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U.S. Presidential Primaries and the Caucus-Convention System: A Sourcebook

By James W. Davis | Go to book overview

2 HISTORY OF PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATIONS (1789-1968)

Although the Founding Fathers recognized the need for a strong chief executive in the fledgling Republic--they considered at least a half dozen proposals at the Constitutional Convention before settling upon the independently elected president--they saw no reason to construct machinery for nominating presidential candidates. The Founding Fathers assumed the choice would be limited to a very small number of obviously well-qualified men, and the best man would be selected, Parties were nonexistent at the time that the Framers met in Philadelphia in 1787.


NOMINATION OF PRESIDENTS WASHINGTON AND ADAMS

The first presidential nomination presented no problem since George Washington was the unanimous choice of his countrymen. In 1796, however, President Washington's announcement that he would not seek a third term signaled the opening of the first presidential nominating contest. But his belated announcement in his Farewell Address left little time for potential contenders to organize their campaigns. Rival factions in Congress-- the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans--convened into the newly formed congressional caucuses to select their choice for president. The Federalists chose Vice President John Adams as their nominee and Thomas Pinckney as his running mate. The Democratic-Republicans (soon to be called Democrats) selected Thomas Jefferson to head the ticket and Aaron Burr as his running mate. In neither case did the parties make formal nominations; they merely decided among themselves and depended upon their

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