The Democratic Machine, 1850-1854

By Roy Franklin Nichols | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE LAST OF THE HEROES

THE disturbed condition of the party seemed to place no damper upon its presidential aspirants. In more auspicious times, when a Democrat dwelt in the White House, controlling the patronage, candidates found it rather difficult to get much support from the office-holding local leaders. The tenure of the latter depended upon the executive pleasure and, if the President had second-term plans of his own, or wished to name his successor, they were chary of supporting anyone displeasing to him. Thus candidates other than those with executive approval were often discouraged, because it was difficult to proceed very far without machine support. But as 1852 drew near a Whig administration was in power and there was no network of Democratic office-holders throughout the states working under orders from the departments at Washington. Thus it was to be a free-for-all with no fears of offending the executive. The result was a multiplicity of candidates.

Lewis Cass was the best known of all those mentioned for the nomination. He had been the Democratic candidate in 1848 and before that had seen many years of public service. As soldier, governor of Michigan, Secretary of War under Jackson, Minister to France, and Senator, he had long been in the public eye. His main characteristics were his hatred for all things English, acquired while dealing with the British on the Michigan and northwestern frontier; his propensity for straddling an issue as long as possible, as

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