tv Lectures in History Irish Catholics Tammany Hall CSPAN December 29, 2021 6:11pm-7:27pm EST
family" and "life in a klansman." clairmont mckenna professor john kinney talks about presidential speeches and public opinion 1970s to 1990s. wentworth institute of technology professor alison lang lectures on the women's suffrage movement, how women's voting rights activists and their opponents used images to support their causes. enjoy american history tv beginning tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern. another class from our series "lectures in history." >> hello, good morning, everyone. today's lecture is "tammany catholic." we'll be looking at catholics in american politics, especially american urban politics, in the late 19th century. to put this in context in what
we've been looking at this struggle for american catholics to kind of find their place in american culture. despite persistent and clear expressions of loyalty and patriotism, guess spite the real 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 for the record. a variety of reasons for this. they were members of what was perceived as a foreign church, based in rome. they were seen as 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 arebecoming to be seen as dangerous apart. catholic efforts to participate
in mainstream american institutions only seemed to make things worse. this is perhaps most clear in the area of politics. from the founding, really even before the founding of the united states, many protestant americans believed that the hierarchal authority, structures of the catholic church, instilled submission and certificatevillety in catholics. you can recall from reading from john adams on the canon of feudal law, he described the catholic church as the root of all evil in history. certainly the root of all tyranny in human history. adams was not an outlier, that was a common component of anglo american political culture. and it was this submission to authority that rendered catholics as 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 patrol stantes, catholics, especially irish catholics, turned out to be enthusiastic citizens in the public 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 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, 19th century america that protestants and catholics
had different understandings of politics. these different understandings are think i best understood not as different political theorys but as different political cultures. the contrast between the two cultures i think was best expressed in the work of a mid-20th century historian, richard hofstetter. on the outline i have this written down for you. richard hofstetter's pulitzer prize-winning book "age of confirm" about the century after the new deal. hofstetter introduces this new period with this illuminating contrast between two different political cultures. according to hofstetter, one of those cultures he describes as founded upon indigenous, mean
ing anglo, 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 interests. 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 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 weren't directly political in terms of being part of political parties, but things like the temperance movement is probably the best example of that. temperance applied to politics
means politics should be used to raise the moral level of citizens. that's one political culture. according to hofstetter, there's another political culture founded upon the european backgrounds of immigrants. so we've got native yankee protestant versus immigrants. these immigrant cultures were generally unfamiliar with independent political action. these people did not come from republics, they wrote 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 kind of a traditional peasant culture, these cultures are structured by hierarchy and authority. immigrants come to america. they're not in search of political theory. they are desperately in need of basic material sustenance. they took for granted that political life would flow out of those needs that politics was very much about interests.
the interests for them, largely interests in survival. basic material survival. they understood politics not as disinterested, impersonal activity, but politics mainly in terms of personal obligations, strong personal loyalties, rather than allegiance to be a tract laws or morals. so it's -- this is personal politics in an immigrant 19th century way. personal connections. personal loyalty. these two ideal types, if you will, 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 a story in "jack beade," the story called "the rascal king," james kerley, an irish catholic
boston population representative of that second culture. this is what beade has to say, almost as if they were just directly following hofstetter. beade writes, an archetypal boston story illustrates the resulting clash of political cultures. a beacon hill lady -- beacon hill is kind of an elite wasp enclave in boston, so think of that as standing for the first culture, the yankee protestant culture. a beacon hill lady once went ringing doorbells 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 has something to do with the school system? the beacon hill lady was shocked at what she took to be the suggestion of patronage.
i assure you, madam, he 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 said, if the s.o.b. won't help his own sister, why should i vote for him? so that captures that contrast more than anything else. politics is about helping each other out in material ways. for the south boston irish woman, it's not about making a million dollars, it's about maybe getting a job for a sister or relative or something like that. again, very -- economic interests, sure. material interests, sure. very, very basic, at the level of survival, not enrichment. hofstetter writing in 1955 wrote -- he described this contrast as one of anglo versus ethnic, native versus immigrant. that's certainly true, but that's fairly broad. ethnic and immigrant is using those terms to include a wide variety of groups. certainly not all immigrants were catholics by any means.
jews, protestants, even some orthodox with 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 a time it was understood in those terms. and this kind of religious aspect of this conflict is most clear in that first political cartoon i sent you. i think i called it tammany priest. a political cartoon by thomas nast, appropriately named thomas nast, so many of his cartoons are nasty, particularly for catholics and irish. but in this cartoon, nast again makes very clear the kind of religious dimension of this conflict. you have on the left hand of the cartoon, you have this ape-like
irishman. 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." the ape-like aye irishman and the priest, who we can assume also is irish, are carving up the democratic party. carving up the spoils, if you will, of local politics. and i do want to stress, figures like hoff setter and even more recent historians tend to want to downplay the religious element and stress class sxeth nick. i'd say it's class on american catholic history so i want to stress it is impossible to view these conflicts apart from religion. that the religious divide in america in the late 19th century is as sharp or sharper than any kind of class or ethnic or racial divide. so you have this image from
thomas nast, speaking for the yankee brought tant culture, of an "unholy alliance" in urban america. unholy alliance between irish catholic immigrants and an irish catholic church. this unholy alliance, generally associated with the urban democratic party, went by the specific name "tammany hall." thus the lecture title," tammany catholic." tammany hall was not the democratic party, it was a political club within the democratic party. maybe there's christendom power, there's the contra dance group, and real power is in the contra dance group, they control everything. that's how tammany hall functioned. did it give specificity to the
northern democratic party. we haven't had too much time to look at it in this class. democratic party, the oldest party in american national, is treectionly divided regionally. the southern democratic party until the civil war was the party of slave holding. not a whole lot of common interests with the northern party. after the civil war it is not slave holding anymore but distinctly southern, very distinct from the northern democratic party. the southern democratic party is very anglo. not yankee but anglo, native, they can claim to be true americans. the northern democratic party, the urban democratic party, is heavily immigrant so tends to be referred to more about think term tammany hall, a political club within the democratic party, than the democratic party per se. this political club in new york controlled the new york city politics for much of the late
19th century and into about the middle of the 20th century. 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, plinkett of tammany hall, gives a different, more positive view within the culture itself. first we're going to, for 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 what you could say is maybe the response from within that second political culture. first political culture, looking from the outside, this is all corruption, this is destroying
american politics, american virtue. from within that culture, no, it's not destroying american politics or destroying vir talk, 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, anti-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." 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 is this fat, fat guy. and that is william maher tweed.
the tweed of "the tweed ring." a figure that still i think to this day, 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 an irish -- neither irish nor catholic. he was actually -- he was an immigrant, however, the son of immigrants, but immigrants of scotch-president biden presbyterian background. back in ireland, there is no sharper conflict than that between irish catholics and
scottish presbyterian, or in northern ireland, scotch-irish presbyterian. sworn enemy in the old world. it's not like those old-world battle lines that completely disappeared in the new world. about the time of the tweed scandal, 1870, 1871, there were actually riots in new york city. they were called the orange riots. they weren't about oranges. they were about orange, orangemen, scotch-irish presbyterian who centuries earlier had followed and 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, orangemen back in ireland would have parades. kind of march through catholic areas of northern ireland, celebrating this vehicle re of protestants over catholics. it's not just an old world thing. it was carried over into the new
world. carried over violently, where in new york city, 1870, 1871, orangemen, self-styled orangemen, would march through irish catholic sections of the city, kind of rubbing their face in it, riots ensued. so that's an example of how old world resentments carried over into the new. but tweed himself is an example of the possibilities of american life. he is of that same stock, but many of his followers -- most of his followers in politics were irish catholics. tweed did not carry those old resentments over. tweed realized that if he was in a cosmopolitan city, many different ethnic groups, all of who could vote. 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 and
scottish, 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 corruption. the next image i have sent out to you is that of the tweed ring. you satisfy 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 is tweed himself. but going from the right, the kind of dweeby little guy there is okii hall, often called "elegant okie." who was the mayor. he was the mayor of new york. but a mayor who was handpicked by the real power in new york, boss tweed, the head of tammany hall. okie was of native anglo stock.
at this point it was important to have somebody like that out in front. even if they're only a figurehead, it would help to kind of soften the blow of this immigrant political power. it would give -- trying to give critics the illusion, if you will, that anglo americans were still in power. the 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-presbyterian. okie hall, anglo american. the other two figures, the ones that are 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. neither of these positions
suggest great political power. you think of the mayor as the person who runs things. no, no, no. not at this time. these kind of more 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 moretammany's rank and file was overwhelmingly irish and catholic. and tweed was seen as their champion by tweed's critics. tweed was seen by the irish catholics themselves as their champion. again, a sense of the possibilities of the new world to put aside old world resentments. they didn't say, we're not going to support a scotch presbyterian. no, 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. 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 a 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 those candidates -- >> sorry, wasn't tweed accused of stealing $45 million? >> yes, yes. the tweed ring is -- as i say, they all shared it in, but he was the focus of the accusation. because everybody -- people like nast and the critics realized that he was the power behind the throne. and so 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 this. but aside from enriching himself, his job as head of tammany hall 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 stuffing or creative arithmetic, maybe in the counting. or simple physical intimidation. this is something all through the late 19th century urban politics, you'd see -- you'd go to the voting pool, there would be monster guys with two by fours or something. representing their candidate. and this is before necessarily secret ballots. so you'd go in there, people can see how you're voting. and familiar with more specific examples from chicago, late 19th century. but election day in an american city in late 19th century was almost a riot day. 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. we looked at the trustee election in philadelphia. there were these catholics voting on who's going to be trustees in a church, and they turned into brawls. think of the orange riots. 19th century city is a very, very violent city. the things that we've seen in recent years, this past year or so, are nothing compared to what was a fairly regular occurrence in the 19th century and often associated with voting. these tactics, as well as tammany's irish catholic constituency, raised suspicions about tweed long before the charges of graft and embezzlement were leveled in 1871. so again, tweed's critics and the critics of this urban political culture had their suspicions all along, suspicions rooted in the fact that this urban political culture was
catholic and was irish and was immigrant. all that said, the prejudices brought to the case, the charges, in fact, were 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 who made up the tweed ring. people that were largely unelected. the mayor, of course, would be elected. how do they have all the power? without being elected? they have the power because they control the finances of the city. for two straight years, 1870, 1871, the city of new york at tweed's direction borrowed money.
borrowed money sometimes directly from banks, sometimes through bond -- 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 if you're tweed, tweed was not too particular about where the money came from or how it arrived. he was just very, very interested in bringing money into the coffers of new york city. 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. 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. 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 embed zellment? that would be a little too easy and a little too easy to get caught at. his typical method was simply to bad -- excuse me, to pad building contracts. so say a building this, you know -- you talk to the contractor, a building would cost maybe $10,000 in 1870 dollars to build. so tweed says, okay, give me a bill for $20,000. and you'll get your $10,000, which you expect, and then me and my buddies will divide the other $10,000 among ourselves. with this arrangement, he could pretty much divide the extra
funds between the big four and then a couple of accountants. you know, you've got to keep track of this, you've got to keep your accountants happy. however, in this process, there was at least one person that he did not keep happy. and there's always an informer, isn't there always an informer? just like in the "monthlily mcguire" movie. 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 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 pait tornadoage -- that is, getting a job in the city government itself. or even 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 funded by borrowing. tweed is certainly lining his pockets on 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.
i have -- one way or another, i have tweed to thank for this. and 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. survival, this is basic survival. you think of it as a situation similar to what we saw in the "molly mcguire" film. "susan in the city." though it's not coal mines. pictures of new york city in the late 19th century, it's almost as filthy as a coal mine. the struggle for survival is very similar. and what are your options if you're in the working class at this time? it's somebody like tweed, who at least seems to care about you in some way, or the people that were operating coal mines in eastern pennsylvania who care nothing about you at all. are willing to let you starve and discard you. those are your options. they are not living in an ideal world. 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 1863, the war was going badly. people in the north were no longer signing up. 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, you didn't have to
fight. there's a couple of considerations as we talked about before. irish catholics, very, very patriotic, but also democrats and suspicious of a war to end slavery. when the war was going badly enthusiasm waned and they had to choose between patriotism for their country, and simply 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, dying, leaving their families destitute. 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 worker. and so in response to the draft there were, dare i say it again, riots, tremendous riots, some of the worst riots in american history. it's interesting. 1860s, 1960s. in both there were protests
against the draft, for very different reasons, from very different people. but as tumultuous as the 1960s seemed, the 1860s were far more violent from terms of the draft riots in new york city. draft riots in which irish catholics played a prominent role. tweed comes to the rescue. he pays the bounty for many of these irish catholics. $300. so this isn't just tweed lining his pockets, cease 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 any will pay your bounty. they're like, thank you, boss tweed. thank you, boss tweed. for those who did want to go to war, single guy, 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 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, were concerned about their families. again, he pays the bounty for some workers. he pays the signing bonus nor other workers who are willing to go to the war. either way, he is sharing the wealth, shall we say. 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, tweed, his political positions, he jumped around all the time. it's not like today where people slowly work their way up.
congressman, 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. in the 1860s he served in the state assembly. new york state assembly. he arranged for state funds to be used to support catholic charities and catholic schools. 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 that they were willing to accept because catholic charities were sometimes the only charities around. especially the women religious, the nuns, sisters who worked in orphanages, worked in hospitals. they were the ones caring for the poor when no one else would do it. and even the protestants who were always suspicious of the poor realized that this work had to be done, if only to kind of
maintain some semblance of social order. so they kind of held their nose and were willing to allow state funds to be used to fund catholic charities that one could argue served the common good. charities such as orphanages, hospitals. schools were different. as we've seen, schools were the real hot-button issue. and it was -- the laws were set that it was illegal to have any money go to catholic schools. but what's the law between friends, as tweed might say. he had to be sneakier but he managed to channel funds to catholic schools. it was mainly the catholic charities that he supported with state money. when tweed was accused of favoring catholics, he said, i send money to protestant charities as well. if catholic charities receive
more, it's because they support me more, basic as that. you get what you pay for. i'll take protestant votes, i don't mind. if i get protestant votes, then i will return the favor by channeling some charity funds into protestant organizations. but again, catholic charities, particularly those run by religious sisters, nuns, were the most important private charities in new york in the 19th century. they got money from tweed too. so again, another -- even if you're not directly using an orphanage, tweed, a scotch presbyterian, seems like a friend of irish kath legs, he's a friend of the church, he's a friend to the good sisters who are running the orphanages and the hospitals. so this is all great for tweed. he's enriching himself. but he's spreading it around. and through that, he is earning loyalty. again, this isn't just money. this isn't just bribing somebody to vote for you.
he is building up a real kind of personal connection to voters. the whole tammany system doing that. it's not just about money, it is about personal connection. however, it was also about money, and a lot of it. and tweed, we could say, overreached in his graft, again, to the tune of $45 million or so. so tweed was indicted. spent most of the 1870s in and out of jail. sometimes convicted of some things, then gets a reprieve. one time i think 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 kind of a broken man. now, again, irish catholics had you could say 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, kind of embarrassed by tweed, because it seemed to confirm all of the worst criticisms and accusations made by protestants, still, they remained loyal to tammany hall and the democratic party. just to give you an example of their thinking, this is on iii-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 it than one goes outside the church." to give you a sense of that connection. that this wasn't just --
political party 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 tammany sense. iii, tammany in reform. certainly scaling back the kind of extremes of tweed. being a little more moderate -- oh, yeah? >> so did this corruption scandal have a broader impact on the national democratic party? or mostly limited to new york city? >> good question. it certainly had national implications. "harper's weekly" was a national
magazine. nast's cartoons were spread across the country. 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. this is the national republican -- the republican party general, the rhetoric is one of moral uprightness. remember when we looked at earlier grant's attack on catholic schools in the name of republican political principles. still, grant's administration was one of the most corrupt ever. corrupt up to that point. so there was a lot of graft at the national level. it's interesting, though, that despite graft in the grant administration, the republican party still emerged as the kind of party of good government.
because they spoke that rhetoric. whatever graft was going on, they spoke the language of good government and purity. where 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 both the corruption in the grant administration and other scandals, there's a movement at the national level for what they call civil service reform. this is the idea -- i didn't want to get too much into it here, but it's a good question that you ask. 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 -- early 1880s, i don't have the exact date in my mind. here's the situation. to cut down on graft, on like just 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. it's a civil service reform act that mandated that a greater percentage of federal government jobs would be acquired only through passing a civil service exam. this is, in terms of the
plunkett readings, it's a big issue as well. i chose not to focus on it for reasons that we'll see here. but this is also being played out at the local level. so civil service reform is something that connects national government politics and local politics. the whole tweed scandal, just the general operation of local politics, convinced many reformers -- largely protestant reformers, people from that first political culture -- that the way to get good government was to have civil service reform, to have ideally every position in government being staffed by somebody who was qualified. how do we know they're qualified? well, they passed a civil service test. i'll digress a bit here. because actually this goes back to one of those earlier figures i looked at. james michael kerley. the oftentimes mayor and
one-time governor in boston and massachusetts. he won his first elected position, he earned when he was in jail. he was in jail because he took, he and this other friend, took civil service exams for a poor irish catholic who needed a city job but couldn't pass the civil service exam. and think of the civil service exam as like an s.a.t. test. it's really whatever skills it might assess or judge, it is primarily a way of weeding people out or even, dare irsay, the college degree, right? you 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 continue need a four-year degree to do many jobs, but it's required, it's a way of weeding people out. that certainly was the purpose of the civil service at the local level. so kerley's response, he was
breaking the law, he was taking a test for somebody else, misrepresenting himself. but he turned that to his advantage in his campaign. his campaign slogan was, "he did it for a friend!" and he got elected. again, you do it for a friend, okay, that's the kind of guy -- i want a friend like that, somebody who can help me out. so again, this does -- the local and the national political conversation, if you will, do link up on civil service. but it is interesting how, even to this day, when we talk about corruption, it's always localized. it's always the local politicians. particularly an ethnic politician that is the corruption one. think of contemporary politicians. if government at the federal level is attacked, it's not so much for corruption but for big government, big spending, too much, it's not that bur accurates are corrupt, it's that they're bureaucrats. but corruption continues to be linked to local politics.
the smoke-filled room, if you will. even often, again, still with irish catholics. even though, again, the irish catholic dominance of the city has long passed. but that image endures of a tammany-style politician. the term "tammany," long after the demise of tammany hall, is still a part of our political vocabulary as a symbol of corruption. tammany knew this. 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 justin tammany trying to spruce up its image to be more respectable, but in the shift from a nonirish catholic relationship to irish catholic leadership. the fee figure 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. enough whea john label. but the emergence of this irish catholic leader only heightens the ethnic tension. it's bad enough when a scotch presbyterian like a tweet was leading this catholic rebel. now the catholics are in leadership themselves. again, there is some truth even to that nasty political cartoon that we began with. this link between irish catholics and politics. it is true. and it is best expressed by an
anecdote often linked to old honest john kelly. apparently, in 1879, at the dedication of st. patrick's cathedral in new york, kelly rose up to speak -- just so you know, he was married to the niece of new york's cardinal mccloskey. there's a connection there, a family connection. you may wonder about the church and local politics. there is a connection there but kelly, according to the story, apparently waste his glass 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. a person next to him says, what is the second one? it's like, they are one. and most irish catholics at the time would have no problem with that. again, the irish supported
tammany because tammany supported them in any number of ways. tammy was often the difference between life and death for the poor of new york. again, what are your options when you get to power? who do you turn to for help. do you turn to tammany hall? however much these people can enrich themselves, it does care about you in some way? brings you a turkey at thanksgiving? when you have no food? brings you coal when you have no heat? or respectable mine owners in pennsylvania, who were all above board and did everything by the law. obviously, not everything. but presented themselves as being respectful, law-abiding, even if they didn't care about their -- there is no choice here for the poor in new york at the time. again, tammany had --
irish catholics had that personal connection. that connection to the church. a connection to the neighborhood. hopefully a connection to the community. when i want to stress here is that they are certainly dispersing material, this is not simply about material benefits. it's not just, here's a check, go by something for yourself. it is about a community and i think even though the reading today -- the excerpts from plug it at tammany hall -- this text shows, the book that this comes from, this is -- most historians we deal with this would see this as a surface issue because punk it has all these things to say about civil service. because it was certainly undermining tammany style politics. but i want to focus on a different part of the book. the ways in which plug it
presents tammany and again it is not simply distributing material benefits but rather benefiting and building relationships but certainly through providing material needs as well. plunkett, george washington plunkett is your last image today. this is plunkett at a new york county courthouse boot black stand, which is his people thrown, if you will. where he shares political wisdom. this is the kind of place that a tammany politician would be right in the heart of things. folk like tweed held a variety of positions, such as local alderman, to new york state assembly and senator. but the particular position
didn't matter so much as access to patronage jobs. this is how he built loyalty for voters. this is also how he enriched himself. again, think of the tweed scandal and the problem of excessive enrichment. this was written 30 years or so after, 1905. things have changed somewhat. distinctions, shall we say. but there is no pretense here. there is no, oh, we are honest politicians, we are above board, we would never enrich ourselves through politics. no, he's very upfront. the first chapter is upfront about the fact that he does, in fact, enrich himself through politics. but he makes a key -- on our stopped all like distinction -- the distinction between honest
graft and dishonest graft. just to read you this passage here. everyone is talking about tammy and rich on graft. no one makes the distinction between honest and dishonest graft. there is all the difference in the world. yes, many have grown rich in politics. i have myself. i have made a big fortune out of the game. but i have not gone for this honest graft, disorderly people like that. and then there are men who have made big fortunes in politics. there is honest graft, not an example of how it works. i'm a sum up the whole thing by saying, i saw my opportunities and i took them. let me explain. you take a lot of public improvements. they are going to lay out a new parking service. i go to that place, seeing my opportunity and i take it. this makes the plan public.
and there is a rush to get the land, that no one cared for. is it on us to make an investment through charging on my own foresight? of course it is. a unique, particular kind of moral distinction but they are nonetheless. this didn't assure reformers that everything was above board. it certainly seems like it was, just kind of a justification. but he goes on to make a more important distinction. certainly, the honest and dishonest graft is intended. all of these reflections are done in a light way. this is not political theory, though it does take on political theory a little later. but he does make a distinction for all of the lightness in tone that is very important. there's a chapter where he is
responding to one of these exposés return at the time. a book, the shame of the cities, exposing corruption. exposing graft that he is, in some ways, freely admitting to. shame of the city is written by lincoln stephen's. i will look at a passage here. stephen's means we'll, but like all reformers, he doesn't make distinctions. he sees no distinction between honest graft and dishonest craft. he therefore gets things mixed up. there's a big 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 its interests. the organization's interests. and the city's interests at the same time. see the distinction? for instance, i am not a looter. i never hugged. i made my pile in politics but
at the same time i served the organization and got more improvements for new york city than any other living man. they're getting jobs op these improvements, these building these are rationalizations, to be sure. but for his constituents, if they are getting jobs on these improvements, that's fine. it doesn't have to be equal. if anything, the fancy clothes he may wear, it could be something to aspire to. but the key is this distinction between a politician and a looter. a looter keeps it all for himself. you could say, tweet, given the enormous disparity between what he took in and what he kept, tweed would be a looter. and that's the sin, when you keep too much for yourself. but you spread it around? you take more for yourself? okay, you are the leader, you deserve more. but as long as you are spreading it around, let's say,
fairly, if not exactly equally, then you are fine. again, think of what the alternatives are. the coal owners in eastern pennsylvania, the slaughterhouse owners that we will be looking at later this semester after the break. in the yards neighborhood in chicago. so, it's not that tammany has no moral code. they just had a different one. and the difference between right and wrong here is primarily in how you treat others. it is not strict adherence to the rules. because, for thao many people, politics is not about rules. it is not about ideas. it is about people. i assume most people in this class our history majors. you are never led astray by political science. [laughs] well, plunkett himself has a few things to say about
political science and a book learning and all that. now that's not to say that plunkett does not have his political theory. like aristotle and the ancient world and the founding fathers. plank it plunkett believes that politics is a reflection of human nature. he just happens to have a different conception of human nature. and this is in chapter six. to hold your district -- so, it's like, to hold your district, to get reelected -- study human nature and act accordingly. there is only one way to hold your district. study human nature and act accordingly. you cannot study human nature in books. books are a hindrance more than anything else. if you've been to college, so much the worse for you. you will have to learn all you learn. someone can never forget what they learned in college.
such men may get to be district leaders by a fluke. to learn real human nature, you have to go out among the people, see them and be seen. i know none other -- i know every man, woman and child in the district. i reach them by approaching at the right time. for instance, here is how i meet the young men. i hear a young fellow that is proud of his voice. i ask him to come around and enjoy the glee club. he sings and he is a follower of plunkett for life. the young follower gives gets a reputation as a baseball player. i will find him working for my ticket at the polls next election. and then there is the fellow that likes growing on the river, the young fellow that walsh is
on the bob. i recommend all of them by giving them opportunities. i don't trouble them with political arguments. i just studied human nature and act accordingly. so then, he is building up loyalty not simply through politics directly or discussing great political theories or what needs to be done to improve the city. it's by giving people something to do. by giving them a social life, encouraging the things that they like to do that they then come to associate with their political party. and a lot of it is interesting to just decide here -- a lot of these activities that were done through political parties or through fraternal organizations, often ethnic fraternal organizations, gradually get absorbed by the schools. the school becomes everything. and the spirit of the civil
service. we have to get people playing baseball for tammany hall? no, no. seeing at the high school. you want to sing for tammany hall? no, seeing for your school. these activities, sports, arts, music. entertainment, if you will. this entertainment that people developed in the context of political clubs, gradually, the school absorbs everything. plunkett see that happen, thus his biased against schools in brooklyn. so, again, he sees human nature and acts accordingly. he gives people something to do. he built up a community. with things not directly related to politics, like singing and sports. but that have application for him. he encourages their 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 and people say, who should i vote for? well, tammany is great. they help you sing and they help you play baseball. in terms of human nature, aside from singing and playing sports, tammany also recognized more basic aspects of human nature, the need for food, clothing, and shelter. this is continued in a later section in chapter six, how to hold your district study nature and act accordingly. later he, writes in terms of this direct aid, fighting for the material needs of people. to go right down among the poor families and help them in different ways, they need help. i have got a regular system for this, if there is a fire in ninth tenth or 11th avenue, for example, any hour of the day or, night i am usually there with some of my captains as soon as the fire engines. the family is burnt out, i don't ask whether they are
republicans or democrats, i don't refer them to the charity organization which would investigate their case in a month or two and decide if they are worthy of help, about the time they are dead from starvation. i just get quarters for them, buy clothes for them, if their clothes were burned up, i fix them up until they get things running again. it is philanthropy, but it is politics to. mighty good politics. who can tell how many votes one of these fires bring me? because he is setting the fires himself. the parliament is great for people in the world, let me tell you, they have more friends in their neighborhoods and the rich heaven theirs. there is a family in my district in want, i know it before the charitable societies do, and me and my mentor first on the ground. i have a special court to look up such cases. the consequence is that the poor look up to george w. pinkett as a father, come to him in time of trouble. the consequence is that the poor look up to george w. punk and as a father.
don't forget him on election day. again, these are, there is an exchange here. if you need something, i need something. i just want to comment on this part of this passage where he talks about the charity organization society. again, this is a big distinction, at least at the time between the protestant cherry organizations which he is referring to, and the catholic ones. among the protestant, there was much more this sense of, suspicion of the poor. if you are poor, why are you pour? why do you need food? haven't you been saving your money? have you been irresponsible? are you drunk? this is a sense of we need to determine if you are truly needy. or just a lazy good for nothing. this attitude was creeping into some catholic charity as well, but in general the catholic notion from the bible that the poor you always health, it is not your fault, look at the city. the city is full of poor people. how can you say it is your fault because you are port?
with catholic organizations, charity organizations, there are generally far fewer questions asked. the protestant ones were notorious for undergoing this kind of moral scrutiny of the poor to make sure that they were not lazy good for nothing's, you know, looking for a hand out. and at these attitudes of course are still with us today. i have spoken about tammany, mainly in terms of irish catholics, and certainly the public profile of tammany and the leadership at that time, they were the dominant group. but, new york was changing. certainly by the late 19th century, there is a new wave of immigrants, early in the semester we look at the germans on the irish coming in the middle, and late 20th century a new wave of immigrants largely from southern and eastern europe, a lot of italians, for new york city it is largely italians and jews. you might think, with italians there is going to be a natural religious connection between the irish, with the irish, but
that really didn't play out in some ways. in terms of tammany politics, the alliance was more with jews than with italians. as seen earlier in the semester, it is not like a common faith was able to overcome ethnic divisions within the church. it kind of increased the rivalry to some degree. the demographics of new york are changing. new immigrants are coming in. what is tammany to do with it? historians have often made a contrast between east coast urban politics, and the midwest, saying that the irish on the east coast were a bit more tribal, less willing to bring in other ethnic groups, where in the midwest like chicago, that they were much more content in terms of ethnic groups. there is certainly truth to that. but, in his own account, tammany sees the new immigrants, particularly the jewish immigrants, and religion is not a divider for that.
every person represents a vote. like before, he says i do not care if you're a republican or democrat, i will 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. i am going to do what i can to get your vote. he says here, towards the end of the last section, he is talking about, johnny hunt from the third or fourth district. the guys were out on the streets kind of making contact with the people, determining what they need, and providing them with what they need. he writes about this. johnny hern of the third and fourth districts are just the men for this. perfect for the third and fourth district.
hern's constituents are half irishman and half jews. he is as popular with one races with the other. he eats corn beef, and kosher meat with equal nonchalance. it is all the same time whether he takes his hat off in church, or puts it down over his ears in the synagogue. okay, one in rome, do as the romans do. his example here of certainly johnny interim, he moves freely among irish catholics and jews, jewish immigrants, this irish, jewish alliance if you will, was very important in new york at this time. broadway was dominated by the irish, kind of passed the torch to jews, and something we will look at earlier -- later in the semester, when tammany produces's first presidential candidate, how smith, his team around him, his election team it's largely jewish in composition.
this irish, jewish alliance that plank it points to hear would continue on in tammany, even to the first attempt of winning a national election. okay, so, on that, any questions? so, to finish up here. especially on that last part i read to you, by plank its account, politics seems capable of uniting people across lines, ethnicity, and religion. but of course, the reality is more complicated. we have already seen how even within the catholic church, ethnic divisions undermine unity. catholics who do share a common faith, nonetheless, were deeply divided by ethnicity, because the ethnicity represented, in some cases like with the germans, a different language, but in all cases certainly a different culture, and culture
mattered. faith was not enough to unite people across different cultures. in the beginning of the next clause, and for the next couple of weeks, we are going to keep our attention on the city, but turn to a different city. we have a great city of the industrial era, chicago. again, a particular neighborhood within the city, the back of the arts, the slaughterhouse section of chicago. we are going to look at the ways this largely catholic neighborhood, nonetheless, was home to ethnic divisions that remained strong well into the 1930s. we saw already how certain kind of church leaders tried to overcome these divisions by making everybody the same. by getting rid of ethnicity, by participating in public school systems and such. that was not going to work, chicago's ethnic ties were very, very strong. but, what we will see, coming out of the back of the
neighborhood in the 1930s was a new kind of politics. one that was in many ways rooted in the kind of, practical concerns of tammany, but was able to move beyond them, and form something like a principled language of justice. never going into the moral-ism of the protestant reformers, but still some broader language of justice, a principled language of justice that was needed in response to the greatest economic challenge facing this city in the late 19, earliest 20th century. the great depression, it didn't seem to and, didn't follow the cycle of previous ones, and it called for something more than the type of direct kind of material aid that tammany was able to provide before the depression. okay, so, we will see that on thursday.
later, the institute of technology professor allison lang lectures on the women suffrage movement, and how both women voting rights activist and their opponents fused images to support their causes. enjoy american history tv, beginning tonight at eight eastern, on c-span three, and every saturday on c-span two. up next, another class from our series, lectures in history. >> from july 13th to 16th, 1863, in the middle of the civil war, thousands of poor and working class white new yorkers incensed by inequities in the new military draft, resentful about wartime hardship, and inflamed by the lincoln administration's emancipation policies, looted and destroyed buildings, battled police state militia, and federal troops, and brutally attacked the cities african american residents.