The Direct Primary Law of 1911[65] abolished all political conventions except the state convention, but the Direct Primary Law of 1913[66] went further and abolished the state convention, striking the article on conventions and even the definition of a convention from the text of the law. Although the new law contains in section 45 a provision that nothing therein contained shall prevent a party from holding a party convention, to be constituted in such manner and with such powers in relation to formulating party platforms and policies and the transaction of business relating to party affairs, as the rules and regulations of the party may provide, not inconsistent with the Election Law, it was clearly the intention of its framers that such party conventions should not deal with the most important subject which parties had theretofore dealt with, namely, the nomination of candidates for public office. Indeed, section 46, as amended in 1913, expressly provides that designations of candidates for party nominations shall be "by petition only" in the manner provided in the Election Law.

The privilege of nominating elective state officers by means of delegate conventions thus denied by the Election Law of the state of New York ought, in my judgment, to be recognized as essentially a constitutional right, which the legislature should not be at liberty to abridge. The right to assemble peaceably for the purpose of nominating candidates is certainly a political right of permanent importance and vital concern to all citizens, and it should be guaranteed by constitutional provision and not left to abridgment or denial by the legislature. The present state constitution regulates the qualifications of voters, the registration of citizens entitled to vote, and the creation of registration and election boards. But it does not contain a single provision in regard to nominations for office, even for the office of governor, although nominations for state offices are of far greater importance to the body politic than many of the matters now regulated by constitutional provision or recited in the bill of rights. I desire to urge upon your careful consideration the value of nominating conventions as a constitutional right.

The constantly increasing functions of the modern state have made the executive and administrative departments the most important and powerful branches of government, and the increasing complexity of governmental machinery has rendered it absolutely essential that competent and trained public officials should be chosen. Government has become an extremely difficult and scientific business, and special capacity, training and expert knowledge are more and more required in executive and administrative office. The test of a good government is more than ever its ability to produce good administration. If we are to have efficient and avoid wasteful administration, the greatest care must be exercised in selecting candidates. As Governor Throop said nearly a century ago, "there is perhaps no part of the duties of citizenship which requires more sound judgment and honesty and singleness of purpose than those relating to the nomination and election of executive and administrative officers." Indeed, good government depends in final results much more on the ability and character of the men who administer it than upon laws or institutions. The maxim, constantly on the lips of so many, that a government of laws and not of men is the controlling desideratum, may be grossly misleading, for the best system of laws in the hands of incompetent, inefficient and dishonest administrators will produce far worse results than an inferior system in the hands of competent, efficient and honest public officials. The most difficult task and the highest duty that our electorate are ever called upon to perform is, therefore, the selection of candidates for elective state office. In order to perform that duty, it is imperative that there should be adequate and reliable means of information, full opportunity for conference, exchange of views, debate and criticism as to the capacity and character of candidates, and effective methods of cooperation and organization in support of qualified candidates.

The selection of a governor for the great state of New York, containing more than 10,250,000 inhabitants and comprising a political constituency larger than any other in this country, is certainly a matter of vital and profound concern to the whole body politic, to every citizen, to every community, to every party, to every class, to every interest. If the short ballot be now adopted, the successful administration of the whole state government will practically be staked upon the selection of qualified candidates for governor. All hope of governmental reform, efficiency and economy will then necessarily depend upon the statesmanship and character of one man, who will be vested with full executive and administrative powers over a population and a territory larger than some of the nations of the world. A wise and safe choice will be infinitely more essential and more difficult than in the past. In fact, if the views of certain advocates of the short ballot prevail, we are to vest all this power in the governor for a term of four years, without restraint of any kind except his sense of responsibility to the people, and without any effective check upon his will or caprice. We should have to trust him absolutely. We should, in truth, have precisely the definition of an elective despotism and tyranny—beneficent if we are so fortunate and blessed as to secure an exceptionally able and high-minded statesman for governor, baneful if an incompetent, untrained, or scheming politician or demagogue should be elected. The governor would then have it immediately within his power to become an absolute state boss through the use of an enormous and constantly increasing patronage, directly or indirectly reaching and touching every election district in the state. He would be able to break party lines asunder, to promote the interests of any group or faction, to punish adversaries, to cater to any class, to sacrifice the rights of minorities, to substitute his will or caprice for the policy of his party, to permit waste and extravagance, to dictate who should be his successor. A competent candidate for governor who would be so well known and tested as to be safely relied upon to resist this temptation would indeed be a phenomenon. If history teaches us that there is anything certain in human nature, if experience, which is of far more value than any mere reasoning or theorizing, has again and again demonstrated any practical and eternal truth in politics, it is that unrestrained power inevitably leads sooner or later to abuse and tyranny, and that no one official, be he emperor, king, president, or governor, can safely be entrusted with any such power.

We should bear in mind that the extreme advocates of the short ballot, by eliminating all requirements for the approval and consent of the senate in regard to the appointment of heads of the great state departments, would make the governor supreme and independent of the legislature, even more independent and powerful than is the President under the Constitution of the United States. I sincerely hope that the Convention will not make this grave mistake. The number of state elective officers should not be reduced to less than four, namely, governor, lieutenant-governor, comptroller and attorney-general. The comptroller should be made an auditing officer charged with supervision as such over the various departments of the state and independent of the appointing power. The attorney-general should be made the head of a department of justice and the responsible legal adviser of the governor and of every state official. And the heads of all the great departments should be appointed by the governor with the approval and consent of the senate. No governor should be given the unrestrained power to appoint or to remove the heads of all departments. The requirement of the consent of the senate is a necessary and salutary restraint upon all governors, good or bad. It is better and safer that governors should be compelled to submit to some restraints than that absolute power should be vested in even the best and ablest and purest of men. The principle of a short ballot is the decrease of elective offices, but not necessarily the placing of absolute and unrestrained power in the hands of one man.

It is quite true that a state constitution should deal only with permanent and fundamental provisions and should not attempt to regulate matters of detail which can be adequately dealt with by ordinary legislation and which are in their nature and operation readily changeable. I am in full accord in this, as in other respects, with the state platform adopted by the Republican party last year and on which the Republican delegates to the Constitutional Convention were elected. Subordinate and non-essential matters of mere regulation and detail ought not to be embodied in constitutions. But I venture to assert that in reason and sound policy there can be no more important, permanent, or fundamental constitutional provision than one relating to the manner of selecting the highest state officers in whom all the executive and administrative powers of our state government are to be vested. This is a subject eminently fit and proper for a constitution to regulate. If this convention cannot solve the problem of establishing a sound system of nomination for elective state offices, at least in outline and cardinal features, no legislature can be expected to do so. In any event, the new Constitution should emphatically declare that the right peaceably to assemble in a political convention composed of duly elected delegates or representatives for the purpose of nominating candidates for public office, state or local, should not be abridged, as it is abridged by the present Election Law.

I further venture to assert that the question of nominating candidates by delegate conventions involves in its essence the perpetuation of the fundamental principles of representative government and of the republican form of government which the founders intended to establish and to guarantee to each state of the Union.

The one great contribution which the English-speaking race has made to the science of politics has been the representative principle. It has been truly declared that every lasting liberty secured for the individual, every lasting reform towards stability in government and permanent effectiveness in administration, every lasting advancement made in politics during the past two centuries, has been by and through the representative system. The subordination of public officials to the law, and their liability under the law for every illegal act, sprang from the representative principle. The independence of the judiciary, that great bulwark of liberty and of the rights of the individual, has followed upon the growth and success of the representative principle. The vivifying spirit or essence of the representative principle is the determination of all questions of practical government by delegates or representatives chosen by the people, who it is assumed can act more intelligently and better discern the true interests of their country than a multitude of voters dispersed over an extensive territory. Government under the representative principle includes not merely legislation by the chosen representatives of the people, but the practical conduct of the executive department and its administrative branches by officials selected or nominated by representatives of the people. Despite all attacks upon our political institutions and all instances of mistakes and maladministration, the sound common sense of thoughtful citizens still confirms the judgment of the founders of our government that the only safe course is to follow the representative principle. This is as true to-day as it was when the "Federalist" was written. The direct nomination of executive or judicial officers is in utter disregard of that principle.

If the function of legislation is in the long run most satisfactorily performed by a representative body composed of men from every locality and every part of a state, and if it would be unsafe to vest the lawmaking power in the executive branch, does it not likewise follow that the equally important function of selecting candidates for executive and judicial office and formulating party policies and platforms will be better performed by a representative body, such as delegate conventions, than by being left to the mass of voters? If more intelligent legislation and wiser action are likely to result from a representative body than from the confusion of a multitude of voters, is it not also evident that more intelligent and discriminating selection of executive officers will be made by chosen representatives, as in nominating conventions, than by the people at large?

It should be borne in mind that our system of republican government differs from other representative governments in the practical and effective separation of powers. In England and in France the legislators, that is the delegates or representatives elected by the people, appoint and control all executive and administrative officers and carry on the executive and administrative branches of government. There the legislative and executive powers are practically united in the same body. Under our system the legislators do not elect or appoint executive officers. It is, therefore, essential, as I am profoundly convinced, that executive officers should be nominated by duly qualified representatives if the representative principle is to be maintained.

Nomination of executive officers by direct primaries will inevitably be subversive of the true spirit of the representative system, and the secrecy of the vote in the nominating primaries will ultimately be destructive of all sense of responsibility. The enrolled voter marking his ballot in secret will frequently feel no sense of responsibility or accountability to his neighbors and fellow-citizens, and will frequently fail to appreciate that his vote is a sacred trust to be exercised for the good of the community. The secrecy of the primary vote thus does a great moral mischief in destroying the sense of political responsibility and accountability. A public declaration in connection with nominations for office, involving as it does a recommendation to other voters of fitness and qualification for the particular office, is a much more effective restraint on corruption and perversion of the popular vote than any scheme of secrecy which leaves no one publicly responsible for unfit and improper nominations. In my judgment, the primary system tends to promote the nomination of self-advertisers, demagogues and wire-pullers by irresponsible minorities, groups, factions, cabals, or secret societies, generally composed of persons acting in the dark and dominated or controlled by leaders who cannot be held to any accountability, however much they may abuse or prostitute the political power they exercise.

The nomination of candidates for public office, whether national, state, or local, by means of party conventions, caucuses, or conferences, was introduced and long existed without any statutory regulation. The practice sprang up normally and from necessity as soon as the increase of population rendered it impracticable for the voters to come together in mass or town meeting. The body of voters, who could not spend the time necessary to investigate as to the qualifications of candidates, or attend political debates, and who could know little or nothing of the competency and character of candidates, naturally recognized that the best and safest course would be to elect delegates or representatives from each neighborhood, who, meeting delegates or representatives from other districts, could exchange views, criticize, discuss and agree upon policies and nominations, and thus act more intelligently, advisedly and wisely than would otherwise be possible.

The growth of constituencies, the multiplication of elective offices, and the neglect of their political duties by the majority of electors led to many abuses in the management of nominating conventions, and legislation became necessary in order to prevent frauds in connection with the conduct of primaries and conventions. In promoting this legislation, it was argued that, if citizens were assured the right to be enrolled in the party to which they desired to belong and to vote at primaries and freely to exercise their choice for delegates to conventions, they would be stimulated to take part in the primaries, and that this would result in preventing party nominations for office from being controlled by those who made politics their business or used improper or corrupt methods. Hence the primary reform measures introduced by legislation in our state in the nineties.

These measures, however, proved to be sadly disappointing to many of their promoters. This was not because the statutes were in themselves defective or inadequate, but because it was found to be impossible by mere legislative enactment to induce a majority of the electors to enroll in their parties or to take any active part or interest in politics. Although under these primary laws the nominating conventions could at any time have been readily controlled by the electorate at large, had the voters only taken the trouble to enroll and vote at the primaries, great dissatisfaction arose or was fomented or manufactured, and a demand created for the total abolition of the convention and the introduction of the experiment of a direct primary system, upon the notion that this would stimulate greater political interest, enable the enrolled voters to control and elect their own candidates, bring nominations closer to the people, and curtail and ultimately destroy the power of the politicians and bosses. The new experiment was based upon the assumption that if enrolled electors could vote directly for candidates instead of for representatives to nominating conventions, they would thereby be induced to take a more active interest in politics, to overthrow the control or domination of bosses and professional politicians, and to make better selections than had ever been made before. In a word, it was assumed in the face of all experience to the contrary that, if the voters had the direct power, they would perform their political duties, that better qualified and more competent and independent candidates would offer themselves or somehow would be brought to the attention of the electorate, and that nominations would then represent the will or choice of the majority in each party, and not the will of minorities, or the choice of bosses. How the majority were to ascertain the qualifications of particular candidates or cooperate to secure the nomination of the best qualified was left in the air. It seemed to be thought, following the absurd and exploded doctrines of Rousseau, that the people would always want and, by a process of political inspiration, would intuitively and instinctively select, the best men for public office.

The result so far has refuted all these assumptions, hopes and promises. The people at large do not take part in the primaries, and the political machines are more powerful than ever. Thus, in New York county, the Republican vote for governor at the direct primaries of 1914 was only 23,305, out of a total enrollment of 56,108 and a vote in November of 85,478; the Democratic primary vote was only 48,673 out of a total enrollment of 132,693 and a vote in November of 90,666, and the Progressive primary vote was only 6,972 out of a total enrollment of 19,705 and a vote in November of 5,604. It will be readily perceived from these figures that a small minority of the voters in each party took the trouble to participate in the direct primary elections, even in the case of the nomination for governor of our state, as to which there was an exciting contest in each party. An examination of the figures throughout the entire state will show that the voters in nearly all districts took less interest in direct primary elections for nominations than they were accustomed to take under the old convention system and that the controlling power is still being exercised by the organization, but now acting in secret and utterly irresponsible. For example, the Republican primary vote for governor in Bronx county was 5,276 against a Republican vote of 29,865 in November, and in Richmond county the Republican primary vote for governor was 984 against a Republican vote of 5,477 in November. It is probably correct to assume that not one-half of the Republican or Democratic voters now enroll, and that, on an average, less than one-half of the enrolled voters take the trouble to go to the primaries, even when there is a serious contest, as was the case last year for governor. There were then three proposed Republican candidates, Whitman, Hedges and Hinman, and the result was that less than one-sixth of the Republican vote in November might have been sufficient to carry the primaries, the total Republican vote for governor having been 686,701 as against a total primary vote of 226,037 for the three candidates. Under the present direct primaries, the voters of a small portion of the state can put a candidate in nomination by petition; any number of names may be put on the official primary ballot, and a candidate may be put in nomination by a very small minority vote confined to a single locality. In fact, twenty or more names can be placed by petition on the official primary ballot of any party as candidates for any elective office, and the name of the person receiving the largest number of votes will be that of the candidate of a great party, to whose support the party will be committed and for whose conduct in office the party will be responsible, although the successful candidate may be entirely unknown to nineteen-twentieths of the voters at that particular primary. Under the present primary system, in view of the small number of those participating in primaries, an insignificant percentage of the voters at a primary could nominate a candidate of whose qualifications and personal character the majority of the party were wholly ignorant, or a candidate whom an overwhelming majority would utterly repudiate. Sulzer came very near carrying the direct primary of the Progressive party. This shows how readily the direct primary system engenders factions and irresponsibility, and how unfit it is for securing the expression of the intelligent and instructed will of the majority of any party. Moreover, there is no way of ascertaining for whom petitions are being circulated; no publicity is required even after the time for filing petitions, and the great majority of enrolled voters generally have no idea of the candidates for office on the official primary ballot until they open the official ballots at their polling-places. The press is either uninterested or partisan, and it fails adequately to discuss the qualifications and character of candidates.

I submit that it is absurd to claim that such a method of nominating state officers to administer government for a population of over 10,000,000 is more likely to secure competent and trustworthy candidates, or to express the real preference and the sober and intelligent judgment of the majority of the voters of each party, than the old method of nominating state officers by public conventions composed of delegates and representatives of the voters from each assembly or election district of the state, proceeding in the open with full opportunity for investigation, discussion and criticism.

The conventions of the two great political parties held at Saratoga last year, at which the party platforms in respect of the approaching Constitutional Convention were adopted and fifteen delegates-at-large "recommended," were wholly unofficial and unregulated by law. What was practically the nomination by the conventions of candidates for delegates-at-large was unauthorized and operated only as a mere recommendation. They had to be nominated by petition as fully as if the conventions had never met. These conventions thus nominated delegates because they realized, and every thinking man in the state appreciated, that it would be preposterous to leave the selection and nomination of fifteen delegates-at-large to the mass of enrolled voters who would have no opportunity for conference and exchange of views in respect of the qualifications and character of the candidates. Some informed, responsible and representative body of men had to act, and therefore the conventions acted—in the very teeth of the law. They, however, refrained from considering candidates for the great office of governor, on the theory that it would be violating the spirit and intent of the Election Law to take any action in regard to candidates for that office! What inconsistency! The most important and vital subject of the governorship was left to the hazard of petitions circulated among the enrolled voters throughout the state. There were no organizations of any kind among the voters, except what are known as the political organizations, and no other means of communication and exchange of views or debate. Of course, it was confidently anticipated that the organization in each party would determine, or at least would have it within its power to determine, who should be the candidates of that party. Such proved to be the case. No candidate was nominated at the direct primaries for a state office unless he was supported by the regular organization or machine of his party. And that, I believe, will be the practical result of direct primaries in nine cases out of ten, and more readily and frequently and unsatisfactorily than under the old convention system.

Careful observers of the operation of the primary law last year in this state, and for several years in other states, have become convinced that the result of this so-called reform has been not only to increase the power of the regular organization or machine but to render it utterly irresponsible. The organization now acts in secret behind closed doors and without accountability to any one except its own inner circle. The leaders have only to whisper their orders over the telephone to the workers in each district, preserving no record, and the desired result is accomplished. If an unfit and improper nomination is made, the leaders can disclaim all responsibility and say that such is the will of the sovereign people. As the vote at the primary is secret, no one can be blamed; there is no individual or group of individuals upon whom responsibility can ever be fastened. If it be argued that there is actual responsibility and that everyone knows it, then I answer that this is only by admitting that, after all, the secret machine or boss is in fact responsible and still rules, and now more effectively than ever.

As has been pointed out by many able writers, the convention system in the past has been of inestimable service to this country. With all its vagaries, it afforded the highest test of a political representative institution in a democratic community and the soundest and purest application of the principle of representation or delegated authority; it operated to bind party elements firmly together; it afforded full opportunity for exchange of views, criticism and debate, for the propagation of principles, for the conciliation of factions; it inspired enthusiastic party life. The convention, if honestly conducted, was a thoroughly representative and deliberative body, and it was the true cause of party success and of the maintenance and perpetuation of party principles and policies, as well as political faith and devotion. In a word, the convention was and still is the best instrument ever devised for securing concert of choice and responsible and intelligent action by large bodies of voters belonging to the same political party and believing in the same political faith, principles and policies.

I am not at all blind to the fact that there have been great abuses in the convention system, and that conventions have been at times corruptly organized or conducted. But I know of no form of abuse or corruption which could not have been remedied by appropriate and intelligent legislation, or which could not have been prevented in New York by action of the voters if the legislation of the past twenty-five years had been generally availed of by the majority in each party. The control of all nominations was in the hands of the majority, if they had only taken the trouble to enroll and vote for competent representatives at primary elections. There is no practical remedy for abuse of power, fraud, or corruption in nominations for office but the participation in politics of all voters as a duty of citizenship. The notion that the direct primary would eliminate the professional politician and the boss has been shown to be false in every state where the scheme has been tried. Indeed, quite the contrary has been the result, and the last condition is worse than the first; for, to repeat myself, manipulators, wire-pullers and political bosses now work in secret and by underground channels without any responsibility or accountability whatever, and are, nevertheless, able cynically to point to the direct primary as the expression of the people's sovereign will—a primary which may be carried by a very small minority of the party.

I assume that all the members of this Constitutional Convention believe that the existence of political parties is essential to the success of free government and to permanence and stability of political policy, and that the perpetuation of party government is desirable for the welfare and best interests of this state. Men cannot secure results and compass their ends in politics, any more than in most other human concerns and matters requiring concerted action, except by organization, cooperation, discipline and responsibility. The value of the service rendered to the American people by the great political parties is incalculable, and if these parties are to be disrupted and their organization and cohesiveness undermined, the result must inevitably be a most serious injury to the body politic. Whether we regard political parties, on the one hand, as organizations of men believing in the same political faith, principles and policies and uniting to introduce or uphold those principles and policies, or, on the other hand, merely as organizations to secure office and administer government—both of which aspects present patriotic motives—it is desirable for the permanent welfare of the people of every free country that parties should be maintained, and particularly that there should be two great responsible parties, each striving for control and ready to assume the responsibility of government and of the adoption of particular measures. A public official who belongs to a great political party and owes his preferment to that party is under a double sense of responsibility for efficiency, honesty and consistency in public office. He has a sense of responsibility and duty to the state as a whole, and he has a sense of responsibility and duty to his party, and both are moral factors of inestimable worth in securing integrity, efficiency and industry in public office.

In its real origin, the movement to abolish the convention system and introduce direct nominating primaries sprang not from any hope of reforming the existing political parties but from a desire to subvert and destroy the American system of government by political parties. The scheme was later taken up by men who sincerely desired to reform party management and correct party abuses, who conscientiously despaired of reform within the parties themselves, and who conceived and finally came to believe that betterment could be brought about only by uprooting and casting aside all the party machinery, organization and discipline which had been built up by the practical experience of over a century. The plea of bringing the government back to the people was catching and plausible, and it found eager response in the deeply rooted dislike of party machinery, party discipline and party constancy on the part of those who habitually neglect all attention to politics and the political duties of citizenship except during periods of popular excitement and upheaval.

Although I am one of those who believe in independence in politics and in the right and duty of every citizen to vote against his party if in his judgment the public interests so require, I profoundly believe that party government and party organization and machinery are absolutely essential under our form of government. Political parties in America have given stability to governmental policies and have created the only effective restraint upon disintegration and individual caprice or demagogism. There must be coherence in political forces; there must be concentration and direction of the political energy of communities; there must be some systematic and practical method of investigating the qualifications of candidates and selecting competent public officials; there must be stability, harmony and cooperation in governmental policies. These can be secured in the long run only by and through permanently organized and disciplined political parties. No other method has yet been discovered by which effectively to express political opinion, to secure stability in governmental administration and policies, and to effectuate the real and permanent judgment of the people and promote their best interests.

President Wilson some years ago, in referring to attacks upon party government in the United States, used the following striking language, which I think should be now recalled:

"I know that it has been proposed by enthusiastic, but not too practical, reformers to do away with parties by some legerdemain of governmental reconstruction, accompanied and supplemented by some rehabilitation, devoutly to be wished, of the virtues least commonly controlling in fallen human nature; but it seems to me that it would be more difficult and less desirable than these amiable persons suppose to conduct a government of the many by means of any other device than party organization, and that the great need is, not to get rid of parties, but to find and use some expedient by which they can be managed and made amenable from day to day to public opinion." "Whatever their faults and abuses, party machines are absolutely necessary under our existing electoral arrangements, and are necessary chiefly for keeping the several segments of parties together.... It is important to keep this in mind. Otherwise, when we analyze party action, we shall fall into the too common error of thinking that we are analyzing disease. As a matter of fact the whole thing is just as normal and natural as any other political development. The part that party has played in this country has been both necessary and beneficial, and if bosses and secret managers are often undesirable persons, playing their parts for their own benefit or glorification rather than for the public good, they are at least the natural fruits of the tree. It has borne fruit good and bad, sweet and bitter, wholesome and corrupt, but it is native to our air and practice and can be uprooted only by an entire change of system."[67]

For these reasons I earnestly urge upon the Constitutional Convention of the state of New York the restoration of nominating state conventions for elective state offices. I do so because I believe that they are the best means of maintaining political parties, of formulating their principles and policies, of purifying and disciplining their management, of stimulating political enthusiasm and disinterestedness, and of selecting and nominating fit and representative individuals as candidates for high public office. I further urge that the nominees of any such convention should not need any further designation than the filing of a certificate by the proper convention officers. If it be concluded, however, that the direct primary system should be continued for the purpose of party nominations, then it should be provided that the name of the nominee of the convention should be placed on the official primary ballot with the designation "nominated by convention." This would enable the enrolled voters to ratify or overrule the action of their convention. I am, however, convinced that this nominating primary would impose an unnecessary burden upon the electorate, and that it would be a mistake to increase the number of elections. We should then have three elections: first, the election of delegates to the nominating convention; second, the official primaries, and third, the general election. It seems to me that it would answer every purpose if adequate provision were retained for independent nominations by petition and if nominating primaries were dispensed with. This would enable voters belonging to any party to place candidates in the field in opposition to the nominees of the convention if they were dissatisfied with those nominees.

Assuming that we are to continue the system of electing judges to our highest judicial offices, that is, judges of the Court of Appeals and justices of the Supreme Court, then I submit that candidates for these very important offices should be nominated by conventions and not by direct primaries. I regard this as even more essential in the case of nomination for judicial office than in the case of nomination for executive office.

The qualities required in a candidate for high judicial office are knowledge of the law, love of justice, high personal character, calmness, impartiality and independence. Mere popularity, or what so often is necessary to popularity, good-fellowship, is the last quality we look for in a judge. The self-seeker and self-advertiser is seldom qualified by temperament or character for judicial office. It requires the most thorough investigation as to the professional learning, career and conduct of a candidate and the most sifting exchange of views before a judicial candidate can be intelligently and wisely selected. For want of adequate means of acquiring information, the public in such large constituencies as the whole state of New York (in the case of judges of the Court of Appeals) and the various judicial districts (in the case of justices of the Supreme Court) cannot intelligently estimate the qualifications of judicial candidates. It seems to me nonsense to argue that in parties composed of hundreds of thousands of enrolled electors dispersed throughout the state, the voters can investigate, or exchange views, or intelligently act in regard to the qualifications of lawyers who are proposed as candidates for judicial office—almost as preposterous as if we were to select judicial candidates by lot from the names placed on the official primary list.

The test of fitness for judicial office should indisputably be higher and more technical than for other offices. That test should require special capacity and character, to be ascertained by careful investigation, exchange of views, open discussion and comparison of merits by responsible delegates or representatives charged with that particular duty and acting in public and personally accountable for mistake, perversion, or corruption. This test can be best secured by the convention system; practically it cannot be secured at all by any system of secret direct primaries.

Reform in the selection of judges, if their selection is to be by election, lies not in schemes to reform human nature by legislative nostrums and to destroy publicity and responsibility, but in making the voters appreciate that the government is theirs, that political power is theirs, that theirs is the duty to send competent representatives to conventions, that theirs is the responsibility of electing competent men, and that they are vitally interested in having a competent, impartial and independent judiciary. Political conventions will be reliable and responsive if the people will only see to it that competent, honest and patriotic men are elected to represent them. There is no other course unless we uproot our whole system of republican government.

Ten years of experimenting with our Election Law have produced the present hodge-podge under which no election is conducted without error and without inviting a lawsuit and from which all but experts and professional politicians turn away in irritation and disgust. The net result has been to complicate our elections and make them less and less responsive to the best public opinion, and more and more subject to the control of professional politicians, wire-pullers and bosses.

In conclusion, though repeating myself, I earnestly submit that there can be no greater menace to our political institutions and to government by the people than the prevailing tendency to weaken and impair the representative principle in our state governments by nominating executive and judicial officers through direct secret primaries instead of through public conventions composed of delegates or representatives duly chosen by the enrolled voters of the parties and charged with the duty of selecting competent and honest candidates and directly accountable to the locality they represent for the failure to perform that duty. These delegates represent the people of the various districts of the state; they come together in public; they exchange and discuss views, or at any rate have full opportunity for debate and criticism; they vote in public for this or that candidate, and then they return to their neighbors, to those who sent them and for whom they spoke and voted, and face accountability and responsibility. Is not such a proceeding much more likely to secure competent and honest candidates than the present system of leaving the voter at large to slip into a dimly lighted booth and secretly place a cross on an unidentifiable ballot? The convention system is sound and should be preserved; it alone will perpetuate our parties and our form of government, and in casting the representative principle aside, as is necessarily done in the direct primary system of nominations for state and judicial office, we are beginning a process which, if not checked, will end in what Lincoln called political suicide.

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