The Lives Of The Parties

The two-party system, undreamt of by the founders of the Republic, has been one of its basic shaping forces ever since their time

Recently I got a letter from a friend of mine, Max Lale, the current president of the Texas State Historical Society, that gave me a quick glimpse of a vanished world. Lale recalled that on election day of 1928, when he was twelve, he accompanied his father on a mile-and-a-quarter walk to their local polling place in Oklahoma. There he waited while his Southern-born father, faced with a choice between Al Smith and Herbert Hoover, agonized over which would be worse: to support a Catholic or a Republican. In the end he cast no vote for President.Read more »

He Did Hold Lincoln’s Hat

Senator Douglas’ act is verified, at last, by first-hand testimony

Did Lincoln, just before he rose to speak, look about in embarrassment for a place to put his new stovepipe hat? Did Senator Douglas, springing forward, bow, say “Permit me,” and then take the hat to hold on his knee during the address? If he did, the act could be symbolic. The leader of northern Democrats, who had polled 1,375,000 votes for President as against Lincoln’s 1,866,000, would thus indicate his readiness to support the new President against southern secessionists.

Our Two Greatest Presidents

Without doubt they were Washington, who walked carefully within the Constitution, and Lincoln, who stretched it as far as he dared

The myth and the reality of American history seldom come within shouting distance of one another. What the average American believes and what the historians would like him to believe about, let us say, the first winter in Plymouth, or the Boston Massacre, or Mrs. Bixby’s five sons, are two quite different things.

It Happens Every Four Years

The political convention was devised to meet an unforeseen need, and now and then it has an unexpected result

The national political convention is a device not provided for by the nation’s founding fathers. It came into being only after a number of presidential elections had been held, it was originally an occasional convenience rather than an established habit, and it became an essential part of political life only after the electoral machinery had developed ominous creakings. The truth of the matter seems to be that the founding fathers, who had foreseen much, had not precisely foreseen the rise of political parties.

 
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