The National Party was a short-lived national political organization founded by pro-war defectors from the Socialist Party of America in 1917. Rather than filing into the Democratic Party, these adherents of the SPA Right first formed a non-partisan national society to propagandize the socialist idea called the Social Democratic League of America. Many of these individuals were eager for the formation of an alternative political organization to both the so-called “old” parties and the anti-war Socialist Party of America and eagerly latched on to a burgeoning movement for a new party that sprouted in 1917.
The National Party seems to have begun as a byproduct of personal coalitions around single-issue advocacy, such as the drive for constitutional amendments for woman suffrage and prohibition. Coming together to lobby Congress and the Wilson Administration on behalf of these measures, activists came to realize there common vision in practical terms, dispite whatever philosophical differences they might have harbored in the theoretical plain. Thus veterans of the Progressive Party believing in the “spirit of 1912,” prohibitionists, suffragists, Single-Taxers, and Socialists began to talk amongst themselves about the possibility of uniting their forces in a new political organization to advance their common cause.
Informal conferences were held in New York and elsewhere in the country during the first half of 1917 between these individuals, culminating in a more formal 4 day gathering in July at the home of Progressive Party leader J.A.H. Hopkins in Morristown, New Jersey. The group did discuss and decide upon the outlines of a program for the forthcoming organization.The New Jersey conference was unable to agree amongst themselves to a name for the organization, so the matter was defered to a future organizational conference, which ultimately decided upon the name “The National Party” for the new organization.
1. Founding Conferenece --- Chicago, IL --- October 3-4, 1917.
The founding conference of the National Party adopted a tentative platform declaring for universal and equal suffrage; for strong advocacy of the rights of Initiative, Referendum, and Recall; for the absentee ballot as a means of enfranchising and deradicalizing transient labor; for suppression of the liquor traffic; for prison reform; for a system of proportional representation allowing minor parties representation according to voting strength; and for government ownership of transportation, communications, and other natural monopolies.
2. First Convention --- Chicago, IL --- March 6-7-8, 1918.
The Second Convention of the National Party adopted a formal organizational constitution and revised platform for the organization. The group was to be headed by a National Chairman, four Vice Chairmen, and a National Executive Committee of 29. Former Socialist David Coates was elected National Chairman, while J.A.H. Hopkins was elected First Vice Chairman and Chairman of the National Executive Committee.
The National Party was funded by annual dues payments by its members, based according to the means of the party member, but of not less than $2 per annum. One dollar of this amount was to be retained by the national organization to fund its operation, while the other dollar was to rebated to the state organization for its own support. Party members were to receive membership cards and a periodic bulletin was planned. Those not wishing to cast their lot with the organization as full members could gain “sympathizer” status through the purchase of an annual button for fifty cents.
The National Party's national office was located in the Lafayette Building, 138 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois. It also had an office for its “Eastern Division” located at 15 E 40th Street, New York City.