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Whence the cause of the unexpected defeat which the Democratic party, in the midst of its sweeping march of victory in all other quarters, has recently had to sustain in the great State of New York? This is an interesting question ; and we apprehend that in its solution will be found involved a lesson of the philosophy of politics and parties, well worth, if rightly read and wisely heeded, the price of an election lost. It is a question which it need cost us no effort to consider with the entire calmness and candor of disinterestedness. The general series of triumphs of this fall to which this reverse was the first exception—that single exception which proverbially but proves the rule-has placed our party and cause so high above the possible reach of danger to its renewed and co:firmed ascendency, that we can well afford to approach this question in a spirit of perfect fairness and openness; and to look with the same severe eye of abstract justice upon the faults of friends as of foes.
In our last January Number, in some remarks on the previous election in this State, we anticipated the recovery of the State by the Democratic party, at the succeeding election. The event has partially, though not entirely, disappointed that anticipation. The majority by which the Whigs then swept the State has been reduced between five and six thousand. The aggregate Democratic vote has been increased by upwards of forty-two thousand, being actually between sixteen and seventeen thousand more than in 1836, when the Democratic majority was upwards of twenty-nine thousand. Our expectation of a reaction in favor of the Administration policy, and of the recovery of its lost ground by the Democratic party, has thus been verified, though not to the extent then antici. pated from the reaction after a similar overthrow in 1824–25. Its consummation must cost two years—perhaps three-instead of one. The disappointment of our' anticipation has consisted in the unexpected increase of the Whig vote above that of last year, being nearly thirty-seven thousand votes, while the Democratic increase has been, as above stated, upwards of forty-two thousand, leaving still a Whig majority of upwards of ten thousand. • The disappointment naturally felt at this result was vastly increased by the extraordinary contrast exhibited in almost all the other elections throughout the Union. The results of these had equally surprised both parties, exhibiting so much earlier than was expected by the most sanguine, the developement of that great popular movement in support of the policy of the Administration, which we had always, in the darkest hour, regarded as certain and inevitable--a
e--a movement which from its nature can never be arrested and turned backward.
Without enumerating all the Staies whose elections afforded desisive victories to the Administration, if Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, came round of their own accord (in the case of some of them entirely unexpectedly) to its support, under all the apparent disadvantages of its position, what was not to be expected from New York! The exulting anticipation of triumph was thus wrought so high, that it is not surprising that its disappointment created a sudden revulsion of feeling which caused the accents of doubt and alarm to be heard in some quarters, at the very time when the general issue of all the elections exhibited one of the finest of party triumphs ever achieved within our history, and established, as before remarked, the ascendency of the present Democratic Administration and policy, high on a ground of impregnable security which certainly a year ago we had not ventured to dream of so soon attaining. However, the very contrast of the exception in the case of New York will serve to bring out into bolder relief the peculiar causes to which alone it can be ascribed ; and thus to strengthen the moral of political truth to be derived from it.
We do not propose to dwell upon the means which were strained to the utmost-and to a degree entirely unprecedented-by the Whig party to carry the election. These have been sufficiently explained and exposed by the newspaper press. From many details of private information we have received, we are satisfied of the substantial truth of the charge of a more lavish and corrupt use of money than has ever before been attempted to influence an election. This election was confessedly the last chance of that party. This lost, and every shadow of hope, or inducement to attempt a prolongation of the struggle, was gone. The exertions to be made for this last rally, and the heavy contributions of money, by those individuals and classes hest able and willing to contribute freely to such a purpose, were of course proportionate to the vital importance of the stake. That the sums thus raised were of enormous amount, we have never seen directly denied by the Whig press, though the charge has been constantly and pointedly urged. It has been in several instances plainly evaded and parried without a denial, while in private the admission has been frequently and freely made. The mode in which such an influence was made to bear effectively on the election, was simple in its means and grand in its combination. The most admirable party organization was carried out through the State, by school districts, of which there are not less than ten thousand. By an analysis of the state of parties in a district, the exact number could be ascertained of individuals in it open to this influence, in any of the thousand forms it may so easily assume. The allotment of these to the care of a suitable committee, could scarcely fail to secure a large proportion of them; while an average of but three or four in each district thus influenced, under the application of this machinery, organized before the knowledge of the general course of the elections elsewhere, would make an aggregate of thirty or forty thousand over the State at large. However, all this we pass over, and can afford no more than an allusion to the other . causes of local influence, which it is well known have been most efficiently plied against the Democratic party—the question of small
X bills, which was made the principal issue in many parts--the “Patriot” excitement along the northern tier of counties—the New York and Erie Rail Road question throughout the southern-the old Anti-Masonry of the West, and Political Abolitionism organized distinctly as an active and zealous party. All these we pass over; for the true question is, why was not the Democratic party triumphant in spite of all these influences, on the strength of its great popular principles, which in all the other elections have been seen to produce such signal results? This is the true question ; and its answer must be found in the internal weakness, proceeding from some long and deeply operative cause, of the Democratic party itself in that State.
The truth seems to be, that the Democratic party had held too long and too absolute an ascendency in the State; and had not been entirely exempt from that corrupting influnce upon the purity of its first principles, generally incident to the too long pos. session of undisputed power, A thorough agitation and disturbance of the old established order of things had become necessary, and perhaps on the whole, as an unavoidable destiny, ought carcely to be regretted. That of the preceding election was not enough. The mere fright of that defeat would scarcely have been a sufficient penalty to pay for the long course of erroneous legislation and government, in the building up of that stupendous pyramid of chartered interests, which has since, in the natural course of events, proved the weight that has broken it down. We impute no corrupt or intentional impropriety in this remark; for both parties co-operated in it, and the public opinion
on the subject, by the light of which we can now review that period, had not then been developed, by time and the progress of events, to its present point of maturity. Still the State administration in power had of course to bear its responsibility and its consequences. Out of this state of things grew necessarily a too thorough and strongly marked party organization on both sides, which placed the two halves of the population in a decided, constant, and broadly defined relation of hostility towards each other, without the balance of any very considerable neutral class, or juste-milieu, between them. The consequence was, such an implacable opposition of the one half to the established State administration, under the popular designation of “the Regency,” as made it impossible ever to bring over any portion of them to its support, in any new combination of events, without a more thorough reform of the old system of things, with a deep agitation of the elements by the discussion of first principles, than could rationally be expected. No majority ought ever so to use its power as to array against it so formidable a minority, in such an attitude of unanimous and implacable hostility; and this effect would never be produced by the mere strict adherance to decided and uncompromising principles of a true democratic character, for unquestionably the majority of the mass of all large parties in this country must be democratic at heart. It then places itself entirely at the mercy of any section of its own numbers, however small, who may choose to secede from the main body, without any other available resources, in a large neutral class or in the moderate and liberal portion of its opponents, from which to draw a compensation for such a defection.
In this state of things, what was the course adopted in the late crisis, and through the period of strugglefollowing the overwhelming defeat of 1637? The mistaken idea was taken up of “re-uniting the party”-as is such a body as the Conservatives, with all the motives, interests, and feelings, which had attended their secession, could possibly be brought back to a sound and healthy reunion ! The true policy would have been, not to undertake the impossible
task of mending, but to re-construct, from the foundations, anew. • In Ohio, for instance, a very different state of things existed, and a
very different course was pursued. Instead of attempting a quasi compromise between the conflicting opinions in the Democratic party itself, the great principles involved in the policy of the administration were freely, deeply, and thoroughly probed and discussed, with the object of convincing the neutral and the moderate of the opposition; and the result has been, to bring over a sufficient proportion of the honest and sound-minded farmers from the main body of the latter, to convert the strong Whig majority of the preceding election into as strong a Democratic majority. In Tennessee, a similar course is rapidly and decisively achieving the