See the last article below for the origin of "loco foco."
(Oxford English Dictionary)
U.S. Pol. Hist. Used attrib. or quasi-adj. as the designation of the 'Equal Rights' or Radical section of the Democratic party (for the origin of the name see quot. 1842). Hence absol. a member of this party.
The name was given in 1835; the section originally so named soon became extinct, but the name long continued to be applied by opponents to the Democrats generally.
1837 P. HONE Diary 6 Sept, The President's message..is locofoco to the very core. 1838 H. CLAY Let.. 28 Aug. in Private Corr. (1855) 428 The Locofocos have carried that [election] in Missouri. 1838 W. IRVING in Life & Lett. (1866) III. 120 Those loco foco luminaries who of late have been urging strong and sweeping measures. 1842 J. D. HAMMOND Polit. Hist. N.Y. II. 491-2 A very tumultuous and confused scene ensued, during which the gas-lights..were extinguished. The Equal Rights party..had provided themselves with loco-foco matches and candles, and the room was re-lighted. Immediately after this outbreak at Tammany Hall, the Courier and Enquirer, a whig, and the Times, a democratic..newspaper, dubbed the anti-monopolists with the name of the Loco-Foco Party, a sort of nick-name which the whigs have since given to the whole democratic party.
in U.S. history, radical wing of the Democratic Party, organized in New York City in 1835. Made up primarily of workingmen and reformers, the Locofocos were opposed to state banks, monopolies, paper money, tariffs, and generally any financial policies that seemed to them antidemocratic and conducive to special privilege. The Locofocos received their name (which was later derisively applied by political opponents to all Democrats) when party regulars in New York turned off the gas lights to oust the radicals from a Tammany Hall nominating meeting. The radicals responded by lighting candles with the new self-igniting friction matches known as locofocos, and proceeded to nominate their own slate.
30 November 1833, Liberator, pg. 1:
Thank GOD, the Whigs of the State and City of New York, while they feel as men should feel on this subject, have clearly demonstrated that they at least, are prepared to hold Abolitionism as only worthy of being associated with Loco Focoism and Fanny Wright Agrarianism.
November 1835, Genius of Universal Emancipation, pg. 119:
One might suppose, from the manner of their expression, that the pens of the "abolitionists" are surcharged with gunpowder, and the paper on which they write and print is made of loco-foco matches!
7 November 1835, Workingman's Advocate, pg. 3:
We had a corps of loco foco match and wax candle men, and in an instant there were fifty wax candles burning. We passed democratic resolutions. We passed one with three cheers, stating that the Evening Post was a regular organ of the democracy.
January 1836, The Knickerbocker, or New York Monthly Magazine, pg. 40:
For me, nullification has no terrors; I am indifferent about the payment of the French claims; I am not alarmed at the proceedings of the abolitionists; and I care not whether the Fanny Wright doctrines or Agrarianism prevails, or whether the Loco Focos can keep their tallow candles burning in Tammany-Hall.
22 July 1837, Spirit of the Times, pg. 182:
You may see on a single dead wall in Broadway a Whig, S Tory, and a Loco Foco handbill, side by side, as lovingly as if the contents of each were a conserve of the sympathies of all.
19 January 1839, The Huntress, pg. 3:
Origin of the word Locofoco. -- Many of our readers ask frequently the meaning of the term "loco foco" as applied to the Fanny Wright, infidel, agrarian, Jacobin, and leveling portion of the Van Buren party. The name originated with a fellow in New York, who in 1834 opened a shop in that city for the sale of cigars and what are now termed loco foco matches. Loco loco is a "barbarous compound" of two Italian words meaning "place" and "fire" and the word was quaintly used to signify portable fire. How it came to be applied to the Van Buren party, may be learned from the "Weekly Ledger" of October 18th, a Van Buren paper published in Philadelphia, now before us:
In the autumn of 1835, the democratic party was divided into "regulars" or "Conservatives," who were in favor of regular nominations, and deposite banks, and "ultras," who were in favor of unlimited freedom in nominations, and opposed to all "corporations." THe party which was intended to mean the "regulators," called a meeting at Tammany Hall, for the purpose of making nominations. The "irregulars" considering themselves included in "the party" regularly attended, and afterwards appeared, with the determination to oppose the "regulars" nominations, and to carry their point "by some means or other." The "regulars" apprehanding fun organized a meeting, made their nominations, voted to adjourn, and ordered the lights to be extinguished, all which was done. But the "regulars," aware of this manoeuvre, and being "up to trap" went to the hall with candles and loco foco matches in their pockets. So soon as the "regular" lights were out, the drill sergeant of the "irregulars," who has everything cut and dried, called out "draw candles!" All obeyed the word, and hundreds of dips and moulds in the air like the sabres of Napoleon's cuirassiers: or would have gleamed if the room had been dark. THe drill officer continued, "Handle pocket?" and the slapping and clapping was like a hailstorm. "Pull out loco-foco!," and the wizzing in the air as every fellow pulled out was like a flock of pigeons rising from a wheat field. "Light candles" and the snapping off the locofoco matches was like the discharge of musketry in a shamfight, and the sudden illumination was like a flash of mock lighting at a theatre. Light being thrown upon the business of the State of New York which the irregulars had met to adjust, the nominations were made and the essence of "the party" dispersed in as good order as could be expected.
The next say the New York Times, the organ of the "regulars" gave an account of the proceedings, and mentioned the loco-foco matches as the epilogue of the "regular" lamps, and on the day following, in another cut at the "seeders" from the party and the democratic usage of "regular nominations," it nicknamed them locofocs, and so they have been called ever since.
The locofocos, having become the majority of "the party," now call themselves the "regulars" and "conservatives" the "irregulars."
"Things change their titles as our manners turn."
Government/Law/Politics/Military • (1) Comments • Sunday, August 21, 2005 • Permalink
I still think that the Locofoco party is a much more suitable name for the Democrats. Funny how history forgives and forgets even the funniest of names.