What was undoubtedly the most entertaining College Conference of the year was held in Sever 11 last evening. The subject was "The Conduct of American Political Campaigns" and when the speaker, Hon. John E. Russell, stepped upon the platform, he was greeted with long and enthusiastic applause. Had the committee discussed the subject with me, said Mr. Russell, I should perhaps have changed it slightly. By America we now understand this grand federation of republics. Our talk of politics is everlastingly of the government. In reality we are governed by States. From the day of our birth through the whole course of life, the American is ruled by state laws. His schooling, marriage and divorce, are governed by the laws of the state.
The state governments bear a general resemblance to the national government. The states have the power of taxation which is really the power of government. No government unless it be the most powerful government in the world could act as did the United States in the case of the New Orleans Italians. No other government could sustain a relation between the whole and its units such as now exists in America. But the state governments and the national government differ in many respects. Their elections are carried on under laws quite different.
Now, let us come to the feature which distinguishes our government from that of any other nation. The caucus is the distinctive feature in American political campaigns. It is the machine in politics, and is self-perpetuating. It differs from the old New England town-meeting, in that it is composed of members of one party only. Those who enter into the proceedings of the caucus are in sympathy with each other, and thus they accomplish something. The caucus is the germ from which are formed the county and state central committees and officers. To some it may appear that a political campaign is run hap-hazard. This is not the case, however. A campaign is very carefully managed, and it costs a great deal of money. Men are assigned to different parts of the states, the more famous, naturally speaking, in the large cities.
The National Committee compares in its powers and its dignities with the state committees. There is also a Congressional Committee, which was formerly known as the Congressional Caucus. The National Committee is composed of one delegate from every state. It collects all the money it can - oftentimes amounting to untold millions. It is in session only during the quadrennial campaigns, and it devotes itself to furnishing money and men to the different states, larger sums being given to the so called doubtful states.
The next and last piece of machinery in politics is the National Convention. The nomination of candidates is, next to the quadrennial election, the greatest feature of a campaign. Originally, candidates were nominated by a congressional caucus. It was not until after 1831-2, that National Conventions were first held, and since that time all the nominations for presidency have been made through this medium.
After his talk Mr. Russell devoted some time to answering a number of questions which were asked. He was frequently interrupted by prolonged applause, and at the close of the conference, the audience showed great enthusiasm.