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The Boss and the Machine by Samuel P. Orth

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reduced to political servitude all the employees of the
department, numbering about two thousand. Then they had extended
their sway over other city departments, especially the police
department. Through the connivance of the police and control over
the registration of voters, they soon dominated the primaries and
the nominating conventions. They carried the banner of the
Republican party, the dominant party in Philadelphia and in the
State, under which they more easily controlled elections, for the
people voted "regular." Then every one of the city's servants was
made to pay to the Gas Ring money as well as obeisance.
Tradespeople who sold supplies to the city, contractors who did
its work, saloon-keepers and dive-owners who wanted
protection--all paid. The city's debt increased at the rate of
$3,000,000 a year, without visible evidence of the application of
money to the city's growing needs.

In 1883 the citizens finally aroused themselves and petitioned
the legislature for a new charter. They confessed: "Philadelphia
is now recognized as the worst paved and worst cleaned city in
the civilized world. The water supply is so bad that during many
weeks of the last winter it was not only distasteful and
unwholesome for drinking, but offensive for bathing purposes. The
effort to clean the streets was abandoned for months and no
attempt was made to that end until some public-spirited citizens,
at their own expense, cleaned a number of the principal
thoroughfares . . . . The physical condition of the sewers" is
"dangerous to the health and most offensive to the comfort of our
people. Public work has been done so badly that structures have
to be renewed almost as soon as finished. Others have been in
part constructed at enormous expense and then permitted to fall
to decay without completion." This is a graphic and faithful
description of the result which follows government of the Ring,
for the Ring, with the people's money. The legislature in 1885
granted Philadelphia a new charter, called the Bullitt Law, which
went into effect in 1887, and which greatly simplified the
structure of the government and centered responsibility in the
mayor. It was then necessary for the Ring to control primaries
and win elections in order to keep the city within its clutches.
So began in Philadelphia the practice of fraudulent registering
and voting on a scale that has probably never been equaled
elsewhere in America. Names taken from tombstones in the
cemeteries and from the register of births found their way to the
polling registers. Dogs, cats, horses, anything living or dead,
with a name, served the purpose.

The exposure of these frauds was undertaken in 1900 by the
Municipal League. In two wards, where the population had
decreased one per cent in ten years (1890-1900), it was found
that the registered voters had increased one hundred per cent.
From one house sixty-two voters were registered, of sundry
occupations as follows: "Professors, bricklayers, gentlemen,
moulders, cashiers, barbers, ministers, bakers, doctors, drivers,
bartenders, plumbers, clerks, cooks, merchants, stevedores,
bookkeepers, waiters, florists, boilermakers, salesmen, soldiers,
electricians, printers, book agents, and restaurant keepers." One
hundred and twenty-two voters, according to the register, lived
at another house, including nine agents, nine machinists, nine
gentlemen, nine waiters, nine salesmen, four barbers, four
bakers, fourteen clerks, three laborers, two bartenders, a
milkman, an optician, a piano-mover, a window-cleaner, a nurse,
and so on.

On the day before the election the Municipal League sent
registered letters to all the registered voters of certain
precincts. Sixty-three per cent were returned, marked by the
postman, "not at," "deceased," "removed," "not known." Of
forty-four letters addressed to names registered from one
four-story house, eighteen were returned. From another house,
supposed to be sheltering forty-eight voters, forty-one were
returned; from another, to which sixty-two were sent, sixty-one
came back. The league reported that "two hundred and fifty-two
votes were returned in a division that had less than one hundred
legal voters within its boundaries." Repeating and ballot-box
stuffing were common. Election officers would place fifty or more
ballots in the box before the polls opened or would hand out a
handful of ballots to the recognized repeaters. The high-water
mark of boss rule was reached under Mayor Ashbridge,
"Stars-and-Stripes Sam," who had been elected in 1899. The
moderation of Martin, who had succeeded McManes as boss, was cast
aside; the mayor was himself a member of the Ring. When Ashbridge
retired, the Municipal League reported: "The four years of the
Ashbridge administration have passed into history leaving behind
them a scar on the fame and reputation of our city which will be
a long time healing. Never before, and let us hope never again,
will there be such brazen defiance of public opinion, such
flagrant disregard of public interest, such abuse of power and
responsibility for private ends."

Since that time the fortunes of the Philadelphia Ring have
fluctuated. Its hold upon the city, however, is not broken, but
is still strong enough to justify Owen Wister's observation: "Not
a Dickens, only a Zola, would have the face (and the stomach) to
tell the whole truth about Philadelphia."

St. Louis was one of the first cities of America to possess the
much-coveted home rule. The Missouri State Constitution of 1875
granted the city the power to frame its own charter, under
certain limitations. The new charter provided for a mayor elected
for four years with the power of appointing certain heads of
departments; others, however, were to be elected directly by the
people. It provided for a Municipal Assembly composed of two
houses: the Council, with thirteen members, elected at large for
four years, and the House of Delegates, with twenty-eight
members, one from each ward, elected for two years. These two
houses were given coordinate powers; one was presumed to be a
check on the other. The Assembly fixed the tax rate, granted
franchises, and passed upon all public improvements. The Police
Department was, however, under the control of the mayor and four
commissioners, the latter appointed by the Governor. The city was
usually Republican by about 8000 majority; the State was safely
Democratic. The city, until a few years ago, had few tenements
and a small floating population.

Outwardly, all seemed well with the city until 1901, when the
inside workings of its government were revealed to the public
gaze through the vengeance of a disappointed franchise-seeker.
The Suburban Railway Company sought an extension of its
franchises. It had approached the man known as the dispenser of
such favors, but, thinking his price ($145,000) too high, had
sought to deal directly with the Municipal Assembly. The price
agreed upon for the House of Delegates was $75,000; for the
Council, $60,000. These sums were placed in safety vaults
controlled by a dual lock. The representative of the Company held
one of the keys; the representative of the Assembly, the other;
so that neither party could take the money without the presence
of both. The Assembly duly granted the franchises; but property
owners along the line of the proposed extension secured an
injunction, which delayed the proceedings until the term of the
venal House of Delegates had expired. The Assemblymen, having
delivered the goods, demanded their pay. The Company, held up by
the courts, refused. Mutterings of the disappointed conspirators
reached the ear of an enterprising newspaper reporter. Thereby
the Circuit Attorney, Joseph W. Folk, struck the trail of the
gang. Both the president of the railway company and the "agent"
of the rogues of the Assembly turned state's evidence; the
safe-deposit boxes were opened, disclosing the packages
containing one hundred and thirty-five $1000 bills.

This exposure led to others--the "Central Traction Conspiracy,"
the "Lighting Deal," the "Garbage Deal." In the cleaning-up
process, thirty-nine persons were indicted, twenty-four for
bribery and fifteen for perjury.

The evidence which Folk presented in the prosecution of these
scoundrels merely confirmed what had long been an unsavory rumor:
that franchises and contracts were bought and sold like
merchandise; that the buyers were men of eminence in the city's
business affairs; and that the sellers were the people's
representatives in the Assembly. The Grand Jury reported: "Our
investigation, covering more or less fully a period of ten years
shows that, with few exceptions, no ordinance has been passed
wherein valuable privileges or franchises are granted until those
interested have paid the legislators the money demanded for
action in the particular case . . . . So long has this practice
existed that such members have come to regard the receipt of
money for action on pending measures as a legitimate perquisite
of a legislator."

These legislators, it appeared from the testimony, had formed a
water-tight ring or "combine" in 1899, for the purpose of
systematizing this traffic. A regular scale of prices was
adopted: so much for an excavation, so much per foot for a
railway switch, so much for a street pavement, so much for a
grain elevator. Edward R. Butler was the master under whose
commands for many years this trafficking was reduced to
systematic perfection. He had come to St. Louis when a young man,
had opened a blacksmith shop, had built up a good trade in
horseshoeing, and also a pliant political following in his ward.
His attempt to defeat the home rule charter in 1876 had given him
wider prominence, and he soon became the boss of the Democratic
machine. His energy, shrewdness, liberality, and capacity for
friendship gave him sway over both Republican and Democratic
votes in certain portions of the city. A prominent St. Louis
attorney says that for over twenty years "he named candidates on
both tickets, fixed, collected, and disbursed campaign
assessments, determined the results in elections, and in fine,
practically controlled the public affairs of St. Louis." He was
the agent usually sought by franchise-seekers, and he said that
had the Suburban Company dealt with him instead of with the
members of the Assembly, they might have avoided exposure. He was
indicted four times in the upheaval, twice for attempting to
bribe the Board of Health in the garbage deal--he was a
stockholder in the company seeking the contract--and twice for
bribery in the lighting contract.

Cincinnati inherited from the Civil War the domestic excitements
and political antagonisms of a border city. Its large German
population gave it a conservative political demeanor, slow to
accept changes, loyal to the Republican party as it was to the
Union. This reduced partizan opposition to a docile minority,
willing to dicker for public spoils with the intrenched majority.

George B. Cox was for thirty years the boss of this city. Events
had prepared the way for him. Following closely upon the war, Tom
Campbell, a crafty criminal lawyer, was the local leader of the
Republicans, and John R. McLean, owner of the Cincinnati
Enquirer, a very rich man, of the Democrats. These two men were
cronies: they bartered the votes of their followers. For some
years crime ran its repulsive course: brawlers, thieves,
cutthroats escaped conviction through the defensive influence of
the lawyer-boss. In 1880, Cox, who had served an apprenticeship
in his brother-in-law's gambling house, was elected to the city
council. Thence he was promoted to the decennial board of
equalization which appraised all real estate every ten years.
There followed a great decrease in the valuation of some of the
choicest holdings in the city. In 1884 there were riots in
Cincinnati. After the acquittal of two brutes who had murdered a
man for a trifling sum of money, exasperated citizens burned the
criminal court house. The barter in justice stopped, but the
barter in offices and in votes continued. The Blaine campaign
then in progress was in great danger. Cox, already a master of
the political game, promised the Republican leaders that if they
would give him a campaign fund he would turn in a Republican
majority from Cincinnati. He did; and for many years thereafter
the returns from Hamilton County, in which Cincinnati is
situated, brought cheer to Republican State headquarters on
election night.

Cox was an unostentatious, silent man, giving one the impression
of sullenness, and almost entirely lacking in those qualities of
comradeship which one usually seeks in the "Boss" type. From a
barren little room over the "Mecca" saloon, with the help of a
telephone, he managed his machine. He never obtruded himself upon
the public. He always remained in the background. Nor did he ever
take vast sums. Moderation was the rule of his loot.

By 1905 a movement set in to rid the city of machine rule. Cox
saw this movement growing in strength. So he imported boatloads
of floaters from Kentucky. These floaters registered "from dives,
and doggeries, from coal bins and water closets; no space was too
small to harbor a man." For once he threw prudence to the winds.
Exposure followed; over 2800 illegal voters were found. The
newspapers, so long docile, now provided the necessary publicity.
A little paper, the Citizen's Bulletin, which had started as a
handbill of reform, when all the dailies seemed closed to the
facts, now grew into a sturdy weekly. And, to add the capstone to
Cox's undoing, William H. Taft, the most distinguished son of
Cincinnati, then Secretary of War in President Roosevelt's
cabinet, in a campaign speech in Akron, Ohio, advised the
Republicans to repudiate him. This confounded the "regulars," and
Cox was partially beaten. The reformers elected their candidate
for mayor, but the boss retained his hold on the county and the
city council. And, in spite of all that was done, Cox remained an
influence in politics until his death, May 20, 1916.

San Francisco has had a varied and impressive political
experience. The first legislature of California incorporated the
mining town into the city of San Francisco, April 15, 1850. Its
government from the outset was corrupt and inefficient.
Lawlessness culminated in the murder of the editor of the
Bulletin, J. King of William, on May 14, 1856, and a vigilance
committee was organized to clean up the city, and watch the
ballot-box on election day.

Soon the legislature was petitioned to change the charter. The
petition recites: "Without a change in the city government which
shall diminish the weight of taxation, the city will neither be
able to discharge the interest on debts already contracted, nor
to meet the demands for current disbursements . . . . The present
condition of the streets and public improvements of the city
abundantly attest the total inefficiency of the present system."

The legislature passed the "Consolidation Act," and from 1856 to
1900 county and city were governed as a political unit. At first
the hopes for more frugal government seemed to be fulfilled. But
all encouraging symptoms soon vanished. Partizan rule followed,
encouraged by the tinkering of the legislature, which imposed on
the charter layer upon layer of amendments, dictated by partizan
craft, not by local needs. The administrative departments were
managed by Boards of Commissioners, under the dictation of "Blind
Boss Buckley," who governed his kingdom for many years with the
despotic benevolence characteristic of his kind. The citizens saw
their money squandered and their public improvements lagging. It
took twenty-five years to complete the City Hall, at a cost of
$5,500,000. An official of the Citizens' Non-partizan party, in
1895, said: "There is no city in the Union with a quarter of a
million people, which would not be the better for a little
judicious hanging."

The repeated attempts made by citizens of San Francisco to get a
new charter finally succeeded, and in 1900 the city hopefully
entered a new epoch under a charter of its own making which
contained several radical changes. Executive responsibility was
centered in the mayor, fortified by a comprehensive civil
service. The foundations were laid for municipal ownership of
public utilities, and the initiative and referendum were adopted
for all public franchises. The legislative power was vested in a
board of eighteen supervisors elected at large.

No other American city so dramatically represents the futility of
basing political optimism on a mere plan. It was only a step from
the mediocrity enthroned by the first election under the new
charter to the gross inefficiency and corruption of a new ring,
under a new boss. A Grand Jury (called the "Andrews Jury") made a
report indicating that the administration was trafficking in
favors sold to gamblers, prize-fighters, criminals, and the whole
gamut of the underworld; that illegal profits were being reaped
from illegal contracts, and that every branch of the executive
department was honeycombed with corruption. The Grand Jury
believed and said all this, but it lacked the legal proof upon
which Mayor Schmitz and his accomplices could be indicted. In
spite of this report, Schmitz was reelected in 1905 as the
candidate of the Labor-Union party.

Now graft in San Francisco became simply universal. George
Kennan, summarizing the practices of the looters, says they "took
toll everywhere from everybody and in almost every imaginable
way: they went into partnership with dishonest contractors; sold
privileges and permits to business men; extorted money from
restaurants and saloons; levied assessments on municipal
employees; shared the profits of houses of prostitution; forced
beer, whiskey, champagne, and cigars on restaurants and saloons
on commission; blackmailed gamblers, pool-sellers, and promoters
of prize-fights; sold franchises to wealthy corporations; created
such municipal bureaus as the commissary department and the city
commercial company in order to make robbery of the city more
easy; leased rooms and buildings for municipal offices at
exorbitant rates, and compelled the lessees to share profits;
held up milkmen, kite-advertisers, junk-dealers, and even
street-sweepers; and took bribes from everybody who wanted an
illegal privilege and was willing to pay for it. The motto of the
administration seemed to be 'Encourage dishonesty, and then let
no dishonest dollar escape.'"

The machinery through which this was effected was simple: the
mayor had vast appointing powers and by this means directly
controlled all the city departments. But the mayor was only an
automaton. Back of him was Abe Ruef, the Boss, an unscrupulous
lawyer who had wormed his way into the labor party, and
manipulated the "leaders" like puppets. Ruef's game also was
elementary. He sold his omnipotence for cash, either under the
respectable cloak of "retainer" or under the more common device
of commissions and dividends, so that thugs retained him for
their freedom, contractors for the favors they expected, and
public service corporations for their franchises.

Finally, through the persistence of a few private citizens, a
Grand Jury was summoned. Under the foremanship of B. P. Oliver it
made a thorough investigation. Francis J. Heney was employed as
special prosecutor and William J. Burns as detective. Heney and
Burns formed an aggressive team. The Ring proved as vulnerable as
it was rotten. Over three hundred indictments were returned,
involving persons in every walk of life. Ruef was sentenced to
fourteen years in the penitentiary. Schmitz was freed on a
technicality, after being found guilty and sentenced to five
years. Most of the other indictments were not tried, the
prosecutor's attention having been diverted to the trail of the
franchise-seekers, who have thus far eluded conviction.

Minneapolis, a city blending New England traditions with
Scandinavian thrift, illustrates, in its experiences with "Doc"
Ames, the maneuvers of the peripatetic boss. Ames was four times
mayor of the city, but never his own successor. Each succeeding
experience with him grew more lurid of indecency, until his third
term was crystallized in Minneapolis tradition as "the notorious
Ames administration." Domestic scandal made him a social outcast,
political corruption a byword, and Ames disappeared from public
view for ten years.

In 1900 a new primary law provided the opportunity to return him
to power for the fourth time. Ames, who had been a Democrat, now
found it convenient to become a Republican. The new law, like
most of the early primary laws, permitted members of one party to
vote in the primaries of the other party. So Ames's following,
estimated at about fifteen hundred, voted in the Republican
primaries, and he became a regular candidate of that party in a
presidential year, when citizens felt the special urge to vote
for the party.

Ames was the type of boss with whom discipline is secondary to
personal aggrandizement. He had a passion for popularity; was
imposing of presence; possessed considerable professional skill;
and played constantly for the support of the poor. The attacks
upon him he turned into political capital by saying that he was
made a victim by the rich because he championed the poor.
Susceptible to flattery and fond of display, he lacked the power
to command. He had followers, not henchmen. His following was
composed of the lowly, who were duped by his phrases, and of
criminals, who knew his bent; and they followed him into any
party whither he found it convenient to go, Republican,
Democratic, or Populist.

The charter of Minneapolis gave the mayor considerable appointing
power. He was virtually the dictator of the Police Department.
This was the great opportunity of Ames and his floating vote. His
own brother, a weak individual with a dubious record, was made
Chief of Police. Within a few weeks about one-half of the police
force was discharged, and the places filled with men who could be
trusted by the gang. The number of detectives was increased and
an ex-gambler placed at their head. A medical student from Ames's
office was commissioned a special policeman to gather loot from
the women of the street.

Through a telepathy of their own, the criminal classes all over
the country soon learned of the favorable conditions in
Minneapolis, under which every form of gambling and low vice
flourished; and burglars, pickpockets, safe-blowers, and harlots
made their way thither. Mr. W. A. Frisbie, the editor of a
leading Minneapolis paper, described the situation in the
following words: "It is no exaggeration to say that in this
period fully 99% of the police department's efficiency was
devoted to the devising and enforcing of blackmail. Ordinary
patrolmen on beats feared to arrest known criminals for fear the
prisoners would prove to be 'protected'. . . .The horde of
detective favorites hung lazily about police headquarters,
waiting for some citizen to make complaint of property stolen,
only that they might enforce additional blackmail against the
thief, or possibly secure the booty for themselves. One detective
is now [1903] serving time in the state prison for retaining a
stolen diamond pin."

The mayor thought he had a machine for grinding blackmail from
every criminal operation in his city, but he had only a gang,
without discipline or coordinating power, and weakened by
jealousy and suspicion. The wonder is that it lasted fifteen
months. Then came the "April Grand Jury," under the foremanship
of a courageous and resourceful business man. The regime of
criminals crumbled; forty-nine indictments, involving twelve
persons, were returned.

The Grand Jury, however, at first stood alone in its
investigations. The crowd of politicians and vultures were
against it, and no appropriations were granted for getting
evidence. So its members paid expenses out of their own pockets,
and its foreman himself interviewed prisoners and discovered the
trail that led to the Ring's undoing. Ames's brother was
convicted on second trial and sentenced to six and a half years
in the penitentiary, while two of his accomplices received
shorter terms. Mayor Ames, under indictment and heavy bonds, fled
to Indiana.

The President of the City Council, a business man of education,
tact, and sincerity, became mayor, for an interim of four months;
enough time, as it proved, for him to return the city to its
normal political life.

These examples are sufficient to illustrate the organization and
working of the municipal machine. It must not be imagined by the
reader that these cities alone, and a few others made notorious
by the magazine muck-rakers, are the only American cities that
have developed oligarchies. In truth, not a single American city,
great or small, has entirely escaped, for a greater or lesser
period, the sway of a coterie of politicians. It has not always
been a corrupt sway; but it has rarely, if ever, given efficient

Happily there are not wanting signs that the general conditions
which have fostered the Ring are disappearing. The period of
reform set in about 1890, when people began to be interested in
the study of municipal government. It was not long afterwards
that the first authoritative books on the subject appeared. Then
colleges began to give courses in municipal government; editors
began to realize the public's concern in local questions and to
discuss neighborhood politics as well as national politics. By
1900 a new era broke--the era of the Grand Jury. Nothing so
hopeful in local politics had occurred in our history as the
disclosures which followed. They provoked the residuum of
conscience in the citizenry and the determination that honesty
should rule in public business and politics as well as in private
transactions. The Grand Jury inquisitions, however, demonstrated
clearly that the criminal law was no remedy for municipal
misrule. The great majority of floaters and illegal voters who
were indicted never faced a trial jury. The results of the
prosecutions for bribery and grosser political crimes were
scarcely more encouraging. It is true that one Abe Ruef in a
California penitentiary is worth untold sermons, editorials, and
platform admonitions, and serves as a potent warning to all
public malefactors. Yet the example is soon forgotten; and the
people return to their former political habits.

But out of this decade of gang-hunting and its impressive
experiences with the shortcomings of our criminal laws came the
new municipal era which we have now fully entered, the era of
enlightened administration. This new era calls for a
reconstruction of the city government. Its principal feature is
the rapid spread of the Galveston or Commission form of
government and of its modification, the City Manager plan, the
aim of which is to centralize governmental authority and to
entice able men into municipal office. And there are many other
manifestations of the new civic spirit. The mesmeric influence of
national party names in civic politics is waning; the rise of
home rule for the city is severing the unholy alliance between
the legislature and the local Ring; the power to grant franchises
is being taken away from legislative bodies and placed directly
with the people; nominations are passing out of the hands of
cliques and are being made the gift of the voters through
petitions and primaries; efficient reforms in the taxing and
budgetary machinery have been instituted, and the development of
the merit system in the civil service is creating a class of
municipal experts beyond the reach of political gangsters.

There have sprung up all sorts of collateral organizations to
help the officials: societies for municipal research, municipal
reference libraries, citizens' unions, municipal leagues, and
municipal parties. These are further supplemented by
organizations which indirectly add to the momentum of practical,
enlightened municipal sentiment: boards of commerce, associations
of business and professional men of every variety, women's clubs,
men's clubs, children's clubs, recreation clubs, social clubs,
every one with its own peculiar vigilance upon some corner of the
city's affairs. So every important city is guarded by a network
of voluntary organizations.

All these changes in city government, in municipal laws and
political mechanisms, and in the people's attitude toward their
cities, have tended to dignify municipal service. The city job
has been lifted to a higher plane. Lord Rosebery, the brilliant
chairman of the first London County Council, the governing body
of the world's largest city, said many years ago: "I wish that my
voice could extend to every municipality in the kingdom, and
impress upon every man, however high his position, however great
his wealth, however consummate his talents may be, the importance
and nobility of municipal work." It is such a spirit as this that
has made the government of Glasgow a model of democratic
efficiency; and it is the beginnings of this spirit that the
municipal historian finds developing in the last twenty years of
American life. It is indeed difficult to see how our cities can
slip back again into the clutches of bosses and rings and repeat
the shameful history of the last decades of the nineteenth


The American people, when they wrote their first state
constitutions, were filled with a profound distrust of executive
authority, the offspring of their experience with the arbitrary
King George. So they saw to it that the executive authority in
their own government was reduced to its lowest terms, and that
the legislative authority, which was presumed to represent the
people, was exalted to legal omnipotence. In the original States,
the legislature appointed many of the judicial and administrative
officers; it was above the executive veto; it had political
supremacy; it determined the form of local governments and
divided the State into election precincts; it appointed the
delegates to the Continental Congress, towards which it displayed
the attitude of a sovereign. It was altogether the most important
arm of the state government; in fact it virtually was the state
government. The Federal Constitution created a government of
specified powers, reserving to the States all authority not
expressly given to the central government. Congress can legislate
only on subjects permitted by the Constitution; on the other
hand, a state legislature can legislate on any subject not
expressly forbidden. The state legislature possesses authority
over a far wider range of subjects than Congress--subjects,
moreover, which press much nearer to the daily activities of the
citizens, such as the wide realm of private law, personal
relations, local government, and property.

In the earlier days, men of first-class ability, such as
Alexander Hamilton, Samuel Adams, and James Madison, did not
disdain membership in the state legislatures. But the development
of party spirit and machine politics brought with it a great
change. Then came the legislative caucus; and party politics soon
reigned in every capital. As the legislature was ruled by the
majority, the dominant party elected presiding officers,
designated committees, appointed subordinates, and controlled
lawmaking. The party was therefore in a position to pay its
political debts and bestow upon its supporters valuable favors.
Further, as the legislature apportioned the various electoral
districts, the dominant party could, by means of the gerrymander,
entrench itself even in unfriendly localities. And, to crown its
political power, it elected United States Senators. But, as the
power of the party increased, unfortunately the personnel of the
legislature deteriorated. Able men, as a rule, shunned a service
that not only took them from their private affairs for a number
of months, but also involved them in partizan rivalries and
trickeries. Gradually the people came to lose confidence in the
legislative body and to put their trust more in the Executive or
else reserved governmental powers to themselves. It was about
1835 that the decline of the legislature's powers set in, when
new state constitutions began to clip its prerogatives, one after

The bulky constitutions now adopted by most of the States are
eloquent testimony to the complete collapse of the legislature as
an administrative body and to the people's general distrust of
their chosen representatives. The initiative, referendum, recall,
and the withholding of important subjects from the legislature's
power, are among the devices intended to free the people from the
machinations of their wilful representatives.

Now, most of the evils which these heroic measures have sought to
remedy can be traced directly to the partizan ownership of the
state legislature. The boss controlling the members of the
legislature could not only dole out his favors to the privilege
seekers; he could assuage the greed of the municipal ring; and
could, to a lesser degree, command federal patronage by an
entente cordiale with congressmen and senators; and through his
power in presidential conventions and elections he had a direct
connection with the presidential office itself.

It was in the days before the legislature was prohibited from
granting, by special act, franchises and charters, when banks,
turnpike companies, railroads, and all sorts of corporations came
asking for charters, that the figure of the lobbyist first
appeared. He acted as a middleman between the seeker and the
giver. The preeminent figure of this type in state and
legislative politics for several decades preceding the Civil War
was Thurlow Weed of New York. As an influencer of legislatures,
he stands easily first in ability and achievement. His great
personal attractions won him willing followers whom he knew how
to use. He was party manager, as well as lobbyist and boss in a
real sense long before that term was coined. His capacity for
politics amounted to genius. He never sought office; and his
memory has been left singularly free from taint. He became the
editor of the Albany Journal and made it the leading Whig
"up-state" paper. His friend Seward, whom he had lifted into the
Governor's chair, passed on to the United States Senate; and when
Horace Greeley with the New York Tribune joined their forces,
this potent triumvirate ruled the Empire State. Greeley was its
spokesman, Seward its leader, but Weed was its designer. From his
room No. 11 in the old Astor House, he beckoned to forces that
made or unmade presidents, governors, ambassadors, congressmen,
judges, and legislators.

With the tremendous increase of business after the Civil War, New
York City became the central office of the nation's business, and
many of the interests centered there found it wise to have
permanent representatives at Albany to scrutinize every bill that
even remotely touched their welfare, to promote legislation that
was frankly in their favor, and to prevent "strikes"--the bills
designed for blackmail. After a time, however, the number of
"strikes" decreased, as well as the number of lobbyists attending
the session. The corporate interests had learned efficiency.
Instead of dealing with legislators individually, they arranged
with the boss the price of peace or of desirable legislation. The
boss transmitted his wishes to his puppets. This form of
government depends upon a machine that controls the legislature.
In New York both parties were moved by machines. "Tom" Platt was
the "easy boss" of the Republicans; and Tammany and its
"up-state" affiliations controlled the Democrats. "Right here,"
says Platt in his Autobiography (1910), "it may be appropriate to
say that I have had more or less to do with the organization of
the New York legislature since 1873." He had. For forty years he
practically named the Speaker and committees when his party won,
and he named the price when his party lost. All that an
"interest" had to do, under the new plan, was to "see the boss,"
and the powers of government were delivered into its lap.

Some of this legislative bargaining was revealed in the insurance
investigation of 1905, conducted by the Armstrong Committee with
Charles E. Hughes as counsel. Officers of the New York Life
Insurance Company testified that their company had given $50,000
to the Republican campaign of 1904. An item of $235,000,
innocently charged to "Home office annex account," was traced to
the hands of a notorious lobbyist at Albany. Three insurance
companies had paid regularly $50,000 each to the Republican
campaign fund. Boss Platt himself was compelled reluctantly to
relate how he had for fifteen years received ten one thousand
dollar bundles of greenbacks from the Equitable Life as
"consideration" for party goods delivered. John A. McCall,
President of the New York Life, said: "I don't care about the
Republican side of it or the Democratic side of it. It doesn't
count at all with me. What is best for the New York Life moves
and actuates me."

In another investigation Mr. H. O. Havemeyer of the Sugar Trust
said: "We have large interests in this State; we need police
protection and fire protection; we need everything that the city
furnishes and gives, and we have to support these things. Every
individual and corporation and firm--trust or whatever you call
it--does these things and we do them." No distinction is made,
then, between the government that ought to furnish this
"protection" and the machine that sells it!

No episode in recent political history shows better the relations
of the legislature to the political machine and the great power
of invisible government than the impeachment and removal of
Governor William Sulzer in 1913. Sulzer had been four times
elected to the legislature. He served as Speaker in 1893. He was
sent to Congress by an East Side district in New York City in
1895 and served continuously until his nomination for Governor of
New York in 1912. All these years he was known as a Tammany man.
During his campaign for Governor he made many promises for
reform, and after his election he issued a bombastic declaration
of independence. His words were discounted in the light of his
previous record. Immediately after his inauguration, however, he
began a house-cleaning. He set to work an economy and efficiency
commission; he removed a Tammany superintendent of prisons; made
unusually good appointments without paying any attention to the
machine; and urged upon the legislature vigorous and vital laws.

But the Tammany party had a large working majority in both
houses, and the changed Sulzer was given no support. The crucial
moment came when an emasculated primary law was handed to him for
his signature. An effective primary law had been a leading
campaign issue, all the parties being pledged to such an
enactment. The one which the Governor was now requested to sign
had been framed by the machine to suit its pleasure. The Governor
vetoed it. The legislature adjourned on the 3rd of May. The
Governor promptly reconvened it in extra session (June 7th) for
the purpose of passing an adequate primary law. Threats that had
been made against him by the machine now took form. An
investigating committee, appointed by the Senate to examine the
Governor's record, largely by chance happened upon "pay dirt,"
and early on the morning of the 13th of August, after an
all-night session, the Assembly passed a motion made by its
Tammany floor leader to impeach the Governor.

The articles of impeachment charged: first, that the Governor had
filed a false report of his campaign expenses; second, that since
he had made such statement under oath he was guilty of perjury;
third, that he had bribed witnesses to withhold testimony from
the investigating committee; fourth, that he had used threats in
suppression of evidence before the same tribunal; fifth, that he
had persuaded a witness from responding to the committee's
subpoena; sixth, that he had used campaign contributions for
private speculation in the stock market; seventh, that he had
used his power as Governor to influence the political action of
certain officials; lastly, that he had used this power for
affecting the stock market to his gain.

Unfortunately for the Governor, the first, second, and sixth
charges had a background of facts, although the rest were
ridiculous and trivial. By a vote of 43 to 12 he was removed from
the governorship. The proceeding was not merely an impeachment of
New York's Governor. It was an impeachment of its government.
Every citizen knew that if Sulzer had obeyed Murphy, his
shortcomings would never have been his undoing.

The great commonwealth of Pennsylvania was for sixty years under
the domination of the House of Cameron and the House of Quay.
Simon Cameron's entry into public notoriety was symbolic of his
whole career. In 1838, he was one of a commission of two to
disburse to the Winnebago Indians at Prairie du Chien $100,000 in
gold. But, instead of receiving gold, the poor Indians received
only a few thousand dollars in the notes of a bank of which
Cameron was the cashier. Cameron was for this reason called "the
Great Winnebago." He built a large fortune by canal and railway
contracts, and later by rolling-mills and furnaces. He was one
of the first men in American politics to purchase political power
by the lavish use of cash, and to use political power for the
gratification of financial greed. In 1857 he was elected to the
United States Senate as a Republican by a legislature in which
the Democrats had a majority. Three Democrats voted for him, and
so bitter was the feeling against the renegade trio that no hotel
in Harrisburg would shelter them.

In 1860 he was a candidate for the Republican presidential
nomination. President Lincoln made him Secretary of War. But his
management was so ill-savored that a committee of leading
business men from the largest cities of the country told the
President that it was impossible to transact business with such a
man. These complaints coupled with other considerations moved
Lincoln to dismiss Cameron. He did so in characteristic fashion.
On January 11, 1862, he sent Cameron a curt note saying that he
proposed to appoint him minister to Russia. And thither into
exile Cameron went. A few months later, the House of
Representatives passed a resolution of censure, citing Cameron's
employment of irresponsible persons and his purchase of supplies
by private contract instead of competitive bidding. The
resolution, however, was later expunged from the records; and
Cameron, on his return from Russia, again entered the Senate
under circumstances so suspicious that only the political
influence of the boss thwarted an action for bribery. In 1877 he
resigned, naming as his successor his son "Don," who was promptly

In the meantime another personage had appeared on the scene.
"Cameron made the use of money an essential to success in
politics, but Quay made politics expensive beyond the most
extravagant dreams." From the time he arrived of age until his
death, with the exception of three or four years, Matthew S. Quay
held public office. When the Civil War broke out, he had been for
some time prothonotary of Beaver County, and during the war he
served as Governor Curtin's private secretary. In 1865 he was
elected to the legislature. In 1877 he induced the legislature to
resurrect the discarded office of Recorder of Philadelphia, and
for two years he collected the annual fees of $40,000. In 1887 he
was elected to the United States Senate, in which he remained
except for a brief interval until his death.

In 1899 came revelations of Quay's substantial interests in state
moneys. The suicide of the cashier of the People's Bank of
Philadelphia, which was largely owned by politicians and was a
favorite depository of state funds, led to an investigation of
the bank's affairs, and disclosed the fact that Quay and some of
his associates had used state funds for speculation. Quay's
famous telegram to the cashier was found among the dead
official's papers, "If you can buy and carry a thousand Met. for
me I will shake the plum tree."

Quay was indicted, but escaped trial by pleading the statute of
limitations as preventing the introduction of necessary evidence
against him. A great crowd of shouting henchmen accosted him as a
hero when he left the courtroom, and escorted him to his hotel.
And the legislature soon thereafter elected him to his third term
in the Senate.

Pittsburgh, as well as Philadelphia, had its machine which was
carefully geared to Quay's state machine. The connection was made
clear by the testimony of William Flinn, a contractor boss,
before a committee of the United States Senate. Flinn explained
the reason for a written agreement between Quay on the one hand
and Flinn and one Brown in behalf of Chris Magee, the Big Boss,
on the other, for the division of the sovereignty of western
Pennsylvania. "Senator Quay told me," said Flinn, "that he would
not permit us to elect the Republican candidate for mayor in
Pittsburgh unless we adjust the politics to suit him." The
people evidently had nothing to say about it.

The experiences of New York and Pennsylvania are by no means
isolated; they are illustrative. Very few States have escaped a
legislative scandal. In particular, Rhode Island, Delaware,
Illinois, Colorado, Montana, California, Ohio, Mississippi, Texas
can give pertinent testimony to the willingness of legislatures
to prostitute their great powers to the will of the boss or the


American political maneuver culminates at Washington. The
Presidency and membership in the Senate and the House of
Representatives are the great stakes. By a venerable tradition,
scrupulously followed, the judicial department is kept beyond the
reach of party greed.

The framers of the Constitution believed that they had contrived
a method of electing the President and Vice-President which would
preserve the choice from partizan taint. Each State should choose
a number of electors "equal to the whole number of Senators and
Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the
Congress." These electors were to form an independent body, to
meet in their respective States and "ballot for two persons," and
send the result of their balloting to the Capitol, where the
President of the Senate, in the presence of the Senate and the
House of Representatives, opened the certificates and counted the
votes. The one receiving the greatest number of votes was to be
declared elected President, the one receiving the next highest
number of votes, Vice-President. George Washington was the only
President elected by such an autonomous group. The election of
John Adams was bitterly contested, and the voters knew, when they
were casting their ballots in 1796, whether they were voting for
a Federalist or a Jeffersonian. From that day forward this
greatest of political prizes has been awarded through partizan
competition. In 1804 the method of selecting the Vice-President
was changed by the twelfth constitutional amendment. The electors
since that time ballot for President and Vice-President. Whatever
may be the legal privileges of the members of the Electoral
College, they are considered, by the voters, as agents of the
party upon whose tickets their names appear, and to abuse this
relationship would universally be deemed an act of perfidy.

The Constitution permits the legislatures of the States to
determine how the electors shall be chosen. In the earlier
period, the legislatures elected them; later they were elected by
the people; sometimes they were elected at large, but usually
they were chosen by districts. And this is now the general
custom. Since the development of direct nominations, there has
been a strong movement towards the abolition of the Electoral
College and the election of the President by direct vote.

The President is the most powerful official in our government and
in many respects he is the most powerful ruler in the world. He
is Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy. His is virtually the
sole responsibility in conducting international relations. He is
at the head of the civil administration and all the important
administrative departments are answerable to him. He possesses a
vast power of appointment through which he dispenses political
favors. His wish is potent in shaping legislation and his veto is
rarely overridden. With Congress he must be in daily contact; for
the Senate has the power of ratifying or discarding his
appointments and of sanctioning or rejecting his treaties with
foreign countries; and the House of Representatives originates
all money bills and thus possesses a formidable check upon
executive usurpation.

The Constitution originally reposed the choice of United States
Senators with the state legislatures. A great deal of virtue was
to flow from such an indirect election. The members of the
legislature were presumed to act with calm judgment and to choose
only the wise and experienced for the dignity of the toga. And
until the period following the Civil War the great majority of
the States delighted to send their ablest statesmen to the
Senate. Upon its roll we find the names of many of our
illustrious orators and jurists. After the Civil War, when the
spirit of commercialism invaded every activity, men who were
merely rich began to aspire to senatorial honors. The debauch of
the state legislatures which was revealed in the closing year of
the nineteenth century and the opening days of the twentieth so
revolted the people that the seventeenth constitutional amendment
was adopted (1913) providing for the election of senators by
direct vote.

The House of Representatives was designed to be the "popular
house." Its election from small districts, by direct vote, every
two years is a guarantee of its popular character. From this
characteristic it has never departed. It is the People's House.
It originates all revenue measures. On its floor, in the rough
and tumble of debate, partizan motives are rarely absent.

Upon this national tripod, the Presidency, the Senate, and the
House, is builded the vast national party machine. Every citizen
is familiar with the outer aspect of these great national parties
as they strive in placid times to create a real issue of the
tariff, or imperialism, or what not, so as to establish at least
an ostensible difference between them; or as they, in critical
times, make the party name synonymous with national security. The
high-sounding platforms, the frenzied orators, the parades, mass
meetings, special trains, pamphlets, books, editorials,
lithographs, posters--all these paraphernalia are conjured up in
the voter's mind when he reads the words Democratic and

But, from the standpoint of the professional politician, all this
that the voter sees is a mask, the patriotic veneer to hide the
machine, that complex hierarchy of committees ranging from
Washington to every cross-roads in the Republic. The committee
system, described in a former chapter, was perfected by the
Republican party during the days of the Civil War, under the
stress of national necessity. The great party leaders were then
in Congress. When the assassination of Lincoln placed Andrew
Johnson in power, the bitter quarrel between Congress and the
President firmly united the Republicans; and in order to carry
the mid-election in 1866, they organized a Congressional Campaign
Committee to conduct the canvass. This practice has been
continued by both parties, and in "off" years it plays a very
prominent part in the party campaign. Congress alone, however,
was only half the conquest. It was only through control of the
Administration that access was gained to the succulent herbage of
federal pasturage and that vast political prestige with the voter
was achieved.

The President is nominally the head of his party. In reality he
may not be; he may be only the President. That depends upon his
personality, his desires, his hold upon Congress and upon the
people, and upon the circumstances of the hour. During the Grant
Administration, as already described, there existed, in every
sense of the term, a federal machine. It held Congress, the
Executive, and the vast federal patronage in its power. All the
federal office-holders, all the postmasters and their assistants,
revenue collectors, inspectors, clerks, marshals, deputies,
consuls, and ambassadors were a part of the organization,
contributing to its maintenance. We often hear today of the
"Federal Crowd," a term used to describe such appointees as still
subsist on presidential and senatorial favor. In Grant's time,
this "crowd" was a genuine machine, constructed, unlike some of
its successors, from the center outward. But the "boss" of this
machine was not the President. It was controlled by a group of
leading Congressmen, who used their power for dictating
appointments and framing "desirable" legislation. Grant, in the
imagination of the people, symbolized the cause their sacrifices
had won; and thus his moral prestige became the cloak of the
political plotters.

A number of the ablest men in the Republican party, however,
stood aloof; and by 1876 a movement against the manipulators had
set in. Civil service reform had become a real issue. Hayes, the
"dark horse" who was nominated in that year, declared, in
accepting the nomination, that "reform should be thorough,
radical, and complete." He promised not to be a candidate for a
second term, thus avoiding the temptation, to which almost every
President has succumbed, of using the patronage to secure his
reelection. The party managers pretended not to hear these
promises. And when Hayes, after his inauguration, actually began
to put them into force, they set the whole machinery of the party
against the President. Matters came to a head when the President
issued an order commanding federal office-holders to refrain from
political activity. This order was generally defied, especially
in New York City in the post-office and customs rings. Two
notorious offenders, Cornell and Arthur, were dismissed from
office by the President. But the Senate, influenced by Roscoe
Conkling's power, refused to confirm the President's new
appointees; and under the Tenure of Office Act, which had been
passed to tie President Johnson's hands, the offenders remained
in office over a year. The fight disciplined the President and
the machine in about equal proportions. The President became more
amenable and the machine less arbitrary.

President Garfield attempted the impossible feat of obliging both
the politicians and the reformers. He was persuaded to make
nominations to federal offices in New York without consulting
either of the senators from that State, Conkling and Platt.
Conkling appealed to the Senate to reject the New York appointees
sent in by the President. The Senate failed to sustain him.
Conkling and his colleague Platt resigned from the Senate and
appealed to the New York legislature, which also refused to
sustain them.

While this absurd farce was going on, a more serious ferment was
brewing. On July 2, 1881, President Garfield was assassinated by
a disappointed office-seeker named Guiteau. The attention of the
people was suddenly turned from the ridiculous diversion of the
Conkling incident to the tragedy and its cause. They saw the
chief office in their gift a mere pawn in the game of
place-seekers, the time and energy of their President wasted in
bickerings with congressmen over petty appointments, and the
machinery of their Government dominated by the machinery of the
party for ignoble or selfish ends.

At last the advocates of reform found their opportunity. In 1883
the Civil Service Act was passed, taking from the President about
14,000 appointments. Since then nearly every President, towards
the end of his term, especially his second term, has added to the
numbers, until nearly two-thirds of the federal offices are now
filled by examination. President Cleveland during his second term
made sweeping additions. President Roosevelt found about 100,000
in the classified service and left 200,000. President Taft,
before his retirement, placed in the classified service assistant
postmasters and clerks in first and second-class postoffices,
about 42,000 rural delivery carriers, and over 20,000 skilled
workers in the navy yards.

The appointing power of the President, however, still remains the
principal point of his contact with the machine. He has, of
course, other means of showing partizan favors. Tariff laws, laws
regulating interstate commerce, reciprocity treaties, "pork
barrels," pensions, financial policies, are all pregnant with
political possibilities.

The second official unit in the national political hierarchy is
the House of Representatives, controlling the pursestrings, which
have been the deadly noose of many executive measures. The House
is elected every two years, so that it may ever be "near to the
people"! This produces a reflex not anticipated by the Fathers of
the Constitution. It gives the representative brief respite from
the necessities of politics, and hence little time for the
necessities of the State.

The House attained the zenith of its power when it arraigned
President Johnson at the bar of the Senate for high crimes and
misdemeanors in office. It had shackled his appointing power by
the Tenure of Office Act; it had forced its plan of
reconstruction over his veto; and now it led him, dogged and
defiant, to a political trial. Within a few years the character
of the House changed. A new generation interested in the issues
of prosperity, rather than those of the war, entered public life.
The House grew unwieldy in size and its business increased
alarmingly. The minority, meanwhile, retained the power, through
filibustering, to hold up the business of the country.

It was under such conditions that Speaker Reed, in 1890, crowned
himself "Czar" by compelling a quorum. This he did by counting as
actually present all members whom the clerk reported as "present
but not voting." The minority fought desperately for its last
privilege and even took a case to the Supreme Court to test the
constitutionality of a law passed by a Reed-made quorum. The
court concurred with the sensible opinion of the country that
"when the quorum is present, it is there for the purpose of doing
business," an opinion that was completely vindicated when the
Democratic minority became a majority and adopted the rule for
its own advantage.

By this ruling, the Speakership was lifted to a new eminence. The
party caucus, which nominated the Speaker, and to which momentous
party questions were referred, gave solidarity to the party. But
the influence of the Speaker, through his power of appointing
committees, of referring bills, of recognizing members who wished
to participate in debate, insured that discipline and centralized
authority which makes mass action effective. The power of the
Speaker was further enlarged by the creation of the Rules
Committee, composed of the Speaker and two members from each
party designated by him. This committee formed a triumvirate (the
minority members were merely formal members) which set the limits
of debate, proposed special rules for such occasions as the
committee thought proper, and virtually determined the destiny of
bills. So it came about, as Bryce remarks, that the choice of the
Speaker was "a political event of the highest significance."

It was under the regency of Speaker Cannon that the power of the
Speaker's office attained its climax. The Republicans had a large
majority in the House and the old war-horses felt like colts.
They assumed their leadership, however, with that obliviousness
to youth which usually characterizes old age. The gifted and
attractive Reed had ruled often by aphorism and wit, but the
unimaginative Cannon ruled by the gavel alone; and in the course
of time he and his clique of veterans forgot entirely the
difference between power and leadership.

Even party regularity could not long endure such tyranny. It was
not against party organization that the insurgents finally raised
their lances, but against the arbitrary use of the machinery of
the organization by a small group of intrenched "standpatters."
The revolt began during the debate on the Payne-Aldrich tariff,
and in the campaign of 1908 "Cannonism" was denounced from the
stump in every part of the country. By March, 1910, the
insurgents were able, with the aid of the Democrats, to amend the
rules, increasing the Committee on Rules to ten to be elected by
the House and making the Speaker ineligible for membership. When
the Democrats secured control of the House in the following year,
the rules were revised, and the selection of all committees is
now determined by a Committee on Committees chosen in party
caucus. This change shifts arbitrary power from the shoulders of
the Speaker to the shoulders of the party chieftains. The power
of the Speaker has been lessened but by no means destroyed. He is
still the party chanticleer.

The political power of the House, however, cannot be calculated
without admitting to the equation the Senate, the third official
unit, and, indeed, the most powerful factor in the national
hierarchy. The Senate shares equally with the House the
responsibility of lawmaking, and shares with the President the
responsibility of appointments and of treaty-making. It has been
the scene of many memorable contests with the President for
political control. The senators are elder statesmen, who have
passed through the refining fires of experience, either in law,
business, or politics. A senator is elected for six years; so
that he has a period of rest between elections, in which he may
forget his constituents in the ardor of his duties.

Within the last few decades a great change has come over the
Senate, over its membership, its attitude towards public
questions, and its relation to the electorate. This has been
brought about through disclosures tending to show the relations
on the part of some senators towards "big business." As early as
the Granger revelations of railway machinations in politics, in
the seventies, a popular distrust of the Senate became
pronounced. No suggestion of corruption was implied, but certain
senators were known as "railway senators," and were believed to
use their partizan influence in their friends' behalf. This
feeling increased from year to year, until what was long
suspected came suddenly to light, through an entirely unexpected
agency. William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper owner who had in
vain attempted to secure a nomination for President by the
Democrats and to get himself elected Governor of New York, had
organized and financed a party of his own, the Independence
League. While speaking in behalf of his party, in the fall of
1908, he read extracts from letters written by an official of the
Standard Oil Company to various senators. The letters, it later
appeared, had been purloined from the Company's files by a
faithless employee. They caused a tremendous sensation. The
public mind had become so sensitive that the mere fact that an
intimacy existed between the most notorious of trusts and some
few United States senators--the correspondents called each other
"Dear John," "Dear Senator," etc.--was sufficient to arouse the
general wrath. The letters disclosed a keen interest on the part
of the corporation in the details of legislation, and the public
promptly took the Standard Oil Company as a type. They believed,
without demanding tangible proof, that other great corporations
were, in some sinister manner, influencing legislation.
Railroads, insurance companies, great banking concerns, vast
industrial corporations, were associated in the public mind as
"the Interests." And the United States Senate was deemed the
stronghold of the interests. A saturnalia of senatorial
muckraking now laid bare the "oligarchy," as the small group of
powerful veteran Senators who controlled the senatorial machinery
was called. It was disclosed that the centralization of
leadership in the Senate coincided with the centralization of
power in the Democratic and Republican national machines. In 1911
and 1912 a "money trust" investigation was conducted by the
Senate and a comfortable entente was revealed between a group of
bankers, insurance companies, manufacturers, and other interests,
carried on through an elaborate system of interlocking
directorates. Finally, in 1912, the Senate ordered its Committee
on Privileges and Elections to investigate campaign contributions
paid to the national campaign committees in 1904, 1908, and 1912.
The testimony taken before this committee supplied the country
with authentic data of the interrelations of Big Business and Big

The revolt against "Cannonism" in the House had its counterpart
in the Senate. By the time the Aldrich tariff bill came to a vote
(1909), about ten Republican senators rebelled. The revolt
gathered momentum and culminated in 1912 in the organization of
the National Progressive party with Theodore Roosevelt as its
candidate for President and Hiram Johnson of California for Vice-
President. The majority of the Progressives returned to the
Republican fold in 1916. But the rupture was not healed, and the
Democrats reelected Woodrow Wilson.


In the early days a ballot was simply a piece of paper with the
names of the candidates written or printed on it. As party
organizations became more ambitious, the party printed its own
ballots, and "scratching" was done by pasting gummed stickers,
with the names of the substitutes printed on them, over the
regular ballot, or by simply striking out a name and writing
another one in its place. It was customary to print the different
party tickets on different colored paper, so that the judges in
charge of the ballot boxes could tell how the men voted. When
later laws required all ballots to be printed on white paper and
of the same size, the parties used paper of different texture.
Election officials could then tell by the "feel" which ticket was
voted. Finally paper of the same color and quality was enjoined
by some States. But it was not until the State itself undertook
to print the ballots that uniformity was secured.

In the meantime the peddling of tickets was a regular occupation
on election day. Canvassers invaded homes and places of business,
and even surrounded the voting place. It was the custom in many
parts of the country for the voters to prepare the ballots before
reaching the voting place and carry them in the vest pocket, with
a margin showing. This was a sort of signal that the voter's mind
had been made up and that he should be let alone, yet even with
this signal showing, in hotly contested elections the voter ran a
noisy gauntlet of eager solicitors, harassing him on his way to
vote as cab drivers assail the traveler when he alights from the
train. This free and easy method, tolerable in sparsely settled
pioneer districts, failed miserably in the cities. It was
necessary to pass rigorous laws against vote buying and selling,
and to clear the polling-place of all partizan soliciting. Penal
provisions were enacted against intimidation, violence,
repeating, false swearing when challenged, ballot-box stuffing,
and the more patent forms of partizan vices. In order to stop the
practice of "repeating," New York early passed laws requiring
voters to be duly registered. But the early laws were defective,
and the rolls were easily padded. In most of the cities poll
lists were made by the party workers, and the name of each voter
was checked off as he voted. It was still impossible for the
voter to keep secret his ballot. The buyer of votes could tell
whether he got what he paid for; the employer, so disposed, could
bully those dependent on him into voting as he wished, and the
way was open to all manner of tricks in the printing of ballots
with misleading emblems, or with certain names omitted, or with a
mixture of candidates from various parties--tricks that were
later forbidden by law but were none the less common.

Rather suddenly a great change came over election day. In 1888
Kentucky adopted the Australian ballot for the city of
Louisville, and Massachusetts adopted it for all state and local
elections. The Massachusetts statute provided that before an
election each political party should certify its nominees to the
Secretary of the Commonwealth. The State then printed the
ballots. All the nominees of all the parties were printed on one
sheet. Each office was placed in a separate column, the
candidates in alphabetical order, with the names of the parties
following. Blank spaces were left for those who wished to vote
for others than the regular nominees. This form of ballot
prevented "voting straight" with a single mark. The voter, in the
seclusion of a booth at the polling-place, had to pick his
party's candidates from the numerous columns.

Indiana, in 1889, adopted a similar statute but the ballot had
certain modifications to suit the needs of party orthodoxy. Here
the columns represented parties, not offices. Each party had a
column. Each column was headed by the party name and its device,
so that those who could not read could vote for the Rooster or
the Eagle or the Fountain. There was a circle placed under the
device, and by making his mark in this circle the voter voted

Within eight years thirty-eight States and two Territories had
adopted the Australian or blanket ballot in some modified form.
It was but a step to the state control of the election machinery.
Some state officer, usually the Secretary of State, was
designated to see that the election laws were enforced. In New
York a State Commissioner of Elections was appointed. The
appointment of local inspectors and judges remained for a time in
the hands of the parties. But soon in several States even this
power was taken from them, and the trend now is towards
appointing all election officers by the central authority. These
officers also have complete charge of the registration of voters.
In some States, like New York, registration has become a rather
solemn procedure, requiring the answering of many questions and
the signing of the voter's name, all under the threat of perjury
if a wilful misrepresentation is made.

So passed out of the control of the party the preparation of the
ballot and the use of the ballot on election day. Innumerable
rules have been laid down by the State for the conduct of
elections. The distribution of the ballots, their custody before
election, the order of electional procedure, the counting of the
ballots, the making of returns, the custody of the ballot-boxes,
and all other necessary details, are regulated by law under
official state supervision. The parties are allowed watchers at
the polls, but these have no official standing.

If a Revolutionary Father could visit his old haunts on election
day, he would be astonished at the sober decorum. In his time
elections lasted three days, days filled with harangue, with
drinking, betting, raillery, and occasional encounters. Even
those whose memory goes back to the Civil War can contrast the
ballot peddling, the soliciting, the crowded noisy
polling-places, with the calm and quiet with which men deposit
their ballots today. For now every ballot is numbered and no one
is permitted to take a single copy from the room. Every voter
must prepare his ballot in the booth. And every polling-place is
an island of immunity in the sea of political excitement.

While the people were thus assuming control of the ballot, they
were proceeding to gain control of their legislatures. In 1890
Massachusetts enacted one of the first anti-lobby laws. It has
served as a model for many other States. It provided that the
sergeant-at-arms should keep dockets in which were enrolled the
names of all persons employed as counsel or agents before
legislative committees. Each counsel or agent was further
compelled to state the length of his engagement, the subjects or
bills for which he was employed, and the name and address of his

The first session after the passage of this law, many of the
professional lobbyists refused to enroll, and the most notorious
ones were seen no more in the State House. The regular counsel of
railroads, insurance companies, and other interests signed the
proper docket and appeared for their clients in open committee

The law made it the duty of the Secretary of the Commonwealth to
report to the law officers of the State, for prosecution, all
those who failed to comply with the act. Sixty-seven such
delinquents were reported the first year. The Grand Jury refused
to indict them, but the number of recalcitrants has gradually

The experience of Massachusetts is not unique. Other States
passed more or less rigorous anti-lobby laws, and today, in no
state Capitol, will the visitor see the disgusting sights that
were usual thirty years ago--arrogant and coarse professional
"agents" mingling on the floor of the legislature with members,
even suggesting procedure to presiding officers, and not
infrequently commandeering a majority. Such influences, where
they persist, have been driven under cover.

With the decline of the professional lobbyist came the rise of
the volunteer lobbyist. Important bills are now considered in
formal committee hearings which are well advertised so that
interested parties may be present. Publicity and information have
taken the place of secrecy in legislative procedure. The
gathering of expert testimony by special legislative commissions
of inquiry is now a frequent practice in respect to subjects of
wide social import, such as workmen's compensation, widows'
pensions, and factory conditions.

A number of States have resorted to the initiative and referendum
as applied to ordinary legislation. By means of this method a
small percentage of the voters, from eight to ten per cent, may
initiate proposals and impose upon the voters the function of
legislation. South Dakota, in 1898, made constitutional provision
for direct legislation. Utah followed in 1900, Oregon in 1902,
Nevada in 1904, Montana in 1906, and Oklahoma in 1907. East of
the Mississippi, several States have adopted a modified form of
the initiative and referendum. In Oregon, where this device of
direct government has been most assiduously applied, the voters
in 1908 voted upon nineteen different bills and constitutional
amendments; in 1910 the number increased to thirty-two; in 1912,
to thirty-seven; in 1914 it fell to twenty-nine. The vote cast
for these measures rarely exceeded eighty per cent of those
voting at the election and frequently fell below sixty.

The electorate that attempts to rid itself of the evils of the
state legislature by these heroic methods assumes a heavy
responsibility. When the burden of direct legislation is added to
the task of choosing from the long list of elective officers
which is placed before the voter at every local and state
election, it is not surprising that there should set in a
reaction in favor of simplified government. The mere separation
of state and local elections does not solve the problem. It
somewhat minimizes the chances of partizan influence over the
voter in local elections; but the voter is still confronted with
the long lists of candidates for elective offices. Ballots not
infrequently contain two hundred names, sometimes even three
hundred or more, covering candidates of four or five parties for
scores of offices. These blanket ballots are sometimes three feet
long. After an election in Chicago in 1916, one of the leading
dailies expressed sympathy "for the voter emerging from the
polling-booth, clutching a handful of papers, one of them about
half as large as a bed sheet." Probably most voters were able to
express a real preference among the national candidates. It is
almost equally certain that most voters were not able to express
a real preference among important local administrative officials.
A huge ballot, all printed over with names, supplemented by a
series of smaller ballots, can never be a manageable instrument
even for an electorate as intelligent as ours.

Simplification is the prophetic watchword in state government
today. For cities, the City Manager and the Commission have
offered salvation. A few officers only are elected and these are
held strictly responsible, sometimes under the constant threat of
the recall, for the entire administration. Over four hundred
cities have adopted the form of government by Commission. But
nothing has been done to simplify our state governments, which
are surrounded by a maze of heterogeneous and undirected boards
and authorities. Every time the legislature found itself
confronted by a new function to be cared for, it simply created a
new board. New York has a hodgepodge of over 116 such
authorities; Minnesota, 75; Illinois, 100. Iowa in 1913 and
Illinois and Minnesota in 1914, indeed, perfected elaborate
proposals for simplifying their state governments. But these
suggestions remain dormant. And the New York State Constitutional
Convention in 1915 prepared a new Constitution for the State,
with the same end in view, but their work was not accepted by the
people. It may be said, however, that in our attempt to rid
ourselves of boss rule we have swung through the arc of direct
government and are now on the returning curve toward
representative government, a more intensified representative
government that makes evasion of responsibility and duty
impossible by fixing it upon one or two men.


The State, at first, had paid little attention to the party,
which was regarded as a purely voluntary aggregation of
like-minded citizens. Evidently the State could not dictate that
you should be a Democrat or a Republican or force you to be an
Independent. With the adoption of the Australian ballot, however,
came the legal recognition of the party; for as soon as the State
recognized the party's designated nominees in the preparation of
the official ballot, it recognized the party. It was then
discovered that, unless some restrictions were imposed, groups of
interested persons in the old parties would manage the
nominations of both to their mutual satisfaction. Thus a handful
of Democrats would visit Republican caucuses or primaries and a
handful of Republicans would return the favor to the Democrats.
In other words, the bosses of both parties would cooperate in
order to secure nominations satisfactory to themselves.
Massachusetts began the reform by defining a party as a group of
persons who had cast a certain percentage of the votes at the
preceding election. This definition has been widely accepted; and
the number of votes has been variously fixed at from two to
twenty-five per cent. Other States have followed the New York
plan of fixing definitely the number of voters necessary to form
a party. In New York no fewer than 10,000 voters can secure
recognition as a state party, exception being made in favor of
municipal or purely local parties. But merely fixing the
numerical minimum of the party was not enough. The State took
another step forward in depriving the manipulator of his liberty
when it undertook to determine who was entitled to membership in
the party and privileged to take part in its nominations and
other party procedure. Otherwise the virile minority in each
party would control both the membership and the nominations.

An Oregon statute declares: "Every political party and every
volunteer political organization has the same right to be
protected from the interference of persons who are not identified
with it, as its known and publicly avowed members, that the
government of the State has to protect itself from the
interference of persons who are not known and registered as its
electors. It is as great a wrong to the people, as well as to
members of a political party, for anyone who is not known to be
one of its members to vote or take any part at any election, or
other proceedings of such political party, as it is for one who
is not a qualified and registered elector to vote at any state
election or to take part in the business of the State." It is a
far reach from the democratic laissez faire of Jackson's day to
this state dogmatism which threatens the independent or detached
voter with ultimate extinction.

A variety of methods have been adopted for initiating the citizen
into party membership. In the Southern States, where the dual
party system does not exist, the legislature has left the matter
in the hands of the duly appointed party officials. They can,
with canonical rigor, determine the party standing of voters at
the primaries. But where there is party competition, such a
generous endowment of power would be dangerous.

Many States permit the voter to make his declaration of party
allegiance when he goes to the primary. He asks for the ticket of
the party whose nominees he wishes to help select. He is then
handed the party's ballot, which he marks and places in the
ballot-box of that party. Now, if he is challenged, he must
declare upon oath that he is a member of that party, that he has
generally supported its tickets and its principles, and that at
the coming election he intends to support at least a majority of
its nominees. In this method little freedom is left to the voter
who wishes to participate as an independent both in the primaries
and in the general election.

The New York plan is more rigorous. Here, in all cities, the
voter enrolls his name on his party's lists when he goes to
register for the coming election. He receives a ballot upon which
are the following words: "I am in general sympathy with the
principles of the party which I have designated by my mark
hereunder; it is my intention to support generally at the next
general election, state and national, the nominees of such party
for state and national offices; and I have not enrolled with or
participated in any primary election or convention of any other
party since the first day of last year." On this enrollment blank
he indicates the party of his choice, and the election officials
deposit all the ballots, after sealing them in envelopes, in a
special box. At a time designated by law, these seals are broken
and the party enrollment is compiled from them. These party
enrollment books are public records. Everyone who cares may
consult the lists. The advantages of secrecy--such as they
are--are thus not secured.

It remained for Wisconsin, the experimenting State, to find a way
of insuring secrecy. Here, when the voter goes to the primary, he
is handed a large ballot, upon which all the party nominations
are printed. The different party tickets are separated by
perforations, so that the voter simply tears out the party ticket
he wishes to vote, marks it, and puts it in the box. The rejected
tickets he deposits in a large waste basket provided for the

While the party was being fenced in by legal definition, its
machinery, the intricate hierarchy of committees, was subjected
to state scrutiny with the avowed object of ridding the party of
ring rule. The State Central Committee is the key to the
situation. To democratize this committee is a task that has
severely tested the ingenuity of the State, for the inventive
capacity of the professional politician is prodigious. The
devices to circumvent the politician are so numerous and various
that only a few types can be selected to illustrate how the State
is carrying out its determination. Illinois has provided perhaps
the most democratic method. In each congressional district, the
voters, at the regular party primaries, choose the member of the
state committee for the district, who serves for a term of two
years. The law says that "no other person or persons whomsoever"
than those so chosen by the voters shall serve on the committee,
so that members by courtesy or by proxy, who might represent the
boss, are apparently shut off. The law stipulates the time within
which the committee must meet and organize. Under this plan, if
the ring controls the committee, the fault lies wholly with the
majority of the party; it is a self-imposed thraldom.

Iowa likewise stipulates that the Central Committee shall be
composed of one member from each congressional district. But the
members are chosen in a state convention, organized under strict
and minute regulations imposed by law. It permits considerable
freedom to the committee, however, stating that it "may organize
at pleasure for political work as is usual and customary with
such committees."

In Wisconsin another plan was adopted in 1907. Here the
candidates for the various state offices and for both branches of
the legislature and the senators whose terms have not expired
meet in the state capital at noon on a day specified by law and
elect by ballot a central committee consisting of at least two
members from each congressional district. A chairman is chosen in
the same manner.

Most States, however, leave some leeway in the choice of the
state committee, permitting their election usually by the regular
primaries but controlling their action in many details. The
lesser committees--county, city, district, judicial, senatorial,
congressional, and others--are even more rigorously controlled by

So the issuing of the party platform, the principles on which it
must stand or fall, has been touched by this process of
ossification. Few States retain the state convention in its
original vigor. In all States where primaries are held for state
nominations, the emasculated and subdued convention is permitted
to write the party platform. But not so in some States. Wisconsin
permits the candidates and the hold-over members of the Senate,
assembled according to law in a state meeting, to issue the
platform. In other States, the Central Committee and the various
candidates for state office form a party council and frame the
platform. Oregon, in 1901, tried a novel method of providing
platforms by referendum. But the courts declared the law
unconstitutional. So Oregon now permits each candidate to write
his own platform in not over one hundred words and file it with
his nominating petition, and to present a statement of not over
twelve words to be printed on the ballot.

The convention system provided many opportunities for the
manipulator and was inherently imperfect for nominating more than
one or two candidates for office. It has survived as the method
of nominating candidates for President of the United States
because it is adapted to the wide geographical range of the
nation and because in the national convention only a President
and a Vice-President are nominated. In state and county
conventions, where often candidates for a dozen or more offices
are to be nominated, it was often subject to demoralizing

The larger the number of nominations to be made, the more
complete was the jobbery, and this was the death warrant of the
local convention. These evils were recognized as early as June
20, 1860, when the Republican county convention of Crawford
County, Pennsylvania, adopted the following resolutions:

"Whereas, in nominating candidates for the several county
offices, it clearly is, or ought to be, the object to arrive as
nearly as possible at the wishes of the majority, or at least a
plurality of the Republican voters; and

Whereas the present system of nominating by delegates, who
virtually represent territory rather than votes, and who almost
necessarily are wholly unacquainted with the wishes and feelings
of their constituents in regard to various candidates for office,
is undemocratic, because the people have no voice in it, and
objectionable, because men are often placed in nomination because
of their location who are decidedly unpopular, even in their own
districts, and because it affords too great an opportunity for
scheming and designing men to accomplish their own purposes;

Resolved, that we are in favor of submitting nominations directly
to the people--the Republican voters--and that delegate
conventions for nominating county officers be abolished, and we
hereby request and instruct the county committee to issue their
call in 1861, in accordance with the spirit of this resolution."

Upon the basis of this indictment of the county convention
system, the Republican voters of Crawford County, a rural
community, whose largest town is Meadville, the county seat,
proceeded to nominate their candidates by direct vote, under
rules prepared by the county committee. These rules have been but
slightly changed. The informality of a hat or open table drawer
has been replaced by an official ballotbox, and an official
ballot has taken the place of the tickets furnished by each

The "Crawford County plan," as it was generally called, was
adopted by various localities in many States. In 1866 California
and New York enacted laws to protect primaries and nominating
caucuses from fraud. In 1871 Ohio and Pennsylvania enacted
similar laws, followed by Missouri in 1875 and New Jersey in
1878. By 1890 over a dozen States had passed laws attempting to
eliminate the grosser frauds attendant upon making nominations.
In many instances it was made optional with the party whether the
direct plan should supersede the delegate plan. Only in certain
cities, however, was the primary made mandatory in these States.
By far the larger areas retained the convention.

There is noticeable in these years a gradual increase in the
amount of legislation concerning the nominating machinery--
prescribing the days and hours for holding elections of
delegates, the size of the polling-place, the nature of the
ballotbox, the poll-list, who might participate in the choice of
delegates, how the returns were to be made, and so on. By the
time, then, that the Australian ballot came, with its profound
changes, nearly all the States had attempted to remove the
glaring abuses of the nominating system; and several of them
officially recognized the direct primary. The State was reluctant
to abolish the convention system entirely; and the Crawford
County plan long remained merely optional. But in 1901 Minnesota
enacted a state-wide, mandatory primary law. Mississippi followed
in 1902, Wisconsin in 1903, and Oregon in 1904. This movement has
swept the country.

Few States retain the nominating convention, and where it remains
it is shackled by legal restrictions. The boss, however, has
devised adequate means for controlling primaries, and a return to
a modified convention system is being earnestly discussed in many
States to circumvent the further ingenuity of the boss. A further
step towards the state control of parties was taken when laws
began to busy themselves with the conduct of the campaign.
Corrupt Practices Acts began to assume bulk in the early
nineties, to limit the expenditure of candidates, and to
enumerate the objects for which campaign committees might
legitimately spend money. These are usually personal traveling
expenses of the candidates, rental of rooms for committees and
halls for meetings, payment of musicians and speakers and their
traveling expenses, printing campaign material, postage for
distribution of letters, newspapers and printed matter, telephone
and telegraph charges, political advertising, employing
challengers at the polls, necessary clerk hire, and conveyances
for bringing aged or infirm voters to the polls. The maximum
amount that can be spent by candidates is fixed, and they are
required to make under oath a detailed statement of their
expenses in both primary and general elections. The various
committees, also, must make detailed reports of the funds they
handle, the amount, the contributors, and the expenditures.
Corporations are forbidden to contribute, and the amount that
candidates themselves may give is limited in many States. These
exactions are reinforced by stringent laws against bribery.
Persons found guilty of either receiving or soliciting a bribe
are generally disfranchised or declared ineligible for public
office for a term of years. Illinois, for the second offense,
forever disfranchises.

It is not surprising that these restrictions have led the State
to face the question whether it should not itself bear some of
the expenses of the campaign. It has, of course, already assumed
an enormous burden formerly borne entirely by the party. The cost
of primary and general elections nowadays is tremendous. A few
Western States print a campaign pamphlet and distribute it to
every voter. The pamphlet contains usually the photographs of the
candidates, a brief biography, and a statement of principles.

These are the principal encroachments made by the Government upon
the autonomy of the party. The details are endless. The election
laws of New York fill 330 printed pages. It is little wonder that
American parties are beginning to study the organization of
European parties, such as the labor parties and the social
democratic parties, which have enlisted a rather fervent party
fealty. These are propagandist parties and require to be active
all the year round. So they demand annual dues of their members
and have permanent salaried officials and official party organs.
Such a permanent organization was suggested for the National
Progressive party. But the early disintegration of the party made
impossible what would have been an interesting experiment. After
the election of 1916, Governor Whitman of New York suggested that
the Republican party choose a manager and pay him $10,000 a year
and have a lien on all his time and energy. The plan was widely
discussed and its severest critics were the politicians who would
suffer from it. The wide-spread comment with which it was
received revealed the change that has come over the popular idea
of a political party since the State began forty years ago to
bring the party under its control.

But flexibility is absolutely essential to a party system that
adequately serves a growing democracy. And under a two-party
system, as ours is probably bound to remain, the independent
voter usually holds the balance of power. He may be merely a
disgruntled voter seeking for revenge, or an overpleased voter
seeking to maintain a profitable status quo, or he may belong to
that class of super-citizens from which mugwumps arise. In any
case, the majorities at elections are usually determined by him.
And party orthodoxy made by the State is almost as distasteful to
him as the rigor of the boss. He relishes neither the one nor the

In the larger cities the citizens' tickets and fusion movements
are types of independent activities. In some cities they are
merely temporary associations, formed for a single, thorough
housecleaning. The Philadelphia Committee of One Hundred, which
was organized in 1880 to fight the Gas Ring, is an example. It
issued a Declaration of Principles, demanding the promotion of
public service rather than private greed, and the prosecution of
"those who have been guilty of election frauds, maladministration
of office, or misappropriation of public funds." Announcing that
it would endorse only candidates who signed this declaration, the
committee supported the Democratic candidates, and nominated for
Receiver of Taxes a candidate of its own, who became also the
Democratic nominee when the regular Democratic candidate
withdrew. Philadelphia was overwhelmingly Republican. But the
committee's aid was powerful enough to elect the Democratic
candidate for mayor by 6000 majority and the independent
candidate for Receiver of Taxes by 20,000. This gave the
Committee access to the records of the doings of the Gas Ring. In
1884, however, the candidate which it endorsed was defeated, and
it disbanded.

Similar in experience was the famous New York Committee of
Seventy, organized in 1894 after Dr. Parkhurst's lurid
disclosures of police connivance with every degrading vice. A
call was issued by thirty-three well-known citizens for a
non-partizan mass meeting, and at this meeting a committee of
seventy was appointed "with full power to confer with other
anti-Tammany organizations, and to take such actions as may be
necessary to further the objects of this meeting as set forth in
the call therefor, and the address adopted by this meeting." The
committee adopted a platform, appointed an executive and a
finance committee, and nominated a full ticket, distributing the
candidates among both parties. All other anti-Tammany
organizations endorsed this ticket, and it was elected by large
majorities. The committee dissolved after having secured certain
charter amendments for the city and seeing its roster of officers

The Municipal Voters' League of Chicago is an important example
of the permanent type of citizens' organization. The league is
composed of voters in every ward, who, acting through committees
and alert officers, scrutinize every candidate for city office
from the Mayor down. It does not aim to nominate a ticket of its
own, but to exercise such vigilance, enforced by so effective an
organization and such wide-reaching publicity, that the various
parties will, of their own volition, nominate men whom the league
can endorse. By thus putting on the hydraulic pressure of
organized public opinion, it has had a considerable influence on
the parties and a very stimulating effect on the citizenry.

Finally, there has developed in recent years the fusion movement,
whereby the opponents of boss rule in all parties unite and back
an independent or municipal ticket. The election of Mayor Mitchel
of New York in 1913 was thus accomplished. In Milwaukee, a fusion
has been successful against the Socialists. And in many lesser
cities this has brought at least temporary relief from the
oppression of the local oligarchy.


The administrative weakness of a democracy, namely, the tendency
towards a government by job-hunters, was disclosed even in the
early days of the United States, when the official machinery was
simple and the number of offices few. Washington at once foresaw
both the difficulties and the duties that the appointing power
imposed. Soon after his inauguration he wrote to Rutledge: "I
anticipate that one of the most difficult and delicate parts of
the duty of any office will be that which relates to nominations
for appointments." And he was most scrupulous and painstaking in
his appointments. Fitness for duty was paramount with him, though
he recognized geographical necessity and distributed the offices
with that precision which characterized all his acts.

John Adams made very few appointments. After his term had
expired, he wrote: "Washington appointed a multitude of Democrats
and Jacobins of the deepest die. I have been more cautious in
this respect."

The test of partizan loyalty, however, was not applied generally
until after the election of Jefferson. The ludicrous
apprehensions of the Federalists as to what would follow upon his
election were not allayed by his declared intentions. "I have
given," he wrote to Monroe, "and will give only to Republicans
under existing circumstances." Jefferson was too good a
politician to overlook his opportunity to annihilate the
Federalists. He hoped to absorb them in his own party, "to unite
the names of Federalists and Republicans." Moderate Federalists,
who possessed sufficient gifts of grace for conversion, he
sedulously nursed. But he removed all officers for whose removal
any special reason could be discovered. The "midnight
appointments" of John Adams he refused to acknowledge, and he
paid no heed to John Marshall's dicta in Marbury versus Madison.
He was zealous in discovering plausible excuses for making
vacancies. The New York Evening Post described him as "gazing
round, with wild anxiety furiously inquiring, 'how are vacancies
to be obtained?'" Directly and indirectly, Jefferson effected,
during his first term, 164 changes in the offices at his
disposal, a large number for those days. This he did so craftily,
with such delicate regard for geographical sensitiveness and with
such a nice balance between fitness for office and the desire for
office, that by the end of his second term he had not only
consolidated our first disciplined and eager political party, but
had quieted the storm against his policy of partizan

During the long regime of the Jeffersonian Republicans there were
three significant movements. In January, 1811, Nathaniel Macon
introduced his amendment to the Constitution providing that no
member of Congress should receive a civil appointment "under the
authority of the United States until the expiration of the
presidential term in which such person shall have served as
senator or representative." An amendment was offered by Josiah
Quincy, making ineligible to appointment the relations by blood
or marriage of any senator or representative. Nepotism was
considered the curse of the civil service, and for twenty years
similar amendments were discussed at almost every session of
Congress. John Quincy Adams said that half of the members wanted
office, and the other half wanted office for their relatives.

In 1820 the Four Years' Act substituted a four-year tenure of
office, in place of a term at the pleasure of the President, for
most of the federal appointments. The principal argument urged in
favor of the law was that unsatisfactory civil servants could
easily be dropped without reflection on their character.
Defalcations had been discovered to the amount of nearly a
million dollars, due mainly to carelessness and gross
inefficiency. It was further argued that any efficient incumbent
need not be disquieted, for he would be reappointed. The law,
however, fulfilled Jefferson's prophecy: it kept "in constant
excitement all the hungry cormorants for office."

What Jefferson began, Jackson consummated. The stage was now set
for Democracy. Public office had been marshaled as a force in
party maneuver. In his first annual message, Jackson announced
his philosophy:

"There are perhaps few men who can for any great length of time
enjoy office and power without being more or less under the
influence of feelings unfavorable to the faithful discharge of
their public duties .... Office is considered as a species of
property, and government rather as a means of promoting
individual interests than as an instrument created solely for the
service of the people. Corruption in some, and in others a
perversion of correct feelings and principles, divert government
from its legitimate ends and make it an engine for the support of
the few at the expense of the many. The duties of all public
offices are, or at least admit of being made, so plain, so simple
that men of intelligence may readily qualify themselves for their
performance . . . . In a country where offices are created solely
for the benefit of the people, no one man has any more intrinsic
right to official station than another."

The Senate refused Jackson's request for an extension of the Four
Years' law to cover all positions in the civil service. It also
refused to confirm some of his appointments, notably that of Van
Buren as minister to Great Britain. The debate upon this
appointment gave the spoilsman an epigram. Clay with directness
pointed to Van Buren as the introducer "of the odious system of
proscription for the exercise of the elective franchise in the
government of the United States." He continued: "I understand it
is the system on which the party in his own State, of which he is
the reputed head, constantly acts. He was among the first of the
secretaries to apply that system to the dismission of clerks of
his department . . . known to me to be highly meritorious . . .
It is a detestable system."

And Webster thundered: "I pronounce my rebuke as solemnly and as
decisively as I can upon this first instance in which an American
minister has been sent abroad as the representative of his party
and not as the representative of his country."

To these and other challenges, Senator Marcy of New York made his
well-remembered retort that "the politicians of the United States
are not so fastidious . . . . They see nothing wrong in the rule
that to the victor belong the spoils of the enemy."

Jackson, with all his bluster and the noise of his followers,
made his proscriptions relatively fewer than those of Jefferson.
He removed only 252 of about 612 presidential appointees.* It
should, however, be remembered that those who were not removed
had assured Jackson's agents of their loyalty to the new

* This does not include deputy postmasters, who numbered about
8000 and were not placed in the presidential list until 1836.

If Jackson did not inaugurate the spoils system, he at least gave
it a mission. It was to save the country from the curse of
officialdom. His successor, Van Buren, brought the system to a
perfection that only the experienced politician could achieve.
Van Buren required of all appointees partizan service; and his
own nomination, at Baltimore, was made a foregone conclusion by
the host of federal job-holders who were delegates. Van Buren
simply introduced at Washington the methods of the Albany

The Whigs blustered bravely against this proscription. But their
own President, General Harrison, "Old Tippecanoe," was helpless
against the saturnalia of office-seekers that engulfed him.
Harrison, when he came to power, removed about one-half of the
officials in the service. And, although the partizan color of the
President changed with Harrison's death, after a few weeks in
office,--Tyler was merely a Whig of convenience--there was no
change in the President's attitude towards the spoils system.

Presidential inaugurations became orgies of office-seekers, and
the first weeks of every new term were given over to distributing
the jobs, ordinary business having to wait. President Polk, who
removed the usual quota, is complimented by Webster for making
"rather good selections from his own friends." The practice, now
firmly established, was continued by Taylor, Pierce, and

Lincoln found himself surrounded by circumstances that made
caution necessary in every appointment. His party was new and
composed of many diverse elements. He had to transform their
jealousies into enthusiasm, for the approach of civil war
demanded supreme loyalty and unity of action. To this greater
cause of saving the Union he bent every effort and used every
instrumentality at his command. No one before him had made so
complete a change in the official personnel of the capital as the
change which he was constrained to make. No one before him or
since used the appointing power with such consummate skill or
displayed such rare tact and knowledge of human nature in seeking
the advice of those who deemed their advice valuable. The war
greatly increased the number of appointments, and it also imposed
obligations that made merit sometimes a secondary consideration.
With the statesman's vision, Lincoln recognized both the use and
the abuse of the patronage system. He declined to gratify the
office-seekers who thronged the capital at the beginning of his
second term; and they returned home disappointed. The twenty
years following the Civil War were years of agitation for reform.
People were at last recognizing the folly of using the
multiplying public offices for party spoils. The quarrel between
Congress and President Johnson over removals, and the Tenure of
Office Act, focused popular attention on the constitutional
question of appointment and removal, and the recklessness of the
political manager during Grant's two terms disgusted the
thoughtful citizen.

The first attempts to apply efficiency to the civil service had
been made when pass examinations were used for sifting candidates
for clerkships in the Treasury Department in 1853, when such
tests were prescribed by law for the lowest grade of clerkships.
The head of the department was given complete control over the
examinations, and they were not exacting. In 1864 Senator Sumner
introduced a bill "to provide for the greater efficiency of the
civil service." It was considered chimerical and dropped.

Meanwhile, a steadfast and able champion of reform appeared in
the House, Thomas A. Jenckes, a prominent lawyer of Rhode Island.
A bill which he introduced in December, 1865, received no
hearing. But in the following year a select joint committee was
charged to examine the whole question of appointments,
dismissals, and patronage. Mr. Jenckes presented an elaborate
report in May, 1868, explaining the civil service of other
countries. This report, which is the corner stone of American
civil service reform, provided the material for congressional
debate and threw the whole subject into the public arena. Jenckes
in the House and Carl Schurz in the Senate saw to it that ardent
and convincing defense of reform was not wanting. In compliance
with President Grant's request for a law to "govern not the
tenure, but the manner of making all appointments," a rider was
attached to the appropriation bill in 1870, asking the President
"to prescribe such rules and regulations" as he saw fit, and "to
employ suitable persons to conduct" inquiries into the best
method for admitting persons into the civil service. A commission
of which George William Curtis was chairman made recommendations,
but they were not adopted and Curtis resigned. The New York Civil
Service Reform Association was organized in 1877; and the
National League, organized in 1881, soon had flourishing branches
in most of the large cities. The battle was largely between the
President and Congress. Each succeeding President signified his
adherence to reform, but neutralized his words by sanctioning
vast changes in the service. Finally, under circumstances already
described, on January 16, 1883, the Civil Service Act was passed.

This law had a stimulating effect upon state and municipal civil
service. New York passed a law the same year, patterned after the
federal act. Massachusetts followed in 1884, and within a few
years many of the States had adopted some sort of civil service
reform, and the large cities were experimenting with the merit
system. It was not, however, until the rapid expansion of the
functions of government and the consequent transformation in the
nature of public duties that civil service reform made notable
headway. When the Government assumed the duties of health
officer, forester, statistician, and numerous other highly
specialized functions, the presence of the scientific expert
became imperative; and vast undertakings, like the building of
the Panama Canal and the enormous irrigation projects of the
West, could not be entrusted to the spoilsman and his minions.

The war has accustomed us to the commandeering of utilities, of
science, and of skill upon a colossal scale. From this height of
public devotion it is improbable that we shall decline, after the
national peril has passed, into the depths of administrative
incompetency which our Republic, and all its parts, occupied for
so many years. The need for an efficient and highly complex State
has been driven home to the consciousness of the average citizen.
And this foretokens the permanent enlistment of talent in the
public service to the end that democracy may provide that
effective nationalism imposed by the new era of world

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