The American Party System: An Introduction to the Study of Political Parties in the United States

By Charles Edward Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
INTERPRETATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

REVIEW OF THEORIES OF THE PARTY SYSTEM

Although the party system is one of the characteristic features of American public life, it is a singular fact that no systematic description or discussion of the party developed until one hundred years after the system had been established. The critical study of the party and its philosophy is practically the creation of the twentieth century.

In his famous Farewell Address, Washington denounced parties and the party spirit in set terms. He especially assailed the evils of factionalism and that excess and bitterness of partisanship in which patriotism is lost and evil inflicted upon the state. Had Washington's advice on this occasion been followed, there would have been no parties at all. His protest, however, was ignored, and his contemporaries proceeded to the organization of political party groups throughout the country.

A generation later, Webster and Calhoun made very vigorous protests against the establishment of parties built upon patronage and spoils. They denounced in most eloquent language the tactics of Jackson in the employment of patronage, and predicted disastrous consequences if parties were formed upon a spoils basis. But their logic and their lamentations passed unheeded at the time, and the processes of the parties went steadily on, uninfluenced by the violence of the assaults by these great leaders. Much of their opposition was in fact attributed to party rivalry or jealousy.

-365-

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