, that the " machine "
candidates had been nominated. Thereupon a "bolt" of the
"anti-machine" faction took place. 44

Another witness, a prominent independent Democrat, 46 drew
the following graphic picture of a typical Democratic caucus
in Boston. The densely-packed meeting is called to order by
the chairman of the ward committee. The first business in
order being the choice of a permanent chairman, the chairman
of the ward committee calls for nominations from the floor.
Several eager individuals endeavor to get the floor; but the

48 The accounts which follow are from notes taken by the writer at the hearings.

44 Hearing before the Recess Committee on Caucus Reform of the Massachu-
setts Legislature of 1893, held at the State House, Boston, Nov. 13, 1893. Testi-
mony of Representative-elect John Quinn of Ward 12.

46 Mr. John B. Moran.


chair sees only the one agreed upon beforehand by the ward
committee, who nominates the "slate" chairman. Turning a
deaf ear to the presentation of all other names, the chair calls
for a viva voce vote on the single name, in the usual form,

"All those in favor of Mr. serving you as chairman will

say 'aye,' those opposed will say 'no.' ' There are a few
feeble " ayes " followed by a deafening volley of " noes. " " The

'ayes ' have it, and Mr. is elected," solemnly cries the

chairman. At this point a serious disturbance usually occurs,
resulting from an attempt on the part of those opposed to the
machine to prevent the fraudulently-elected chairman from
taking the chair. This, however, is quickly settled by the
chairman's ordering the police officers present to remove the
obstructors from the hall. 48 After the same farce has been
gone through with in the election of a secretary, voting begins,
and in the large wards lasts until long after midnight. The
"check-lists" of registered voters, which the law requires to
be used at all caucuses, being in the hands of the ward commit-
tee, repeating is carried on on a large scale, from three to four
hundred fraudulent votes sometimes being cast in this way at
a single caucus. In the midst of the voting a disturbance
frequently occurs, some one turns out the lights, and in the
darkness some member of the machine " stuffs " 47 the ballot-
box. If, in spite of all this, it is found, on counting the votes,
that the candidate of the machine is still in the minority, he
is assigned enough additional votes by the tellers (who are
appointed by the chairman) to give him the nomination.

Another feature which came out at this invesigation was the
intimidation of city employees. According to the testimony,
at a Democratic caucus in Ward 21, in the spring of 1893, for
the purpose of choosing a ward and city committee which was
to nominate the party candidate for mayor, 174 city laborers

* In Boston, until recently, a fee of two dollars was charged by the city authori-
ties for the use of the ward-rooms for the holding of caucuses ; and according to a
city ordinance, the chairman of the ward committee being the lessee, the police were
ordered to obey his directions. By the provisions of the new caucus act, the city
is required to furnish polling places in the different wards at the public expense.

47 The practice known as " stuffing " the ballot-box consists in putting into the
box a number of ballots which have not been legally cast.


participated. The "regular Democratic ticket for city com-
mittee" was printed on paper of light red color, and was dis-
tributed to the voters by two well paid city employees. The
bosses were there to see that all the city workmen voted the
colored ticket on pain of being summarily discharged from the
city service. This flagrant form of intimidation was practised,
to a greater or less extent, in all the wards of the city. 48

Another witness, Mr. E. P. Clark, had been a candidate for
the nomination for representative in his ward in 1893. The
rules of the Democratic City Committee provided that, at the
written request of the qualified voters, a registering ballot-box,
such as is used at the regular election, should be used at the
caucus. Mr. Clark, desirous of a fair vote, accordingly pre-
sented to the chairman of the ward committee such a request.
The chairman, however, coolly tore up the request, and
deposited the pieces in the stove, at the same time asking Mr.
Clark what he proposed to do about it ; Mr. Clark was not able
to do anything about it, the old-fashioned open ballot-box was
retained, and the chairman and secretary agreed upon by the
ward committee were duly installed. The chairman then
invited the various contestants for the nomination "behind
the rail," presumably to see that everything was conducted
fairly and honestly; but upon Mr. Clark's asking permission
to examine the inside of the ballot-box before the voting com-
menced, he was forcibly ejected from the hall by the police,
acting under orders from the chairman. Although, according
to impartial observers, there were not more than 300 voters
present at the caucus, the vote received by the machine can-
didate, as returned by the tellers, was 510 as against 234 for
Mr. Clark. 49

There seems to be in Boston no such use of bribery as
exists in Baltimore, and the interference of Federal office-
holders is comparatively insignificant; but municipal office-
holders take an active part in the nomination of candidates;
and it appears to be plain that, as the caucuses are now con-

48 Testimony of John B. Moran.

49 Testimony of Edward P. Clark at a hearing before the Special Recess Com-
mittee, held at the State House, Boston, Nov. 21, 1893.


ducted, it is impossible for the Democratic voters of Boston to
nominate the persons to represent them that they desire. The
nomination can be had only by a previous arrangement with
the ward committee. 60 The successful candidate therefore
naturally feels himself responsible to the ward committee
rather than to the voters, and will, in matters of State legis-
lation, or in the conduct of city affairs, obey the "machine,"
rather than the wishes of the people. Where there is little
or no opposition to the "slate" arranged by the ward com-
mittee, that omnipotent body deigns to permit a fair cau-
cus. Just as soon, however, as the success of their " slate " is
imperilled, they resort to every fraudulent method for the
accomplishment of their purpose. The remedy suggested by
most of the witnesses at the hearings was the passage of a
law requiring caucuses to be held under the same regulations
as the Australian ballot law prescribes for the regular

As a result of the investigation before referred to, the
Massachusetts Legislature, in 1894, passed a caucus act, mak-
ing the Australian system of voting compulsory in all the
Boston caucuses. 61 This act has had two trials, in 1894 and
in 1895, and those two trials have proved conclusively the
value of such legislation. Mr. John B. Newhall, who was
chairman of the committee which reported the act, was pres-
ent in 1895 at the Democratic caucus in Ward 12, the pro-
ceedings of which the year before have already been described;
and he told the writer that he observed a most decided im-
provement. The act appears to have had beneficial results in
other parts of the city. That the working of the nominating
machinery is still unsatisfactory, however, is proved by the
renewed complaint which has arisen during the past year, in
regard to the condition of the caucuses in Boston, particularly
those of the Democratic party. Another special recess com-

60 It is an interesting fact that a man who " bolts " the caucus and runs as an
independent candidate, in case he is successful at the polls, is usually recognized by
the machine, and the next year given the regular " slate " nomination. Henceforth,
he too is likely to be a " machine " man and to look with disfavor upon " bolters."

61 This act will be described in chapter viii., and the act itself, as amended in
1895, will be found in Appendix G.


mittee was appointed by the last legislature to investigate the
matter, and recommend such legislation as may seem expedi-
ent. The report of this committee will be read with interest
by the friends of caucus reform.

14. "Snap" Caucuses and Primaries. Besides the system of
nomination by self-perpetuating clubs and committees, intimi-
dation, and fraudulent practices, there is another favorite
device of the professional politician, known as " snap conven-
tions," or "snap caucuses." 52 This practice consists in the
issue of a call by a State or district committee for a convention,
and for caucuses or primaries to choose delegates to that con-
vention, upon too short notice to the party voters, usually
accompanied by a failure to advertise sufficiently the time and
place of the primaries. The result is that few but the friends
of the " machine " attend the primaries, and the latter, conse-
quently, have everything their own way.

This trick is as old as the nominating convention itself.
The following correspondence took place in 1835, between the
son-in-law of Governor Wolf, the " regular " Democratic candi-
date for Governor of Pennsylvania, and a supposed adherent :

DEAR SIR, It has just been ascertained that the Muhlenberg men
have had second sets of delegates elected to the 4th of March conven-
tion from Bucks, Lycoming &c. Their object is to leave the decision on
the admission of the minority delegates to Adams, Montgomery, Ches-
ter, Lebanon, Dauphin &c., and thus let them all in and cheat governor
Wolf out of the nomination. The only course left, therefore, for the
Democrats is to take up their own weapons, dirty as they are, and break
their heads with their own club. All the disputed counties are to stand
aside and leave the undisputed counties to settle the question. Now
the real interests of the party require that you should at once get up
a second set of delegates from Adams and thus destroy the vote of
the delegates on the admission question, and you are accordingly
requested at once to convene a meeting of a few of our friends (half a
dozen will do) , appoint a chairman and secretary and then offer a reso-
lution appointing any three men you have confidence in, as delegates

62 The two being really parts of the same device, for convenience they will be
considered together, although the convention is beyond the scope of the present


to the democratic convention to meet on the 4th to represent Adams
county, and send them over. It is taken for granted that you will have
but little trouble in making this arrangement. . . .


It seems, however, that the writer of the above epistle, in
this case, hit upon the wrong man. Mr. Fuller replied:

I cannot comply with your request for two reasons : First, I cannot,
upon reflection, think of six men in the town and county that would
act in this matter; and secondly, I think it politically and morally

A modern instance of the same practice was the call issued
by the Republican committee of Albany County, New York,
in 1880, in behalf of Mr. Conkling's candidate for the presi-
dential nomination, General Grant. They feared that their
"slated" delegates might fail of an election, and therefore
issued a call on Friday for primaries to be held for the elec-
tion of delegates to conventions which were to meet on Sat-
urday. The " slated " delegates were, of course, elected. The
whole thing was a deliberate conspiracy, extending throughout
the county, to thwart the wishes of the Republican voters.

"In Bethlehem," says Mr. George Walton Greene, "the
notice was posted in the evening for an election to be held on
the following day. As it takes time to get the farmers
together, a week's notice had been customary. In New Scot-
land, the call was posted on Thursday, for a meeting on
Saturday, to elect delegates to Monday's convention. After-
ward, as it appeared, the two days' time seemed a dangerous
concession, and so the machine leaders sent about one
O'Brien to pull down the notices and post others for an elec-
tion on Friday instead; and the same trick was played at
Berne, Coegmans, and Guilderland. ... In Knox five hench-
men awaited the coming of the mail, on receipt of which, with
instructions, they immediately posted notices, under which
they at once resolved themselves into a caucus, electing three
out of the five delegates to Albany. At Westerloo no meet-

Nile*'* Regitttr, XLVIII. 114.


ing was held, nor any notices given, yet at the convention two
delegates, claiming to represent that place, were promptly on
hand." 54

A more recent and notorious case of the " snap caucus " was
preparatory to the Hill "snap" convention, held in New York
State on February 22, 1892. The object was to send to the
Democratic national convention a solid Hill delegation, in
spite of the fact that a large majority of the Democratic voters
of the State were undoubtedly in favor of Mr. Cleveland.

The first step of the Hill men was to secure absolute control
of the State committee. Previous to the assembling of the
State Convention of 1891, it was known that at least nine out
of the thirty-four members of the State committee were opposed
to Senator Hill as a candidate for the Presidency. For the
sake of harmony it was necessary to get rid of this discordant
element. Accordingly, contesting delegations of Hill men
appeared at Saratoga from the nine congressional districts
represented by anti-Hill members on the State committee.
Although there was not the slightest doubt that the anti-Hill
delegates had been fairly elected, they were nevertheless un-
seated without the slightest investigation. By this means a
State committee was obtained unanimously in favor of the
presidential aspirations of Senator Hill. 56

On January 2ist, 1892, the Democratic National Committee
issued its call for a national convention to be held at Chicago
on June 2ist. On January 26th, the new Democratic State
Committee of New York called a State convention to be held
at Albany on February 22d, for the purpose of electing dele-
gates to the national convention. Such an early date was
entirely unprecedented, the earliest date previous to 1892
having been April 2ist. Every newspaper but one in New
York city protested. Even the World, a paper which had
always been friendly to Senator Hill, said:

The early call is undoubtedly unfair to the large number of Dem-
ocrats who are opposed to the candidacy of Senator Hill. It puts

84 North American Review, CXXXVII. 259-60.

66 Statement presented by the Delegation from the Democratic Convention of the
State of New York held at Syracuse, May 31, 1892, p. 4.


them at a fatal disadvantage to be called upon at such short notice,
without organization or leadership, to meet the unexpected attack of
a powerful machine under the personal direction of a consummate
politician. 1 *

Following the call for the "snap convention," "snap prima-
ries " were held by the machine throughout the State. As
the pamphlet of the " Anti-snappers " expresses it, " the con-
vention having been sprung upon the party, the scheme was
completed by springing the caucuses also. " 67 Notices were
posted on one night for a primary on the following night. In
many cases no notice whatever was given of the time and place
of meeting. As a result of this violation of the rights of the
rank and file of the party, from most of the towns and city
wards solid " Hill " delegations appeared at the various district
conventions. In those cases where the Democratic voters, in
spite of such tactics, were able to hold well-attended caucuses,
their delegates were refused admission. Of these high-handed
proceedings, the following are examples.

On the afternoon of January 26th, the very same day that
the State committee issued its call for the "snap conven-
tion," a call was published in the Hornellsville Tribune, for
a primary of the Democratic voters of that city to be held
on the evening of the following day, to elect delegates to the
district convention, although the latter had not as yet been
called. In other words, only thirty hours' notice was given of
the time and place of holding the primary.

In Lewis County, primaries were called on a notice of from
one to two days, and in many towns well known Democrats
were entirely ignorant that the primaries were to be held until
after it was publicly announced that they had taken place and
that delegates had been chosen. In Columbia County, the
notices required to be given by law were stuck up on the
outside of barn-doors, and the doors then thrown open against
the wall so as to hide the notices. In Cattaraugus, and in
many other counties, notices for primaries to be held at a cer-

* New York World, Feb. 7, 1892.

7 Statement of the Delegation from the Syracuse Convention at Chicago, 33.


tain time and place were posted and then altered, and the
primaries were held at a different time and place from that
stated in these notices. 68

In short, in every part of the State where opposition to the
machine was feared, every conceivable method was resorted to
to prevent that opposition from being heard at the primaries.
The result of the whole scheme, so carefully planned, and so
effectively carried out, was that Senator Hill obtained his
solid delegation. But fortunately this success brought no real
advantage. Such effective work was done by the opponents
of the machine, that Mr. Hill's chances of securing the
presidential nomination, if he ever had any, were utterly
destroyed. 69

The evil here is perfectly distinct. It is the violation of
the rules and precedents of the party. The remedy is more
difficult; but it would undoubtedly be a reform to require, by
law, every party committee to publish a full and exact notice
of the time and place of the meeting of the caucus or primary
a certain specified number of days before the meeting is to
take place.

15. "Packed" Caucuses and Primaries. There is one other
evil that is frequently complained of; namely, the process
known as "packing" caucuses or primaries in the interest of
certain candidates. For instance, the congressman represent-
ing a certain district is a candidate for renomination. His
record at Washington has been satisfactory to the voters of his
party, and it is the evident desire of a large majority of them
that he should be reflected. As there is apparently no oppo-
sition to his renomination, many voters do not attend the
primaries, and the result is that some other man, who has
been secretly at work among his friends, "packs" the prima-
ries with his followers, and secures a majority of the dele-

68 Statement of the Delegation from the Syracuse Convention at Chicago, 34, 35.

60 The opponents of Mr. Hill, the " Anti-Snappers " as they were called, held
an independent State Convention and elected delegates to the National Conven-
tion favorable to Mr. Cleveland. Though these delegates were not admitted to
the Convention, their influence with that body was known to be far greater than
that of the " regular " delegation.


gates to the district convention. Thus the party has foisted
upon it a candidate whom it does not want, and whom the
great majority of the party voters, perhaps, have never heard of.

It is obvious that such a thing could never happen if the
party voters always attended the primary meetings, as they
certainly ought to do. But even where the voters do not, as a
rule, attend the primaries in large numbers, the evil com-
plained of can be remedied, to a large extent, either by a party
rule or by a statute requiring the names of all persons to be
voted for at the caucus or primary to be handed in to the com-
mittee in charge, a certain number of days before the caucus is
to be held. In this way sudden surprises, at least, can be
prevented. This provision is already in force where the
Australian system of voting has been adopted in the manage-
ment of caucuses; but it is evident that this particular remedy
for "packed" caucuses and primaries can be applied without
necessarily adopting the other features of the secret ballot

Another device of the professional politician consists of
"packing " a caucus or primary with a band of hired " heelers,"
as they are called, many or all of whom may not themselves be
voters, at least in that particular district. These "heelers"
fill up the room where the caucus or primary is to be held, and
by their noisy demonstrations and insulting language, tend to
drive away respectable voters of the other side. This evil,
wherever it exists, can be easily remedied by suitable police
regulations, similar to those in use at the regular elections.



1. The System in General. The only objection to the con-
vention system as a system, that seems to me to be worthy
of attention, is that the individual voter cannot express his
opinion in regard to the different candidates for the various
offices for which nominations are to be made at the conven-
tion. To illustrate : John Smith goes to a caucus or primary,
anxious to see Thomas Jones nominated as the party candidate
for county treasurer, and, accordingly, he votes for delegates
pledged to vote for Jones in the convention. But he cannot
always assure himself that those delegates will also vote for
his friend Brown for sheriff, or against an incompetent Robin-
son for probate judge. Thus the convention system only
partially gives expression to the wishes of the individual
voter. 1

2. The "Crawford County System" as a Substitute for Conven-
tions. To remedy the difficulty mentioned in the preceding
section, there has been devised the system of primary elec-

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Online LibraryFrederick William DallingerNominations for elective office in the United States → online text (page 12 of 27)