tv Lectures in History Irish Catholics Tammany Hall CSPAN November 14, 2021 8:00am-9:16am EST
catholics and 19th century new york city politics. >> well, good morning, everyone. today's lecture is called tamany catholics. just to 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 kind of find their place in american culture. despite persistent and clear expressions of loyalty and patriotism and despite the real and 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 to be a foreign church
based in rome. they were, as we've seen, participants in a separate school system. even just by the virtue of their status as members of the working class at a time when the working classes are coming to be seen as the dangerous classes, catholics appearedded 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 really before the founding of the united states, many protestant-americans believed that the hierarchical authority, structures of the catholic church instilled submission and civility in catholics. you can recall that reading from john adams in the canon of feudal law where he described the catholic church as the root
of all evil, certainly the root of history. adams was not an outlier, that was a common component of anglo-american political culture. and it was this submission to the authority that rendered catholics bad citizens in the new republic, bad citizens unfit to participate in american republican, small r republican political institutions. hutch to the horror of native protestants, however, catholics -- and especially the host hated catholics, irish catholic ares -- turned out to be enthusiastic participants in the order. 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 the 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 america that protestants and catholics had different understandings of politics. and these different understandings, i think, are best understood not in different political theories, but as different political cultures. the contrast between the two cultures, i think, was best expressed in the work of a mid 20th century american historian richard hostetter. i do have this written down for you, the pulitzer prize-winning book "the age of reform" written
in 1955. it's about the late 19th century into the early 20th century after the new deal. and hostetter introduces this period with this illuminating contrast between two different political cultures. ing one of those cultures described as founded upon indigenous -- that means anglo, indigenous, middle class yankee protestant political traditions. this tradition assumed and demanded a constant disinterested activity of the citizen in public affairs. disinterested is the key. politics is not supposed to be about interest. it is disinterested activity. this tradition argued that that political life ought to be run in accordance with general principles and abstract law apart from personal if needs. we don't get into politics for our personal needs.
in addition, political culture carried 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. it started in the 1830s. these were directly political in terms of being part of a political party, things like the temperance movement are the best example of that. applied to politics, it means that politics should be used to raise the moral level of citizens. that's one political culture. according to hostetter, there was another political culture founded upon the european backgrounds of immigrants. got sort of native, yankee protestant the 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 them were,
however, very familiar with hierarchy and authority. not just catholics, but any immigrants coming from a kind of traditional peasant culture. immigrants come to america. they're not in search of political theory, her desperately in need of basic material sustenance. and they took for granted that political life would flow out of those needs, that politics was very much about interests. interest for them, 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 loyalty. and rather than allegiant, abstract laws or mores. so this is personal politics in a kind of immigrant 19th century way, personal connections, personal loyalties. these two ideal types, if you
will, of political culture can be somewhat abstract. i want to begin just by giveing you a very specific example, a real life example. this example comes from a book by historian jack beatty. the book is called "the rascal king." it's a biography of james michael curly, an irish catholic boston politician who, let's say, is a representative of that second culture. but this is what beatty has to say almost as if he were directly following hostetter. he writes: an arktypal -- archtypal boston story illustrates the resulting clash of cultures. a beacon hill lady -- kind of an elite within boston, standing for the first culture, yankee, protestant culture. a beacon hill lady once went ringing doorbells on behalf of a
high-minded candidate for the school committee many. at one house, an irish house lady listened politely and then asked doesn't he have a sister that works for the school or has something to do with the school system? the beacon hill lady was shocked at what she took to be suggestion of patronage. i assure you, madam, she replied, he is not the kind of man who would ever use his option to advance his sister. to which the south boston the housewife responded, well, if the s.o.b. won't even help his own sister, why should i vote for him? [laughter] and so that captures that contrast more than anything else. politics is about helping each other out in material ways, and, you know, for the south boston irish woman, it's not about making a million dollars, it's maybe getting a job for his sister or relative, something like that. his economic interests, sure, material interests, sure. very, very basic as the level of
survival, not enrichment. now, hostetter writing in 1955 wrote, he described this contrast as one of anglo versus ethic, 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 catholics by any means. many could be jews, protestants, orthodox, the greeks. but in terms of how this conflict played out in mainstream american culture, it was centrally a battle between protestants and catholics. certainly at the time understood in those terms. and this religious aspect of this conflict is most clear in that first political cartoon i sent you called the tamany priest.
a political cartoon by thomas nast who was appropriately named thomas nast, his cartoon the's very nasty particularly for catholics and the irish. but in this cartoon, nast makes very clear the religious dimension of this conflict. you have on the left hand of the cartoon you have this ape-like irishman. so that certainly covers the ethnic and the 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 who we can assume is also irish are carving up the democratic party, carving up the spoils, if you will, of local politics. and they're doing it -- can figures like hostetter and even more recent historians tend to
want to downplay the class on american catholic history. i want to stress that it is imonly to view these conflicts -- impossible to view these conflicts apart from religion. the religious divide is as sharp or sharper as any kind of class or racial or ethnic divide. so you have this image from thomas nast who is definitely speaking for the first culture as a yankee protestant the culture of an unholy alliance in urban america. an unholy alliance between irish catholic immigrants and an irish catholic church. this unholy alliance is generally associated with the urban democratic party, but went by the more specific name of tammany hall. that's the lecture title.
tammany was not the democratic party itself, it was a political club within the democratic party. so think of, i don't know, there's christendom college here, and they're the ones who control everything. and that's kind of how tammany hall functionedded. and ask 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. democratic party, again, the oldest party in the american national. it's extremely divided, the southern democratic party the party of slave holding, not a whole lot this common with the northern party. not slave holding anymore, but still very, very distinct from the northern democratic party. the southern democratic party is very anglo. not yankee, but certainly anglo, native. they can claim to be true the
americans. but the northern democratic party, the urban democratic party is heavily immigrant and so tends to be referred to more by the term tammany hall, a political club within the democratic party and in 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 with about the middle of the 20th century. and the image that you have here which is very much an image of tamny if hall certainly during suggests -- tammany hall suggests evil and corruption, again, from the perspective of that political culture. that is what tammany is, little call corruption. the reading that you have for today, however, gives a different, more os if view of -- more positive view within the culture itself.
so first we're going to -- the next part of the class we're going to 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 collections from to give you what you could say is maybe the response from within that second political culture. first political culture, looking from the outside, this is all corrupt, this is destroying american politics and american virtue. from within that culture, no, it's not destroying hearn politics or destroying virtue, it's just a different kind of virtue, a virtue very much rooted in community, as we shall see. nast, again, writing from that first political culture, anti-catholic and anti-irish. with all that being said, the charges of corruption, 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 is this image of tweed alone. this is the harper's weekly -- interesting, harper's weekly journal of civilization. but on the cover there's this fat, fat guy, and and that is william maher tweed, the tweed of the tweed ring. to this day, certainly for historians, he's a kind of a symbol of corrupt urban politics. william maher tweed was popularly known as boss tweed. boss meaning that he was the bos of politics -- 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 -- he was neither irish nor catholic. he was an immigrant, however. he was the son of immigrants, but immigrants of a scot presbyterian background. i don't know how much history you all know, but back in the old -- in ireland, there is no sharper conflict between irish catholic ares and scot everybody presbyterians. scottish. they were sworn enemies in the world world. and it's -- old world. and it's not like those battle lines completely disappeared in the new world. 18703, 1871, there were actually riots in new york city. they were called the orange riots. they weren't about oranges. [laughter] they were about orange, orange men were scottish presbyterians who centuries earlier had
supported william of orange in his fight against the catholic king, james ii. of course, you'll remember from your core classes. every year in july orangemen back in ireland would have, would raid. they'd kind of march through catholic areas of northern ireland celebrating this victory of rot instants over catholics -- protestants over catholics. it's not just an old world thing. it's caroled to over into the new world and carried over violently where in new york city new york city, orangemen would march through irish catholic sections of the city kind of rubbing their face in it, and riots ensued. that's an example of how old world resentments carried over, but tweed is representative of the possibilities of american life. most of his followers in politics were, in fact, eye --
irish catholics. tweed realized that he was in this cosmopolitan city, many different ethnic groups. ethnic groups also could vote, and you don't get votes by alienating people or dragging up old battles. so he was, tweed -- though by native anglo perspective was a little more american by virtue of being presbyterian -- nonetheless, kind of opened up to the catholic community, especially the irish catholic community. and we see this in his inner circle, the so-called tweed ring that is associated, again, with this, with this corruption. the next image i have sent out to you is of that of the tweed ring. you see a ring of people all accusing the other person of corruption. but there are four figures that are highlighted in this image. you can see the carryover from the harper's cover that the fat guy on the left there is tweed
himself. but going from the right, the little guy there is okie hall, often called elegant okie. he was the mayor of new york but a mayor who was hand picked by the real power of new york, boss tweed, the head of tammany hall. okie was an anglo, native anglo stock, and at this point it was important to have somebody like that out this front. even if they're only a figurehead, it would help to kind of soften the blow of this immigrant political power. they were trying to get critics -- give critics the illusion, if you will, that anglo-americans were still in power. so that kind of public figure, public face of the democratic party at least at the level of mayor around the time of tweed was okie hall. so you've got tweed, scotch rest by teen -- presbyterian, okieal,
anglo-american. but the other two figures right in the center of this picture here are irish catholics. richard "slippery dick" connolly who served as comptroller in the city government, and peter sweeney who served as commissioner of parks. now, neither of these positions suggests great political power. the mayor is the person who one runs things. been who runs things. but, no, no, no, not at this time. these minor, kind of unelected bureaucratic positions like comptroller and commissioner of parks, these were much more important because these were options 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. again, the sense of the onlies of the new world put aside old world resentments. they didn't say, oh, we're not going to vote, we're not going to support the scotch presbyterian. no, they supported him was he supported them. but there was undoubtedly and truly corruption, financial corruption at the heart. 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 budget before the civil war.
so this is a lot of money, 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. as 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 -- oh, yes, jack. >> [inaudible] >> yeah. >> 45 million? >> yes. the tweed ring, they a all shared, but he was the focus of the accusation, because he -- everybody, people like nast and the critics realized that he was the power behind the throne.
and so if you're going to, like, focus on somebody to indict him, it's going to be tweed. and, again, the indictment was -- [laughter] indeed, he was behind, behind all this. but aside from enriching himself, his job as head of tammany hall, again, was to pick the slate of candidates and make sure that they won by any means necessary, so to speak, including voter fraud; that is, repeaters or ballot box with creative arithmetic in the county or simple physical intimidation. this is something all through late 19th century urban politics you see. you'd go to the voting pool, and there'd be these monster guys with, like, 2x4s representing their candidate. and this is before necessarily
secret ballots. so you'd go in there, and people could see how you're voting. and familiar with more specific examples from chicago in the late 19th century, but, you know, election day in an american city late 19th century was almost a riot day sometimes. if the election 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 even at the trustee election in philadelphia. [laughter] these are catholics voting on who's going to be trustees in a church, and they turned to a brawl. look at the orange riot. 19th century city is a very, very violent city, and the things we've seen in recent years, the past year or so, are nothing compared to what was a fairly regular occurrence in the 19th century. and and often, again, often associated with voting.
so these tactics as well as tammany's irish catholic con tissue stipwent city -- constituency raised suspicions against tweed long before the charges were leveled in 18371. -- 1871. critics of the urban political culture, you know, had their suspicions all along. us itses rooted in the fact -- suspicions rooted in the fact that the political culture was catholic and was irish and was immigrant. but all that being said, those prejudices that they brought to, the reformers brought to, all that being said, the charges were, in fact, true. tweed had spent several decades working his way up the tammany ladder. 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 the tweed
ring. again, people that were largely unelected -- the mayor, of course, would be elected. how do they have all the power without being elected? they had the power because they controlled the finances of the city. and for two straight years in 1870-1871, the city of new york at tweed's direction borrow toed hundred. borrowed money sometimes directly from banks, sometimes through bonds, you know, creating bond programs for people to buy bonds in the hope of, as an investment, and even attracting foreign investors into new york city. so tweed was not too particular about where the money came from, how it arrived. he was 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 this money to the treasury of new york city? to pay for building projects. it's a city that is growing like every city in the 19th century. new york more than think -- 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 get caught at. his typical method was simply to add -- excuse me, to pad building contracts. so say, say a building, you know, you talk to the
contractor and the building would cost maybe $10,000 this 1870 dollars to build. okay, 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 guide the other $10,000 among ourselves. he could -- and with this arrangement, he could pretty much divide the extra funds between the big four and then a couple of accountants. gotta keep track of this, and you've got to keep your accountants happy. however, in this process there was at least one person that he did not keep happy. there's always an informer, isn't there always an informer? just like in the lawyer movies. a political enemy within the democratic party itself eventually got hold of the accounts and turned it over to "the new york times." and and that's how the tweed
ring was brought down. tweed's followers were shocked by the scale of the graft. the scale but not the nature of the graft. 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 a job from tweed. tweed's a good guy.
maybe someday he can help me. so there's that kind of direct patronage job. sometimes there was indirect financial benefit through, say, a job on these building projects that were funded by borrowing. so tweed is certainly lining his pockets from these building projects, but a working class new yorker is maybe getting a job on one of these building projects. so for them, hey, it's a job. and i have, you know, 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 my family. this is the level of survival. this is kind of basic survival. think of it in a city that this is not coal minus, although if you've seen pictures of new york city in the 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 at least seemed to care about you this some ways or the people that were operating coal mines in eastern pennsylvania who care nothing about you at all, who are willing to let you starve and just discard you. so 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 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 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 we've talked about before. irish catholics, very, very patriotic but also democrats and suspicious of a war to enslavery. when the war was going badly, some of that enthusiasm for the war waned, and they had to choose between patriotism for their country and just simply staying at home and supporting their family. and many of them wanted to stay at home and support their families and didn't want to risk going off to war and and 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 substitute was $300. this is well beyond the means of any working class new yorker. and so in response to the draft, there were, say it again, riots. the worst riots in american history. in the 1860s and 1960s, in both there were protests against the draft for very different reasons and from very different people. but as tumultuous as the 1960s seemed, the 1860s were far more violent in terms of the draft riots in new york city. craft riots in which irish catholics paid a prominent role. tweed comes to the rescue. he pays the bounty for 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 fight for war because you've got a family to support.
i will pay your bounty. and they'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 $30 signing bonus -- $300 signing bonus the 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 if they were married men so, again, he paid the bounty for some workers, and he paid the signing bonus for if other workers who are willing to go to the to 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 only deepened through the 1860s. to give you another camp, while serving in the state assembly -- and tweed's political positions, he jumped around all the time. it's not like today where people slowly work their way up, you know,ing congressman, senator, president, things like that. the political position that he had at any one time was not important as his position as held of tammany. but for a time in the 1860s he served in the new york state assembly, and he arranged for state funds to be used to support catholic charities and catholic schools. now, this, 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 around, especially the women, the nuns, the the sisters who worked in orphanages like we've seen before, worked in orphanages, worked in hospitals. they were the ones caring for the poor when no one else would coit. and even the protestants were always suspicious and realized that this work had to be done if only to 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. one could argue they served the common good. charities such as orphanages and hospitals. schools were different. and as we've seen, schools were the real hot button the issue. and it was, the laws were such that it was illegal to have think hundred go to -- any money go to catholic schools. but what's the law between friends, as tweed might say.
he had to be a little secretive about this, but he still managed to channel some funds to catholic schools. again, 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'd say, well, look, i send money to protestant charities as well. the catholic charities receive more, it's because they support he more, you know? it's as basic as that. you get what you pay for. i'll take protestant votes, i don't mind. and if i get protestant vote ises, 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. they got money from tweed too. so, again, another -- even if, you know, you're not directly using an orphanage, tweed, a
scotch presbyterian, seems like a friend of the church. he's a friend to the good sisters that are running 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. 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 and the whole tammany system is doing that. it's not just about money, it is about personal connections. 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 was
convicted of some things, then he gets freed. 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, irish catholics had a high tolerance for graft, but this just seemed to be going too far. again, it's not that he didn't spread 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. an example of their thinking,
this is on 103, letter c. a writer for the catholic newspaper "the irish-american" stated soon after the fall of tweed, one no more goes outside the party to purify if it than one goes outside the church. to give you a sense of that connection. you know, this wasn't just -- you know, political parties in this situation, it 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 simply because of a corruption that went too far. they wanted 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 tweed. being a little more moderate in -- oh, yeah. >> [inaudible] did this corruption scandal have a brothered impact on the national -- broader impact on the national democratic party, or was it mostly limited to new york city? >> good question. it certainly had national implications. harper's weekly was a national magazine, and nast's cartoons were spread across the country. and they did, they had a tremendousfect in terms of linking -- 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 -- so this is the national republican party, the rhetoric is one of kind of moral rightness. you remember we looked at earlier grant's attack on
catholic schools in the name of republican political principles. still, grant's, grant's administration was one of the most corrupt ever, at least corrupt up to that point. so there was a lot of draft at the national level -- the graft at the national level. interesting though despite graft in the grant administration, the republican party still the emerged as a kind of party of good government because they spoke whatever graft was going on, they spoke the language of good government and purity whereas the tammany people and the democrats never spoke that way. even the southern democrats were not quite so righteous, if you will, 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 this is the idea -- didn't want to get too much into it here, but 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. a reliable marker. [background sounds] civil service reform pendleton act. which was it was around the early 1880s, i don't have the exact date in mind. but here's the situation. to cut down on graft on, like, just giving jobs to your friends, the idea is like, 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 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 with the pendleton act, a civil service reform act that mandated that a greater percentage of federal government jobs would be acquired only through passing the civil service cam. this is in terms of the plunkett readings, 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. civil service reform is something that connects national government politics and local politics. the whole tweed scandal and just the general operations of local politics convinced many reformers -- again, largely protestant reformers, people from that first political culture -- that the way to get good government was to have civil service reform, was to
have, ideally, every position in government be staffed by somebody who's qualified. how do we know that they're quaff qualified? well, they passed the civil service test. now, i'll digress a bit here because this actually, this goes back to that james michael curly, the oft-times mayor and is one-time governor in boston ask 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 the thing -- think of it as 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 people out. 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. you probably don't need a four-year degree to do many jobs, but it's required as a way of weeding people out. and that certainly was the you were of the civil service exam at the local level. so curly's response, he was wreaking the law. he was taking a test for somebody else and misrepresenting himself. but he turned that to his advantage in his. campaign. his campaign slogan was he did it for a friend, and he got elected. [laughter] again, you doing it for a friend? that's the kind of guy -- i want a friend like that. you can help me out. so, again, this does -- the local and the national political conversation, to you will -- if you will, but it is interesting how even to this day when we talk about corruption, it's
always local, always the local politicians that is the corrupt one. even contemporary politics. government at the federal level is attacked, it's not so much for corruption but for, like, big government, big sending too much. it's not that bureaucrats are corrupt, it's that their bureaucrats. but corruption continues to be linked to local politic es. to smoke-filled rooms, to you will. and and often, again, still with irish catholics even though the dominance in the city has long past. but that image endures of a tammany-style politician. the term tammany long after the demise of tammany hall is still part of our political vocabulary when it comes to 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 of their own. the fall of boss tweed was actually a key transition point not just in tam many many -- tamm ark ny trying to spruce up its image, but in a shift of 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 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 heightens the ethnic tension.
it's bad enough when a scotch presbyterian like tweed was leading this irish cathic rabble. now the irish catholics are in the leadership position themselves. and again, there's some truth even to that nasty political cartoon that we began with, this 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 at the dedication of assistant st. patrick's cathedral in new york, kelly rose up -- just so you know, he was married to the niece of new york's cardinal archbishop mccloskey. [laughter] so there's a family connection there. 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
bless the two greatest organizations in the world, the catholic church and tammany hall. brief pause. person next to him, what's the second one? [laughter] they are one. and, again, most people at the time, certainly most irish catholics at the time would have no problem with that. again, 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, does seem to care about you have? brings you coal this winter when you have no heat, wrings you a you are turkey at thanksgiving when you have no food.
or the the respectable mine owners in eastern pennsylvania who were all above board and did everything, of course, according to the law, presented themselves as being respectable, law 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. and again, tammany had that, the irish catholics in new york that personal connection, certainly connection to the church, connection to neighborhood, ultimately, connection to community. though they are certainly dispersing material benefits, this isn't simply about material benefits. it's not like here's a check, go buy something for yourself. it is, it is about a community. and i think even though the reading that we have for today, the excerpts from money --
plunkett, this is the book, and the book comes from, this is, most historians that deal with this will often focus on civil service issue because plunkett has all these things to say about how it's ruining politics and everything, destroying politics, because it was certainly undermining tahmany-style politicses. but i want to focus on the ways in which plunkett and tammany in the context of community. again, it's not simply distributing material benefits, go down, pick up a check and go home. it's about community and building relationships. but building relationships through, certainly, through providing material needs. plunkett, 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 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 to 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 also how he enriched himself. and again, think of the tweed scandal and the problem of kind of excessive enrichment. the book of tammany hall was written 30 years after. 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
modest politicians, we're above board. we would never enrich ourselves through politics. no, he's very up front. the the first chapter's 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 to say aristocratic, but a key moral distinction here. perhaps one you haven't account for. this distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. and just to read you this passage here, everybody's talking these days about tammany men growing rich on graft. there's all the difference in the world. you ask many of our men grown rich in politics, i have myself. i've not gone in for dishonest graft -- blackmail and gamblers -- and either is any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics. there's an honest graft, and i'm
an example of how it works. i might sum up the whole thing by saying i see my opportunities, and i took 'em. let me explain by example. my party's in power in the city, and it's going on to take a lot of improvement. [inaudible] 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. from the board of this or that, and the rush to get the land which nobody cares in particular for before. charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight. of course i do. well, that's honest graft. so again, let's say a unique, particular kind of moral distinction, but one there nonetheless. again, this is the reformers that everything was aboveboard. it certainly seemed like and was this kind of justification for what he's doing. but he goes on to make a more
important distinction. certainly, the honest/dishonest graft is intend to be comical. all of these reflections, they're done in a very kind of light way. this is not work of political theory, though we'll see he takes on political theory a little later. but he goes on to make a distinction that 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," and it's exposing this corruption. it's exposing the graft that he's in some ways kind of freely admitting to. same of the cities written by lincoln stefans. go to the passage, 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 political
looters and politicians who make a fortune out of politics by keeping their eyes wide open. the looter goes in for himself alone without considering his organization or his city. the politician looks after the interest, the organizations' 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 hand, and i never monkeyed with the penal cold. so this rationalization, but again, for his constituents if they're getting jobs op 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. this distinction between a politician and a looter, a looter keeps it all for himself. and anding you could say looking
back tweed, given the enormous disparity between what he took in and what -- tweed would be a looter. that's the sense, that's the immorality. when you keep too much for yourself. but if 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 and slaughterhouse owners on the back of the yards neighborhoods in chicago. if. ..
it is not strict adherence to the rule because it is not about rules or ideas. it is about pull. i assume most people in this class are history majors, never let a stray by political science. there's a few things to say about political science and book learning and things like that. not to say he doesn't have a political theory. like aristotle and the founding fathers, politics is rooted in human nature, a reflection of human nature. just has a different conception of human nature than aristotle or the founding fathers indecision chapter 6, to hold
your district, study human nature and act accordingly. there's only one way to do it, study human nature and react accordingly, you study human nature in books. books is a hindrance more than anything else. if you've been to college so much the worse for you. you have to unlearn are you learned and the learning takes time. some men can never forget what they learned in college. some may be district leaders by a fluke. to learn real human nature you have to go out among the people, see and to be seen. every man, woman and child, i know some of them too. i know what they like, don't like, i reach them by approaching the right side. for instance here's how i gather in the young men. i hear of a young fellow who
thinks he can sing songs. i asked him to join ugly club, he comes and sings, the young fella has a reputation as a baseball player in a vacant lot. i bring them to our baseball club to find him working for my ticket at the polls next election day. then there is the fellow who likes rowing on the river. the young fellow who is handy with his juice. they show themselves off. i don't trouble them with political arguments, just that human nature and act accordingly. he is 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 but giving
people something to do, a social life, encouraging the things they like to do that they come to associate with their political party. a quick aside here. a lot of these activities done through political parties or through fraternal organizations, gradually get absorbed by the schools. the school becomes everything. we have to get people playing baseball, you want to sing, don't sing for nrcs, sing for your high school, these activities, sports, music, the arts, entertainment that people developed in this political context of these political clubs gradually the school absorbs everything. is bias against schools and
book learning, so again he sees human nature and act accordingly, gives people something to do, build up community life through things that are not directly related to politics but have political benefits for him. he gives them something to do and encourages their activities, they pay him back by voting for him. this is a multiplier effect, it takes doing this for a few people and then, who should i vote for this november, they help me sing and play baseball. in terms of human nature, aside from singing and playing sports, nrcs recognized more basic aspects of human nature, the need for food, clothing and shelter. this continued in a later section in chapter 6, hell to
study nature and act accordingly, later he writes in terms of direct aid fighting for material needs of people, you go right down and help them in different ways, they need help. i have a regular system for this. if there's a fire in ninth, 10 or eleventh avenue, any hour of day or night i'm there with my election district captains as soon as the fire engines, the family is burnt out, we did ask if there republican or democrat and deliver them to charity organizations that investigate the case and decide they were worthy of help about the time they are just from starvation. i just get quarters for them, and fix them up until i get things running again. it is philanthropy but it is politics too. good politics. think how many votes one of these fires bring me. he could be setting a fire himself. it works great for people in the world and they have more
friends than the rich have in there's. if there's a family in my district that wants i know it before the charitable societies do and me and my men our first. the consequence, come to him in time of trouble. the consequences, george w plunkett as a father, come to him in trouble and don't forget him on election day. again, these are kind of in exchange, you need something, i need something and i want to comment on one part of this passage where he talks about the charity organization society. a big distinction at the time between the protestant charity organizations which he is referring to a catholic ones, among the protestants there's a sense of suspicion of the poor.
if you are poor why are you for? haven't you been saving your money? are you responsible? we need to determine if you are truly needy or just a lazy good for nothing. the attitude was creeping into catholic charities as well that the catholic notion is it is not your fault. the city is full of poor people. it's not your fault you are poor. with catholic organizations, charity organizations there were fewer questions asked but the protestant ones were notorious for undergoing this moral scrutiny of the poor to make sure they weren't ways he good for nothings looking for handouts, and attitude that is still with us today. as spoken about nrcs mainly in terms of irish catholics and public profiles, they were the dominant group of new york was
changing. by the nineteenth century there is a new wave of immigrants, german and irish in the middle. the late twentieth century a new wave of immigrants from southern and eastern europe, italians and jews. you might think at how you and, there's going to be a natural religious connection between the irish with the irish but that didn't play out in terms of nrcs, the alliance was more with jews than italians. not like a common faith could overcome ethnic divisions in the church. increased the rivalry to some degree but the demographics of new york were changing, new immigrants were coming in.
what was nrcs to do. historians made a contrast between east coast urban politics and the midwest saying the irish on the east coast were more tribal, less willing to bring in other ethnic groups where in the midwest like chicago, a big tense in terms of ethnic groups there is some truth to that but in plunkett's own account nrcs sees the new immigrants, particularly jewish immigrants and religion is not a biter for the. every person represents a vote, he says i don't care if you're republican or democrat i will help you if i can get your vote. when it comes to immigrants i don't care what your ethnic group is, everyone in new york city is a potential voter and i will do what i can to get your vote. toward the end, the last section talking about johnny earn of the third and fourth
district, the guys in the street making contact with the people, determining what they need and providing them with what they need. he writes about this. they are just the men for such places, their different places, johnny heard was perfect for the third or fourth district. is consistent a half irish and half jews, he's popular with one is with the other, heats corn beef and kosher beef with equal nonchalance and it is all the same whether he takes his hat off in church or put it down over his ears in a synagogue. when in rome do as the romans do. example of an irish name but was really among irish
catholics and jewish immigrants and this irish jewish alliance if you will was very important in new york, certainly in the entertainment world, broadway dominated by the irish we will look out later, nrcs produces its first presidential candidate, smith's team around him, this election team is largely jewish in competition, the irish jewish alliance that conquered points to continues with his first attempt at winning a national election. questions? to finish up, the last passage that i read to you by public account politics seems capable
of uniting people across ethnicity and religion but the reality is more complicated. we have seen even in the catholic church ethnic divisions undermine unity, catholics who share a common faith are deeply divided by ethnicity because the ethnicities represented in some cases a different language, in all cases a different culture and culture mattered. faith is not enough to unite people across different cultures. in the next class and for the next couple weeks we will keep our attention on the city but turn to a different city, chicago and a particular neighborhood within the city, the slaughterhouse section of chicago and look at the ways
this largely catholic neighborhood nonetheless was home to ethnic divisions the remained strong well into the 1930s. we saw already how certain church leaders tried to overcome these divisions by making everybody the same, by getting rid of ethnicity by participating in the school system. that wasn't going to work, chicago's ethnic ties were very strong but we will see in the late nineteenth century to the 1930s a new kind of politics that was rooted in the practical concerns of nrcs but was able to move beyond them and form a principled language of justice. never going into the moralism of the protestant reform, the broader linkage of justice and the principles of justice that was needed in response to the greatest economic challenge facing the city, the great
continues, you can find the full schedule for the weekend on your program guide or c-span.org/history. >> my name is khorasan, retired history teacher from upstate new york and this is my presentation regarding my collection of world war ii interviews i did over the past 20 years and one 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