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tv   Lectures in History Irish Catholics Tammany Hall  CSPAN  November 6, 2021 11:00am-12:16pm EDT

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>> cox is committed to providing eligible families access to affordable internet. bridging the digital divide, one connected and engaged student at a time. bring us closer. along with these tribes and companies support c-span2 is a public service. you're watching american history tv. next, with the tenant teaches a class about irish catholics. nineteenth century new york city politics. then offer matthew rosa recounts world war ii by the 37th battalion caring for 25 people to a concentration camp. u.s. troops and survivors, 60 years after the war. later, veterans from world war ii through the iraq war and share their expenses. find more schedule will consult your program guide.
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here's lectures in history. >> good morning, everyone. today's lecture, called to many catholic. we'll be looking at catholics and american policy, especially american urban politics in the late 19th century. to put this in context of what we've been looking at the past couple of weeks and what we've been looking at this struggle for american catholics to find their place in american culture. despite persistent of loyalty and patriotism and despite the real human sacrifice of life in the civil war, after the civil war up next remained viewed by most americans with suspicion and fear. a variety of reasons for this. the members of what was perceived as a foreign church in eastern rome.
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they were a participant in a separate school system. even just by virtue of their status, members of the working class at a time when the working classes are coming to be seen as the dangerous class. catholics appeared in many americans as a people apart, pupils interesting apart. catholic efforts to participate in mainstream american institutions only seem to make things worse and this is perhaps most clear in the area who will look at today, politics. from the founding, even before the founding of the united states, many protestant americans believed the hierarchical authority structures of the catholic church is still submission and servility and catholics, without reading from john adams where he describes the catholic church as the root of all evil in history,
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certainly the root of all tierney in history, adams was not an outlier on this, it was a common component of political culture. it was this submission to authority that rendered catholics that citizens from unfit to participate in american republican and small republican political institution. much to the horror of protestants however, catholics and especially the most hated catholics of all turned out to be enthusiastic participants in the american political order, whatever their relation to authority was in the church, catholics embraced american political institutions in america. still, this did not prove catholics would be good americans, if anything, native respondent by arguing participation itself was
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undermining the american political system because catholics did not understand the true nature of politics. what is the true nature of politics? is something we are still debating today but it clear in the late 19th century, protestants and catholics had different understandings of these different understandings that are understood not as different political theories but different political cultures. in contrast, between the two cultures, i think it's best expressed in the work of mid 20th century, you had this written down from the age of reform written in 1955, it's about the late 19th century
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into the earlier 20th century and hofstetter introduces a period of illuminating contrast between two different political cultures. one of the cultures describes as founded upon indigenous middle-class protestant political tradition. this yankee protestant political position assumed and demanded constant disinterested activity of the citizen republic, disinterested is the key. politics is not supposed to be about disinterested activity. this tradition argued political life to be run in accordance with genuine principles and abstract. apart from personal needs, we don't get into politics for personal needs. in addition, this political
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culture carries the assumption that government should be in a good part, an effort to moralize the lives of individuals, already with the moral reform tradition started in the 1830s, directly political parties but things like the best example of that, apply to politics means politics should be used to raise the moral level. that is one political culture. there is another political culture founded upon european backgrounds of immigrants from native yankee protestant versus immigrant. these immigrant cultures were generally unfamiliar with independent political action, they did not come from republics them if they want voting citizens in that way. most of these immigrant were very familiar hierarchy and authority, not just catholics
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but any immigrant coming from a traditional culture, the cultures are structured by hierarchy and authority. immigrants come to america, they are not in search of political theory, they are desperately in need of basic materials and they took for granted political life would float out of those needs and politics is very much about interests, for them largely interesting survival, basic material survival. they understood politics, not disinterested in personal activity politics mainly in terms of personal obligation and strong personal loyalty rather than allegiance abstract laws. >> personal politics in the 19th century. a personal connection, personal loyalty. these two ideal types, political
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cultures can be somewhat abstract, i want to begin by giving specific examples of this contrast, a real-life example from history. this example comes from a book by a story i jack beatty, the rascal king. the biography of james merkel michael crilly. the politician, is representative of that culture. this is what he has to say almost as if he were directly following hofstetter. a boston story illustrates the resulting clash of political culture. a beacon hill lady, beacon hill, and elite within boston, the first culture in yankee protestant culture. a beacon hill lady bringing doorbells in south boston on behalf of a hive mind candidate for the full committee one
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house, and irish housewife politely to the candidate. then ask doesn't he have a sister who works for the school or something to do with the school system? the beacon hill lady was shocked, she took to be the suggestion patron. i assure you, madam, he's not the kind of man would ever use his position to advance the interests of them to which the housewife responded, while if you won't even help his own sister, why should i vote for him? so that captures the contrast more than anything else, politics is about helping each other out material place and for the south boston irish woman, it's not about making a million dollars, getting a job or something like that. economic interests from shore. very basic level of survival, not enrichment.
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hofstetter, writing in 1955, he described this contrast as one of anglo versus ethnic, native versus immigrant and that's certainly true but fairly brought. he's using the terms to include a variety of groups, not immigrants are all catholic by any means, many are jews, protestants, even orthodox with the greeks but in terms of how the conflict played out in mainstream american culture, it was a battle between protestant and catholic. certainly other time, understood in those terms and this religious aspect is most clear in the first political cartoon i sent you called tammy priest, a political cartoon by thomas
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mass, his cartoons were nasty particularly for catholics and the irish. in the cartoon, it's very clear the religious dimension, on the left-hand of the cartoon have this irishman so it certainly covers the ethnic and class elements of this political divide. on the right, in the middle you have a deuce with the label on it, democratic party in the irishman and the priest was also irish, they are carving up the democratic party of politics. i want to stress, hofstetter and more recent historians, don't want to downplay the religious element, american catholic
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history, i want to stress is impossible to do these apart from religion. the religious divide in america in the late 19th century is sharper than any kind of class or ethnic or racial divide so you have this image from thomas who's speaking for the first culture, i can keep protestant culture, unholy alliance in urban america. unholy alliance between irish catholic immigrants and irish catholic church. this unholy alliance generally associated with the urban democratic party a more specific name of tammany hall, that's the lecture name today, it was not the democratic party itself, it was a political club within the
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democratic party. i don't know, there's college here and maybe an ftc loop and real power, they are the ones who control everything and that's kind of how tammany hall functions. there is some specificity to the northern democratic party i haven't had too much time to look at it, but democratic party is the oldest party it's extremely divided recently, the seventh democratic party was the party of slaveholding, not a lot of common interest with northern party. after the civil war, it's still distinctly southern and very distinct from the northern democratic party. the seven democratic party is anglo, not yankee but anglo native, they can claim to be
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true american but the northern democratic party in urban democratic party is heavily immigrants are tends to be referred to more by the term tammany hall the democratic party but this political club in new york controls the new york city politics, late 19th century in the middle of the 20th century and the image you have here, very much an image of tammany hall, it suggests corruption. from the perspective of the first political culture, that's what it,
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we're going to go over some of the history of the most relevant history of tammany hall in the middle of the 20th century and after that, we will look at selections to give you the response from within the second political culture. looking from the outside, this is all corruption, destroy american politics. from within the culture, no. destroy virtue, it's just a different kind of virtue, very much rooted in community. writing from the first political culture, anti- catholic, anti- irish, all that being said, the charges of corruption, tammany was corrupt, these were not unfounded. in fact, thomas made a national name for himself by covering the exposure of such corruption in
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tammany hall politics to a scandal known as the tweed ring. the next image i sent to you, this image, the harper's weekly journal of civilization and on the cover there is this fat guy and that is william maher tweed, the tweed of the tweed ring. it is kind of a symbol of corrupt urban politics. tweed was properly known as -- boss tweed, the boss, the one who called the shots in tammany hall. interestingly here, even though some might associate tweed with
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the irish clothing, he was not himself irish, either irish nor catholic. he was an immigrant however, immigrants of scotch presbyterian background. back in ireland, there's no sharper conflict than that between irish catholic and scottish presbyterian or northern island. they were sworn enemies in the old world and it's not like those old world battle lines that disappeared in the new world about the time of the scandal, 1870s, 1871, there were riots in new york city called the orange riots. they want about oranges affect they were orange men, scotch irish presbyterian, centuries earlier supported william of
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orange and his fight against the catholic from king james the second, he will remember this. every year in july back in ireland, they would have a parade, marched through catholic areas of the island celebrating this victory. it's not just an old world thing. it was carried over to the new world, carried over violently wearing new york city in 1871, orange men what marched through irish catholic sections of the city, rubbing their face in it and riots ensued so that's an example of how old world resentments carried over into the new but tweed himself, the possibility of american life, many of his followers in politics or irish catholic. tweed did not carry resentments over.
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tweed realized in the city, many ethnic groups, ethnic groups but also vote and you don't get votes alienating people or dragging out the old battle but by native anglo perspective, there's a little more american by virtue. this opened up to the catholic community especially the irish catholic community. we see this in his inner circle, the tweed ring, associated with this corruption. the next image i sent to you is the tweed ring and you see a ring of people accusing the other person of corruption but there are four figures highlighted in this image. you see the carryover from the harper's cover, the fat guy on the left, tweed himself but going from the right, the little
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guy is okay hall, elegant. he was the mayor of new york. he was handpicked by the real power of new york. he was native anglo and it was important to have somebody like that in front even if they are only a figurehead, it would help soften the blow. the illusion if you will that americans were in power. the public figure of the democratic party around the time of tweed was oak equal. you've got tweed, presbyterian,
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okie call, ankle american but the others at the center of the picture here are irish catholics. richard connelly who served as control in the city government and commissioner of parks, neither of these positions suggest great political power. not at this time, he is more minor, unelected bureaucratic position and commissioner of parks, these were much more important because these were positions that dealt with finances and jobs. so half of the tweed ring is irish catholic but more importantly, rank and file was overwhelmingly irish catholic. tweed was seen as our champion, tweed was seen by irish
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catholics themselves promote the possibilities of the new world put aside resentment, they didn't say we are not were to support presbyterian. no, they supported him because he supported them. but there was undoubtedly truly corruption, at least financial corruption at the heart of this relationship. in 1871, the new york times charged tweed for having mood new york city treasury to the tune of $45 million. that may be chump change these days but at the time, it amounted to greater than the entire annual u.s. federal budget before this civil war so it's a lot of money.
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at the time of the indictment, tweed served as the city's commissioner of public work, it seems like a minor bureaucratic job, nothing that would carry with great power but his true political power lay in his position as head of tammany hall. he controlled the selection that the democratic party would run, he picked the candidates and he was in charge of making sure the candidates -- [inaudible] >> the tweed ring, they all shared but he was the focus because everybody realized he was the power behind it so if
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you are going to focus on somebody to indict, it's going to be tweed. again, the indictment was fair because he was behind all of this but aside from enriching himself, his job was to pick the slate of candidates and make sure they won by any means necessary including voter fraud, repeaters or creative arithmetic in the county for simple physical intimidation, something all through late 19th century urban politics see. you go to the voting pool and there would be monster guys with like two by fours representing their candidate this is before necessarily secret ballots were you go in and people can see how you are voting.
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more specific examples from chicago in the late 19th century election day in an american city in the 19th century was almost a riot day. the election was contested, sharp division, you could have brawls. earlier in the semester, we looked at the trustee, cap exploding on going to be trustees in a church and faith turn to brawls. the orange riot from 19th century city is a very violent city and the things we've seen in recent years, this past year or so are nothing compared to what was a fairly regular occurrence in the 19th century and often associated with voting. so these tactics as well as
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irish catholic constituencies raised suspicions long before the charges were leveled in 1871 so tweed's critics and best urban political culture had their suspicions all along, suspicions rooted in the fact that this culture was catholic and irish and was immigrant. all that being said, prejudices they brought the case, the charges in fact were true. tweed spent several decades working his way up the ladder. by the late 1860s, people could engineer a restructuring of new york city politics has the real power in the hands of those people who made up the tweed ring.
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people largely unelected, how do they have all the power? without being elected, they have the power because they control the finances of the city. for two straight years, 1870s, 1871 the city of new york at tweed's direction, to borrow money, sometimes directly from banks, sometimes through bonds, creating bond programs for people to buy bonds for the help of an investment and even attracting foreign investors into new york city. tweed was not particular where the money came from or how it arrived, he is interested in bringing money into new york city. now of course he's not doing this publicly simply to enrich
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himself. why are people giving this money to the treasury in new york city? to pay for building projects, the city is growing like every city in the 19th century new york more than any other so the city is growing, it needs roads and buildings, a lot of stuff. that's true but how the stuff was built was how tweed enriched himself. he's dealing with other people's money, how does he make himself -- does he simply stick it in his pocket, straight embezzlement? that would be little to easy and a little too easy to get caught. the typical method was simply to pad building contract. so say a building, you talk to the contractor and the building cost maybe $10000 to build.
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so he says okay, give me a bill for $20000 and you will get your $10000 and me and my buddies will divide $10000 among ourselves. with this arrangement, he could pretty much get the extra funds and a couple of accountants, you've got to keep track of this and keep your accounting happy. however, in this process, because at least one person he did not keep happy. there's always an informer just like in the mcguire movie, a political enemy within the democratic party itself eventually got out of the account turned it over to the new york times and that's how the tweed ring was brought down.
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tweed's followers were shocked by the scale of the graph. the scale but not the nature of the graph. tweed's supporters accepted some kind of graph but skimming off the top. ...
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>> my family, and this is the level of survival. think of it as a situation similar to what we saw in the holly mcguires film. you've seen pictures of new york city in the late 19th century, it's almost as filthy as a coal mine. and it is -- and the struggle for survival is very similar. and, you know, what are your options if you're in the working
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class? at this time, somebody like tweed who at least seems to care about you in some way, or the people who are operating coal mines in eastern pennsylvania who willing to let you starve and just discard you. so those are your options. we do not live in an ideal world, and between those options, people were happy to support somebody like tweed. perhaps most dramatically in terms of tweed's support for the working class of new york city, he earns the everlasting loyalty of many poor irish catholics during the civil war and all the controversy over the draft. we didn't have too much time to go into the civil war in this class, but in 1863 the war was going badly, and people in the north were no longer signing up. they were no longer enlisting, they were no longer volunteering. and so lincoln did what had
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never been done before, he instituted a federal draft. people had to serve in the army. you had to serve unless you could buy your way out. the if you could pay for a substitute, then you didn't have to fight. now, in terms of people wanting to fight or not, there's a couple of considerations. as we talked about before, irish catholics, very, very patriotic but also democrats and suspicious of a war to end slavery. when the war was going badly, some of that enthusiasm for the war waned, and they had to choose between the patriotism for their country and just simply staying at home and supporting their families. and many of them wanted to stay at home and support their families and didn't want to risk going off to war ask dying and leaving their families destitute. well, you could buy your way out if you got a substitute to fight for you, except the cost of a
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substitute was $300. this is well beyond the mean means of any working class new yorker. and so in response to the draft, there were, dare i say it again, riots. tremendous riots. some of the worst riots in hearn history. in the 1860s and 1960s, in both there were protests against the draft for very different reasons, but as tumultuous as the 1960s seems, the 1860s were far for violent. draft riots in which irish catholic ares played a prominent role. tweed comes to the rescue and pays the bounty for many of these irish catholics, $300. this isn't just tweed lining his octobers. he's certainly using city funds, but he says, okay, you don't want to go fight the war because you've got a family to support. i will pay your bounty. and they're like, thank you,
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boss tweed. thank you, boss tweed. for those who still did want to go to war and maybe especially if you're a single guy, if you don't have a family to support, war may with your best option because there was a $300 signing bonus if you enlisted. to keep lincoln happy, because lincoln, again, lincoln instituted the draft because he needed bodies. to keep lincoln happy, tweed agreed to pay the signing bonus for workers who were willing to go to war but were, especially, like, if they were married men and were concerned about their families. so, again, he pays the bounty for some workers, and he pays the signing bonus for other workers who are willing to go to the war. either way, he is sharing the wealth, shall we say. and this, again, he becomes a hero for irish catholics because of this. this bond of loyalty forged most
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dramatically during the civil war between tweed and irish catholics in new york only deepens through the 1860s. to give you another example. while serving in the state assembly and political positions, he jumped around all the time the. it's not like today where people slowly work their way up, you know, congressman, senator, president, things like that. the political position that he had at any one time was not as important as his head of tammany, but for a time in the '90s he served -- '60s he served in the state assembly, and he arranged for state funds to be used to support catholic charities and catholic schools. again, think back to the school controversy we looked at earlier. protestants, of course, objected to this. they didn't like state funds going to catholic charities, but that they were willing to accept because catholic charities were sometimes the only charities
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around, especially the women's religious, the nuns, sisters who worked in orphanages like we've seen before, worked in orphanages, worked in hospitals. they were the ones caring for the oar when no one else would do it -- poor. and even the protestants realize this work had to be done if only to kind of maintain some semblance of social order. and so they kind of held their nose and were willing to allow state funds to be used to fund catholic charities that, one could argue, served the common good. charities such as orphanages and hospitals. schools were different. as we've seen, schools were the real hot button issue. and it was, the laws were such that it was illegal to have any money go to catholic schools. so, but what's the law between friends, as tweed might say. he had to be a little sneakier about this, but he still
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managedded to channel some funds to catholic schools. again, it was mainly the catholic charities that he, that he supported with state money. now, when tweed was confronted with this and accused of being, you know, favoring catholics, he would say, well, look, i'd send money to protestant charities as well. if catholic charities receive more, it's because they support me more, you know? st as basic as that. you get what you pay for. i'll take protestant votes, i don't mind. and if i get protestant votes, then i will return the favor by channeling some charity funds into protestant organizations. but again, catholic charities, particularly those run by religious sisters, nuns, were the most important private charities in new york in the 19th century. hay got money from tweed too -- they got money from tweed too. so, again, even if you're not directly using an orphanage, tweed, a scotch presbyterian,
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seems like a friend of irish catholics, he's a friend to the church. he's a friend to the good sisters who are running the orphanages and hospitals. so this is all great for tweed, you know? he's enriching himself, but he's spreading it around. and through that, he is earning loyalty. again, this isn't just like money. this isn't just like bribing someone to vote for you. he is building up a real kind of personal connection to voters. the whole tammany system is doing that. it's not just about money, it is about personal connection. however, it was also about money and a lot of it -- [laughter] and tweed, we could say, overreached in his grasp, again, to the tune of $45 million or so. so tweed was indicted. he kind of spent most of the rest of the 1870s in and out of jail. sometimes -- you know, he's convicted of some things, and then he gets reprieve.
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one time i think he even tried to escape to spain or something like that, but he was caught and brought back. he died in april of 1878, died very much kind of a broken man. now, again, as i said, irish catholics had, as i said, kind of a high tolerance for graft, but this just seemed to be going too far. again, it's not that he didn't spread the wealth around, but he kept a disproportionate amount for himself. still, irish catholics disappointed and kind of embarrassed by tweed because it seemed to confirm all of the worst criticisms and accusations head by protestants -- made by property stabilities, still they remained loyal to tammany hall and the democratic party. just to give you an example of their thinking, this is on 103,
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letter c, a writer for the catholic newspaper "the irish-hearn if" stated -- irish-american" stated one no more goes outside the party to purify it than one goes outside the church. to give you a sense of that connection. this wasn't just -- political party in this situation was not just a political party. it was, for them, almost as sacred as church because it was just as central to their survival. and, again, loyalty is everything. so they could not turn their backs on tammany and the democratic party simply because of corruption, a corruption that went too far. they wanted to reform it from with within. and that they would do, to some degree. reform in a kind of tammany sense. certainly scaling back the kind of, the extremes of tweed.
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being a little more moderate -- oh, yeah. >> so so did this corruption scandal have a brothered impact on, like -- broader impact on, like, the national democratic party or was it limited to new york city? >> good question. it certainly had national implications. harper's weekly was a national cartoon and -- publication, and nast's cartoons were spread across the country. they had a tremendous effect in terms of linking political corruption with local urban politic things. but at the same time, there's political corruption across the board. in the late 1860s the grant administration -- so this is the national republican, republican party rhetoric is one of kind of moral uprightness. we remember earlier grant's attack on catholic schools in the name of republican political
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principles. still, grant's administration was one of the most corrupt ever, was corrupt up to that point. so there was a lot of graft at the national level. it's interesting though that despite graft in the grant administration, the republican party still emerged as the party of good government. whatever graft was going on, they spoke the language of good government impurity where the tammany people and the democrats never spoke that way. even the southern democrats were not quite so righteous, if you l as the northern republicans -- if you will. and there is in coming out of both the corruption of the grant administration and other scandals, there's a movement at the national level for what they call civil service reform. and this is the idea -- i didn't want to get too much into it here, but it's a good question that you ask. and so to clarify at the national level, this is playing
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out at the national level as well. let's see, excuse me here. let me get a reliable marker. civil service reform. pendleton act. it was around, in the early 1880s. i don't have the exact date. but here's the situation. to cut down on graft on, like, just giving jobs to your friends, the idea is, well, we need -- we don't need cronies in government, we need people that can actually do the job. and so we need a civil service; that is, you're going to get a job in government not because you though -- you know somebody, but because you're qualified.
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so there will be a civil service test you will take. this is something that will be played out at the national level. there was the pendleton act, a civil service reform act that mandated that a greater percentage of federal government jobs would be acquired only through passing a civil service exam. this is in terms of the plunkett readings, this is one that i -- a big issue with plunkett as well. i chose not to focus on it for reasons that we'll see here, but this is also being played out at the local level. so civil service reform is something that connects national government politics and local politics. the whole tweed scandal and just the general operation of local politics convinced many reformers -- again, largely protestant reformer, people from that first political culture -- that the way to get good government was to have civil service reform, to have ideally every position in government
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being staffed by somebody who's qualified. how do we know that they're qualified? well, they passed the civil service test. now, i'll digress a bit here. because it's actually, this goes back to that james michael curley, the oft-times mayor and one-time governor in boston and massachusetts. he won his first elected position, he earned when he was in jail. he was in jail because he took, he and this other friend of his took civil service exams for a poor irish catholic who needed a city job but couldn't pass the civil service exam. and think of the civil service exam like an s.a.t. test. it's really, you know, whatever skills it might assess or judge, it is primarily a way of weeding
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people out or even, dare i say, the college degree, right? you go to apply for a job, you must have a four-year degree. really? to do this job, do i really need a four-year degree? yes, you do. probably don't need a four-year degree to do jobs, but it's required as a way of weeding people out. and that certainly was the purpose of the civil service at the local level. and so curley's response -- he was breaking the law, he was taking a test for somebody else, misrepresenting himself, but he turned that to his advantage in this campaign. his campaign slogan was he did it for a friend, and he got elected. [laughter] you know? you do it for a friend in okay, that's the kind of i guy, i want a friend like that, somebody who can help me out. so, again, this does -- the local and the national political conversation, if you will, do link up on civil service. but it is interesting how even to this day when we talk about corruption, it's always local, it's always the local
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politicians that are the corrupt ones. even contemporary politics. it's big government at the federal level attacked not so much for corruption, but for big government, big spending. it's not that bureaucrats are corrupt, it's that they're bureaucrats. but corruption continues to be a link to local politics. the smoke filled room, if you will. and even often, again, still with irish catholics even though, again, the irish catholic dominance of the city has long passed, but that image endures of the tammany-style politician. long after the demise of tammany hall, it's still a part of our language in america, as a symbol of corruption. tammany knew this, and they knew they could not simply go on conducting business as usual. and so they began a kind of
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reform effort of their own. the fall of boss tweed was actually a key transition point not just this tammany trying to spruce up an image to be more respectable, but in the shift from non-irish catholic leadership to irish catholic leadership. the key figure here on your outline here is honest john kelly who rose to power as the first if irish catholic boss in new york in the 1870s. kelly was a longtime tammany operative. he knew how it worked. but he had been ill and out of the country during the worst of the tweed scandals, and so he had a relatively clean record. now, again, most reformers weren't necessarily buying the honest john label, but the emergence of this irish catholic leader only heightened the tension. it's bad enough when a scotch
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presbyterian like tweed was leading this, now the irish catholics are in the leadership positions themselves. and, again, there is, there's some truth even to that nasty political cartoon that we began with of this link between irish catholics and local politics. it is true and best expressed by an anecdote often linked to old honest john kelly. currently, in 18799 the dedication of st. patrick 's cathedral in new york, kelly rose up to speak. now, kelly, just so you know, he was actually, he was married to the niece of new york's cardinal archbishop john mccloskey. so, okay, there's a connection there, a family connection. [laughter] those who might wonder about the church and local politics, there's definitely a connection there. but kelly, according to the story, apparently kind of raised his glass at this dinner after the dedication of the cathedral, he raised his glass and said god
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bless the two greatest organizations in the world, the catholic church and tammany hall. a brief pause. the person next to him says, what's the second one? [laughter] they are one. as, again, most people at the time, certainly most irish catholics at the time would have no problem with that. again, the irish supported tammany because tammany supported them in any number of ways. it was often the difference between life and death for the poor of new york. and, again, what are your options when you look at power. who do you turn to for help. do you turn to tammany hall, however much these people may enrich themselves, they do seem to care about you in some ways. brings you coal in winter when you have no heat. brings you a turkey at thanksgiving when you have nod food. -- no food. or the respectable mine owners
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this eastern pennsylvania who were all aboveboard and did everything, of course, according to the law. not everything according to the law, but presented themselves as being respectable, law-abiding even if they didn't care about their workers. there's no choice here for the poor this new york at the time. in new york at the time. and, again, tammany had that, for irish catholics in new york, had that personal connection, certainly. connection to the church, connection to neighborhood, ultimately connection to community. what i want to stress is though they are certainly disbursing material benefits, it's not just like here's a check, go buy something for yourself. it is, it is about community. and i think even though the reading that we have for today, the excerpts from plunkett, this text which this is the book that
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this comes from this this is, mt historians will deal it on the civil service issue. it was certainly undermining tammany-style politics. but i want to focus on another aspect of the book, the ways in which plunkett presents tammany in the context of community. again, it's not simply distributing material benefits, you know, go down and pick up a check and go home, it's about community and building relationships. but building relationships through, certainly, through providing material needs. george washington plunkett is your last image for today. the photograph, this is plunkett at the new york county courthouse boot black stand which is kind of his papal throne, if you will, where he speaks on sharing the political
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wisdom to new york. and this is the kind of place that a tammany politician would be kind of right in the heart of things. plunkett, like tweed, held a variety of positions, anything from local alderman and, like, a city councilman to new york state assembly and senator. but again, the particular position didn't matter so much as his access to patronage jobs. this is how he built loyalty from voters, and this is how he also enriched himself. and, again, think of the tweed scandal and the problem of kind of excessive enrichment. it was written 30 years or so after, 1905. things have changed somewhat. some distinctions, shall we say, have been introduced, but there's no pretension here. there's no, like, oh, we're honest politicians, we're
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aboveboard, we would never enrich ourselves through politics. no, he's very up front. the the first chapter is very up front about the fact that he does, in fact, enrich himself through politics. but he makes a key moral distinction here, perhaps one that you haven't encountered in your philosophy classes. the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. again, just to read you this passage here, everybody is talking these days about men growing rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawing the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. there's all the difference in the world between the two. yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics. i have myself. i head a big fortune out of the game, and i'm getting richer every day, but i'm not throwing in for dishonest graft, december orderly people. there's an honest graft, and i'm an example of how it works. i might sum up the whole thing
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by saying i see my opportunities, and i took 'em. let me explain by example. my party's in power in the city, and there's a lot of public improvement. they're going to lay out a new park in a certain place. i see my opportunity, and i take it. i go to that place and i buy up all the land i can in the neighborhood. the board of this or that makes the plan if public, and there's a rush to get my land. to charge a good price and make an investment on my foresight, of course i did. well, that's honest graft. so, again, let's say a unique, particular kind of moral distinction, but one there nonetheless. this didn't disturb reformers that everything was aboveboard. it certainly seems like -- and was -- kind of a justification for what he's doing, but he goes on to make a more important distinction.
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certainly the honest-dishonest graft is intended to be comical. all of these reflections are done in a kind of light way. this is not a work of political theory, though he takes on political theory a little later. but he goes on to headache a distinction -- to make a distinction that is for all of the lightness in tone, that is very is, very important. he does it in a chapter where he's responding to one of these exposes written at the time, a book "the shame of the cities," again, that's exposing the graft that in some ways he's freely admitting to. it's written by lincoln stephanes just, oh, go to the passage here. stephanes means well, but like all reformers, he don't know how to make distinctions. he can't see no difference between honest graft and dishonest graft. in consequence, he gets things all mixed up. there's the biggest kind of difference between the political looters and politicians who make a fortune out of politics by
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keeping their eyes wide open. the looter goes in for, in for himself alone without considering his organization or his city. the politician looks after his interests, the organization's interest and the city's interest all at the same time. see the distinction? for instance, i ain't no looter. i never hogged. i made my pile in politics, but at the same time, i served the organization, got more big improvements for new york city than any other living man, and i never monkeyed with the penal code. [laughter] you know, again, for his constituents if they're getting jobs on these improvements, these building projects, that's fine. it doesn't have to be equal. if anything, you know, the kind of fancy clothes he might wear would be something to aspire to for someone, but the big key is this distinction between a politician and a looter. a looter keeping it all for himself. and you can see looking back
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tweed, given the enormous disparity given what he took in and what he distributed, tweed would be judged a looter, keeping too much for himself, and that's the sin. that's the immorality, when you keep too much for yourself. but you spread it around, you take a little more for yourself, okay, you're the leader, you deserve to get a little more. but as long as you're spreading it around, let's say fairly if not exactly equally, then you're fine. again, think of what the alternatives are. the coal owners in eastern pennsylvania, the slaughterhouse owners that we'll be looking at later this semester after break, slaughterhouse owners on the back of the yards neighborhoods in chicago. so it's not that tammany has no moral cold, they just happen to have a different one. and the difference between right and wrong here is primarily how you treat others. it's not strict adherence to the rules. because for tammany people,
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politics is not about rules, it's not about ideas, it's about people. i assume most of the people in this class are history majors. you know, you were never led astray by, say, political science. [laughter] political science. well, plunkett himself has a few things to say about political science and book learning and all that. now, that's not to say that plunkett does not have his political theory, he does. like air spot thing and the often comment world and the founding fathers, plunkett believes that politics is rooted in human nature. politics is a reflection of human nature. plunkett just happens to have a different conception of human nature than maybe aristotle and the founding fathers. and this is in chapter six. to hold your district, to get reelected, to hold your district, study human nature and act accordingly.
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there's only one way to hold a district. study human nature and act accordingly. you can't study human nature in books -- sorry, people. books is a hindrance more than anything else. if you've been to college, so much of the worse for you. you'll have to honor all you learn before you can get right down to human nature, and learning takes a lot of time. some men can never forget what they learned in college, but some men may get to be the district leaders by a fluke, but they never last. to learn real human nature, you have to go out among the people. i know every man, woman and child in the 15th district except some that's been born summer. i know some of them too. i know what they like, what they don't like, they're strong at, what they're weak in, and i reach them by approaching at the right side. for instance, here's how i gathered in the young men. i hear of a young fella that's proud of his voice, thinks he can sing fine. i ask him to come around and join our glee club. he comes and sings, and he's a
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follower of plunkett for life. now, the young fellow has a reputation as baseball player in a vacant lot. i bring him into a baseball club. that fix him. you'll find him working for my ticket at polls every -- working for hi ticket at the polls next election day. and then there's the fellow that likes rowing on the river. the young fellow that -- [inaudible] around the block. i rope them in, all in by giving them opportunities to show themselves off. i don't trouble them with political arguments, i just study human nature and act accordingly. so again, he's building, he's building up loyalty not simply through politics directly or not discussing the great political theories or ideas or what needs to be done to improve the city or thinking like that, by giving people something to do, giving them a social life. encouraging the things that they like to do that they then come to associate with their political party. and a lot of interesting, just
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as a quick aside here, a lot of these activities that were done through political parties or through from fraternal organizations gradually get absorbed by the schools. school becomes everything. in the spirit of the civil service, we have to get people, you know, playing baseball for tammany hall? no, no, no, play for the high school. you want to sing? don't sing for tammany hall, sing for your high school. these activities -- sports, music, the arts, entertainment, if you will -- that people developed in this plait call context, political context, in the context of these political clubs, gradually the school absorbs everything. plunkett could see that happen, thus his bias against schools and book learning. so he, again, he sees human
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nature ask acts according. he gives people something to do. he builds up kind of community life through things that are not directly related to politics, singing, playing sports, but that have the political benefits for him. he gives them something to do, he encourages their activities, they pay him back by voting for him. and, again, this is kind of a multiplier effect. it just takes doing this for a few people, and people say, well, who should i vote for this november. tammany's great, they helped me sing, they helped me play baseball. in terms of human nature, aside from singing and playing sports, tammany hall also recognized more basic aspects of human nature, the need for food, clothing and shelter. and this is continued, a later section in chapter six, how to hold your district, study human nature and act a accordingly. later he says providing needed
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material for people. he writes, go right down among the oar families and help them -- poor families in help them in different ways. i've got a regular system for this. if there's a fire, for example, any hour of the day or night i'm usually there with some of my election district captains. the family is burnt out, i don't ask whether their republicans or democrats, and i don't refer them to the charity organizations which would investigate their case and decide they were worthy of help about the time they're dead from starvation. i just get quarters for them, buy clothes for them and take careful of them until they're up and running again. it's philanthropy, but it's politics too. mighty good politics. like he's setting the fires himself. [laughter] the poor are the most grateful in the world, and they have more friends in their neighborhoods than the rich have in theirs. if there's a family in want, i
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know it before the charitable societies do, and me and my men are the first on the ground. the consequence is that the poor look up to george w. money kept as a father -- plunkett as a father, come to him in time of trouble. the consequence is that the poor look up to george w. plunkett as a father. come to him in trouble and don't forget him on election day. so, again, these are kind of -- there's an exchange here. you need something, i need something. i just want to comment a bit on one part of this asage where he talks about the charity organization society. again, this is a big distinction at least at the time between like the protestant charity organizations which he's referring to and the catholic ones. among the protestants, there is much more a sense of, like, a suspicion of the poor. if you're poor, why are you poor? why do you need food? haven't you been saving your
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money? are you irresponsible? are you a drunk? we need to determine if you are truly needy or just a lazy good for nothing. this attitude was creeping into some catholic charity as well, but in general, the catholic notion from the bible that the poor -- oh, it's not your fault. look at the city. the city's full of poor people. you're going to say it's your fault because you're poor? so with the catholic organizations, charity organizations, there were generally far fewer questions out, but the protestant ones were notorious for undergoing this kind of moral scrutiny to make sure they weren't lazy good for nothings, you know, looking for a handout. and these attitudes, of course, are still with us today. i've spoken about tammany mainly in terms of irish catholics and, i think, certainly in the public profile at this time they were the dominant group. but new york was changing. certainly by the late 19th century there's a new wave of
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immigrants, you know, early in the semester we looked at the germans and the irish coming, but in the late 20th century, a new wave of immigrants largely from southern and eastern europe, a lot of italians and jews. you might think, oh, with italians there's going to be a natural religious connection between the irish, with the irish, but that reallien didn't play out. in some ways, the alliance was more with jews than with italians. as we've seen earlier in the semester, it's not like a common faith was able to overcome ethnic divisions within the church. in some ways it almost kind of increased the rivalry to some degree. but the demographics of new york are changing. new immigrants are coming in. what's tammany to do with them. historians have often a made a contrast between kind of east coast urban politics and the midwest saying that the irish on the east coast were a bit more
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tribal, like less willing to bring in other ethnic groups where in the midwest, chicago, for example, there was much more of a big tent in terms of ethnic groups. there certainly is some truth to that, but in money kept's own -- plunkett's own account tammany sees the new immigrants, and religion is not a divider for them. every person represents a vote. like before, i don't care if you're a republican or democrat, i'll help you the if i can get your vote, so when it comes to the new immigrant groups, i don't care what your ethnic group is, you know? everyone in new york city is a potential voter, and i'm going to do what i can to get your vote. and he says here toward the end in the last section, selection that i gave to you, and he's talking about johnny o'hern, 3rd and 4th district, the guys that are out on the street kind of making contact with the people,
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determining what they need and providing them with what they need. and so he writes johnny o'hern of the 3rd and 4th districts are just the men for such places. he's talking about there are different places in the city, different ethnic groups. o'hern's constituents are about half irishmen and half jews. he is as popular with one race as with the other. he eats corned beef and kosher meat with equal nonchalance, and it's all the same to him whether he takes his hat off the chump or puts it -- church or puts it down over his ears at the synagogue. when in rome. johnny o'hern, it's an irish name, but he moves freely among irish catholics and jews, jewish immigrants. and this irish/jewish alliance, if you will, was very important
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in new york at this time, certainly in the entertainment world. broadway dominated by the irish, kind of passed the torch to jews, and something we'll look at later in the semester when tammany produces its first presidential candidate, al smith. smith's team around him, his election team is largely jewish in composition. kind of eye -- irish/jewish alliance would continue on in tammany, even the first attempt at winning a national election. okay. so on that, any questions in -- any questions? okay. just to finish up here then, especially in that last passage that i read to you, by plunkett's account, poll politics seems capable of allying people across lines of ethnicity and religion.
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but, of course, the reality is more complicated. we've already seen how even within the catholic church ethnic divisions undermine unity. deeply divided by ethnicity because the ethnicity represented in some cases like when theirmans had a different language are -- germans, but in all cases certainly a different culture. and culture mattered. in the beginning of the next class and for the next couple of weeks we're going to keep our attention on the city but turn to a different city, the other great city of the industrial era, chicago. and, again, a particular neighborhood within the city, the back of the yard, slaughterhouse section of chicago. and we're going to look at the ways in which this largely catholic neighborhood if, nonetheless, was home to ethnic divisions that remained strong well into the 190 -- 1930s.
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we saw already how certain kind of church leaders tried to overcome these divisions by making everybody the same, by participating in the public school system and such. that wasn't going to work in chicago. ethnic ties were very, very strong. but what we'll see coming out of the back of the yards neighborhood in the late 19th century, into the 199-- 1930s is a new kind of politics, one that was rooted in of the practical concerns of tammany but was able to kind of move beyond them and form something like a principled language of justice, never going into the moralism of the protestant reformers. but still, some broader language of justice and a principled language of justice that was needed in response to the greatest economic challenge facing the city in the 19th and early 20th centuries. the great depression, a
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depression that didn't seem to end, didn't follow the cycle of previous ones, and it called for something more than the type of direct kind of material aid that tammany was able to provide before the depression. okay. so we'll see you all on thursday. [background sounds] >> did you know you can listen to lectures in history on the go? stream it as a podcast anywhere, anytime. you're watching american history tv. ♪ >> stay up-to-date on the latest in publishing with booktv's new podcast about books. we look at industry news and trends through insider interviews, reporting on the latest nonfiction releases and bestseller lists.
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you can find it on the c-span now app or wherever you get your podcasts. you can also watch about books online anytime at >> c-span's american history tv continues now. you can find the full schedule for the weekend on your program guide or at >> hi, my name is matt row sell, i'm a retired history teacher from upstate new york. and this is my presentation regarding my collection of world war ii interviews that i did over the it's 20 years -- the past 20 years. and one story in particular about a train that was liberated by a tank battalion from the u.s. army in the closing days of world war ii and what these soldiers found and what it led to 65, 70 years later. it's called the train near


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