CHAPTER XI. PARTY POLITICS (1820-1822)
To the superficial observer, politics might have seemed never more tranquil than when, in 1820, James Monroe received all but one of the electoral votes for his second term as president of the United States. One New Hampshire elector preferred John Quincy Adams, although he was not a candidate, and this deprived Monroe of ranking with Washington in the unanimity of official approval. But in truth the calm was deceptive. The election of 1820 was an armistice rather than a real test of political forces. The forming party factions were not yet ready for the final test of strength, most of the candidates were members of the cabinet, and the reelection of Monroe, safe, conciliatory, and judicious, afforded an opportunity for postponing the issue.
As we have seen, the Missouri contest had in it the possibility of a revolutionary division of the Republican party into two parties on sectional lines. The aged Jefferson, keen of scent for anything that threatened the ascendancy of the triumphant democracy, saw in the dissolution of the old alliance between Virginia and the "fanaticized" Pennsylvania, [Footnote: Jefferson, Writings (Ford's ed.), X., 161, 171, 172, 177, 179, 192, 193 n., 279; King, Life and Corresp. of King, VI., 279, 282, 290: Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., App. 63-67.] in the heat of the Missouri conflict, the menace of a revived Federalist party, and the loss of Virginia's northern following. So hotly did Virginia resent the Missouri Compromise, that while the question was still pending, in February, 1820, her legislative caucus, which had assembled to nominate presidential electors, indignantly adjourned on learning that Monroe favored the measure. "I trust in God," said H. St. George Tucker, "if the president does sign a bill to that effect, the Southern people will be able to find some man who has not committed himself to our foes; for such are, depend on it, the Northern Politicians." [Footnote: William and Mary College Quarterly, X., 11, 15.] But the sober second thought of Virginia sustained Monroe. On the other side, Rufus King believed that the issue of the Missouri question would settle "forever the dominion of the Union." "Old Mr. Adams," said he, "as he is the first, will on this hypothesis be the last President from a free state." [Footnote: King, Life and Corresp. of King, 267; cf. Adams, Memoirs, IV., 528.]
The truth is that the individual interests of the south were stronger in opposing than those of the north in supporting a limitation of slavery; [Footnote: Adams, Memoirs, IV., 533.] the northern phalanx had hardly formed before it began to dissolve. [Footnote: Benton, Thirty Years' View, I., 10.] Nevertheless, the Missouri question played some part in the elections in most of the states. In Pennsylvania, under the leadership of Duane, the editor of the Aurora, electors favorable to Clinton were nominated on an antislavery ticket, [Footnote: Niles' Register, XIX., 129; National Advocate, October 27, 1820; Franklin Gazette, October 25, November 8, 1820 (election returns); Ames, State Docs. on Federal Relations, No. 5, p. 5.] but, outside of Philadelphia and the adjacent district, this ticket received but slight support. With few exceptions, the northern congressmen who had voted with the south failed of re-election.
The elections in the various states in this year showed more political division than was revealed by the vote for president, and they showed that in state politics the Federalist party was by no means completely extinct. In the congressional elections the flood of Republicanism left only isolated islands of Federalism unsubmerged. In Massachusetts eight of the thirteen members professed this political faith; New York returned some half-dozen men whose affiliations were with the same party; from Pennsylvania came a somewhat larger number; and they numbered nearly half of the delegation of Maryland. The cities of New York and Philadelphia were represented by Federalists, and there were three or four other districts, chiefly in New England, which adhered to the old party. There were also a few congressmen from the south who had been members of this organization. On the whole, however, the Federalists awaited the new development of parties, determined to secure the best terms from those to whom they should transfer their allegiance. In New England, as has already been pointed out, [Footnote: See chap. ii. above.] the toleration movement was completing its work of transferring power to democracy.
More important than local issues or the death throes of federalism, was the democratic tendency revealed in the constitutional conventions of this period. Between 1816 and 1830, ten states either established new constitutions or revised their old ones. In this the influence of the new west was peculiarly important. All of the new states which were formed in that region, after the War of 1812, gave evidence in their constitutions of the democratic spirit of the frontier. With the exception of Mississippi, where the voter was obliged either to be a tax-payer or a member of the militia, all the western states entered the Union with manhood suffrage, and all of them, in contrast with the south, from which their settlers had chiefly been drawn, provided that apportionment of the legislature should be based upon the white population, thus accepting the doctrine of the rule of the majority rather than that of property. As the flood of population moved towards the west and offered these attractive examples of democratic growth, the influence reacted on the older states. In her constitution of 1818, Connecticut gave the franchise to tax-payers or members of the militia, as did Massachusetts and New York in their constitutions of 1821. Maine provided in her constitution of 1820 for manhood suffrage, but by this time there was but slight difference between manhood suffrage and one based upon tax-paying.