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convention, in U.S. politics, a gathering of delegates to nominate candidates for elective office and to formulate party policy. They are held at the national, state, and local levels.

Organization and Characteristic Features

The organization of a national convention is the responsibility of the party's national committee, which begins making arrangements for the accommodation of hundreds of delegates and the administration of the convention at least a year in advance. Delegates have been chosen by a variety of methods, including primary elections, party caucuses, state and local conventions, or state and local committee meetings, but the majority are now chosen by primaries. Although the two parties follow the same basic pattern of basing representation on the population of the state and the party's strength within the state, the Democratic party introduced a series of reforms after the 1968 convention that modified its traditional delegate selection system. Quotas, assuring proportional representation for women, youths, and blacks, were used for the 1972 convention but later modified in favor of a general commitment to gender equality and minority representation. Balloting at both the Republican and Democratic conventions is by states. The unit rule, forcing all of a state's votes to be cast by the majority for one candidate, was abolished by the Democrats in 1968; it had been in effect since 1832. Although today the acceptance speech of the nominee is the recognized climax of the convention, it was not until Franklin Delano Roosevelt flew to Chicago to accept the Democratic nomination in 1932 that a nominee accepted the nomination in person.


State conventions for nominating candidates were first held in the early 19th cent. The first national convention was held by the Anti-Masonic party in Baltimore in 1831. Formerly the candidates for president and vice president were selected by a party caucus, i.e. a meeting of influential members of Congress, and they favored their colleagues. In 1832 the Democrats nominated Andrew Jackson at a national convention. The Republican party held its first national convention in 1856, when John Frémont was chosen as the presidential candidate.

Candidates were often selected only after many ballots had been taken. This was especially true of the Democratic party, which, until 1936, had required successful nominees to win two thirds of the delegates' votes. Thus, Stephen Douglas was nominated on the 59th ballot in 1860, Woodrow Wilson on the 46th ballot in 1912, and John W. Davis on the 103d ballot in 1924. The difficulty of gaining agreement on a candidate at conventions led to a unique feature of the American political scene: the dark horse—a candidate with little or no formal support before the opening of the convention, who succeeded in gaining the nomination. Since 1960, however, national conventions have tended to ratify front-runner candidates increasingly determined by delegates won in primaries and state caucuses, rather than select from among evenly matched rivals. National political conventions appear to have changed from their initial function as nominating mechanisms into mobilizers of party energy for the upcoming campaign.


See P. T. David et al., The Politics of National Party Conventions (rev. ed. 1984); Congressional Quarterly, Guide to U.S. Elections (2d ed. 1985); B. E. Shafer, Bifurcated Politics: Evolution and Reform in the National Party Convention (1988).

or party conference

In politics, a meeting of members of a political party at the local, state, or national level to select party leaders and candidates for office and to determine party policy. During presidential election years in the U.S., the main parties hold conventions that serve to showcase their presidential and vice presidential candidates and to boost the morale of party members for the campaigns that follow. Conventions were instituted in the U.S. in the 1830s to replace the often exclusive and secretive caucus system; it was hoped that the conventions' openness would make them less vulnerable to control by party bosses. Most candidates for political office at all levels in the U.S. are now nominated through primary elections, and the conventions merely ratify the candidates already selected by the voters. Political parties in other countries (e.g., Great Britain) often hold annual party conferences.

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(Dec. 5, 1814–Jan. 5, 1815) Secret meeting of Federalist Party delegates from New England states who opposed the War of 1812. It adopted a strong states'-rights position in opposition to the mercantile policies of Pres. James Madison and the Embargo Act of 1807 and other measures that prohibited trade with Britain and France. News of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on Dec. 24, 1814, which ended the war, discredited the nascent separatist movement at the convention and weakened Federalist influence.

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(May–September 1787) Assembly that drafted the Constitution of the United States. All states but Rhode Island sent delegates in response to a call by the Annapolis Convention for a meeting in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation. The delegates decided to replace the Articles with a document that strengthened the federal government. An important issue was the apportioning of legislative representation. Two plans were presented: the Virginia plan, favoured by the large states, apportioned representatives by population or wealth; the New Jersey plan, favoured by the small states, provided for equal representation for each state. A compromise established the bicameral Congress to ensure both equal and proportional representation. The document was approved on September 17 and sent to the states for ratification.

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officially International Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works

International agreement adopted in Bern, Switz., in 1886 to protect copyrights on an international basis. It was modified several times throughout the 20th century. Its signatories constitute the Bern Copyright Union. Each member country grants the authors of other member countries the same rights that its laws grant its own nationals. Protected works include every kind of literary, scientific, and artistic production, regardless of mode of expression, including paintings, sculptures, architectural plans, and musical arrangements. Copyright is now protected for 70 years after the creator's death.

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(September 1786) Meeting in Annapolis, Md., U.S., that caused the convening of the Constitutional Convention. Delegates from five states gathered to discuss problems in maritime commerce but found they could not solve them without making changes to the Articles of Confederation. They issued a call to all states to meet in Philadelphia in 1787 to resolve the difficulties.

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Urbana is a major Christian missions convention sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for college students. This event is designed to inform Christian students about current issues around the world that missionaries face, to declare the biblical mandate for cross-cultural missions, and motivate them to participate in missions. The first Urbana was held in 1946 in Toronto, and since then, it has generally been held every three years. From 1948-2003, Urbana took place at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with the primary venue after 1963 being the Assembly Hall, the school's basketball arena. Because of insufficient space at the University of Illinois campus, Urbana 06 was held in St. Louis, Missouri, at Edward Jones Dome.

Each Urbana lasts for nearly one week at the end of December and ending with a final communion on New Year's Eve. At Urbana 2006, nearly 22,500 participants attended, growing from 575 attendees in 1946. The conference is well-known for bringing famous Christians to speak, such as Billy Graham, Luis Palau, John Stott, and Ravi Zacharias. In addition to the main speakers, participants are offered a choice of hundreds of elective classes offered throughout the week, relating to specific topics within the general theme of university and international missions. Worship is also a major highlight of the conference; special attention is paid to incorporating diverse worship styles, even including songs in foreign languages. An "International Student Track" was first offered at Urbana 2003, offering special housing options and electives to international students interested in spending time with other students from their respective countries. Urbana 06 again held a track for international students, as well as tracks that focused on the global HIV-AIDS pandemic, the growing business as mission movement, and the needs of the world's largest slum communities in the developing world.

Urbana 06 speakers included Rick Warren, pastor, and author of The Purpose Driven Life; Ray Bakke, a professor and specialist in urban ministry; Bono from the band U2 (via video); and Ajith Fernando, a well-respected Bible teacher who is the director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka.

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