The Democratic Party Platform 1912

Image: Democratic Party Convention 1912. Library of Congress,
election of 1912

SOURCE:  Party Platforms and Conventions. New York:  The Evening Post, 1912, 20-31. Available online at the Hathi Trust Digital Library:$c186844&view=1up&seq=24&skin=2021

Democratic Party National Convention, Baltimore, Maryland

Principles of Jefferson

We, the representatives of the Democratic Party of the United States, in national convention assembled, reaffirm our devotion to the principles of Democratic government formulated by Thomas Jefferson and enforced by a long and illustrious line of Democratic Presidents.

The Tariff

We declare it to be a fundamental principle of the Democratic Party that the Federal government, under the Constitution, has no right or power to impose or collect tariff duties, except for the purpose of revenue, and we demand that the collection of such taxes shall be limited to the necessities of government honestly and economically administered.

The high Republican tariff is the principal cause of the unequal distribution of wealth; it is a system of taxation which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer; under its operations the American farmer and laboring man are the chief sufferers; it raises the cost of the necessaries of life to them, but does not protect their product or wages. . . .

We favor the immediate downward revision of the existing high and in many cases prohibitive tariff duties, insisting that material reductions be speedily made upon the necessaries of life. Articles entering into competition with trust-controlled[1] products and articles of American manufacture which are sold abroad more cheaply than at home should be put upon the free list. . . .

We denounce the action of President Taft in vetoing the bills to reduce the tariff in the cotton, woolen, metals, and chemical schedules and the Farmers' free bill, all of which were designed to give immediate relief to the masses from the exactions of the trusts. . . .

The Trusts

A private monopoly is indefensible and intolerable. We therefore favor the vigorous enforcement of the criminal as well as the civil law against trusts and trust officials, and demand the enactment of such additional legislation as may be necessary to make it impossible for a private monopoly to exist in the United States.

We favor the declaration by law of the conditions upon which corporations shall be permitted to engage in interstate trade, including, among others, the prevention of holding companies, of interlocking directors, of stock watering, of discrimination in price, and the control by any one corporation of so large a proportion of any industry as to make it a menace to competitive conditions.

We condemn the action of the Republican administration in compromising with the Standard Oil Company and the tobacco trust and its failure to invoke the criminal provisions of the anti-trust law against the officers of those corporations after the court had declared that from the undisputed facts in the record they had violated the criminal provisions of the law.

We regret that the Sherman anti-trust law has received a judicial construction depriving it of much of its efficiency and we favor the enactment of legislation which will restore to the statute the strength of which it has been deprived by such interpretation.

Rights of the States

We believe in the preservation and maintenance in their full strength and integrity of the three co-ordinate branches of the Federal government—the executive, the legislative, and the judicial—each keeping within its own bounds and not encroaching upon the just powers of either of the others.

Believing that the most efficient results under our system of government are to be attained by the full exercise by the States of their reserved sovereign powers, we denounce as usurpation the efforts of our opponents to deprive the States of any of the rights reserved to them, and to enlarge and magnify by indirection the powers of the Federal government.

We insist upon the full exercise of all the powers of the Government, both State and national, to protect the people from injustice at the hands of those who seek to make the government a private asset in business. There is no twilight zone between the nation and the State in which exploiting interests can take refuge from both. It is as necessary that the Federal government shall exercise the powers delegated to it as it is that the States shall exercise the powers reserved to them, but we insist that Federal remedies for the regulation of interstate commerce and for the prevention of private monopoly, shall be added to, and not substituted for State remedies.

Income Tax, Election of Senators

We congratulate the country upon the triumph of two important reforms demanded in the last National Platform, namely, the amendment of the Federal Constitution authorizing an income tax, and the amendment providing for the popular election of senators, and we call upon the people of all the States to rally to the support of the pending propositions and secure their ratification.

Campaign Publicity

We note with gratification the unanimous sentiment in favor of publicity, before the election, of campaign contributions—a measure demanded in our National Platform of 1908, and at that time opposed by the Republican Party—and we commend the Democratic House of Representatives for extending the doctrine of publicity to recommendations, verbal and written, upon which presidential appointments are made, to the ownership and control of newspapers, and to the expenditures made by and in behalf of those who aspire to presidential nominations, and we point for additional justification for this legislation to the enormous expenditures of money in behalf of the President and his predecessor in the recent contest for the Republican nomination for President.

Presidential Primary

The movement toward more popular government should be promoted through legislation in each State which will permit the expression of the preference of the electors for national candidates at presidential primaries.

We direct that the National Committee incorporate in the call for the next nominating convention a requirement that all expressions of preference for Presidential candidates shall be given and the selection of delegates and alternates made through a primary election conducted by the party organization in each State where such expression and election are not provided for by State law. . . .

Campaign Contributions

We pledge the Democratic  Party to the enactment of a law prohibiting any corporation from contributing to a campaign fund and any individual from contributing any amount above a reasonable maximum.

Term of President

We favor a single Presidential term, and to that end urge the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution making the President of the United States ineligible to reelection, and we pledge the candidates of this Convention to this principle.

Democratic Congress

At this time, when the Republican Party, after a generation of unlimited power in its control of the Federal Government, is rent into factions, it is opportune to point to the record of accomplishment of the Democratic House of Representatives in the Sixty-second Congress. . . .

It has, among other achievements, revised the rules of the House of Representatives so as to give to the Representatives of the American people freedom of speech and of action in advocating, proposing and perfecting remedial legislation.

It has passed bills for the relief of the people and the development of our country; it has endeavored to revise the tariff taxes downward in the interest of the consuming masses and thus to reduce the high cost of living.

It has proposed an amendment to the Federal Constitution providing for the election of United States Senators by the direct vote of the people.

It has secured the admission of Arizona and New Mexico as two sovereign States.

It has required the publicity of campaign expenses both before and after election and fixed a limit upon the election expenses of United States Senators and Representatives.

It has passed a bill to prevent the abuse of the writ of injunction.

It has passed a law establishing an eight-hour day for workmen on all national public work.

It has passed a resolution which forced the President to take immediate steps to abrogate the Russian treaty.

And it has passed the great supply bills[2] which lessen waste and extravagance, and which reduce the annual expenses of the government by many millions of dollars.

National Defense

We approve the measure reported by the Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives for the creation of a Council of National Defense, which will determine a definite naval program with a view to increased efficiency and economy.  The party that proclaimed and has always enforced the Monroe Doctrine, and was sponsor for the new navy, will continue faithfully to observe the Constitutional requirements to provide and maintain an adequate and well-proportioned navy sufficient to defend American policies, protect our citizens and uphold the honor and dignity of the nation. . . .

Railroads, Express, Telegraph and Telephone Companies

We favor the efficient supervision and rate regulation of railroads, express companies, telegraph and telephone lines engaged in interstate commerce. To this end we recommend the valuation of railroads, express companies, telegraph and telephone lines by the Interstate Commerce Commission, such valuation to take into consideration the physical value of the property, the original cost, the cost of reproduction, and any element of value that will render the valuation fair and just.

We favor such legislation as will effectually prohibit the railroads, express, telegraph and telephone companies from engaging in business which brings them into competition with their shippers or patrons; also legislation preventing the overissue of stocks and bonds by interstate railroads, express companies, telegraph and telephone lines, and legislation which will assure such reduction in transportation rates as conditions will permit, care being taken to avoid reduction that would compel a reduction of wages, prevent adequate service, or do injustice to legitimate investments. . . .

Rights of Labor

We repeat our declarations of the platform of 1908, as follows:

. . . “Questions of judicial practice have arisen especially in connection with industrial disputes. We believe that the parties to all judicial proceedings should be treated with rigid impartiality, and that injunctions should not be issued in any case in which an injunction would not issue if no industrial dispute were involved.

“The expanding organization of industry makes it essential that there should be no abridgement of the right of the wage earners and producers to organize for the protection of wages and the improvement of labor conditions, to the end that such labor organizations and their members should not be regarded as illegal combinations in restraint of trade.[3]

“We pledge the Democratic Party to the enactment of a law creating a department of labor, represented separately in the President's cabinet in which department shall be included the subject of mines and mining.”

“We pledge the Democratic Party, so far as the Federal jurisdiction extends, to an employees' compensation law providing adequate indemnity for injury to body or loss of life.”


We believe in the conservation and the development, for the use of all the people, of the natural resources of the country. Our forests, our sources of water supply, our arable and our mineral lands, our navigable streams, and all the other material resources with which our country has been so lavishly endowed, constitute the foundation of our national wealth. Such additional legislation as may be necessary to prevent their being wasted or absorbed by special or privileged interests, should be enacted and the policy of their conservation should be rigidly adhered to.

The public domain should be administered and disposed of with due regard to the general welfare. Reservations should be limited to the purposes which they purport to serve and not extended to include land wholly unsuited therefor. . . .

The public land laws should be administered in a spirit of the broadest liberality toward the settler exhibiting a bona-fide purpose to comply therewith, to the end that the invitation of this government to the landless should be as attractive as possible, and the plain provisions of the forest reserve act permitting homestead entries to be made within the national forests should not be nullified by administrative regulations which amount to a withdrawal of great areas of the same from settlement.

Immediate action should be taken by Congress to make available the vast and valuable coal deposits of Alaska under conditions that will be a perfect guarantee against their falling into the hands of monopolizing corporations, associations or interests.


We believe in encouraging the development of a modern system of agriculture and a systematic effort to improve the conditions of trade in farm products so as to benefit both consumer and producer. And as an efficient means to this end we favor the enactment by Congress of legislation that will suppress the pernicious practice of gambling in agricultural products by organized exchanges or others. . . .

Pure Food and Public Health

We reaffirm our previous declarations advocating the union and strengthening of the various governmental agencies relating to pure foods, quarantine, vital statistics and human health. Thus united, and administered without partiality to or discrimination against any school of medicine or system of healing, they would constitute a single health service, not subordinated to any commercial or financial interests, but devoted exclusively to the conservation of human life and efficiency. Moreover, this health service should co-operate with the health agencies of our various States and cities, without interference with their prerogatives, or with the freedom of individuals to employ such medical or hygienic aid as they may see fit.

Civil Service

The law pertaining to the civil service should be honestly and rigidly enforced, to the end that merit and ability shall be the standard of appointment and promotion, rather than service rendered to a political party; and we favor a reorganization of the evil service, with adequate compensation commensurate with the class of work performed for all officers and employees; and also favor the extension to all classes of civil service employees of the benefits of the provisions of the employers' liability law. We also recognize the right of direct petition to Congress by employees for the redress of grievances. . . .

The Philippines

We reaffirm the position thrice announced by the Democracy in national convention assembled against a policy of imperialism and colonial exploitation in the Philippines or elsewhere. We condemn the experiment in imperialism as an inexcusable blunder, which has involved us in enormous expense, brought us weakness instead of strength, and laid our nation open to the charge of abandonment of the fundamental doctrine of self-government. We favor an immediate declaration of the nation's purpose to recognize the independence of the Philippine Islands as soon as a stable government can be established, such independence to be guaranteed by us until the neutralization of the islands can be secured by treaty with other powers. In recognizing the independence of the Philippines, our government should retain such land as may be necessary for coaling stations and naval bases.

Arizona and New Mexico

We welcome Arizona and New Mexico to the sisterhood of States, and heartily congratulate them upon their auspicious beginnings of great and glorious careers.


We demand for the people of Alaska the full enjoyment of the rights and privileges of a Territorial form of government, and we believe that the officials appointed to administer the government of all our Territories and the District of Columbia should be qualified by previous bona-fide residence. . . .

Rule of the People

We call attention to the fact that the Democratic Party demand for a return to the rule of the people expressed in the National Platform four years ago, has now become the accepted doctrine of a large majority of the electors. We again remind the country that only by a larger exercise of the reserved power of the people can they protect themselves from the misuse of delegated power and the usurpation of government instrumentalities by special interests. For this reason the National Convention insisted on the overthrow of Cannonism[4] and the inauguration of a system by which United States Senators could be elected by direct vote.

The Democratic Party offers itself to the country as an agency through which the complete overthrow and extirpation of corruption, fraud, and machine rule in American politics can be effected.


Our platform is one of principles which we believe to be essential to our national welfare. Our pledges are made to be kept when in office, as well as relied upon during the campaign, and we invite the co-operation of all citizens, regardless of party, who believe in maintaining unimpaired the institutions and traditions of our country.

  1. 1. “Trust” referred to control by one or more people over a number of firms operating in the same area of the economy, for example steel production or the railroads. A “Trust,” sometimes referred to as a “combination,” came about when shareholders in different corporations transferred their shares to one corporate entity that held them (hence, a “holding company”). The holding company or Trust could be used to establish a monopoly over an area of the economy. For this reason, “trust busting” became part of the U.S. government’s effort to insure free markets in the United States.
  2. 2. Supply bills authorize the expenditure of government funds.
  3. 3. In Loewe v. Lawlor (1908) the Supreme court applied the Sherman antitrust law (1890) to labor unions.
  4. 4. “Cannonism” means centralizing power in the House of Representatives in the hands of the Speaker. The term derived from the name of the Speaker, Joseph G. Cannon, from 1903 to 1911.
Teacher Programs

Conversation-based seminars for collegial PD, one-day and multi-day seminars, graduate credit seminars (MA degree), online and in-person.

Our Core Document Collection allows students to read history in the words of those who made it. Available in hard copy and for download.