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10/3/2012 10:59:18 AM

Book Review: The First American Political Conventions: Transforming Presidential Nominations, 1832-1872

The First American Political Conventions: Transforming Presidential Nominations, 1832-1872 by Stan M. Haynes, McFarland & Company, Inc., Box 611, Jefferson, NC 28640, www.mcfarlandpub.com, 2012, 276 pages, Paperback, $55.00, ISBN: 978-0-7864-6892-8, Ebook ISBN: 978-0-7864-9030-1.


With the current political environment, this is a great time to review The First American Political Conventions: Transforming Presidential Nominations, 1832-1872.  I may be a little more informed of the election process, being in the legal industry, then the average American.  But I was quite surprised with how the first conventions were created and what procedures is still part of the current conventions from those earlier versions.  In recent elections, in my opinion, the conventions have merely become a showcase for the last candidate standing.  We all know who the presidential candidate is before the convention begins.  But the original purpose of the convention was to choose the candidates before they were presented to the country for election.  The creation of the conventions was the first step in having citizens choose the candidates.  Before that Congress chose the Presidential candidates to fill the void of the Constitution, which created the Electoral College.  State legislatures and not the People chose the Electoral College for half of the states.


The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice-President chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:


Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.


The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States. (U.S. Constitution, Art. 2, Sec.  1)


To fill the void Congressional Caucuses nominated presidential candidates, the first being held in 1796.  At that point the political parties were: Anti-Federalist or Republications, who nominated Thomas Jefferson (President) and Aaron Burr (V.P) and the Federalists, who nominated John Adams (President) and Thomas Pinchney (V.P.).  But because of the votes for each candidate, John Adams (71 electoral votes) and Thomas Jefferson (68 electoral votes) received the two highest votes.  Because of this John Adams was nominated as the presidential candidate and Thomas Jefferson the vice-presidential candidate.


This was just the beginning of discovering the flaws with the Electoral College.  The problem of tied votes was corrected in 1804 by the 12th Amendment.  But that wasn’t the end of the problems with the system.   The main problem being, that Congressional members, were nominating the candidates without the input of the People.  As it should be the People were complaining.  This caucus system was known as Washington insiders picking the President.  Sound familiar?  This information is how the book begins.  Interested yet?


Once national conventions were invented, an American only process to elect presidents, for the 1832 election, where do you think a majority of the first political conventions took place?  A good bet may be New York City, since it was the first capital of the United States, most populous city and of course the financial center.  Another good guess would have been Philadelphia, the city that gave birth to the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Any other guess?  I won’t leave you in suspense any longer.  The first national conventions took place in Baltimore.  Why you may ask?  You’ll have to read the book. 


If you also want to find out about the conventions for the Whigs, Anti-Masons, Anti-Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, National Republicans, American/Know-Nothings, Constitutional Union, Liberal Republicans, Republicans and Democrats you’ll have to read the book. 


If you want to experience Henry Clay’s frustration in not being elected President, Andrew Jackson’s political manipulation for his successor and Abraham Lincoln’s nomination for two terms, you’ll have to read the book.


I’ll give you three descriptive words: Beginnings - Intrigue – Tradition.


Want to know more?  Then you know where to go: The First American Political Conventions: Transforming Presidential Nominations, 1832-1872.


Recommendation: This title would be a good choice for your collection on the early trials of creating a new country.  It would also support a political studies program or political practice.  And of course this would be a good recommendation for anyone interested in the beginnings of the election and convention process.

Janice E. Henderson (janiceehenderson@att.net) is a Law Librarian Consultant / Trainer in New York, NY. 

Posted By Janice Henderson at 10/3/2012 10:59:18 AM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book review
10/3/2012 10:53:54 AM

Highlights from Summer 2012 LLAW Briefs

The summer 2012 issue of LLAW Briefs, the publication of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin, has been published. In addition to association announcements and committee reports, the issue includes a nice review of historic attractions in Springfield, Illinois, relating to President Lincoln.

Posted By Benjamin Keele at 10/3/2012 10:53:54 AM  0 Comments
9/27/2012 10:25:53 AM

Book Review: Client Science

Client Science: Advice for Lawyers on Counseling Clients through Bad News and Other Legal Realities, by Marjorie Corman Aaron. Oxford University Press, 2012, 288 pages. Paperback, $39.95, ISBN 9780199891900.

The message in Client Science: Advice for Lawyers on Counseling Clients through Bad News and Other Legal Realities can be summed up by the first sentence on page 199. Author Marjorie Corman Aaron asserts, “A lawyer is a more strategic and effective counselor when fully informed as to the impact of language, meaning, emotion, and psychology on his client’s capacity and willingness to understand and accept bad news and legal realities.” Effectively communicating with clients is a challenge every lawyer must meet. When the attorney must deliver unpleasant news, that challenge is made even more difficult. Client Science offers a wealth of advice on how attorneys can sensitively but efficiently inform their clients of the facts and choices they face. It is an excellent handbook that is highly recommended for all law libraries. 

Client Science consists of nine chapters. Chapter 1, “Bad News and the Fully Informed Client,” is an overview of how attorneys can maintain the confidence of their clients even if they are delivering unfavorable news. It is best if the attorney prefaces the bad news with a measure of caring but doesn’t stall. The attorney should be direct and honest about the client’s choices and chance for success. Chapter 2, “Translating the Terrain,” explains how to translate legalese into terms the client can comprehend so that the client can be fully informed. In Chapter 3, “Meaning Truths,” Aaron discusses the tendency that clients have to pursue a case based on emotions and the sense of being wronged. Clients can falsely believe that the legal system is always fair. They may want to tenaciously fight when practical considerations suggest that is not the best course of action. The attorney must “reframe” the narrative of a case—not to alter the facts, but to explain how the opposition, or the jury, could interpret them differently. Chapter 4, “Emotional Effects and Affecting Emotions,” discusses different emotional states and reactions that occur in lawyer-client communications. Aaron says a positive emotional state helps the client to make sense of complex legal information and to make difficult decisions. Chapter 5, “Predictable and Potent Psychology,” explains the strong role that emotions play in decision-making. People usually have difficulty accepting facts that oppose their own perceptions and so attorneys must counter the tendency that clients have to do what “feels” right. Aaron observes that even “when people learn that someone else witnessed the same circumstances but perceived them differently, most retain unshaken faith in their own perceptions” (p.141). Attorneys must objectively describe the realities of the legal process, eliminating as much as possible their own psychological biases. In “Voices in Choice,” the sixth chapter, Aaron illustrates how vocal choices can impact the way a message is received. In conversation with a client, the attorney must enunciate clearly. He must take sufficiently long pauses, especially after relaying complicated or negative information, so that the client has time to absorb what he has heard. In short, the attorney must speak in slow, controlled, and confident tones. Chapter 7, “Choreography of Counsel,” is similar to Chapter 6 in that it discusses the physicality of communication. Body position and movement hugely affect the client’s perception of the attorney’s authority and abilities. Used appropriately, body language can indicate confidence and engagement; used improperly, it can signify detachment or defensiveness. Chapter 8, “A Gesture to Clarity,” shows how gestures can increase or detract from the speaker’s message. Attorneys should avoid random gesturing, but a prop such as an easel, notepad, or computer can be used to reinforce or facilitate a point, as research findings show that gesturing can enhance the listener’s understanding and retention. In the final chapter, “Channel Navigation Notes,” the author shows how the proper use of speech and body language creates a positive interpersonal connection.

Client Science is packed with practical advice. This illuminating guide would be extremely useful for any attorney or law student and any other professional who wishes to improve their communication skills. 

Donna M. Fisher (dfisher@senniger.com) is a law librarian at Senniger Powers LLP in St. Louis.

Posted By Ashley St. John at 9/27/2012 10:25:53 AM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book reviews