Walt Whitman on Political Conventions
by Walt Whitman
[T]he controling "Democratic" nominating convention of our Republic --starting in their primaries in wards or districts, and so expanding to counties, powerful districts, States, and to the great powerful Presidential nominating conventions--were getting to represent and be composed of more and more putrid and dangerous materials. Let me give a schedule, or list, of one of these representative conventions. . . .
The members who composed it were, seven-eighths of them, the meanest kind of bawling and blowing office-holders, office-seekers, pimps, malignants, conspirators, murderers, fancy-men, custom-house clerks, contractors, kept-editors, spaniels well-train'd to carry and fetch, jobbers, infidels, disunionists, terrorists, mail-riflers, slave-catchers, pushers of slavery, creatures of the President, creatures of would-be Presidents, spies, bribers, compromisers, lobbyers, sponges, ruinĂ˘€™d sports, expell'd gamblers, policy-backers, monte-dealers, duellists, carriers of concealĂ˘€™d weapons, deaf men, pimpled men, scarrĂ˘€™d inside with vile disease, gaudy outside with gold chains made from the people's money and harlots' money twisted together; crawling, serpentine men, the lousy combings and born freedom-sellers of the earth.
And whence came they? From back-yards and bar-rooms; from out of the customhouses, marshalsĂ˘€™ offices, post-offices, and gambling-hells; from the President's house, the jail, the station-house; from unnamed by-places, where devilish disunion was hatch'd at midnight; from political hearses, and from the shrouds inside, and from the shrouds inside of the coffins; from the tumors and abscesses of the land; from the skeletons and skulls in the vaults of the federal almshouses; and from the running sores of the great cities. Such, I say, formĂ˘€™d, or absolutely control'd the forming of, the entire personnel, the atmosphere, nutriment and chyle, of our municipal, State, and National politics;substantially permeating, handling, deciding, and wielding everything; legislation, nominations, elections, "public sentiment," etc.; while the great masses of the people, farmers, mechanics, and traders, were helpless in their gripe. . .
March 18, 1876