# 4: Right to Instruct [Jaenicke]


Jaenicke, Douglas W. The Jacksonian Integration of Parties into the Constitutional System. Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 101, No. 1 (1986), pp. 85-107Published


“Democratic party theory reaffirmed the Constitution’s commitment to a “government of law, not of men.” Thinking that political authority is safely entrusted to institutions, the 1835 ‘Statement by the Democratic Republicans’ discredited the idea that the party’s voters could properly vote for the opposition’s candidate whenever they judged him to possess superior qualities. To vote  according to the candidates’ education, intelligence, status, virtue, etc. erroneously assumed that governmental performance depended upon good men rather than strict adherence to constitutional procedures. A government of law rendered the personal qualifications of would-be officials irrelevant.

“In the 1836 presidential campaign, the Democratic party ignored the calumnies against Van Buren and instead concentrated on his role as the party’s nominee. The national party exhorted: “Principles are everything: men, nothing.” If Van Buren be the rallying point of anti-bankism, anti-nullification, and the right of instruction, what [Democrat] will fail to rally around him? Is his mere name to frighten men from their principles. . . ? The [Democratic] party will adhere to principle, regardless of names. “Van Buren’s claim upon Democratic voters had nothing to do with his personal characteristics but rather derived solely from his nomination by the Democratic party. To vote for the nominee of the party that stood for limited government was necessarily to vote for that principle. For a Democrat to defect from Van Buren’s campaign simply because he believed the Whig candidate to be better qualified mistakenly transformed American government into a government of men” (102).




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