tv Lectures in History Irish Catholics Tammany Hall CSPAN November 11, 2021 11:33am-12:48pm EST
communications. >> broadband as a force for empowerment. that's why charter has invested billions, building infrastructure, upgrading technology, empowering opportunity, in communities big and small. charter is connecting us. >> charter communications along with these television companies support c-span2 as a public service. up next, another class from our series "lectures in history." >> good morning, everyone. in tammany catholic, we'll look at catholics in politics in the late 19th century. just to kind of put this in the context of what we've been looking at the past couple of weeks, what we've been looking at is this struggle for american catholics to find their place in american culture. despite persistent and clear
expressions of loyalty and patriotism, despite the real human sacrifice of life in the civil war, after the civil war, catholics remained a people viewed by most americans with suspicion and fear. a people apart, a people to be feared. a variety of reasons for this. they were members of what was perceived as a foreign church based in rome. they were participants in a separate school system. and even just by the virtue of their status in the working class, at a time when the working classes were coming to be seen as the dangerous classes, catholic americans were seen as a people apart, a people dangerously apart. catholic efforts to participate in mainstream american institutions only seemed to make things worse. and this is perhaps most clear in the area that we will look at
today, politics. from the founding, even before the founding of the united states, many protestant americans believed that the hierarchal authority structures of the catholic church instilled civility and submission in catholics. you'll recall the catholic church described as the root of all evil in history, certainly the root of all tyranny in history. adams was not an outlier on this front. that was a common component of anglo americans' political culture. it was this submission to authority that rendered catholics bad citizens in the new republic, bad citizens unfit to participate in american republican, small "r" republican political institutions. much to the horror of native protestants, however, catholics, and especially the most hated catholics of all, irish catholics, turned out to be
enthusiastic participants in the american political order. whatever their relation to authority within the church, catholics embraced american political institutions and american participation in those institutions. still, this did not prove that catholics could be good americans. if anything, native protestants responded by arguing that this participation itself was undermining the american political system because catholics did not understand the true nature of politics. what is the true nature of politics? i think that's something we're still debating today. but it is clear in the late 19th century, late 19th century america, that protestants and catholics had different understandings of politics. and these different understandings i think are best understood not as different political theories but as different political cultures.
the contrast between the two cultures was best expressed in the work of a mid-20th century historian, richard hofstetter, on the out line i do have this written down for you, richard hofstetter's pulitzer prize winning book, "the age of reform," about the period late 19th century through early 20th century, up through the new deal. hofstetter introduces this period with this illuminating contrast between two different political cultures. according to hofstetter, one of those cultures is described as founded upon indigenous, that means anglo, indigenous middle class yankee protestant political tradition. this yankee protestant political tradition assumed and demanded the constant disinterested activity of the citizen in
public affairs. "disinterested" is key here. politics is not supposed to be about interest. it is disinterested activity. this tradition argued that political life ought to be run in accordance with general principles and abstract law apart from personal needs. we don't get into politics for our personal needs. in addition, this political culture carried with it the assumption that government should be in a good part an effort to moralize the lives of individuals. we've seen a bit of this already with the moral reform traditions that started in the 1830s. these were directly political in terms of being part of political parties but things like the temperance movement are the best example of that, that temperance applied to politics means that politics should be used to raise the moral level of citizens. that's one political culture. according to hofstetter, there
is another political culture founded upon the european backgrounds of immigrants. we've got kind of native yankee protestant versus immigrants. these immigrant cultures were generally unfamiliar with independent political action. these people did not come from republics, they weren't voting citizens in any way. most of these immigrants were, however, very familiar with hierarchy and authority, not just catholics but any immigrant coming from a kind of traditional peasant culture, these cultures are structured as hierarchal authorities. these americans come to america, not in search of political theory. they're desperately in need of basic material sustenance. they took for granted that politics was very much about interests. their interests for them are largely interest in survival, basic, material survival. they understood politics not as
disinterested, impersonal activity, but politics mainly in terms of personal obligations and strong personal loyalties, not allegiance to abstract laws or morals. this is personal politics in the immigrant 19th century way, personal connections, personal loyalties. these two ideal types, if you will, of political cultures can be somewhat abstract. i want to begin by giving a very specific example of this contrast. a real life example from history. this example comes from a book by historian jack beatty. the book is called "the rascal king." it's a biography of james michael curley, an irish catholic boston politician who is let's say a representative of this second culture. this is what beatty has to say, almost as if he were directly following hofstetter.
beatty writes, an archetypal boston story illustrates the resulting clash of political cultures. a beacon hill lady, kind of an elite in boston, think of that as standing for the first culture, the yankee protestant culture, a beacon hill lady once went ringing door bells in irish south boston on behalf of a high minded candidate for the school committee. at one house, an irish housewife listened politely to the lady's pitch for her candidate and then asked, doesn't he have a sister who works for the schools or something to do with the school system? the beacon hill lady was shocked at what she took to be a suggestion of patronage. i assure you, madam, she is not the kind of man who would ever use his position to advance the interests of his sister, to which the south boston housewife responded, well, if the s.o.b.
won't help his own sister, why should i vote for him? that captures the contrast more than anything else. politics is about helping each other out in material ways. for this south boston irish woman, it's not about making a million dollars, it's maybe getting a job for his sister or relative or something like that. economic interests, sure. material interests, sure. but very, very basic, at the level of survival, not enrichment. now, hofstetter, writing in 1955, wrote -- he described this contrast as one of anglo versus ethnic, native versus immigrant. and that's certainly true. but that's fairly broad. ethnic and immigrant, he's using those terms to include a wide variety of groups, certainly not all immigrants were catholic by any means. it could include jews, protestant, even orthodox with the greeks. in terms of how this conflict played out in mainstream
american culture, it was essentially a battle between protestants and catholics. certainly at the time it was understood in those terms. and this religious aspect of this conflict is most clear in that first political cartoon i sent you. i called it tammany priest. a political cartoon by thomas nast who is appropriately named thomas nast, so many of his cartoons are very nasty particularly for catholics and the irish. but in this cartoon, nast again makes very clear the religious dimension of this conflict. you have on the left hand of the cartoon, this irishman, that certainly covers the ethnic and class elements of this political divide. but on the right, you have a priest. and in the middle you have a
goose with the label on it, the democratic party. and the ape-like irishman and the priest are carving up the democratic party, carving up the spoils, if you will, of local politics. i do want to stress, figures like hofstetter and even more recent historians tend to want to kind of downplay the religious element of this, and really class class and ethnic. i want to stress that it is impossible to view these conflicts apart from religion. the religious divide in america in the late 19th century is as sharp or sharper than any kind of class or ethnic or racial divides. so you have this image from thomas nast, who is definitely speaking for the first culture, the yankee protestant culture, of an unholy alliance in urban
america. an unholy alliance between irish catholic immigrants and irish catholic church. this unholy alliance is generally associated with the urban democratic party, the one by the more specific name of tammany hall. this is a lecture titled "tammany catholic." tammany hall was not a political party itself, it was a club within the democratic party. there's christendom college here and maybe an sac group, and the real power in princeton, they're the ones who control everything. that's how tammany hall functions. it does give some specificity as well to the northern democratic party. we haven't had too much time to look at it in this class. the democratic party, the oldest party, the american national, extremely divided regional.
the southern democratic party up until the civil war was the party of slave holding. not a whole lot of common interest with the northern party. after the civil war, it's not slave holding anymore but it is still distinctly southern and very, very distinct from the northern democratic party. the southern democratic party is very anglo, not yankee but certainly anglo, they can claim to be true americans. the urban democratic party is heavily immigrant and tends to be referred to more by the term tammany hall, a political club within the democratic party, rather than the democratic party per se. but this political club in new york controls new york city politics for much of the late 19th century and into about the middle of the 20th century. and the image that you have here, which is very much an image of tammany hall, certainly
suggests evil and corruption. again, from nast's perspective, from the perspective of that first political culture, that is what tammany is, political evil and corruption. the reading that you have for today, however, plunkett of tammany hall, gives a different, more positive view from within the culture itself. so first we're going to -- the next part of class, go over some of the history, the most relevant history of tammany hall in the middle of the 20th century. and then after that we will look at some selections from plunkett of tammany hall to give you a response from within that second political culture. first political culture, looking from the outside, this is all corruption, this is destroying american politics, an american version.
from that first political culture, anti-catholic, around at this irish. all that being said, the charges of corruption, that tammany was corrupt, these were not unfounded. in fact, thomas nast first made a national name for himself by covering the exposure of such corruption in tammany hall politics through a scandal known as the tweed ring. and your next image that i sent to you, this image of tweed alone, this is the "harper's weekly journal of civilization," on the cover there's this fat, fat guy, and that is william tweed, the tweed of the tweed ring, a figure that's still, i think, certainly for historians,
is kind of the symbol of corrupt urban politics. william maher tweed was popularly known as boss tweed, "boss" meaning that he was the boss of politics in new york. he was the one who called the shots due to his position in tammany hall. interestingly here, even though some people might associate tweed, tweediness, with some irish clothing, tweed was not himself irish nor catholic. he was an immigrant, however. he was the son of immigrants, but immigrants of scotch-presbyterian background. i don't know how much irish history you all know, but back in the old sod in ireland, there is no sharper conflict than that between irish catholics or scottish presbyterians. they were sworn enemies in the old world. and it's not like those old word
battle lines. it's completely disappeared in the new world. about the time of the tweed scandal, 1871, there were actually riots in new york city, they were called the orange riots. they weren't about oranges. they were about orange men, who were scot irish presbyterians, supported william of orange in his fight against the catholic king, james ii. of course you all remember this from your core classes. every year in july, orange men back in ireland would have parades, they would march through and celebrate the victory of protestants to catholics. it carried over into the new world, and carried over violently, where in new york city, 1870, 1871, orange men
would march through irish-catholic sections of the city, rubbing their faces in it, and riots ensued. so that's an example of how old world resentments carried over into the new. but tweed himself is the example of the possibilities of american life. he is of that same stock but many of his followers, now, most of his followers in politics were in fact irish catholics. tweed did not carry those old resentments over. tweed realized that he was in a cosmopolitan city, many different ethnic groups. ethnic groups could vote, and you don't get votes by alienating people or dragging up old battles. so tweed, though by native anglo perspective was a little more american being presbyterian and scottish, and opened up to the irish catholic community, and we see this in his inner circle,
the so called tweed ring that is associated, again, with this corruption. and the next image i have sent out to you is that of the tweed ring and, you see a ring of people all accusing the other person of corruption but there are four figures that are highlighted in this image. i think you can see the carryover from the harper's cover, the fat guy on the left there is tweed himself but going from the right, the kind of dweeby little guy is oake hall, often called elegant oake. he was the mayor, the mayor of new york but hand picked by the real power of new york, boss tweed, the head of tammany hall. he was of anglo native stock. it was important to have somebody like that out in front. even if they're only a figure head, it would help to kind of soften the blow of the ill grant
-- immigrant political power. they were trying to give critics the illusion, if you will, that anglo americans were still in power. the public face of the democratic party, at least at the level of mayor around the time of tweed was oake hall. so you've got tweed, scottish presbyterian, oake hall, an anglo american, but the other two figures, right in the center of the picture here are irish catholics. richard slippery dick connolly who served as comptroller in the city governor, and peter sweeny who served as commissioner of parks. neither of these positions suggest great political power. now you think the mayor runs things. not at this time, these kind of minor, unelected bureaucratic
positions like comptroller, 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, tammany's rank and file was overwhelmingly irish, and catholic, and tweed was seen as their champion by tweed's critics. so again, the sense of possibilities of the new world put aside old world resentments, they didn't say, oh, we're not going to vote or we're not going to support a scots presbyterian, they supported him because he supported them. >> but there was undoubtedly and truly corruption, at least financial corruption at the heart of this relationship. in 1871, "the new york times"
charged tweed with having looted the new york city treasury to the tune of $45 million. now, that may be chump change these days, but at the time it amounted to a sum greater than the entire annual u.s. federal budgets before the civil war. so this is a lot of money. it's a lot of money. at the time of the indictment, tweed served as the city's commissioner of public works. again, it seems like kind of a minor bureaucratic job position, nothing that would carry with it great power, but as i said before, his true political power lay in his position as head of tammany hall. it's head of tammany hall, he controlled the selection of candidates that the democratic
party would run. he picked the candidates. and he was in charge of making sure that those candidates. >> tweed using 459? >> the tweed ring, as i'll say here, they all shared but he was the focus of the accusation because people like naston and the critics realized he was the power behind the throne. if you're going to focus on somebody to indict, it was going to be tweed, and again, as we'll see, the indictment was fair enough because indeed he was behind all of this. but aside from enriching himself, his job as head of tammany hall again was to pick the slate of candidates, and to make sure that they won by any means necessary, so to speak. including voter fraud, that is repeaters or ballot box, or
creatives, arithmetic in the accounting or simple physical intimidation, and this is something all through the late 19th century, urban politics, you see, you go to the voting pool, and there would be monster guys with two by fours representing their candidate, and this is before necessarily secret ballots, so you would go in there, and people can see how you're voting, and familiar with more examples from chicago, in the late 19th century, but, you know, election day in an american city in the late 19th century was almost a riot day sometimes. if the selection was particularly contested, and there were sharp divisions, you could have brawls at the voting booth, but think back earlier in the semester when we looked at even the trustee election in philadelphia. there were catholics voting on who's going to be trustees in a church, and they turned to
brawls. think of the orange riots, 19th century city is a very very violent city, and the things that we've seen in recent years, or past years are nothing compared to what was a fairly regular occurrence. and again, often associated with voting. so these tactics, as well as tammany's irish catholic constituency raised suspicions about tweed long before the charges of embezzlement were leveled in 1871. again, tweed's critics, and the critics of the urban political culture, you know had their suspicions all along. suspicions rooted in the fact that this urban political culture was catholic, and irish, and immigrant, but all of that being said, those prejudices that the reformers brought to
the case. all of that being said, the charges, in fact, were true. tweed has spent several decades working his way up the tammany ladder and by the late 1860s, he was able to engineer a restructuring of new york city politics that consolidated all the real power in the hands of those four people that made up president tweed ring. in people that were largely unelected. the mayor of course would be elected, but how do they have all the power? without being elected, they have the power because they control the finances of the city. and for two straight years, 1870 to 1871, the city of new york at tweed's direction borrowed money, borrowed money directly sometimes from banks, sometimes through bond, you know, creating bond programs for people to buy
bonds, with the hope of -- as an investment and even attracting foreign investors into new york city. tweed was not so particular about where the money came from or how it arrived. he was just very interested in bringing money into the coffers of new york city. now, of course he's not doing this publicly at least, simply to enrich himself. why are people giving all of this money to the treasury of new york city, to pay for building projects. this is a city that is growing like every city in the 19th century new york, more than any other. so the city is growing, it needs roads, it needs buildings, it needs a lot of stuff. that's true. but how the stuff was built was how tweed enriched himself. so he's dealing with other people's money, borrowed funds. how does he make himself rich,
does he simply stick it in his pocket, and kind of straight embezzlement? that would be a little too easy, and a little too easy to be caught at. his typical call method was simply to pad building contracts. so say a building, you know, you talk to the contract, and the building would cost maybe $10,000 in $1,870 to build. so tweed says, give me a bill for $20,000, and you'll get your $10,000, you know, what you expect, and then me and my buddies will divide the other $10,000 a month ourselves. he could -- in this arrangement, he can pretty much divide the extra funds between the big four and then a couple of accountants. you got to keep track of this and keep your accountants happy. however, in this process, there
was at least one person that he did not keep happy. and isn't there always an informer, a political enemy within the democratic party itself eventually got hold of the accounts and turned it over to "the new york times." and so the -- and that's how the tweed ring was brought down. tweed's followers who were shocked by the scale of the graft, the scale, but not the nature of it. tweed's supporters generally accepted some kind of graft that is skimming off the top as the cost of doing business. why would they support such a corrupt politician, such a corrupt immoral political
practice? because they knew that however much tweed may have enriched himself, he to some degree shared the wealth. sometimes directly through patronage, that is getting a job in the city government itself. or even like giving a job to a cousin or a friend, you know somebody who got the job from tweed. tweed's a good guy. maybe some day he can help me. there's that kind of direct patronage job. sometimes there is indirect financials, a job on the building projects, refunded by borrowing. tweed is certainly lining his pockets on these building pockets but a working class new yorker is maybe getting a job on one of these building projects, so for them, it's a job. one way or another, i have tweed to thank for this. so tweed's okay with me. i don't care if he's getting his millions. i'm getting something. i'm feeding family, and this is
the level, you know, this is survival. this is kind of basic survival. he didn't think that as a situation similar to what we saw in the molly mcguire film, this is in the city, it's not coal mines, although, if you see any pictures of new york city in the late 19th century, it's almost as filthy as a coal mine, and the struggle for survival is very similar, and you know, what are your options if you're in the working class at this time? it's somebody like tweed who cares about you in some ways or the people operating the coal mines in pennsylvania who care nothing about you at all, who are willing to let you starve, and scar you. those are your options. 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 earned the ever lasting
loyalty of many poor irish catholics during the civil war, and controversy over the draft. we didn't have too much time toll 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. so lyndon did what had never been done before. he instituted a federal draft, that is people had to serve in the army. you had to serve unless you could buy your way out. 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 civil war to end slavery. when the war was going badly, some of that enthusiasm for the war waned and they had to choose between kind of patriotism for their country and staying at home and supporting their families. many of them wanted to stay at home and support their families, and didn't want to risk going off to war, dieing and leaving their families des tus. you could buy your way out if you got a substitute, but the cost of a substitute was $300. this is well beyond the means of any working class new yorker. and so in response to the draft, there were, dare i say it again, riots, and tremendous riots, some of the worst riots in american history. it's kind of history, the 1860s and the 1960s, there were protests against the draft for very different reasons and from very different people. it was the 1960s. the 1860s were far more violent
in terms of the draft riots in new york city, in which irish catholics played a prominent role. tweed came to the rescue. he pays the bounty for many of these irish catholics. $300. this isn't just tweed lining his pockets, he's certainly using city funds, but he says, okay. you don't want to go to fight for war because you've got a family to support. i will pay your bounty and you're like thank you, 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, you don't have a family to support, war may be your best option because there was a $300 signing bonus if you enlisted. to keep lincoln happy because, 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, we're concerned about their families. so again, he pays the bounty for some workers, and he pays the signing bonus for workers willing to go to the war. either way, he is sharing the wealth, shall we say, and again he becomes a hero for irish catholics because of this. this bond of loyalty forged most dramatically during the civil war between tweed and irish catholics in new york. only deepened through the 1860s just to give you another example. while serving in the state assembly, and tweed, his political positions, he jumped around all the time. today, people slowly work their way up, you know, congressmen, senator, president, things like that, the political position that he had at any one time was not as important as his position as head of tammany, but for a time in the 1860s, he served in
the state assembly, the new york state assembly, and he arranged for state funds to be used to support catholic charities, and catholic schools. now, think back to the school controversy that we looked at earlier. protestants, of course, objected to this. they didn't like state funds going to catholic charities, but they were willing to accept because catholic charities were the only charities around. the women religions, sisters who worked in orphanages, they were the ones caring for the poor when no one else would do t even the protestants are suspicious of the poor, realized this work had to be done to maintain some semblance of social order, and 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, and as we have seen, schools were the real hot button issue, and it was the -- the laws were sent that it was illegal to have any money go to catholic schools. so but the law between friends as tweed might say, he had to be a little sneakier about this, but managed to channel funds to catholic schools. it was mainly the catholic charities that he supported with state money. now, when tweed was confronted with this and accused of being, you know, favoring catholics, he would say, look, i send money to protestant charities as well. if catholic charities received more, they support me more. it's as basic as that. you get what you pay for. i'll take protestant votes, i don't mind, and i will return the favor by channelling some
charity funds into protestants. again, catholic charities, particularly those run by religious sisters, nuns were the most important private charities in new york in the 19th century. they got money from tweed, too. so again, another -- even if you're not directly using the orphanage, tweed a scot presbyterian seems like a friend of irish catholics a friend to the church, the good sisters running the orphanage, the hospitals. this is all great for tweed. he's enriching himself but he's spreading it around, and through that he is earning loyalty. this isn't just like money. bribing someone to vote for you. he is building up a real kind of personal connection to vote ers and the whole tammany system is
doing that. it's not just about money. it's about personal connection. and tweed, we could say overreached in his graft, again, to the tune of $45 million or so. so tweed was indicted. he spent most of the rest of the 1870s, in and out of jail. he's convicted of some things, gets reprieve. one time he 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 a broken man. now, again, this said, irish catholics have 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, though disappointed and kind of embarrassed by tweed, because it seemed to confirm, you know, all of the worst criticisms and accusations made by protestants, still they remained loyal to tammany hall and the democratic party. you can just see the example of their thinking. this is on roman numeral 3. a writer for the catholic newspaper, the irish american stated soon after the fall of tweed, one no more goes outside the party than one goes outside the church. and to give you a sense of that connection and, you know, this wasn't just -- political parties in this situation was not just a political party. it was for them, almost as sacred as the church because it was just as central to their
survival. and again, loyalty is everything. and so they could not turn their backs on tammany and the democratic party simply because of corruption, a corruption that went too far. they want to reform it from 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 the tweed. being a little more moderate in, oh, yeah. >> did this corruption scandal have a broader impact on the national democratic party or is it mostly limited to new york city? >> good question, it certainly had national implications, harper's weekly advocacy national magazine, and cartoons were spread across the country, and they did -- they had a tremendous effect in terms of
linking political corruption with local urban politics, but at the same time there's political corruption across the board. in the late 1860s, the grant administration, the republican party general, the rhetoric is one of kind of moral uprightness, and we looked at it earlier, grant's attack on catholic schools in the name of, you know, republican political principles. still, grants administration was one of the most corrupt ever, at least corrupt up to that point. so there was a hot of graft at the national level. it's interesting, though, that despite the graft in the grant administration, the republican party still emerged as a kind of party of good governance because they spoke that rhetoric, whatever a graft was going on, they spoke the language of good government and purity where the tammany people, the democrats
never spoke that way, even the southern democrats were not quite so righteous as the northern republicans. and there is in coming out of the corruption and the grant administration and other scandals, there's a movement at the national level for what they call civil service reform, and i didn't want to get too much into it here. it's a good question that you ask, so to clarify at the national level, this is playing out at the national level as well. excuse me here. got to get a reliable marker. civil service reform. pendleton act. it was around the early 1880s.
i don't have the exact date. but here's the situation. to cut down on graft on, like, just giving your job -- giving jobs to your friends, the idea is 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 know somebody, but because you're qualified, so there will be a civil service test you will take. this is something that will be played out at the national level. there's a pendleton act, if the 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 plunket readings, a big issue with plunket 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. civil service reform is something that connects national government politics and local politics. there's a whole tweed scandal in just the general operation of local politics convinced many reformers, again, largely protestant reformers, people from the first political culture, that the way to get good government was to have civil service reform, to have, ideally every position in government being staffed by somebody who was qualified, how do we know that they're qualified, well, they passed the civil service test. i digress because this goes back to one of the earlier figures i looked at. james michael curly, the mayor and one time governor in boston, and massachusetts. he won his first e lekked --
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 the thing is a civil service exam as an s.a.t. test, whatever skills it might assess or judge, it is primarily a way of weeding people out or 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 need a four-year degree? yes, you do. probably don't need a four year degree to do many jobs but it's required the way of weeding people out. and that certainly was the purpose of the civil service at the local level. and so curly's response, he was breaking the law. he was taking a test for somebody else, misrepresenting himself, but he turned that to his advantages in his campaign.
his campaign slogan was he did it for a friend, and he got elected. you know, again, you do it for a friend. that's the kind of guy, i want a friend like that who can help me out. so, again, this does, the local and the national political conversation, if you will, doling up on civil service, but it is interesting how, even to this day, when we talk about corruption, it's always localized, always the local politicians, particularly in ethnic politician that is the corrupt one, even, you know, contemporary politics, if government at the federal level is attacked, it's not so much for corruption but big government, big spending too much. it's not that bureaucrats are corrupt, it is 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 is long past, but that image endures. all tammany style politicians, the term tammany, long after the demise of tammany hall is still a part of our political vocabulary, as a symbol of kind 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 reform effort, but the fall of boss tweed was actually a key transition point, not just in tammany to spruce up its image to be more respectable, but in the shift from a nonirish catholic leadership to irish catholic leadership, and the key figure here on your outline here is honest john kelly, who rose to power as the first irish catholic boss in new york in the 1870s.
kelly was a long time tammany operative. he knew how tammany 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 heightens the ethnic tension. it's bad enough when scotts presbyterian, leading the irish catholic, now they are in leadership positions themselves. and again, there's some truth even that nasty political cartoon we began was the link between irish catholics, and local politics. it is true, it is true and best expressed by an anecdote often linked to old honest john kelly, apparently in 1879, the dedication of st. patrick's cathedral in new york, kelly rose up to speak.
just so you know, he was actually, he was married to the niece of new york's cardinal arch bishop, john mccloskey. there's a connection there: a family connection. reformers 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 the dinner at the cathedral. god bless the two greatest organizations in the world, the catholic church and tammany hall. a brief pause, the person next to him, what's the second one. it's like there are one. certainly most irish catholics would have no problem with that. again, irish supported tammany because tammany supported them in any number of ways. tammany 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, you turn to tammany hall, however much they may enrich themselves, does seem to care about you some way. brings you a turkey at thanksgiving when you have no food. or the respectable mine owners in eastern pennsylvania who were all above board and did everything of course according to the laws, 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 in new york at the time. and again, tammy had that irish catholics in new york, the personal connection, certainly a connection to the church, connection to neighborhood, ultimately a connection to
community, and so what i want to stress here is they are certainly disbursing material benefits this isn't simply about material benefits, here's a check, go by yourself something. it is about community, and i think even though the reading that we have for today, the excerpts from plunket, this text, which this is a book, a book that this comes from, this is -- most historians who deal with this will focus on the civil service issue because plunket has these things to say, how it's ruining politics, destroying politics, undermining tammany style politics. i want to focus on another aspect of the book, the ways in which plunket presents tammany in the context of community. again, it's not simply distributing material benefits, going to tammany, and pick up a
check and go home. it's about community and building. but building relationships through certainly providing material needs. plunket, george washington plunket is your last image for today. the photograph, this is plunket at the new york county courthouse boot black stand, which is kind of his papal thrown, if you will, on sharing the political 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. plunket, like tweed, held a variety of positions from anything from local alderman, kind of like a city councilman to new york state assembly, and again, the particular position didn't matter so much as his access to patronage jobs. this is how he built loyalty for voters, and this is also how he
enriched himself, and again, think of the tweed scandal, and the problem of kind of excessive enrichment. point of tammany hall was written 30 years after. 1935, things have changed somewhat, some distinctions shall we say have been introduced but there's no pretense here. there's no like, you know, we're honest politicians, above board. we would never enrich ourselves through politics. the first chapter is very up front about the fact that he does, in fact, enrich himself through politics, but he makes a key, i don't know how you would say a key moral distinction, one you haven't encountered in your philosophy classes, the distinction between honest graft, and dishonest graft, and just to read you this passage, everybody is talking these days
about tammany men growing rich on graft, nobody thinks the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft, there's all the distinction in the world between the two. many have grown rich in politics, i have myself, i made a big fortune out of the game, and getting richer every day, but i've not go gone for dishonest graft, blackmailers, saloon keepers, disorderly people, and neither is any of the men who have made fortunes in politics. there's an honest graft. i'm an example of how it works. i might sum up by saying i see my opportunities and took them. my party is in power in the city, and take a lot of public improvements, while i'm tipped off they're going to lay out a new park in a certain place: i see my opportunity and take t. i go to the place, and buy up the land in the neighborhood, makes the land public, and there's a rush to get my land which nobody cared particular for before. made it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight, of course it is,
well, that's honest graft. so again, let's say a unique particular kind of moral distinction, one there nonetheless. again, this didn't assure reformers that everything was above board. it certainly seems like and was just kind of a justification for what he's doing, but he goes on to make a more important distinction, certainly the honest dishonest graph is intended to be comical. all of these reflections are done in a very kind of light way. this is not a work of political theory. though we'll see he takes on political later. but he goes on to make a distinction that his for all of the lightness and tone of this, it is very very important. and he does it in a chapter where he's responding to one of these exposes that was written at the time, a book, the shame of the cities, that's exposing all of this corruption, that's exposing the graft that he's
freely admitting to. >> the shame of the city is written by lincoln stephans, stephans means well, like all reformers, he doesn't know how to make distinctions. he can't see a difference between honest graft, and dishonest graft. there's a big difference between political looters, and politicians who make a fortune out of politics by keeping their eyes wide open. a looter goes in for himself alone, without considering his organization or his city. the politician looks after his interests, the organization's interests, and the city's interests over time. see the distinction. for instance, i ain't no looter. a looter hogs it. i never hogged. i made my pile in politics, but at the same time, i served organization and got more big improvements in new york city than any other living man, and i never monkeyed with the penal code.
>> and you know, it's like fractionalization, sure, but again, for his constituents if they're getting jobs on improvements, building projects, that's fine. and it doesn't have to be equal. the kind of fancy clothes he might wear, might be something to aspire to. the big distinction is the politician and a looter. a looter keeps it all. you could say looking back, tweed given the enormous disparity between what he took in, and what he distributed, tweed would be judged a looter, 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 know, you're the leader, you deserve to get a little more. as long as you're spreading it around, let's say fairly, if not exactly equally, then you're fine, and again, think of what the alternatives are. the coal owners in eastern
pennsylvania, the slaughter house owners that we'll be looking at later this semester after break, and slaughter house owners on the back of the yard's neighborhood in chicago. so it's not that tammany has no moral code. 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. for tammany people, it's not about rules, ideas. it's about people. most of the people in this class are history majors. you were never led astray by political science. plunket himself has a few things to say about political science, and book learning, and all of that. now, that's not to say that plunket does not have his political theory.
he does, like aristotle in the ancient world and founding fathers, plunket believes that politics is rooted in human nature, a reflection of human nature. plunket happens to have a different conception of human nature and maybe aristotle and the founding fathers. this is in chapter 6, to hold your district, so it's like to hold your district to get reelected. to hold your district. human nature, and act according. there's only one way to hold a district, you must study human nature and act according. you can't study human nature in books. books is a hindrance, more than anything else. so much the worse for you. you have to unlearn all you learn before you can get right down to human nature and unlearning takes a lot of time. some men can never forget what they learned in college. they never last. to learn real human nature you have to go out among the people, see them and be seen.
i know every man, woman and child in the 15th district, except those that have been born this summer, i know some of them too. i know what they like. what they don't like. their weekends, and i reach them by approaching at the right right side. for instance, here's how i gather. i ask him to come around to washington hall and join our glee club. he comes and sings, and he's a follower of plunk et for life, the young fellow has a reputation as a baseball player in a vacant lot. i bring them into our baseball club. that fixes him. find him working for my tickets at the polls next election day. and then there's the fellow that likes rowing on the river, the young fellow that makes a name as a waltz on the block, i give them opportunities to show themselves off. i don't shower them with political arguments. i just study human nature and
act according. again, he's building up loyalty, not discussing the great political theories or ideas or what needs to be done to improve the city or anything thing like that, giving them a social life. and they come to associate with their political party, and as a quick aside here. a lot of these activities that were done through political parties or through a fraternal organization, often ethnic fraternal organizations, gradually get absorbed by the schools. the school becomes everything. 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 at your high school.
these activities, sports, music, the arts, entertainment. that people developed. in the context of political clubs, gradually the school absorbs everyone. plunket could see that happen, thus his bias, against schools and book learning. he builds up kind of community life through things that are not directly related to politics, singing, playing sports, but that have political benefits for him. he gives them something to do, encourages activities, they pay him back by voting for him. this is kind of a multiplier effect. it just takes doing this for a few people. say who should i vote for this
november and that will be all. tammany is great, they help me sing, they help me play baseball. in terms of human nature, aside from singing and playing sports, tammany also recognized more basic aspect of human nature, the need for food, clothing and shelter, and this is continued at a later section in chapter 6, how to hold your district, study nature and act accordingly. in terms of direct aid, fighting for the material needs of people, to go right down among poor teams, and help them in different ways they need help. i got a regular system for this. if there's a fire on 9th, 10th or 11th avenue, i'm usually there with election district captains, the family burned out, ask whether they are republicans and democrats and i don't refer them to the charity organization which would investigate their case in a month or two and decide they were worthy of help about the time they're dead from
starvation, just get quarters for them, buy clothes for them, and fix them up until they get things running again. it's philanthropy but it's politics too. who can tell how many votes one of these fires bring me. like he's setting the fires himself. great for people in the world, and let me tell you, they have more friends in their neighborhoods than the rich have in theirs. if there's a family in my district, i know it before the charitable societies do, and me and my men are first on the ground. i have a special look of such cases. the consequences that the poor look up to george w. plunket as a father, come to him in time of trouble. and don't waste your time. the consequences that the poor look up to george w. plunket 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
part of this passage where it talks about the charity organization society. again, this is a big distinction, at least, at the time between the protestant charity organizations which he's referring to and the catholic ones, and among the protestants, there was much more the sense of a suspicion of the poor. if you're poor, why are you poor. why do you need food. haven't you been saving money. are you irresponsible. we need to determine if you are truly needy or just a lazy good for nothing. this attitude was creeping into some catholic charities as well. in general, the catholic notion from the bible that the poor, well, it's not your fault. look at the city. the city is 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 are generally far fewer questions asked but the protestants were notorious for undergoing this
kind of moral scrutiny of the poor to make sure they weren't lazy good for nothings, you know, looking for handout, and these attitudes of course are still with us today. as spoken about tammany mainly in terms of irish catholics, and i think certainly in the public profile of tammany and the leadership 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 immigrants, early in the semester, we looked at the german, and irish. late 20th century, largely from the southern and eastern europe, so a lot of italians in new york city, largely italians and jews. you might think, oh, with italians, there's going to be a religious connection between the irish, with the irish, that didn't play out. in terms of the tammany politics, the alliance was more with jews than with italians, as we have seen earlier in the
semester, it's not like a common space was able to overcome ethnic divisions in the church. it increased the rivalry to some degree. the demographics of new york are changing. new immigrants are coming in. what's tammany to do with them? historians have often made a contrast between kind of east coast urban politics and the midwest. the irish on the east coast were more triable, less willing to bring in other ethnic groups. in the midwest, chicago being the best example, they were much intent in terms of ethnic groups. there was certainly truth to that. tammany sees the new immigrants, particularly the jewish immigrants, and you know, religion is not a divider for them. it's like every person represents a vote. and before he says, i don't care if you're a republican or democrat, i'll help you, i can get your vote, 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 at your vote. and this, he says, toward the end, the last selection that i gave for you. and he's talking about johnny hern of the third and fourth district, one of these, what i call healers, the guys out on the streets, kind of making contact for the people, determining what they need and providing them with what they need. and so he writes about this. johnny hern of the third and fourth districts are just the men for such places. he's talking about there's different places in the city, different ethnic groups. johnny hern is perfect for the third and fourth district, half irishmen and half jews. he's as popular with one race as the other. he eats corned beef and kosher
beef with equal nonchalance, and it's all the same whether he takes his hat off in church or pulls down over his ears in the synagogue. when in rome, do as the romans do. johnny hern, it's an irish name, but he moves freely among irish catholics, and jewish immigrants. and this irish jewish alliance, if you will, is very important in new york at this time, and certainly in the entertainment world, broadway, dominated by the irish, passed the torch to jews, and something we'll look at later in the semester when tammany produces its first presidential candidate, hal smith, smith's team around him is kind of election team is largely jewish in composition, for this kind of irish jewish alliance that plunket points to here would continue on in tammany, even to tammany's first attempt at winning a national
election. on that, any questions? >> especially in that last section i read to you, by plunket's account, politics is across lines of ethnicity and religion. of course the reality is more complicated. we have already seen, even within the catholic church, ethnic divisions, catholics who, you know, do share a common faith nonetheless, were deeply divided by ethnicity because the ethnicity represented in some case, like with the germans a different language, but in all cases, certainly a different culture, and culture matters. not enough to unite people across different cultures. 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 kind of great city of the industrial era, chicago. then again, a particular neighborhood within the city, the back of the yards, the slaughter house section of chicago. and we're going to look at the ways in which this largely catholic neighborhood, nonetheless was home to ethnic divisions that were made strong well into the 1930s. we saw already how a certain kind of church leaders tried to overcome these divisions by making everybody the same, by getting rid of ethnicity, by participating in the public school system, and such. that wasn't going to work in chicago. the ethnic ties were very very strong. what we'll see coming out of the back of the neighborhood in the late 19th century into the 1930s, is a new kind of politics, one rooted in the kind of 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 reformism, and the principled language of justice that was -- that was needed in response to the greatest economic challenge facing the city in the late 19th and early 20th century, the great depression, a depression that didn't seem to end, follow the cycle of previous ones, and 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.
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