100 Years Ago Today

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Democratic National Convention Struggles For Nomination

The Democratic National Convention meeting in Baltimore, Maryland is in the midst of the presidential nomination with the two contenders being Speaker of the House James “Champ” Clark of Missouri and governor of New Jersey Woodrow Wilson.

Two days ago, on the first ballot Clark received 440½ votes, New Wilson 324, Judson Harmon 148, Oscar Underwood 117½ and Thomas R. Marshall 31. 13 more ballots were taken without any candidate receiving the 2/3rds majority of delegates. Much politicking and backroom deals are taking place with former Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan emerging as a powerful figure.

Yesterday Clark moved closer to the Democratic nomination for President when a shift of New York’s votes gave him 556 of the 1,094 delegates more than all of the other candidates combined, but still short of the two-thirds (730) needed to win. Bryan, a progressive, detested New York’s Tammany Hall political machine which he had fought against along with Wall Street when he was championing “free silver” over the “gold standard”. In reaction to the backing of such a corrupt group of delegates, Bryan finally decides and urges all his supporters to back Wilson.

On June 30, 1912 after the 30th ballot Wilson edged ahead of Clark for the first time with 460 votes to 455 as the Iowa delegation swung its support to Wilson. On the next ballot Wilson’s lead was 475 1/2 to 446.

1912 Democratic National convention – Baltimore, Maryland
June 1912

Democratic National Convention Opens In Maryland

James Beauchamp Clark was born in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky in 1850. He graduated from Bethany College, West Virginia and Cincinnati Law School. He moved to Missouri in 1875 and opened a law practice. Clark was elected to the United States House of Representatives for Missouri as a Democrat in 1892. He became Minority House Leader in 1908 and when the Democrats took control of the House after the 1910 elections, Clark became Speaker of the House in 1911.

Speaker of the House Champ Clark of Missouri

Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia in December 1856. Wilson attended Davidson College in North Carolina for a year before transferring to Princeton in New Jersey as a freshman when his father took a teaching position at the university. He studied political science and participated in debate societies. In 1879 Wilson attended law school at the University of Virginia for one year before his frail health caused him to withdraw and he went home to Wilmington, North Carolina where he continued his studies. In 1882 Wilson started a law practice in Atlanta. He did his graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University in 1883 and in 1887 received a PhD in history and political science. In 1890 he joined the Princeton faculty as professor of jurisprudence and political economy. He wrote extensively on politics and governmental theory. In 1902 he was promoted to president of Princeton. In 1910 Wilson was elected as governor of New Jersey stressing his independence from the institutional political machine and he promised that if elected he would not be beholden to party bosses.

Governor of New Jersey Woodrow Wilson

Wilson’s popularity as governor and his image in the national press made him an attractive candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912. Wilson, a Virginian by birth, could carry the Democratic South. Clark held the progressive wing of the Democratic party and had the support of powerful newspaperman William Randolph Hearst and was popular in the border states.

On June 25, 1912 the Democratic National convention opened in Baltimore, Maryland in at the Fifth Regiment Armory. The Democrats are exuberant over the fact that although they are running against an incumbent president, the Republican party is split between president Taft and ex president Theodore Roosevelt.  Both Clark and Wilson have won a number of primaries and Clark has more pledged delegates than Wilson but he lacks the necessary number of votes to secure the nomination on the first ballot. William Jennings Bryant who was the losing Democratic presidential nominee in 1896, 1900 and 1908 but is still a powerful figure in the party has yet to endorse either candidate.

Ticket for the 1912 Democratic National convention in Baltimore, Maryland
June 25, 1912

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