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The Boss and the Machine by Samuel P. Orth

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The party system is an essential instrument of Democracy.
Wherever government rests upon the popular will, there the party
is the organ of expression and the agency of the ultimate power.
The party is, moreover, a forerunner of Democracy, for parties
have everywhere preceded free government. Long before Democracy
as now understood was anywhere established, long before the
American colonies became the United States, England was divided
between Tory and Whig. And it was only after centuries of bitter
political strife, during which a change of ministry would not
infrequently be accompanied by bloodshed or voluntary exile, that
England finally emerged with a government deriving its powers
from the consent of the governed.

The functions of the party, both as a forerunner and as a
necessary organ of Democracy, are well exemplified in American
experience. Before the Revolution, Tory and Whig were party names
used in the colonies to designate in a rough way two ideals of
political doctrine. The Tories believed in the supremacy of the
Executive, or the King; the Whigs in the supremacy of Parliament.
The Tories, by their rigorous and ruthless acts giving effect to
the will of an un-English King, soon drove the Whigs in the
colonies to revolt, and by the time of the Stamp Act (1765) a
well-knit party of colonial patriots was organized through
committees of correspondence and under the stimulus of local
clubs called "Sons of Liberty." Within a few years, these
patriots became the Revolutionists, and the Tories became the
Loyalists. As always happens in a successful revolution, the
party of opposition vanished, and when the peace of 1783 finally
put the stamp of reality upon the Declaration of 1776, the
patriot party had won its cause and had served its day.

Immediately thereafter a new issue, and a very significant one,
began to divide the thought of the people. The Articles of
Confederation, adopted as a form of government by the States
during a lull in the nationalistic fervor, had utterly failed to
perform the functions of a national government. Financially the
Confederation was a beggar at the doors of the States;
commercially it was impotent; politically it was bankrupt. The
new issue was the formation of a national government that should
in reality represent a federal nation, not a collection of touchy
States. Washington in his farewell letter to the American people
at the close of the war (1783) urged four considerations: a
strong central government, the payment of the national debt, a
well-organized militia, and the surrender by each State of
certain local privileges for the good of the whole. His "legacy,"
as this letter came to be called, thus bequeathed to us
Nationalism, fortified on the one hand by Honor and on the other
by Preparedness.

The Confederation floundered in the slough of inadequacy for
several years, however, before the people were sufficiently
impressed with the necessity of a federal government. When,
finally, through the adroit maneuver of Alexander Hamilton and
James Madison, the Constitutional Convention was called in 1787,
the people were in a somewhat chastened mood, and delegates were
sent to the Convention from all the States except Rhode Island.

No sooner had the delegates convened and chosen George Washington
as presiding officer, than the two opposing sides of opinion were
revealed, the nationalist and the particularist, represented by
the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, as they later termed
themselves. The Convention, however, was formed of the
conservative leaders of the States, and its completed work
contained in a large measure, in spite of the great compromises,
the ideas of the Federalists. This achievement was made possible
by the absence from the Convention of the two types of men who
were to prove the greatest enemy of the new document when it was
presented for popular approval, namely, the office-holder or
politician, who feared that the establishment of a central
government would deprive him of his influence, and the popular
demagogue, who viewed with suspicion all evidence of organized
authority. It was these two types, joined by a third--the
conscientious objector--who formed the AntiFederalist party to
oppose the adoption of the new Constitution. Had this opposition
been well-organized, it could unquestionably have defeated the
Constitution, even against its brilliant protagonists, Hamilton,
Madison, Jay, and a score of other masterly men.

The unanimous choice of Washington for President gave the new
Government a non-partizan initiation. In every way Washington
attempted to foster the spirit of an undivided household. He
warned his countrymen against partizanship and sinister political
societies. But he called around his council board talents which
represented incompatible ideals of government. Thomas Jefferson,
the first Secretary of State, and Alexander Hamilton, the first
Secretary of the Treasury, might for a time unite their energies
under the wise chieftainship of Washington, but their political
principles could never be merged. And when, finally, Jefferson
resigned, he became forthwith the leader of the opposition--not
to Washington, but to Federalism as interpreted by Hamilton, John
Adams, and Jay.

The name Anti-Federalist lost its aptness after the inauguration
of the Government. Jefferson and his school were not opposed to a
federal government. They were opposed only to its pretensions, to
its assumption of centralized power. Their deep faith in popular
control is revealed in the name they assumed,
Democratic-Republican. They were eager to limit the federal power
to the glorification of the States; the Federalists were
ambitious to expand the federal power at the expense of localism.
This is what Jefferson meant when he wrote to Washington as early
as 1792, "The Republican party wish to preserve the Government in
its present form." Now this is a very definite and fundamental
distinction. It involves the political difference between
government by the people and government by the representatives of
the people, and the practical difference between a government by
law and a government by mass-meeting.

Jefferson was a master organizer. At letter-writing, the one
means of communication in those days, he was a Hercules. His pen
never wearied. He soon had a compact party. It included not only
most of the Anti-Federalists, but the small politicians, the
tradesmen and artisans, who had worked themselves into a
ridiculous frenzy over the French Revolution and who despised
Washington for his noble neutrality. But more than these,
Jefferson won over a number of distinguished men who had worked
for the adoption of the Constitution, the ablest of whom was
James Madison, often called "the Father of the Constitution."

The Jeffersonians, thus representing largely the debtor and
farmer class, led by men of conspicuous abilities, proceeded to
batter down the prestige of the Federalists. They declared
themselves opposed to large expenditures of public funds, to
eager exploitation of government ventures, to the Bank, and to
the Navy, which they termed "the great beast with the great
belly." The Federalists included the commercial and creditor
class and that fine element in American life composed of leading
families with whom domination was an instinct, all led,
fortunately, by a few idealists of rare intellectual attainments.
And, with the political stupidity often characteristic of their
class, they stumbled from blunder to blunder. In 1800 Thomas
Jefferson, who adroitly coined the mistakes of his opponents into
political currency for himself, was elected President. He had
received no more electoral votes than Aaron Burr, that mysterious
character in our early politics, but the election was decided by
the House of Representatives, where, after seven days' balloting,
several Federalists, choosing what to them was the lesser of two
evils, cast the deciding votes for Jefferson. When the
Jeffersonians came to power, they no longer opposed federal
pretensions; they now, by one of those strange veerings often
found in American politics, began to give a liberal
interpretation to the Constitution, while the Federalists with
equal inconsistency became strict constructionists. Even
Jefferson was ready to sacrifice his theory of strict
construction in order to acquire the province of Louisiana.

The Jeffersonians now made several concessions to the
manufacturers, and with their support linked to that of the
agriculturists Jeffersonian democracy flourished without any
potent opposition. The second war with England lent it a doubtful
luster but the years immediately following the war restored
public confidence. Trade flourished on the sea. The frontier was
rapidly pushed to the Mississippi and beyond into the vast empire
which Jefferson had purchased. When everyone is busy, no one
cares for political issues, especially those based upon
philosophical differences. So Madison and Monroe succeeded to the
political regency which is known as the Virginia Dynasty.

This complacent epoch culminated in Monroe's "Era of Good
Feeling," which proved to be only the hush before the tornado.
The election of 1824 was indecisive, and the House of
Representatives was for a second time called upon to decide the
national choice. The candidates were John Quincy Adams, Andrew
Jackson, Henry Clay, and William H. Crawford. Clay threw his
votes to Adams, who was elected, thereby arousing the wrath of
Jackson and of the stalwart and irreconcilable frontiersmen who
hailed him as their leader. The Adams term merely marked a
transition from the old order to the new, from Jeffersonian to
Jacksonian democracy. Then was the word Republican dropped from
the party name, and Democrat became an appellation of definite
and practical significance.

By this time many of the older States had removed the early
restrictions upon voting, and the new States carved out of the
West had written manhood suffrage into their constitutions. This
new democracy flocked to its imperator; and Jackson entered his
capital in triumph, followed by a motley crowd of frontiersmen in
coonskin caps, farmers in butternut-dyed homespun, and hungry
henchmen eager for the spoils. For Jackson had let it be known
that he considered his election a mandate by the people to fill
the offices with his political adherents.

So the Democrats began their new lease of life with an orgy of
spoils. "Anybody is good enough for any job" was the favorite
watchword. But underneath this turmoil of desire for office,
significant party differences were shaping themselves. Henry
Clay, the alluring orator and master of compromise, brought
together a coalition of opposing fragments. He and his following
objected to Jackson's assumption of vast executive prerogatives,
and in a brilliant speech in the Senate Clay espoused the name
Whig. Having explained the origin of the term in English and
colonial politics, he cried: "And what is the present but the
same contest in another form? The partizans of the present
Executive sustain his favor in the most boundless extent. The
Whigs are opposing executive encroachment and a most alarming
extension of executive power and prerogative. They are contending
for the rights of the people, for free institutions, for the
supremacy of the Constitution and the laws."

There soon appeared three practical issues which forced the new
alignment. The first was the Bank. The charter of the United
States Bank was about to expire, and its friends sought a
renewal. Jackson believed the Bank an enemy of the Republic, as
its officers were anti-Jacksonians, and he promptly vetoed the
bill extending the charter. The second issue was the tariff.
Protection was not new; but Clay adroitly renamed it, calling it
"the American system." It was popular in the manufacturing towns
and in portions of the agricultural communities, but was bitterly
opposed by the slave-owning States.

A third issue dealt with internal improvements. All parts of the
country were feeling the need of better means of communication,
especially between the West and the East. Canals and turnpikes
were projected in every direction. Clay, whose imagination was
fervid, advocated a vast system of canals and roads financed by
national aid. But the doctrine of states-rights answered that the
Federal Government had no power to enter a State, even to spend
money on improvements, without the consent of that State. And, at
all events, for Clay to espouse was for Jackson to oppose.

These were the more important immediate issues of the conflict
between Clay's Whigs and Jackson's Democrats, though it must be
acknowledged that the personalities of the leaders were quite as
much an issue as any of the policies which they espoused. The
Whigs, however, proved unequal to the task of unhorsing their
foes; and, with two exceptions, the Democrats elected every
President from Jackson to Lincoln. The exceptions were William
Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, both of whom were elected on
their war records and both of whom died soon after their
inauguration. Tyler, who as Vice-President succeeded General
Harrison, soon estranged the Whigs, so that the Democratic
triumph was in effect continuous over a period of thirty years.

Meanwhile, however, another issue was shaping the destiny of
parties and of the nation. It was an issue that politicians
dodged and candidates evaded, that all parties avoided, that
publicists feared, and that presidents and congressmen tried to
hide under the tenuous fabric of their compromises. But
it was an issue that persisted in keeping alive and that would
not down, for it was an issue between right and wrong. Three
times the great Clay maneuvered to outflank his opponents over
the smoldering fires of the slavery issue, but he died before the
repeal of the Missouri Compromise gave the death-blow to his
loosely gathered coalition. Webster, too, and Calhoun, the other
members of that brilliant trinity which represented the genius of
Constitutional Unionism, of States Rights, and of Conciliation,
passed away before the issue was squarely faced by a new party
organized for the purpose of opposing the further expansion of

This new organization, the Republican party, rapidly assumed form
and solidarity. It was composed of Northern Whigs, of
anti-slavery Democrats, and of members of several minor groups,
such as the Know-Nothing or American party, the Liberty party,
and included as well some of the despised Abolitionists. The vote
for Fremont, its first presidential candidate, in 1856, showed it
to be a sectional party, confined to the North. But the definite
recognition of slavery as an issue by an opposition party had a
profound effect upon the Democrats. Their Southern wing now
promptly assumed an uncompromising attitude, which, in 1860,
split the party into factions. The Southern wing named
Breckinridge; the Northern wing named Stephen A. Douglas; while
many Democrats as well as Whigs took refuge in a third party,
calling itself the Constitutional Union, which named John Bell.
This division cost the Democrats the election, for, under the
unique and inspiring leadership of Abraham Lincoln, the
Republicans rallied the anti-slavery forces of the North and won.

Slavery not only racked the parties and caused new alignments; it
racked and split the Union. It is one of the remarkable phenomena
of our political history that the Civil War did not destroy the
Democratic party, though the Southern chieftains of that party
utterly lost their cause. The reason is that the party never was
as purely a Southern as the Republican was a Northern party.
Moreover, the arrogance and blunders of the Republican leaders
during the days of Reconstruction helped to keep it alive. A
baneful political heritage has been handed down to us from the
Civil War--the solid South. It overturns the national balance of
parties, perpetuates a pernicious sectionalism, and deprives the
South of that bipartizan rivalry which keeps open the currents of
political life.

Since the Civil War the struggle between the two dominant parties
has been largely a struggle between the Ins and the Outs. The
issues that have divided them have been more apparent than real.
The tariff, the civil service, the trusts, and the long list of
other "issues" do not denote fundamental differences, but only
variations of degree. Never in any election during this long
interval has there been definitely at stake a great national
principle, save for the currency issue of 1896 and the colonial
question following the War with Spain. The revolt of the
Progressives in 1912 had a character of its own; but neither of
the old parties squarely joined issue with the Progressives in
the contest which followed. The presidential campaign of 1916
afforded an opportunity to place on trial before the people a
great cause, for there undoubtedly existed then in the country
two great and opposing sides of public opinion--one for and the
other against war with Germany. Here again, however, the issue
was not joined but was adroitly evaded by both the candidates.

None the less there has been a difference between the two great
parties. The Republican party has been avowedly nationalistic,
imperialistic, and in favor of a vigorous constructive foreign
policy. The Democratic party has generally accepted the lukewarm
international policy of Jefferson and the exaltation of the
locality and the plain individual as championed by Jackson. Thus,
though in a somewhat intangible and variable form, the doctrinal
distinctions between Hamilton and Jefferson have survived.

In the emergence of new issues, new parties are born. But it is
one of the singular characteristics of the American party system
that third parties are abortive. Their adherents serve mainly as
evangelists, crying their social and economic gospel in the
political wilderness. If the issues are vital, they are gradually
absorbed by the older parties.

Before the Civil War several sporadic parties were formed. The
most unique was the Anti-Masonic party. It flourished on the
hysteria caused by the abduction of William Morgan of Batavia, in
western New York, in 1826. Morgan had written a book purporting
to lay bare the secrets of Freemasonry. His mysterious
disappearance was laid at the doors of leading Freemasons; and it
was alleged that members of this order placed their secret
obligations above their duties as citizens and were hence unfit
for public office. The movement became impressive in
Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts, Ohio, and New York. It
served to introduce Seward and Fillmore into politics. Even a
national party was organized, and William Wirt, of Maryland, a
distinguished lawyer, was nominated for President. He received,
however, only the electoral votes of Vermont. The excitement soon
cooled, and the party disappeared.

The American or Know-Nothing party had for its slogan "America
for Americans," and was a considerable factor in certain
localities, especially in New York and the Middle States, from
1853 to 1856. The Free Soil party, espousing the cause of slavery
restriction, named Martin Van Buren as its presidential candidate
and polled enough votes in the election of 1848 to defeat Cass,
the Democratic candidate. It did not survive the election of
1852, but its essential principle was adopted by the Republican

Since the Civil War, the currency question has twice given life
to third-party movements. The Greenbacks of 1876-1884 and the
Populists of the 90's were both of the West. Both carried on for
a few years a vigorous crusade, and both were absorbed by the
older parties as the currency question assumed concrete form and
became a commanding political issue. Since 1872, the
Prohibitionists have named national tickets. Their question,
which was always dodged by the dominant parties, is now rapidly
nearing a solution.

The one apparently unreconcilable element in our political life
is the socialistic or labor party. Never of great importance in
any national election, the various labor parties have been of
considerable influence in local politics. Because of its
magnitude, the labor vote has always been courted by Democrats
and Republicans with equal ardor but with varying success.


Ideas or principles alone, however eloquently and insistently
proclaimed, will not make a party. There must be organization.
Thus we have two distinct practical phases of American party
politics: one regards the party as an agency of the electorate, a
necessary organ of democracy; the other, the party as an
organization, an army determined to achieve certain conquests.
Every party has, therefore, two aspects, each attracting a
different kind of person: one kind allured by the principles
espoused; the other, by the opportunities of place and personal
gain in the organization. The one kind typifies the body of
voters; the other the dominant minority of the party.

When one speaks, then, of a party in America, he embraces in that
term: first, the tenets or platform for which the party assumes
to stand (i.e., principles that may have been wrought out of
experience, may have been created by public opinion, or were
perhaps merely made out of hand by manipulators); secondly, the
voters who profess attachment to these principles; and thirdly,
the political expert, the politician with his organization or
machine. Between the expert and the great following are many
gradations of party activity, from the occasional volunteer to
the chieftain who devotes all his time to "politics."

It was discovered very early in American experience that without
organization issues would disintegrate and principles remain but
scintillating axioms. Thus necessity enlisted executive talent
and produced the politician, who, having once achieved an
organization, remained at his post to keep it intact between
elections and used it for purposes not always prompted by the
public welfare.

In colonial days, when the struggle began between Crown and
Colonist, the colonial patriots formed clubs to designate their
candidates for public office. In Massachusetts these clubs were
known as "caucuses," a word whose derivation is unknown, but
which has now become fixed in our political vocabulary. These
early caucuses in Boston have been described as follows: "Mr.
Samuel Adams' father and twenty others, one or two from the north
end of the town, where all the ship business is carried on, used
to meet, make a caucus, and lay their plans for introducing
certain persons into places of trust and power. When they had
settled it, they separated, and used each their particular
influence within his own circle. He and his friends would furnish
themselves with ballots, including the names of the parties fixed
upon, which they distributed on the day of election. By acting in
concert together with a careful and extensive distribution of
ballots they generally carried the elections to their own mind."

As the revolutionary propaganda increased in momentum, caucuses
assumed a more open character. They were a sort of informal town
meeting, where neighbors met and agreed on candidates and the
means of electing them. After the adoption of the Constitution,
the same methods were continued, though modified to suit the
needs of the new party alignments. In this informal manner, local
and even congressional candidates were named.

Washington was the unanimous choice of the nation. In the third
presidential election, John Adams was the tacitly accepted
candidate of the Federalists and Jefferson of the
Democratic-Republicans, and no formal nominations seem to have
been made. But from 1800 to 1824 the presidential candidates were
designated by members of Congress in caucus. It was by this means
that the Virginia Dynasty fastened itself upon the country. The
congressional caucus, which was one of the most arrogant and
compact political machines that our politics has produced,
discredited itself by nominating William H. Crawford (1824), a
machine politician, whom the public never believed to be of
presidential caliber. In the bitter fight that placed John Quincy
Adams in the White House and made Jackson the eternal enemy of
Clay, the congressional caucus met its doom. For several years,
presidential candidates were nominated by various informal
methods. In 1828 a number of state legislatures formally
nominated Jackson. In several States the party members of the
legislatures in caucus nominated presidential candidates. DeWitt
Clinton was so designated by the New York legislature in 1812 and
Henry Clay by the Kentucky legislature in 1822. Great mass
meetings, often garnished with barbecues, were held in many parts
of the country in 1824 for indorsing the informal nominations of
the various candidates.

But none of these methods served the purpose. The President was a
national officer, backed by a national party, and chosen by a
national electorate. A national system of nominating the
presidential candidates was demanded. On September 26, 1831, 113
delegates of the Anti-Masonic party, representing thirteen
States, met in a national convention in Baltimore. This was the
first national nominating convention held in America.

In February, 1831, the Whig members of the Maryland legislature
issued a call for a national Whig convention. This was held in
Baltimore the following December. Eighteen States were
represented by delegates, each according to the number of
presidential electoral votes it cast. Clay was named for
President. The first national Democratic convention met in
Baltimore on May 21, 1832, and nominated Jackson.

Since that time, presidential candidates have been named in
national conventions. There have been surprisingly few changes in
procedure since the first convention. It opened with a temporary
organization, examined the credentials of delegates, and
appointed a committee on permanent organization, which reported a
roster of permanent officers. It appointed a committee on
platform--then called an address to the people; it listened to
eulogistic nominating speeches, balloted for candidates, and
selected a committee to notify the nominees of their designation.
This is practically the order of procedure today. The national
convention is at once the supreme court and the supreme
legislature of the national party. It makes its own rules,
designates its committees, formulates their procedure and defines
their power, writes the platform, and appoints the national
executive committee.

Two rules that have played a significant part in these
conventions deserve special mention. The first Democratic
convention, in order to insure the nomination of Van Buren for
Vice-President--the nomination of Jackson for President was
uncontested--adopted the rule that "two-thirds of the whole
number of the votes in the convention shall be necessary to
constitute a choice." This "two-thirds" rule, so undemocratic in
its nature, remains the practice of the Democratic party today.
The Whigs and Republicans always adhered to the majority rule.
The early Democratic conventions also adopted the practice of
allowing the majority of the delegates from any State to cast the
vote of the entire delegation from that State, a rule which is
still adhered to by the Democrats. But the Republicans have since
1876 adhered to the policy of allowing each individual delegate
to cast his vote as he chooses.

The convention was by no means novel when accepted as a national
organ for a national party. As early as 1789 an informal
convention was held in the Philadelphia State House for
nominating Federalist candidates for the legislature. The
practice spread to many Pennsylvania counties and to other
States, and soon this informality of self-appointed delegates
gave way to delegates appointed according to accepted rules. When
the legislative caucus as a means for nominating state officers
fell into disrepute, state nominating conventions took its place.
In 1812 one of the earliest movements for a state convention was
started by Tammany Hall, because it feared that the legislative
caucus would nominate DeWitt Clinton, its bitterest foe. The
caucus, however, did not name Clinton, and the convention was not
assembled. The first state nominating convention was held in
Utica, New York, in 1824 by that faction of the Democratic party
calling itself the People's party. The custom soon spread to
every State, so that by 1835 it was firmly established. County
and city conventions also took the place of the caucus for naming
local candidates.

But nominations are only the beginning of the contest, and
obviously caucuses and conventions cannot conduct campaigns. So
from the beginning these nominating bodies appointed campaign
committees. With the increase in population came the increased
complexity of the committee system. By 1830 many of the States
had perfected a series of state, district, and county committees.

There remained the necessity of knitting these committees into a
national unity. The national convention which nominated Clay in
1831 appointed a "Central State Corresponding Committee" in each
State where none existed, and it recommended "to the several
States to organize subordinate corresponding committees in each
county and town." This was the beginning of what soon was to
evolve into a complete national hierarchy of committees. In 1848
the Democratic convention appointed a permanent national
committee, composed of one member from each State. This committee
was given the power to call the next national convention, and
from the start became the national executive body of the party.

It is a common notion that the politician and his machine are of
comparatively recent origin. But the American politician arose
contemporaneously with the party, and with such singular
fecundity of ways and means that it is doubtful if his modern
successors could teach him anything. McMaster declares: "A very
little study of long-forgotten politics will suffice to show that
in filibustering and gerrymandering, in stealing governorships
and legislatures, in using force at the polls, in colonizing and
in distributing patronage to whom patronage is due, in all the
frauds and tricks that go to make up the worst form of practical
politics, the men who founded our state and national governments
were always our equals, and often our masters." And this at a
time when only propertied persons could vote in any of the States
and when only professed Christians could either vote or hold
office in two of them!

While Washington was President, Tammany Hall, the first municipal
machine, began its career; and presently George Clinton, Governor
of New York, and his nephew, DeWitt Clinton, were busy organizing
the first state machine. The Clintons achieved their purpose
through the agency of a Council of Appointment, prescribed by the
first Constitution of the State, consisting of the Governor and
four senators chosen by the legislature. This council had the
appointment of nearly all the civil officers of the State from
Secretary of State to justices of the peace and auctioneers,
making a total of 8287 military and 6663 civil offices. As the
emoluments of some of these offices were relatively high, the
disposal of such patronage was a plum-tree for the politician.
The Clintons had been Anti-Federalists and had opposed the
adoption of the Constitution. In 1801 DeWitt Clinton became a
member of the Council of Appointment and soon dictated its
action. The head of every Federalist office-holder fell.
Sheriffs, county clerks, surrogates, recorders, justices by the
dozen, auctioneers by the score, were proscribed for the benefit
of the Clintons. De Witt was sent to the United States Senate in
1802, and at the age of thirty-three he found himself on the
highroad to political eminence. But he resigned almost at once to
become Mayor of New York City, a position he occupied for about
ten years, years filled with the most venomous fights between
Burrites and Bucktails. Clinton organized a compact machine in
the city. A biased contemporary description of this machine has
come down to us. "You [Clinton] are encircled by a mercenary
band, who, while they offer adulation to your system of error,
are ready at the first favorable moment to forsake and desert
you. A portion of them are needy young men, who without maturely
investigating the consequence, have sacrificed principle to
self-aggrandizement. Others are mere parasites, that well know
the tenure on which they hold their offices, and will ever pay
implicit obedience to those who administer to their wants. Many
of your followers are among the most profligate of the community.
They are the bane of social and domestic happiness, senile and
dependent panderers."

In 1812 Clinton became a candidate for President and polled 89
electoral votes against Madison's 128. Subsequently he became
Governor of New York on the Erie Canal issue; but his political
cunning seems to have forsaken him; and his perennial quarrels
with every other faction in his State made him the object of a
constant fire of vituperation. He had, however, taught all his
enemies the value of spoils, and he adhered to the end to the
political action he early advised a friend to adopt: "In a
political warfare, the defensive side will eventually lose. The
meekness of Quakerism will do in religion but not in politics. I
repeat it, everything will answer to energy and decision."

Martin Van Buren was an early disciple of Clinton. Though he
broke with his political chief in 1813, he had remained long
enough in the Clinton school to learn every trick; and he
possessed such native talent for intrigue, so smooth a manner,
and such a wonderful memory for names, that he soon found himself
at the head of a much more perfect and far-reaching machine than
Clinton had ever dreamed of. The Empire State has never produced
the equal of Van Buren as a manipulator of legislatures. No
modern politician would wish to face publicity if he resorted to
the petty tricks that Van Buren used in legislative politics. And
when, in 1821, he was elected to the Senate of the United States,
he became one of the organizers of the first national machine.

The state machine of Van Buren was long known as the "Albany
Regency." It included several very able politicians: William L.
Marcy, who became United States Senator in 1831; Silas Wright,
elected Senator in 1833; John A. Dix, who became Senator in 1845;
Benjamin F. Butler, who was United States Attorney-General under
President Van Buren, besides a score or more of prominent state
officials. It had an influential organ in the Albany Argus,
lieutenants in every county, and captains in every town. Its
confidential agents kept the leaders constantly informed of the
political situation in every locality; and its discipline made
the wish of Van Buren and his colleagues a command. Federal and
local patronage and a sagacious distribution of state contracts
sustained this combination. When the practice of nominating by
conventions began, the Regency at once discerned the strategic
value of controlling delegates, and, until the break in the
Democratic party in 1848, it literally reigned in the State.

With the disintegration of the Federalist party came the loss of
concentrated power by the colonial families of New England and
New York. The old aristocracy of the South was more fortunate in
the maintenance of its power. Jefferson's party was not only well
disciplined; it gave its confidence to a people still accustomed
to class rule and in turn was supported by them. In a strict
sense the Virginia Dynasty was not a machine like Van Buren's
Albany Regency. It was the effect of the concentrated influence
of men of great ability rather than a definite organization. The
congressional caucus was the instrument through which their
influence was made practical. In 1816, however, a considerable
movement was started to end the Virginia monopoly. It spread to
the Jeffersonians of the North. William H. Crawford, of Georgia,
and Daniel Tompkins, of New York, came forward as competitors
with Monroe for the caucus nomination. The knowledge of this
intrigue fostered the rising revolt against the caucus.
Twenty-two Republicans, many of whom were known to be opposed to
the caucus system, absented themselves. Monroe was nominated by
the narrow margin of eleven votes over Crawford. By the time
Monroe had served his second term the discrediting of the caucus
was made complete by the nomination of Crawford by a thinly
attended gathering of his adherents, who presumed to act for the
party. The Virginia Dynasty had no further favorites to foster,
and a new political force swept into power behind the dominating
personality of Andrew Jackson.

The new Democracy, however, did not remove the aristocratic power
of the slaveholder; and from Jackson's day to Buchanan's this
became an increasing force in the party councils. The slavery
question illustrates how a compact group of capable and
determined men, dominated by an economic motive, can exercise for
years in the political arena a preponderating influence, even
though they represent an actual minority of the nation. This
untoward condition was made possible by the political sagacity
and persistence of the party managers and by the unwillingness of
a large portion of the people to bring the real issue to a head.

Before the Civil War, then, party organization had become a fixed
and necessary incident in American politics. The war changed the
face of our national affairs. The changes wrought multiplied the
opportunities of the professional politician, and in these
opportunities, as well as in the transfused energies and ideals
of the people, we must seek the causes for those perversions of
party and party machinery which have characterized our modern


The Civil War, which shocked the country into a new national
consciousness and rearranged the elements of its economic life,
also brought about a new era in political activity and
management. The United States after Appomattox was a very
different country from the United States before Sumter was fired
upon. The war was a continental upheaval, like the Appalachian
uplift in our geological history, producing sharp and profound

Despite the fact that in 1864 Lincoln had been elected on a Union
ticket supported by War Democrats, the Republicans claimed the
triumphs of the war as their own. They emerged from the struggle
with the enormous prestige of a party triumphant and with
"Saviors of the Union" inscribed on their banners.

The death of their wise and great leader opened the door to a
violent partizan orgy. President Andrew Johnson could not check
the fury of the radical reconstructionists; and a new political
era began in a riot of dogmatic and insolent dictatorship, which
was intensified by the mob of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and
freedmen in the South, and not abated by the lawless promptings
of the Ku-Klux to regain patrician leadership in the home of
secession nor by the baneful resentment of the North. The soldier
was made a political asset. For a generation the "bloody shirt"
was waved before the eyes of the Northern voter; and the evils,
both grotesque and gruesome, of an unnatural reconstruction are
not yet forgotten in the South.

A second opportunity of the politician was found in the rapid
economic expansion that followed the war. The feeling of security
in the North caused by the success of the Union arms buoyed an
unbounded optimism which made it easy to enlist capital in new
enterprises, and the protective tariff and liberal banking law
stimulated industry. Exports of raw material and food products
stimulated mining, grazing, and farming. European capital sought
investments in American railroads, mines, and industrial under-
takings. In the decade following the war the output of pig iron
doubled, that of coal multiplied by five, and that of steel by
one hundred. Superior iron and copper, Pennsylvania coal and oil,
Nevada and California gold and silver, all yielded their enormous
values to this new call of enterprise. Inventions and
manufactures of all kinds flourished. During 1850-60
manufacturing establishments had increased by fourteen per cent.
During 1860-70 they increased seventy-nine per cent.

The Homestead Act of May 20, 1862, opened vast areas of public
lands to a new immigration. The flow of population was westward,
and the West called for communication with the East. The Union
Pacific and Central Pacific railways, the pioneer
transcontinental lines, fostered on generous grants of land, were
the tokens of the new transportation movement. Railroads were
pushing forward everywhere with unheard-of rapidity. Short lines
were being merged into far-reaching systems. In the early
seventies the Pennsylvania system was organized and the
Vanderbilts acquired control of lines as far west as Chicago.
Soon the Baltimore and Ohio system extended its empire of trade
to the Mississippi. Half a dozen ambitious trans-Mississippi
systems, connecting with four new transcontinental projects, were
put into operation.

Prosperity is always the opportunity of the politician. What is
of greatest significance to the student of politics is that
prosperity at this time was organized on a new basis. Before the
war business had been conducted largely by individuals or
partnerships. The unit was small; the amount of capital needed
was limited. But now the unit was expanding so rapidly, the need
for capital was so lavish, the empire of trade so extensive, that
a new mechanism of ownership was necessary. This device, of
course, was the corporation. It had, indeed, existed as a trading
unit for many years. But the corporation before 1860 was
comparatively small and was generally based upon charters granted
by special act of the legislature.

No other event has had so practical a bearing on our politics and
our economic and social life as the advent of the corporate
device for owning and manipulating private business. For it links
the omnipotence of the State to the limitations of private
ownership; it thrusts the interests of private business into
every legislature that grants charters or passes regulating acts;
it diminishes, on the other hand, that stimulus to honesty and
correct dealing which a private individual discerns to be his
greatest asset in trade, for it replaces individual
responsibility with group responsibility and scatters ownership
among so large a number of persons that sinister manipulation is

But if the private corporation, through its interest in broad
charter privileges and liberal corporation laws and its devotion
to the tariff and to conservative financial policies, found it
convenient to do business with the politician and his
organization, the quasi-public corporations, especially the steam
railroads and street railways, found it almost essential to their
existence. They received not only their franchises but frequently
large bonuses from the public treasury. The Pacific roads alone
were endowed with an empire of 145,000,000 acres of public land.
States, counties, and cities freely loaned their credit and gave
ample charters to new railway lines which were to stimulate

City councils, legislatures, mayors, governors, Congress, and
presidents were drawn into the maelstrom of commercialism. It is
not surprising that side by side with the new business
organization there grew up a new political organization, and that
the new business magnate was accompanied by a new political
magnate. The party machine and the party boss were the natural
product of the time, which was a time of gain and greed. It was a
sordid reaction, indeed, from the high principles that sought
victory on the field of battle and that found their noblest
embodiment in the character of Abraham Lincoln.

The dominant and domineering party chose the leading soldier of
the North as its candidate for President. General Grant, elected
as a popular idol because of his military genius, possessed
neither the experience nor the skill to countermove the
machinations of designing politicians and their business allies.
On the other hand, he soon displayed an admiration for business
success that placed him at once in accord with the spirit of the
hour. He exalted men who could make money rather than men who
could command ideas. He chose Alexander T. Stewart, the New York
merchant prince, one of the three richest men of his day, for
Secretary of the Treasury. The law, however, forbade the
appointment to this office of any one who should "directly or
indirectly be concerned or interested in carrying on the business
of trade or commerce," and Stewart was disqualified. Adolph E.
Borie of Philadelphia, whose qualifications were the possession
of great wealth and the friendship of the President, was named
Secretary of the Navy. Another personal friend, John A. Rawlins,
was named Secretary of War. A third friend, Elihu B. Washburne of
Illinois, was made Secretary of State. Washburne soon resigned,
and Hamilton Fish of New York was appointed in his place. Fish,
together with General Jacob D. Cox of Ohio, Secretary of the
Interior, and Judge E. Rockwood Hoar of Massachusetts,
Attorney-General, formed a strong triumvirate of ability and
character in the Cabinet. But, while Grant displayed pleasure in
the companionship of these eminent men, they never possessed his
complete confidence. When the machinations for place and favor
began, Hoar and Cox were in the way. Hoar had offended the Senate
in his recommendations for federal circuit judges (the circuit
court was then newly established), and when the President named
him for Justice of the Supreme Court, Hoar was rejected. Senator
Cameron, one of the chief spoils politicians of the time, told
Hoar frankly why: "What could you expect for a man who had
snubbed seventy Senators!" A few months later (June, 1870), the
President bluntly asked for Hoar's resignation, a sacrifice to
the gods of the Senate, to purchase their favor for the Santo
Domingo treaty.

Cox resigned in the autumn. As Secretary of the Interior he had
charge of the Patent Office, Census Bureau, and Indian Service,
all of them requiring many appointments. He had attempted to
introduce a sort of civil service examination for applicants and
had vehemently protested against political assessments levied on
clerks in his department. He especially offended Senators Cameron
and Chandler, party chieftains who had the ear of the President.
General Cox stated the matter plainly: "My views of the necessity
of reform in the civil service had brought me more or less into
collision with the plans of our active political managers and my
sense of duty has obliged me to oppose some of their methods of
action." These instances reveal how the party chieftains insisted
inexorably upon their demands. To them the public service was
principally a means to satisfy party ends, and the chief duty of
the President and his Cabinet was to satisfy the claims of party
necessity. General Cox said that distributing offices occupied
"the larger part of the time of the President and all his
Cabinet." General Garfield wrote (1877): "One-third of the
working hours of Senators and Representatives is hardly
sufficient to meet the demands made upon them in reference to
appointments to office."

By the side of the partizan motives stalked the desire for gain.
There were those to whom parties meant but the opportunity for
sudden wealth. The President's admiration for commercial success
and his inability to read the motives of sycophants multiplied
their opportunities, and in the eight years of his administration
there was consummated the baneful union of business and politics.

During the second Grant campaign (1872), when Horace Greeley was
making his astounding run for President, the New York Sun hinted
at gross and wholesale briberies of Congressmen by Oakes Ames and
his associates who had built the Union Pacific Railroad, an
enterprise which the United States had generously aided with
loans and gifts.

Three committees of Congress, two in the House and one in the
Senate (the Poland Committee, the Wilson Committee, and the
Senate Committee), subsequently investigated the charges. Their
investigations disclosed the fact that Ames, then a member of the
House of Representatives, the principal stockholder in the Union
Pacific, and the soul of the enterprise, had organized, under an
existing Pennsylvania charter, a construction company called the
Credit Mobilier, whose shares were issued to Ames and his
associates. To the Credit Mobilier were issued the bonds and
stock of the Union Pacific, which had been paid for "at not more
than thirty cents on the dollar in road-making."* As the United
States, in addition to princely gifts of land, had in effect
guaranteed the cost of construction by authorizing the issue of
Government bonds, dollar for dollar and side by side with the
bonds of the road, the motive of the magnificent shuffle, which
gave the road into the hands of a construction company, was
clear. Now it was alleged that stock of the Credit Mobilier,
paying dividends of three hundred and forty per cent, had been
distributed by Ames among many of his fellow-Congressmen, in
order to forestall a threatened investigation. It was disclosed
that some of the members had refused point blank to have anything
to do with the stock; others had refused after deliberation;
others had purchased some of it outright; others, alas!, had
"purchased" it, to be paid for out of its own dividends.

* Testimony before the Wilson Committee.

The majority of the members involved in the nasty affair were
absolved by the Poland Committee from "any corrupt motive or
purpose." But Oakes Ames of Massachusetts and James Brooks of New
York were recommended for expulsion from the House and Patterson
of New Hampshire from the Senate. The House, however, was content
with censuring Ames and Brooks, and the Senate permitted
Patterson's term to expire, since only five days of it remained.
Whatever may have been the opinion of Congress, and whatever a
careful reading of the testimony discloses to an impartial mind
at this remote day, upon the voters of that time the revelations
came as a shock. Some of the most trusted Congressmen were drawn
into the miasma of suspicion, among them Garfield; Dawes;
Scofield; Wilson, the newly elected Vice-President; Colfax, the
outgoing Vice-President. Colfax had been a popular idol, with the
Presidency in his vision; now bowed and disgraced, he left the
national capital never to return with a public commission.

In 1874 came the disclosures of the Whiskey Ring. They involved
United States Internal Revenue officers and distillers in the
revenue district of St. Louis and a number of officials at
Washington. Benjamin H. Bristow, on becoming Secretary of the
Treasury in June of that year, immediately scented corruption. He
discovered that during 1871-74 only about one-third of the
whiskey shipped from St. Louis had paid the tax and that the
Government had been defrauded of nearly $3,000,000. "If a
distiller was honest," says James Ford Rhodes, the eminent
historian, "he was entrapped into some technical violation of the
law by the officials, who by virtue of their authority seized his
distillery, giving him the choice of bankruptcy or a partnership
in their operations; and generally he succumbed."

McDonald, the supervisor of the St. Louis revenue district, was
the leader of the Whiskey Ring. He lavished gifts upon President
Grant, who, with an amazing indifference and innocence, accepted
such favors from all kinds of sources. Orville E. Babcock, the
President's private secretary, who possessed the complete
confidence of the guileless general, was soon enmeshed in the net
of investigation. Grant at first declared, "If Babcock is guilty,
there is no man who wants him so much proven guilty as I do, for
it is the greatest piece of traitorism to me that a man could
possibly practice." When Babcock was indicted, however, for
complicity to defraud the Government, the President did not
hesitate to say on oath that he had never seen anything in
Babcock's behavior which indicated that he was in any way
interested in the Whiskey Ring and that he had always had "great
confidence in his integrity and efficiency." In other ways the
President displayed his eagerness to defend his private
secretary. The jury acquitted Babcock, but the public did not. He
was compelled to resign under pressure of public condemnation,
and was afterwards indicted for conspiracy to rob a safe of
documents of an incriminating character. But Grant seems never to
have lost faith in him. Three of the men sent to prison for their
complicity in the whiskey fraud were pardoned after six months.
McDonald, the chieftain of the gang, served but one year of his

The exposure of the Whiskey Ring was followed by an even more
startling humiliation. The House Committee on Expenditures in the
War Department recommended that General William W. Belknap,
Secretary of War, be impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors
while in office," and the House unanimously adopted the
recommendation. The evidence upon which the committee based its
drastic recommendation disclosed the most sordid division of
spoils between the Secretary and his wife and two rascals who
held in succession the valuable post of trader at Fort Sill in
the Indian Territory.

The committee's report was read about three o'clock in the
afternoon of March 2, 1876. In the forenoon of the same day
Belknap had sent his resignation to the President, who had
accepted it immediately. The President and Belknap were personal
friends. But the certainty of Belknap's perfidy was not removed
by the attitude of the President, nor by the vote of the Senate
on the article of impeachment--37 guilty, 25 not guilty-for the
evidence was too convincing. The public knew by this time Grant's
childlike failing in sticking to his friends; and 93 of the 25
Senators who voted not guilty had publicly declared they did so,
not because they believed him innocent, but because they believed
they had no jurisdiction over an official who had resigned.

There were many minor indications of the harvest which gross
materialism was reaping in the political field. State and city
governments were surrendered to political brigands. In 1871 the
Governor of Nebraska was removed for embezzlement. Kansas was
startled by revelations of brazen bribery in her senatorial
elections (1872-1873). General Schenck, representing the United
States at the Court of St. James, humiliated his country by
dabbling in a fraudulent mining scheme.

In a speech before the Senate, then trying General Belknap,
Senator George F. Hoar, on May 6, 1876, summed up the greater

"My own public life has been a very brief and insignificant one,
extending little beyond the duration of a single term of
senatorial office. But in that brief period I have seen five
judges of a high court of the United States driven from office by
threats of impeachment for corruption or maladministration. I
have heard the taunt from friendliest lips, that when the United
States presented herself in the East to take part with the
civilized world in generous competition in the arts of life, the
only products of her institutions in which she surpassed all
others beyond question was her corruption. I have seen in the
State in the Union foremost in power and wealth four judges of
her courts impeached for corruption, and the political
administration of her chief city become a disgrace and a byword
throughout the world. I have seen the chairman of the Committee
on Military Affairs in the House rise in his place and demand the
expulsion of four of his associates for making sale of their
official privilege of selecting the youths to be educated at our
great military schools. When the greatest railroad of the world,
binding together the continent and uniting the two great seas
which wash our shores, was finished, I have seen our national
triumph and exaltation turned to bitterness and shame by the
unanimous reports of three committees of Congress--two in the
House and one here--that every step of that mighty enterprise had
been taken in fraud. I have heard in highest places the shameless
doctrine avowed by men grown old in public office that the true
way by which power should be gained in the Republic is to bribe
the people with the offices created for their service, and the
true end for which it should be used when gained is the promotion
of selfish ambition and the gratification of personal revenge. I
have heard that suspicions haunt the footsteps of the trusted
companions of the President."

These startling facts did not shatter the prestige of the
Republicans, the "Saviors of the Union," nor humble their
leaders. One of them, Senator Foraker, says*: "The campaign
(1876) on the part of the Democrats gave emphasis to the reform
idea and exploited Tilden as the great reform governor of New
York and the best fitted man in the country to bring about
reforms in the Government of the United States. No reforms were
needed: but a fact like that never interfered with a reform
campaign." The orthodoxy of the politician remained unshaken.
Foraker's reasons were the creed of thousands: "The Republican
party had prosecuted the war successfully; had reconstructed the
States; had rehabilitated our finances, and brought on specie
redemption." The memoirs of politicians and statesmen of this
period, such as Cullom, Foraker, Platt, even Hoar, are imbued
with an inflexible faith in the party and colored by the
conviction that it is a function of Government to aid business.
Platt, for instance, alluding to Blaine's attitude as Speaker, in
the seventies, said: "What I liked about him was his frank and
persistent contention that the citizen who best loved his party
and was loyal to it, was loyal to and best loved his country."
And many years afterwards, when a new type of leader appeared
representing a new era of conviction, Platt was deeply concerned.
His famous letter to Roosevelt, when the Rough Rider was being
mentioned for Governor of New York (1899), shows the reluctance
of the old man to see the signs of the times: "The thing that
really did bother me was this: I had heard from a great many
sources that you were a little loose on the relations of capital
and labor, on trusts and combinations, and indeed on the numerous
questions which have recently arisen in politics affecting the
security of earnings and the right of a man to run his own
business in his own way, with due respect of course to the Ten
Commandments and the Penal Code."

* "Notes from a Busy Life", vol. I., 98.

The leaders of both the great parties firmly and honestly
believed that it was the duty of the Government to aid private
enterprise, and that by stimulating business everybody is helped.
This article of faith, with the doctrine of the sanctity of the
party, was a natural product of the conditions outlined in the
beginning of this chapter--the war and the remarkable economic
expansion following the war. It was the cause of the alliance
between business and politics. It made the machine and the boss
the sinister and ever present shadows of legitimate organization
and leadership.


The gigantic national machine that was erected during Grant's
administration would have been ineffectual without local sources
of power. These sources of power were found in the cities, now
thriving on the new-born commerce and industry, increasing
marvelously in numbers and in size, and offering to the political
manipulator opportunities that have rarely been paralleled.*

* Between 1860 and 1890 the number of cities of 8000 or more
inhabitants increased from 141 to 448, standing at 226 in 1870.
In 1865 less than 20% of our people lived in the cities; in 1890,
over 30%; in 1900, 40%; in 1910, 46.3%. By 1890 there were six
cities with more than half a million inhabitants, fifteen with
more than 200,000, and twenty-eight with more than 100,000. In
1910 there were twenty-eight cities with a population over
200,000, fifty cities over 100,000, and ninety-eight over 50,000.
It was no uncommon occurrence for a city to double its population
in a decade. In ten years Birmingham gained 245%, Los Angeles,
211%, Seattle, 194%, Spokane, 183%, Dallas, 116%, Schenectady,

The governmental framework of the American city is based on the
English system as exemplified in the towns of Colonial America.
Their charters were received from the Crown and their business
was conducted by a mayor and a council composed of aldermen and
councilmen. The mayor was usually appointed; the council elected
by a property-holding electorate. In New England the glorified
town meeting was an important agency of local government.

After the Revolution, mayors as well as councilmen were elected,
and the charters of the towns were granted by the legislature,
not by the executive, of the State. In colonial days charters had
been granted by the King. They had fixed for the city certain
immunities and well-defined spheres of autonomy. But when the
legislatures were given the power to grant charters, they reduced
the charter to the level of a statutory enactment, which could be
amended or repealed by any successive legislature, thereby
opening up a convenient field for political maneuvering. The
courts have, moreover, construed these charters strictly, holding
the cities closely bound to those powers which the legislatures
conferred upon them.

The task of governing the early American town was simple enough.
In 1790 New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, and Charleston
were the only towns in the United States of over 8000
inhabitants; all together they numbered scarcely 130,000. Their
populations were homogeneous; their wants were few; and they were
still in that happy childhood when every voter knew nearly every
other voter and when everybody knew his neighbor's business as
well as his own, and perhaps better.

Gradually the towns awoke to their newer needs and demanded
public service--lighting, street cleaning, fire protection,
public education. All these matters, however, could be easily
looked after by the mayor and the council committees. But when
these towns began to spread rapidly into cities, they quickly
outgrew their colonial garments. Yet the legislatures were loath
to cast the old garments aside. One may say that from 1840 to
1901, when the Galveston plan of commission government was
inaugurated, American municipal government was nothing but a
series of contests between a small body of alert citizens
attempting to fix responsibility on public officers and a few
adroit politicians attempting to elude responsibility; both sides
appealing to an electorate which was habitually somnolent but
subject to intermittent awakenings through spasms of

During this epoch no important city remained immune from ruthless
legislative interference. Year after year the legislature shifted
officers and responsibilities at the behest of the boss. "Ripper
bills" were passed, tearing up the entire administrative systems
of important municipalities. The city was made the plaything of
the boss and the machine.

Throughout the constant shifts that our city governments have
undergone one may, however, discern three general plans of

The first was the centering of power in the city council, whether
composed of two chambers--a board of aldermen and a common
council--as in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, or of one
council, as in many lesser cities. It soon became apparent that a
large body, whose chief function is legislation, is utterly unfit
to look after administrative details. Such a body, in order to do
business, must act through committees. Responsibility is
scattered. Favoritism is possible in letting contracts, in making
appointments, in depositing city funds, in making public
improvements, in purchasing supplies and real estate, and in a
thousand other ways. So, by controlling the appointment of
committees, a shrewd manipulator could virtually control all the
municipal activities and make himself overlord of the city.

The second plan of government attempted to make the mayor the
controlling force. It reduced the council to a legislative body
and exalted the mayor into a real executive with power to appoint
and to remove heads of departments, thereby making him
responsible for the city administration. Brooklyn under Mayor
Seth Low was an encouraging example of this type of government.
But the type was rarely found in a pure form. The politician
succeeded either in electing a subservient mayor or in curtailing
the mayor's authority by having the heads of departments elected
or appointed by the council or made subject to the approval of
the council. If the council held the key to the city treasury,
the boss reigned, for councilmen from properly gerrymandered
wards could usually be trusted to execute his will.

The third form of government was government by boards. Here it
was attempted to place the administration of various municipal
activities in the hands of independent boards. Thus a board had
charge of the police, another of the fire department, another of
public works, and so on. Often there were a dozen of these boards
and not infrequently over thirty in a single city, as in
Philadelphia. Sometimes these boards were elected by the people;
sometimes they were appointed by the council; sometimes they were
appointed by the mayor; in one or two instances they were
appointed by the Governor. Often their powers were shared with
committees of the council; a committee on police, for instance,
shared with the Board of Police Commissioners the direction of
police affairs. Usually these boards were responsible to no one
but the electorate (and that remotely) and were entirely without
coordination, a mere agglomeration of independent creations
generally with ill-defined powers.

Sometimes the laws provided that not all the members of the
appointive boards should "belong to the same political party" or
"be of the same political opinion in state and national issues."
It was clearly the intention to wipe out the partizan complexion
of such boards. But this device was no stumbling-block to the
boss. Whatever might be the "opinions" on national matters of the
men appointed, they usually had a perfect understanding with the
appointing authorities as to local matters. As late as 1898, a
Democratic mayor of New York (Van Wyck) summarily removed the two
Republican members of the Board of Police Commissioners and
replaced them by Republicans after his own heart. In truth, the
bipartizan board fitted snugly into the dual party regime that
existed in many cities, whereby the county offices were
apportioned to one party, the city offices to the other, and the
spoils to both. It is doubtful if any device was ever more
deceiving and less satisfactory than the bipartizan board.

The reader must not be led to think that any one of these plans
of municipal government prevailed at any one time. They all still
exist, contemporaneously with the newer commission plan and the
city manager plan.

Hand in hand with these experiments in governmental mechanisms
for the growing cities went a rapidly increasing expenditure of
public funds. Streets had to be laid out, paved, and lighted;
sewers extended; firefighting facilities increased; schools
built; parks, boulevards, and playgrounds acquired, and scores of
new activities undertaken by the municipality. All these brought
grist to the politician's mill. So did his control of the police
force and the police courts. And finally, with the city reaching
its eager streets far out into the country, came the necessity
for rapid transportation, which opened up for the municipal
politician a new El Dorado.

Under our laws the right of a public service corporation to
occupy the public streets is based upon a franchise from the
city. Before the days of the referendum the franchise was granted
by the city council, usually as a monopoly, sometimes in
perpetuity; and, until comparatively recent years, the
corporation paid nothing to the city for the rights it acquired.

When we reflect that within a few decades of the discovery of
electric power, every city, large and small, had its street-car
and electric-light service, and that most of these cities,
through their councils, gave away these monopoly rights for long
periods of time, we can imagine the princely aggregate of the
gifts which public service corporations have received at the
hands of our municipal governments, and the nature of the
temptations these corporations were able to spread before the
greedy gaze of those whose gesture would seal the grant.

But it was not only at the granting of the franchise that the
boss and his machine sought for spoils. A public service
corporation, being constantly asked for favors, is a continuing
opportunity for the political manipulator. Public service
corporations could share their patronage with the politician in
exchange for favors. Through their control of many jobs, and
through their influence with banks, they could show a wide
assortment of favors to the politician in return for his
influence; for instance, in the matter of traffic regulations,
permission to tear up the streets, inspection laws, rate
schedules, tax assessments, coroners' reports, or juries.

When the politician went to the voters, he adroitly concealed his
designs under the name of one of the national parties. Voters
were asked to vote for a Republican or a Democrat, not for a
policy of municipal administration or other local policies. The
system of committees, caucuses, conventions, built up in every
city, was linked to the national organization. A citizen of New
York, for instance, was not asked to vote for the Broadway
Franchise, which raised such a scandal in the eighties, but to
vote for aldermen running on a national tariff ticket!

The electorate was somnolent and permitted the politician to have
his way. The multitudes of the city came principally from two
sources, from Europe and from the rural districts of our own
country. Those who came to the city from the country were
prompted by industrial motives; they sought wider opportunities;
they soon became immersed in their tasks and paid little
attention to public questions. The foreign immigrants who
congested our cities were alien to American institutions. They
formed a heterogeneous population to whom a common ideal of
government was unknown and democracy a word without meaning.
These foreigners were easily influenced and easily led. Under the
old naturalization laws, they were herded into the courts just
before election and admitted to citizenship. In New York they
were naturalized under the guidance of wardheelers, not
infrequently at the rate of one a minute! And, before the days of
registration laws, ballots were distributed to them and they were
led to the polls, as charity children are given excursion tickets
and are led to their annual summer's day picnic.

The slipshod methods of naturalization have been revealed since
the new law (1906) has been in force. Tens of thousands of voters
who thought they were citizens found that their papers were only
declarations of intentions, or "first papers." Other tens of
thousands had lost even these papers and could not designate the
courts that had issued them; and other thousands found that the
courts that had naturalized them were without jurisdiction in the

It was not merely among these newcomers that the boss found his
opportunities for carrying elections. The dense city blocks were
convenient lodging places for "floaters." Just before elections,
the population of the downtown wards in the larger cities
increased surprisingly. The boss fully availed himself of the
psychological and social reactions of the city upon the
individual, knowing instinctively how much more easily men are
corrupted when they are merged in the crowd and have lost their
sense of personal responsibility.

It was in the city, then, that industrial politics found their
natural habitat. We shall now scrutinize more closely some of the
developments which arose out of such an environment.


Before the Revolutionary War numerous societies were organized to
aid the cause of Independence. These were sometimes called "Sons
of Liberty" and not infrequently "Sons of St. Tammany," after an
Indian brave whom tradition had shrouded in virtue. The name was
probably adopted to burlesque the royalist societies named after
St. George, St. David, or St. Andrew. After the war these
societies vanished. But, in New York City, William Mooney, an
upholsterer, reorganized the local society as "Tammany Society or
Columbian Order," devoted ostensibly to goodfellowship and
charity. Its officers bore Indian titles and its ceremonies were
more or less borrowed from the red man, not merely because of
their unique and picturesque character, but to emphasize the
truly American and anti-British convictions of its members. The
society attracted that element of the town's population which
delighted in the crude ceremonials and the stimulating potions
that always accompanied them, mostly small shopkeepers and
mechanics. It was among this class that the spirit of discontent
against the power of Federalism was strongest--a spirit that has
often become decisive in our political fortunes.

This was still the day of the "gentleman," of small clothes,
silver shoe-buckles, powdered wigs, and lace ruffles. Only
taxpayers and propertied persons could vote, and public office
was still invested with certain prerogatives and privileges.
Democracy was little more than a name. There was, however, a
distinct division of sentiment, and the drift towards democracy
was accelerated by immigration. The newcomers were largely of the
humble classes, among whom the doctrines of democratic discontent
were welcome.

Tammany soon became partizan. The Federalist members withdrew,
probably influenced by Washington's warning against secret
political societies. By 1798 it was a Republican club meeting in
various taverns, finally selecting Martling's "Long Room" for its
nightly carousals. Soon after this a new constitution was adopted
which adroitly transformed the society into a compact political
machine, every member subscribing to the oath that he would
resist the encroachments of centralized power over the State.

Tradition has it that the transformer of Tammany into the first
compact and effective political machine was Aaron Burr. There is
no direct evidence that he wrote the new constitution. But there
is collateral evidence. Indeed, it would not have been Burrian
had he left any written evidence of his connection with the
organization. For Burr was one of those intriguers who revel in
mystery, who always hide their designs, and never bind themselves
in writing without leaving a dozen loopholes for escape. He was
by this time a prominent figure in American politics. His skill
had been displayed in Albany, both in the passing of legislation
and in out-maneuvering Hamilton and having himself elected United
States Senator against the powerful combination of the
Livingstons and the Schuylers. He was plotting for the Presidency
as the campaign of 1800 approached, and Tammany was to be the
fulcrum to lift him to this conspicuous place.

Under the ostensible leadership of Matthew L. Davis, Burr's chief
lieutenant, every ward of the city was carefully organized, a
polling list was made, scores of new members were pledged to
Tammany, and during the three days of voting (in New York State
until 1840 elections lasted three days), while Hamilton was
making eloquent speeches for the Federalists, Burr was secretly
manipulating the wires of his machine. Burr and Tammany won in
New York City, though Burr failed to win the Presidency. The
political career of this remarkable organization, which has
survived over one hundred and twenty years of stormy history, was
now well launched.

From that time to the present the history of Tammany Hall is a
tale of victories, followed by occasional disclosures of
corruption and favoritism; of quarrels with governors and
presidents; of party fights between "up-state" and "city"; of
skulking when its sachems were unwelcome in the White House; of
periodical displays of patriotism for cloaking its grosser
crimes; of perennial charities for fastening itself more firmly
on the poorer populace which has always been the source of its
power; of colossal municipal enterprise for profit-sharing; and
of a continuous political efficiency due to sagacious leadership,
a remarkable adaptability to the necessities of the hour, and a
patience that outlasts every "reform."

It early displayed all the traits that have made it successful.
In 1801, for the purpose of carrying city elections, it provided
thirty-nine men with money to purchase houses and lots in one
ward, and seventy men with money for the same purpose in another
ward, thus manufacturing freeholders for polling purposes. In
1806 Benjamin Romaine, a grand sachem, was removed from the
office of city controller by his own party for acquiring land
from the city without paying for it. In 1807 several
superintendents of city institutions were dismissed for frauds.
The inspector of bread, a sachem, resigned because his threat to
extort one-third of the fees from his subordinates had become
public. Several assessment collectors, all prominent in Tammany,
were compelled to reimburse the city for deficits in their
accounts. One of the leading aldermen used his influence to
induce the city to sell land to his brother-in-law at a low
price, and then bade the city buy it back for many times its
value. Mooney, the founder of the society, now superintendent of
the almshouse, was caught in a characteristic fraud. His salary
was $1000 a year, with $500 for family expenses. But it was
discovered that his "expenses" amounted to $4000 a year, and that
he had credited to himself on the books $1000 worth of supplies
and numerous sums for "trifles for Mrs. Mooney."

In September, 1826, the Grand Jury entered an indictment against
Matthew L. Davis and a number of other Tammany men for defrauding
several banks and insurance companies of over $2,000,000. This
created a tremendous sensation. Political influence was at once
set in motion, and only the minor defendants were sent to the

In 1829 Samuel Swartwout, one of the Tammany leaders, was
appointed Collector of the Port of New York. His downfall came in
1838, and he fled to Europe. His defalcations in the Custom House
were found to be over $1,222,700; and "to Swartwout" became a
useful phrase until Tweed's day. He was succeeded by Jesse Hoyt,
another sachem and notorious politician, against whom several
judgments for default were recorded in the Superior Court, which
were satisfied very soon after his appointment. At this time
another Tammany chieftain, W. M. Price, United States District
Attorney for Southern New York, defaulted for $75,000.

It was in 1851 that the council commonly known as "The Forty
Thieves" was elected. In it William M. Tweed served his
apprenticeship. Some of the maneuvers of this council and of
other officials were divulged by a Grand Jury in its presentment
of February 23, 1853. The presentment states: "It was clearly
shown that enormous sums of money were spent for the procurement
of railroad grants in the city, and that towards the decision and
procurement of the Eighth Avenue railway grant, a sum so large
that would startle the most credulous was expended; but in
consequence of the voluntary absence of important witnesses, the
Grand Jury was left without direct testimony of the particular
recipients of the different amounts."

These and other exposures brought on a number of amendments to
the city charter, surrounding with greater safeguards the sale or
lease of city property and the letting of contracts; and a reform
council was elected. Immediately upon the heels of this reform
movement followed the shameful regime of Fernando Wood, an able,
crafty, unscrupulous politician, who began by announcing himself
a reformer, but who soon became a boss in the most offensive
sense of that term--not, however, in Tammany Hall, for he was
ousted from that organization after his reelection as mayor in
1856. He immediately organized a machine of his own, Mozart Hall.
The intense struggle between the two machines cost the city a
great sum, for the taxpayers were mulcted to pay the bills.

Through the anxious days of the Civil War, when the minds of
thoughtful citizens were occupied with national issues, the tide
of reform ebbed and flowed. A reform candidate was elected mayor
in 1863, but Tammany returned to power two years later by
securing the election and then the reelection of John T. Hoffman.
Hoffman possessed considerable ability and an attractive
personality. His zeal for high office, however, made him easily
amenable to the manipulators. Tammany made him Governor and
planned to name him for President. Behind his popularity, which
was considerable, and screened by the greater excitements of the
war, reconstruction, and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson,
lurked the Ring, whose exposures and confessions were soon to
amaze everyone.

The chief ringster was William M. Tweed, and his name will always
be associated in the public mind with political bossdom. This is
his immortality. He was a chairmaker by trade, a vulgar good
fellow by nature, a politician by circumstances, a boss by
evolution, and a grafter by choice. He became grand sachem of
Tammany and chairman of the general committee. This committee he
ruled with blunt directness. When he wanted a question carried,
he failed to ask for the negative votes; and soon he was called
"the Boss," a title he never resented, and which usage has since
fixed in our politics. So he ruled Tammany with a high hand; made
nominations arbitrarily; bullied, bought, and traded; became
President of the Board of Supervisors, thus holding the key to
the city's financial policies; and was elected State Senator,
thereby directing the granting of legislative favors to his city
and to his corporations.

In 1868 Tammany carried Hoffman into the Governor's chair, and in
the following year the Democrats carried the State legislature.
Tweed now had a new charter passed which virtually put New York
City into his pocket by placing the finances of the metropolis
entirely in the hands of a Board of Apportionment which he
dominated. Of this Board, the mayor of the city was the chairman,
with the power to appoint the other members. He promptly named
Tweed, Connolly, and P. B. Sweeny. This was the famous Ring. The
mayor was A. Oakey Hall, dubbed "Elegant Oakey" by his pals
because of his fondness for clubs, society, puns, and poems; but
Nast called him "O. K. Haul." Sweeny, commonly known as "Pete,"
was a lawyer of ability, and was generally believed to be the
plotter of the quartet. Nast transformed his middle initial B.
into "Brains." Connolly was just a coarse gangster.

There was some reason for the Ring's faith in its
invulnerability. It controlled Governor and legislature, was
formidable in the national councils of the Democratic party, and
its Governor was widely mentioned for the presidential
nomination. It possessed complete power over the city council,
the mayor, and many of the judges. It was in partnership with
Gould and Fiske of the Erie, then reaping great harvests in Wall
Street, and with street railway and other public service
corporations. Through untold largess it silenced rivalry from
within and criticism from without. And, when suspicion first
raised its voice, it adroitly invited a committee of prominent
and wealthy citizens, headed by John Jacob Astor, to examine the
controller's accounts. After six hours spent in the City Hall
these respectable gentlemen signed an acquitment, saying that
"the affairs of the city under the charge of the controller are
administered in a correct and faithful manner."

Thus intrenched, the Ring levied tribute on every municipal
activity. Everyone who had a charge against the city, either for
work done or materials furnished, was told to add to the amount
of his bill, at first 10%, later 66%, and finally 85%. One man
testified that he was told to raise to $55,000 his claim of
$5000. He got his $5000; the Ring got $50,000. The building of
the Court House, still known as "Tweed's Court House," was
estimated to cost $3,000,000, but it cost many times that sum.
The item "repairing fixtures" amounted to $1,149,874.50, before
the building was completed. Forty chairs and three tables cost
$179,729.60; thermometers cost $7500. G. S. Miller, a carpenter,
received $360,747.61, and a plasterer named Gray, $2,870,464.06
for nine months' "work." The Times dubbed him the "Prince of
Plasterers." "A plasterer who can earn $138,187 in two days
[December 20 and 21] and that in the depths of winter, need not
be poor." Carpets cost $350,000, most of the Brussels and
Axminster going to the New Metropolitan Hotel just opened by
Tweed's son.

The Ring's hold upon the legislature was through bribery, not
through partizan adhesion. Tweed himself confessed that he gave
one man in Albany $600,000 for buying votes to pass his charter;
and Samuel J. Tilden estimated the total cost for this purpose at
over one million dollars. Tweed said he bought five Republican
senators for $40,000 apiece. The vote on the charter was 30 to 2
in the Senate, 116 to 5 in the Assembly. Similar sums were spent
in Albany in securing corporate favors. The Viaduct Railway Bill
is an example. This bill empowered a company, practically owned
by the Ring, to build a railway on or above any street in the
city. It provided that the city should subscribe for $5,000,000
of the stock; and it exempted the company from taxation.
Collateral bills were introduced enabling the company to widen
and grade any streets, the favorite "job" of a Tammany grafter.
Fortunately for the city, exposure came before this monstrous
scheme could be put in motion.

Newspapers in the city were heavily subsidized. Newspapers in
Albany were paid munificently for printing. One of the Albany
papers received $207,900 for one year's work which was worth less
than $10,000. Half a dozen reporters of the leading dailies were
put on the city payroll at from $2000 to $2500 a year for

The Himalayan size of these swindles and their monumental
effrontery led the New York Sun humorously to suggest the
erection of a statue to the principal Robber Baron, "in
commemoration of his services to the commonwealth." A letter was
sent out asking for funds. There were a great many men in New
York, the Sun thought, who would not be unwilling to refuse a
contribution. But Tweed declined the honor. In its issue of March
14, 1871, the Sun has this headline:



Another kind of memorial to his genius for absorbing the people's
money was awaiting this philanthropic buccaneer. Vulgar
ostentation was the outward badge of these civic burglaries.
Tweed moved into a Fifth Avenue mansion and gave his daughter a
wedding at which she received $100,000 worth of gifts; her
wedding dress was a $5000 creation. At Greenwich he built a
country estate where the stables were framed of choice mahogany.
Sweeny hobnobbed with Jim Fiske of the Erie, the Tweed of Wall
Street, who went about town dressed in loud checks and lived with
his harem in his Opera House on Eighth Avenue.

Thoughtful citizens saw these things going on and believed the
city was being robbed, but they could not prove it. There were
two attacking parties, however, who did not wait for proofs--
Thomas Nast, the brilliant cartoonist of Harper's Weekly, and the
New York Times. The incisive cartoons of Nast appealed to the
imaginations of all classes; even Tweed complained that his
illiterate following could "look at the damn pictures." The
trenchant editorials of Louis L. Jennings in the Times reached a
thoughtful circle of readers. In one of these editorials,
February 24, 1871, before the exposure, he said: "There is
absolutely nothing--nothing in the city--which is beyond the
reach of the insatiable gang who have obtained possession of it.
They can get a grand jury dismissed at any time, and, as we have
seen, the legislature is completely at their disposal."

Finally proof did come and, as is usual in such cases, it came
from the inside. James O'Brien, an ex-sheriff and the leader in a
Democratic "reform movement" calling itself "Young Democracy,"
secured the appointment of one of his friends as clerk in the
controller's office. Transcripts of the accounts were made, and
these O'Brien brought to the Times, which began their
publication, July 8, 1871. The Ring was in consternation. It
offered George Jones, the proprietor of the Times, $5,000,000 for
his silence and sent a well-known banker to Nast with an
invitation to go to Europe "to study art," with $100,000 for

"Do you think I could get $200,000?" innocently asked Nast.

"I believe from what I have heard in the bank that you might get

After some reflection, the cartoonist asked: "Don't you think I
could get $500,000 to make that trip?"

"You can; you can get $500,000 in gold to drop this Ring business
and get out of the country."

"Well, I don't think I'll do it," laughed the artist. "I made up
my mind not long ago to put some of those fellows behind the
bars, and I am going to put them there."

"Only be careful, Mr. Nast, that you do not first put yourself in
a coffin," said the banker as he left.

A public meeting in Cooper Institute, April 6, 1871, was
addressed by William E. Dodge, Henry Ward Beecher, William M.
Evarts, and William F. Havemeyer. They vehemently denounced Tweed
and his gang. Tweed smiled and asked, "Well, what are you going
to do about it?" On the 4th of September, the same year, a second
mass meeting held in the same place answered the question by
appointing a committee of seventy. Tweed, Sweeny, and Hall, now
alarmed by the disclosures in the Times, decided to make Connolly
the scapegoat, and asked the aldermen and supervisors to appoint
a committee to examine his accounts. By the time the committee
appeared for the examination--its purpose had been well
announced--the vouchers for 1869 and 1870 had disappeared. Mayor
Hall then asked for Connolly's resignation. But instead, Connolly
consulted Samuel J. Tilden, who advised him to appoint Andrew H.
Green, a well-known and respected citizen, as his deputy. This
turned the tables on the three other members of the Ring, whose
efforts to oust both Connolly and Green were unavailing. In this
manner the citizens got control of the treasury books, and the
Grand Jury began its inquisitions. Sweeny and Connolly soon fled
to Europe. Sweeny afterwards settled for $400,000 and returned.
Hall's case was presented to a grand jury which proved to be
packed. A new panel was ordered but failed to return an
indictment because of lack of evidence. Hall was subsequently
indicted, but his trial resulted in a disagreement.

Tweed was indicted for felony. He remained at large on bail and
was twice tried in 1873. The first trial resulted in a
disagreement, the second in a conviction. His sentence was a fine
of $12,000 and twelve years' imprisonment. When he arrived at the
penitentiary, he answered the customary questions. "What
occupation?" "Statesman." "What religion?" "None." He served one
year and was then released on a flimsy technicality by the Court
of Appeals. Civil suits were now brought, and, unable to obtain
the $3,000,000 bail demanded, the fallen boss was sent to jail.
He escaped to Cuba, and finally to Spain, but he was again
arrested, returned to New York on a man-of-war, and put into
Ludlow Street jail, where he died April 12, 1878, apparently
without money or friends.

The exact amount of the plunder was never ascertained. An expert
accountant employed by the housecleaners estimated that for three
years, 1868-71, the frauds totaled between $45,000,000 and
$50,000,000. The estimate of the aldermen's committee was
$60,000,000. Tweed never gave any figures; he probably had never
counted his gains, but merely spent them as they came. O'Rourke,
one of the gang, estimated that the Ring stole about $75,000,000
during 1865-71, and that, "counting vast issues of fraudulent
bonds," the looting "probably amounted to $200,000,000."

The story of these disclosures circled the earth and still
affects the popular judgment of the American metropolis. It
seemed as though Tammany were forever discredited. But, to the
despair of reformers, in 1874 Tammany returned to power, electing
its candidate for mayor by over 9000 majority. The new boss who
maneuvered this rapid resurrection was John Kelly, a stone-mason,
known among his Irish followers as "Honest John." Besides the
political probity which the occasion demanded, he possessed a
capacity for knowing men and sensing public opinion. This enabled
him to lift the prostrate organization. He persuaded such men as
Samuel J. Tilden, the distinguished lawyer, August Belmont, a
leading financier, Horatio Seymour, who had been governor, and
Charles O'Conor, the famous advocate, to become sachems under
him. This was evidence of reform from within. Cooperation with
the Bar Association, the Taxpayers' Association, and other
similar organizations evidenced a desire of reform from without.
Kelly "bossed" the Hall until his death, June 1, 1886.

He was succeeded by Richard Croker, a machinist, prizefighter,
and gang-leader. Croker began his official career as a court
attendant under the notorious Judge Barnard and later was an
engineer in the service of the city. These places he held by
Tammany favor, and he was so useful that in 1868 he was made
alderman. A quarrel with Tweed lost him the place, but a
reconciliation soon landed him in the lucrative office of
Superintendent of Market Fees and Rents, under Connolly. In 1873
he was elected coroner and ten years later was appointed fire
commissioner. His career as boss was marked by much political
cleverness and caution and by an equal degree of moral

The triumph of Tammany in 1892 was followed by such ill-disguised
corruption that the citizens of New York were again roused from
their apathy. The investigations of the Fassett Committee of the
State Senate two years previously had shown how deep the
tentacles of Tammany were thrust into the administrative
departments of the city. The Senate now appointed another
investigating committee, of which Clarence Lexow was the chairman
and John W. Goff the counsel. The Police Department came under
its special scrutiny. The disclosures revealed the connivance of
the police in stupendous election frauds. The President of the
Police Board himself had distributed at the polls the policemen
who committed these frauds. It was further revealed that vice and
crime under police protection had been capitalized on a great
scale. It was worth money to be a policeman. One police captain
testified he had paid $15,000 for his promotions; another paid
$12,000. It cost $300 to be appointed patrolman. Over six hundred
policy-shops were open, each paying $1500 a month for protection;
pool rooms paid $300 a month; bawdy-houses, from $25 to $50 per
month per inmate. And their patrons paid whatever they could be
blackmailed out of; streetwalkers, whatever they could be
wheedled out of; saloons, $20 per month; pawnbrokers, thieves,
and thugs shared with the police their profits, as did
corporations and others seeking not only favors but their rights.
The committee in its statement to the Grand Jury (March, 1892)
estimated that the annual plunder from these sources was over

During the committee's sessions Croker was in Europe on important
business. But he found time to order the closing of disreputable
resorts, and, though he was only a private citizen and three
thousand miles away, his orders were promptly obeyed.

Aroused by these disclosures and stimulated by the lashing
sermons of the Rev. Charles H. Parkhurst, the citizens of New
York, in 1894, elected a reform government, with William L.
Strong as Mayor. His administration set up for the metropolis a
new standard of city management. Colonel George E. Waring
organized, for the first time in the city's history, an efficient
streetcleaning department. Theodore Roosevelt was appointed
Police Commissioner. These men and their associates gave to New
York a period of thrifty municipal housekeeping.

But the city returned to its filth. After the incorporation of
Greater New York and the election of Robert A. Van Wyck as its
mayor, the great beast of Tammany arose and extended its eager
claws over the vast area of the new city.

The Mazet Committee was appointed by the legislature in 1899 to
investigate rumors of renewed corruption. But the inquiry which
followed was not as penetrating nor as free from partizan bias as
thoughtful citizens wished. The principal exposure was of the Ice
Trust, an attempt to monopolize the city's ice supply, in which
city officials were stockholders, the mayor to the extent of 5000
shares, valued at $500,000. It was shown, too, that Tammany
leaders were stockholders in corporations which received favors
from the city. Governor Roosevelt, however, refused to remove
Mayor Van Wyck because the evidence against him was insufficient.

The most significant testimony before the Mazet Committee was
that given by Boss Croker himself. His last public office had
been that of City Chamberlain, 1889-90, at a salary of $25,000.
Two years later he purchased for $250,000 an interest in a
stock-farm and paid over $100,000 for some noted race-horses. He
spent over half a million dollars on the English racetrack in
three years and was reputed a millionaire, owning large blocks of
city real estate. He told the committee that he virtually
determined all city nominations; and that all candidates were
assessed, even judicial candidates, from $10,000 to $25,000 for
their nominations. "We try to have a pretty effective
organization--that's what we are there for," he explained. "We
are giving the people pure organization government," even though
the organizing took "a lot of time" and was "very hard work."
Tammany members stood by one another and helped each other, not
only in politics but in business. "We want the whole business
[city business] if we can get it." If "we win, we expect everyone
to stand by us." Then he uttered what must have been to every
citizen of understanding a self-evident truth, "I am working for
my pockets all the time."

Soon afterwards Croker retired to his Irish castle, relinquishing
the leadership to Charles Murphy, the present boss. The growing
alertness of the voters, however, makes Murphy's task a more
difficult one than that of any of his predecessors. It is
doubtful if the nature of the machine has changed during all the
years of its history. Tweed and Croker were only natural products
of the system. They typify the vulgar climax of organized

In 1913 the Independent Democrats, Republicans, and Progressives
united in a fusion movement. They nominated and, after a most
spirited campaign, elected John Purroy Mitchel as mayor. He was a
young man, not yet forty, had held important city offices, and
President Wilson had appointed him Collector of the Port of New
York. His experience, his vigor, ability, and straightdealing
commended him to the friends of good government, and they were
not disappointed. The Mitchel regime set a new record for clean
and efficient municipal administration. Men of high character and
ability were enlisted in public service, and the Police
Department, under Commissioner Woods, achieved a new usefulness.
The decent citizens, not alone in the metropolis, but throughout
the country, believed with Theodore Roosevelt that Mr. Mitchel
was "the best mayor New York ever had." But neither the
effectiveness of his administration nor the combined efforts of
the friends of good government could save him from the designs of
Tammany Hall when, in 1917, he was a candidate for reelection.
Through a tactical blunder of the Fusionists, a small Republican
group was permitted to control the party primaries and nominate a
candidate of its own; the Socialists, greatly augmented by
various pacifist groups, made heavy inroads among the
foreign-born voters. And, while the whole power and finesse of
Tammany were assiduously undermining the mayor's strength,
ethnic, religious, partizan, and geographical prejudices combined
to elect the machine candidate, Judge Hylan, a comparatively
unknown Brooklyn magistrate.

How could Tammany regain its power, and that usually within two
years, after such disclosures as we have seen? The main reason is
the scientific efficiency of the organization. The victory of
Burr in New York in 1800 was the first triumph of the first ward
machine in America, and Tammany has forgotten neither this
victory nor the methods by which it was achieved. The
organization which was then set in motion has simply been
enlarged to keep easy pace with the city's growth. There are, in
fact, two organizations, Tammany Hall, the political machine, and
Tammany Society, the "Columbian Order" organized by Mooney, which
is ruled by sachems elected by the members. Both organizations,
however, are one in spirit. We need concern ourselves only with
the organization of Tammany Hall.

The framework of Tammany Hall's machinery has always been the
general committee, still known, in the phraseology of Burr's day,
as "the Democratic-Republican General Committee." It is a very
democratic body composed of representatives from every assembly
district, apportioned according to the number of voters in the
district. The present apportionment is one committeeman for every
fifteen votes. This makes a committee of over 9000, an unwieldy
number. It is justified, however, on two very practical grounds:
first, that it is large enough to keep close to the voters; and
second, that its assessment of ten dollars a member brings in
$90,000 a year to the war chest. This general committee holds
stated meetings and appoints subcommittees. The executive
committee, composed of the leaders of the assembly districts and
the chairman and treasurer of the county committee, is the real
working body of the great committee. It attends to all important
routine matters, selects candidates for office, and conducts
their campaigns. It is customary for the members of the general
committee to designate the district leaders for the executive
committee, but they are elected by their own districts
respectively at the annual primary elections. The district leader
is a very important wheel in the machine. He not only leads his
district but represents it on the executive committee; and this
brotherhood of leaders forms the potent oligarchy of Tammany. Its
sanction crowns the high chieftain, the boss, who, in turn, must
be constantly on the alert that his throne is not undermined;
that is to say, he and his district leaders must "play politics"
within their own bailiwicks to keep their heads on their own
shoulders. After their enfranchisement in New York (1917) women
were made eligible to the general and executive committees.
Thirty-seven were at once elected to the executive committee, and
plans were made to give them one-half of the representation on
the general committee.

Each of the twenty-three assembly districts is in turn divided
into election districts of about 400 voters, each with a
precinct captain who is acquainted with every voter in his
precinct and keeps track, as far as possible, of his affairs. In
every assembly district there are headquarters and a club house,
where the voters can go in the evening and enjoy a smoke, a
bottle, and a more or less quiet game.

This organization is never dormant. And this is the key to its
vitality. There is no mystery about it. Tammany is as vigilant
between elections as it is on election day. It has always been
solicitous for the poor and the humble, who most need and best
appreciate help and attention. Every poor immigrant is welcomed,
introduced to the district headquarters, given work, or food, or
shelter. Tammany is his practical friend; and in return he is
merely to become naturalized as quickly as possible under the
wardship of a Tammany captain and by the grace of a Tammany
judge, and then to vote the Tammany ticket. The new citizen's
lessons in political science are all flavored with highly
practical notions.

Tammany's machinery enables a house-to-house canvass to be made
in one day. But this machinery must be oiled. There are three
sources of the necessary lubricant: offices, jobs, the sale of
favors; these are dependent on winning the elections. From its
very earliest days, fraud at the polls has been a Tammany
practice. As long as property qualifications were required, money
was furnished for buying houses which could harbor a whole
settlement of voters. It was not, however, until the adoption of
universal suffrage that wholesale frauds became possible or
useful; for with a limited suffrage it was necessary to sway only
a few score votes to carry an ordinary election.

Fernando Wood set a new pace in this race for votes. It has been
estimated that in 1854 there "were about 40,000 shiftless,
unprincipled persons who lived by their wits and the labor of
others. The trade of a part of these was turning primary
elections, packing nominating conventions, repeating, and
breaking up meetings." Wood also systematized naturalization. A
card bearing the following legend was the open sesame to American

"Common Pleas:
Please naturalize the bearer.
N. Seagrist, Chairman."

Seagrist was one of the men charged by an aldermanic committee
"with robbing the funeral pall of Henry Clay when his sacred
person passed through this city."

When Hoffman was first elected mayor, over 15,000 persons were
registered who could not be found at the places indicated. The
naturalization machinery was then running at high speed. In 1868,
from 25,000 to 30,000 foreigners were naturalized in New York in
six weeks. Of 156,288 votes cast in the city, 25,000 were
afterwards shown to be fraudulent. It was about this time that an
official whose duty it was to swear in the election inspectors,
not finding a Bible at hand, used a volume of Ollendorf's "New
Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak French." The courts
sustained this substitution on the ground that it could not
possibly have vitiated the election!

A new federal naturalization law and rigid election laws have
made wholesale frauds impossible; and the genius of Tammany is
now attempting to adjust itself to the new immigration, the new
political spirit, and the new communal vigilance. Its power is
believed by some optimistic observers to be waning. But the
evidences are not wanting that its vitality and internal
discipline are still persistent.


New York City is not unique in its experience with political
bossdom. Nearly every American city, in a greater or less degree,
for longer or shorter periods, has been dominated by oligarchies.

Around Philadelphia, American sentiment has woven the memories of
great events. It still remains, of all our large cities, the most
"American." It has fewer aliens than any other, a larger
percentage of home owners, a larger number of small tradespeople
and skilled artisans--the sort of population which democracy
exalts, and who in turn are presumed to be the bulwark of
democracy. These good citizens, busied with the anxieties and
excitements of their private concerns, discovered, in the decade
following the Civil War, that their city had slipped unawares
into the control of a compact oligarchy, the notorious Gas Ring.
The city government at this time was composed of thirty-two
independent boards and departments, responsible to the council,
but responsible to the council in name only and through the
medium of a council committee. The coordinating force, the
political gravitation which impelled all these diverse boards and
council committees to act in unison, was the Gas Department. This
department was controlled by a few designing and capable
individuals under the captaincy of James McManes. They had

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