When did it all begin and where? Before there were conventions, members of Congress selected the nominees in congressional, or legislative, caucuses. The process, employed between 1800 and 1824, was considered elitist and not representative of the entire party. This system pretty much continued until 1831, when the Anti-Masons, a third party, held their first national convention. In 1832, the Democrats followed suit and it wasn’t until 1856 that the Republicans came to the convention party.. The rules have evolved over the years… The closest race in recent history was the year Gerald Ford edged out Ronald Reagan… more.