tv Lectures in History Irish Catholics Tammany Hall CSPAN December 13, 2021 11:15am-12:32pm EST
were tasked with transcribing many of those conversations. in fact they were the ones who made sure that the conversations were taped, as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and theirs. >> you'll also hear some blunt talk. >> jim. >> yes, sir. >> i want a report of the number of people that signed to canada on me the day he died and the number assigned to me now and if mine are not less i want them less right quick. >> yes, sir. >> if i can't go to the bathroom, won't go, i promise i'll stay right behind these black gates. >> presidential recordings. find it on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts. up next, another class from our series "lectures in history." >> well, good morning, everyone. today's lecture, which i sent
you the outline in advance, is called "tammany catholic." we'll be looking at catholics in american politics, especially american urban politics, in the late 19th century. just to kind of put this in the context of what we've been looking at the past couple of weeks, again, 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 kind of human sacrifice of life in the civil war, after the civil war, catholics remained a people viewed by most americans with suspicion and fear. a people apart, a people to be feared. a variety of reasons for this. they were members of what was perceived as a foreign church based in rome. they were, as we've seen, participants in a separate school system. and 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 appeared to many non-catholic americans as a people apart, a people dangerously apart. catholic efforts to participate in mainstream american institutions only seemed to make things worse. and this is perhaps most clear in the area that we will look at today, politics. from the founding, even before the founding of the united states, many protestant americans believed that the hierarchal authority structures of the catholic church instilled submission and certificate serv catholics. adams was not an outlier on this front. that was a common component of anglo american political culture. and it was this submission to
authority that rendered catholics bad citizens in the new republic, bad citizens to unfit to participate in american republican, small "r" republican, political institutions. much to the horror of native protestants, catholics turned out to be enthusiastic participants in the american political order. whatever their relation to authority within the church, catholics embraced american political institutions and american participation in those institutions. still, this did not prove that catholics could be good americans. if anything, native protestants responded by arguing that this participation itself was undermining the american political system, because catholics did not understand the true nature of politics. what is the true nature of
politics? i think that's something we're still debating today. but it is clear in the late 19th century, late 19th century america, that protestants and catholics had different understandings of politics and these different understandings i think are best understood not as different political theories but as different political cultures. the contrast between the two cultures i think was best expressed in the work of a mid-20th century american historian, richard hoffstetder. his book is about the period in the late 19th century until the early 20th century, the new deal. he introduces this period with this very illuminating contrast between two different political
cultures. according to hoffstetder he advice as founded upon indigenous, that means anglo, indigenous middle class yankee protestant political traditions. this yankee protestant political tradition assumed and demanded the constant disinterested activity of the citizen in public -- "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 our personal needs. in addition, this political culture carried with it the assumption that government should be in good part an effort to moralize the lives of individuals. we've seen a little bit of this already with the moral reform
traditions that started in the 1830s. these were directly political in terms of being part of political parties. but things like the temperance movement is the best example of that, that temperance applied to politics means that politics should be used to raise the moral level of citizens. that's one political culture. according to hoffstetder there is another political culture founded upon the european backgrounds of immigrants. you've got the native yankee protestant versus immigrants. these immigrant cultures were generally unfamiliar with independent political action. these people did not come from republics, they weren't voting citizens in any way. most of these immigrants were, however, very familiar with hierarchy and authority, not just catholics but any immigrant coming from a kind of traditional peasant culture, these cultures are structured by
hierarchy and authority. these immigrants are not in search of political theory. they're desperately in need of basic material sustenance and they took for granted that political life would flow out of these needs, that politics was very much about interests. interests for them was largely interest in survival, basic, material survival. they understood politics not as disinterested, impersonal activity, but politics mainly in terms of personal obligations and strong personal loyalties, rather than allegiance to abstract laws or norms. this is personal politics in a kind of immigrant 19th century way. personal connections, personal loyalty. these two ideal types, if you will, of political cultures can be somewhat abstract. i want to begin just by giving a very specific example of this contrast. a real life example from history. this example comes from a book
by historian jack beatty. the book is called "the rascal king." it's a biography of james michael curly, an irish catholic boston politician who let's say is a representative of that second culture. this is what beatty has to say, almost as if he were just directly following hoffstetder. beatty writes, an archetypal boston story illustrates the resulting clash of political cultures. a beacon hill lady, beacon hill is kind of an elite enclave within boston, think of that as standing for the first culture, the yankee protestant culture, a beacon hill lady once went ranging door bells on behalf of a school committee. in one house an irish wife
listened politely at her pitch for a local school board candidate. i assure you, she said, he is not the kind of man who would advance the interests of his sister. to which the housewife responded, if the s.o.b. won't help his own sister, why should i vote for him? that captures that contrast more than anything else. politics is about helping each other out in material ways. for this south boston irish woman, it's not about making a million dollars, it's just maybe getting a job for his sister or relative or something like that. economic interests, sure, material interests, sure, but very basic, at the level of survival, not enrichment. now, hoffstetder writing in 1955, he described this contrast as one of anglo versus ethnic,
native versus immigrant. that's true, but he's using those terms to include a wide variety of groups, certainly not all immigrants were catholics by any means. many jews, protestants, even some orthodox, particularly with the greeks. but in terms of how this conflict played out in mainstream american culture, it was essentially a battle between protestants and catholics who certainly at the time understood it in those terms. this 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 who was appropriately named thomas nast because so many of his cartoons are very nasty, particularly for catholics and the irish.
but in this cartoon, nast again makes very clear the religious dimension of this conflict. you have on the left hand of the cartoon, you have this ape-like irishman, that certainly covers the ethnic and class elements of this political divide. but on the right you have a priest. and in the middle you have a goose with a 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. i do want to stress, figures like hoffstetder and even more recent historians want to downplay the ethnic elements of this. i want to stress it is impossible to view these
conflicts apart from religion. the religious divide in the late 19th century is as sharp or sharper than any kind of class or racial divide. so you have this image from thomas nast, who is definitely speaking for the first culture, the yankee protestant culture, of an unholy alliance in urban america, an unholy alliance between irish catholic immigrants and the irish catholic church. this unholy alliance, generally associated with the urban democratic party, but went by the more specific name of tammany hall, thus the lecture title today, tammany catholic. tammany hall 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 maybe there's an sac group,
maybe the contradance group, and the real power in christendom is the contradance group, they're the ones who control everything. that's kind of how tammany hall functioned. it did give some specificity as well to the northern democratic party. we haven't had too much time to look at in this class, the democratic party, the oldest party in american national -- extremely divided regional. the southern democratic party up until the civil war was the party of slave holding, not a whole lot of common interest with the northern part of the party. after the civil war it's not slave holding anymore but it's still distinctly southern and 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 americans. but the northern democratic party, the urban democratic party is heavily immigrants and tends to be referred to more by this term tammany hall, a
political club within the democratic party rather than the democratic party per se. but this political club in new york controlled new york city politics for much of the late 19th century and into about the middle of the 20th century. and the image that you have here, which is very much an image of tammany hall, certainly suggests evil and corruption. again, from nast's perspective, from the perspective of that first political culture, that is what tammany is, political evil and corruption. the reading that you have for today, however, plunkett of tammany hall, gives a different, more positive view from within the culture itself. so first we're going to -- the next part of the 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 and american virtue. from within the culture, no, it's not destroying american 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, anti-irish. with all that being said, the charges of corruption, that tammany was corrupt, these were not unfounded. in fact, thomas nast first made a national name for himself by covering the exposure of such corruption in tammany hall politics through a scandal known as the tweed ring. and your next image that i sent
to you is this image of tweed, this is the "harpers weekly surgery of civilization," on the cover there is this fat, fat guy, and that is william maher tweed, the tweed of the tweed ring, a figure that's 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 irish, he was neither irish nor catholic. he was an immigrant, however, the son of immigrants, but
immigrants of scotch presbyterian background. i don't know how much irish history you all know, but back in the old sod in ireland, there is no sharper conflict than that between irish catholics and scottish presbyterians, in northern ireland it would be scotch-irish presbyterians. they were sworn enemies in the old world. it's not like those old world battle lines 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 orangemen, scotch-irish presbyterians who centuries earlier had supported william of orange in his fight against the catholic king james ii. of course you'll remember this from your core classes. every year in july, orangemen
back in ireland would have parades, they would kind of march through catholic areas of northern ireland celebrating this victory of protestants over catholics. it's not just an old world thing. it was carried over to the new world and 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, and riots ensued. that's an example of how old world resentments carried over to 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, if not most of his followers in politics, were in fact irish catholics. tweed did not carry those old resentments over. tweed realized that he was in a cosmopolitan city, many different ethnic groups, ethnic groups all who could vote, and you don't get votes by
alienating people or dragging up old battles. so tweed, though by native anglo perspective was a little more american by virtue of being presbyterian and scottish as opposed to irish and catholic, 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, and you see a ring of people all accusing the other person of corruption. but there are four figures that are highlighted in this image. you can see the carry-over from the "harpers" cover, the fat guy on the left there is tweed himself. but going from the right, the quite dweedie little guy there is oaky hall, often called elegant oaky. he was the mayor. he was the mayor of new york.
but a mayor who was hand-picked by the real power in new york, boss tweed, the head of tammany hall. oaky was of native anglo stock. and 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 -- at least they were trying to 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 oaky hall. so you've got tweed, scotch presbyterian. oaky hall, anglo american. but the other two figures, the ones that are interestingly 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. now you think of the mayor as the person who runs things. but no, not at this time. these kind of more minor, really unelected bureaucratic positions like comptroller and commissioner of parks, these were much more important, because these were positions that dealt with finances and jobs. so half of the tweed ring is irish catholic. but more importantly, tammany's rank and file was overwhelmingly irish and catholic. and tweed was seen as their champion by tweed's critics. tweed was seen by the irish catholics themselves as their champion. so again, a sense of the possibilities of the new world,
to put aside old world resentments, to say we're not going to support an scots 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. 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. this is 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. as i've 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, yeah, jack. >> i'm sorry. wasn't tweed accused of stealing $45 million? >> yes, yes. the tweed ring is -- they all shared in it but he was the focus of the investigation. he was recognized as the power behind the throne. if you're going to focus on somebody to indict, it was going to be tweed. again, as we'll see, the indictment was -- because indeed
he was behind all this. but aside from enriching himself, his job as head of tammany hall, again, was to pick the slate of candidates and to make sure that they won by any means necessary, so to speak, including voter fraud, that is, repeaters or ballot box stuffing or creative arithmetic, maybe, in the counting, or simple physical intimidation. this is something all through late 19th century urban politics you would see, you go to the voting pool and there would be these monster guys with 2x4s or something, representing their candidate. and this is before necessarily secret ballots, so you go in there and people can see how you're voting. and if you're familiar with more specific examples from chicago in the late 19th century.
but election day in an american city in the 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, we looked at even the trustee election in philadelphia, there were these catholics voting on who is going to be trustees in a church and they turned to brawls. think of the orange riots. the 19th century city is a very, very violent city. the things we've seen in recent years, this past year or so, are nothing compared to what was a fairly regular occurrence in the 19th century. and often, again, often associated with voting. so these tactics, as well as tammany's irish catholic constituency, raised suspicions about tweed long before the charges of graft and
embezzlement were leveled in 1871. tweed's critics and the critics of this urban political culture, you know, had their suspicions all along, suspicions rooted in the fact that this urban political culture was catholic and was irish and was immigrant. but all that being said, those prejudices that they brought to the -- the reformers brought, 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
control the finances of the city. and for two straight years, 1870 to 1871, the city of new york at tweed's direction borrowed money, borrowed money sometimes directly from banks, sometimes through bond -- creating bond programs for people to buy bonds with 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 or how it arrived. he was 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. 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 in 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 pad building contracts. so, say a building, you know, you talk to the contractor and the building would cost maybe $10,000 in 1870 dollars to build. tweed says, give me a bill for $20,000 and you'll get your
$10,000, what 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've got to 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. and there's always an informer, isn't there always an informer, just like in the molly maguire movie? a political enemy within the democratic party itself eventually got hold of the accounts and turned it over to "the new york times." 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. 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 projects, so for them, it's a job. one way or another i have tweed to thank for this so tweed's okay with me. i don't care if he's getting his millions, i'm getting something, i'm feeding my family. this is the level -- you know, this is survival, this is basic survival. you can think of it as a situation similar to what we saw in the molly maguires film. if you see 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 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 the 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. we do not live 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 don'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 don't have to fight. now, in terms of people wanting to fight or not, and there's a couple of considerations, as we talked about before, irish catholics, very, very patriotic but also democrats and suspicious of a war to end slavery. when the war was going badly, some of that enthusiasm for the war waned, and they had to choose between patriotism for their country and simply staying at home and supporting their families. and many of them wanted to stay at home and support their families and didn't want to risk going off to war, dying, and leaving their families destitute. well, you could buy your way out if you could find a substitute to go for you, but the cost of a substitute was $300, well beyond the means of any working class
new yorker. and so in response to the draft, there were, dare i say it again, riots, tremendous riots, some of the worst riots in american history. it's kind of interesting, the 1860s and the 1960s, in both, there were protests against the draft for very different reasons and from very different people. but as tumultuous as the 1960s team, the 1860s were far more violent in the 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. this isn't just tweed lining his pockets, he's certainly using city funds, but he says, okay, you don't want to go to fight for war because you've got a family to support, i will pay your bounty. 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, if you
don't have a family to support, war may be your best option, because there was a $300 signing bonus if you enlisted. to keep lincoln happy, because lincoln, again, instituted the agreed to pay the signing bonus for workers who were willing to go to war but were especially like if they were married men were concerned about their families so again, he pays the bounty for some workers, and he pays the signing bonus for other workers who are willing to go to the war. either way, he is sharing the wealth, shall we say, and again, he he becomes a hero for irish catholics because of this. this bond of loyalty forged most dramatically during the civil war between tweed and irish catholics in new york, only deepened through the 1860s, just
to give you another example. while serving in the state assembly, and tweed, his political positions he jumped around all the time. it's not like today 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 at head of tammany. for a time in the 1860s, he served in the state assembly. the new york state assembly. he arranged for state funds to be used to support catholic charities and catholic schools. now, this again, 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 the only ones around, especially women's religious, nuns, sisters
who worked at 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 suspicious of the poor realized 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, that you know, one could argue served the common good. schools were different, the schools were the real hot button issue, and the laws were set that it was illegal to have any money go to catholic schools so, what's the law between friends, as tweed might say, he had to be a little sneakier about this, but still managed to channel some funds to catholic schools. it was mainly the catholic charities that he supported.
with state money. when tweed was confronted with this, and accused of favoring catholics, he would say, i send money to protestant charities as well, if catholic charities receive more it's because they support me more. as basic as that. you get what you pay for. i'll take protestant votes. i don't mind and if i get protestant votes, i'll return the favor by channelling charity funds into protestant organizations but again, catholic charities, run by religious sisters, nuns were the most important private charities in new york in the 19th century, they got money from tweed too, even if you're not using a orphanage, he's a friend to the sisters running the orphanage, and the hospitals.
this is all great for tweet. he's enriching himself, and through that he's earning loyalty, this isn't just like money, bribing somebody 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's about personal connection. however, it was all about money and a lot of it, and tweed we could say over reached in his graft again to the tune of $45 million or so. so tweed was indicted. he spent most of the rest of the 1870s, in and out of jail. he's convicted of some things, gets reprieve. one time he tried to escape to spain or something like that, but he was caught and brought back. he died in april of 1878.
died very much kind of a broken man. now, again, this said, irish catholics have a high tolerance for graft, but this just seemed to be going too far, again, it's not that he didn't spread the wealth around, but he kept a disproportionate amount for himself. still, irish catholics, though disappointed and kind of embarrassed by tweed, because it seemed to confirm, you know, all of the worst criticisms and accusations made by protestants, still they remained loyal to tammany hall and the democratic party. just to give you an example of their thinking. this is on roman numeral 3. 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 it than one goes outside the church. and to give you a sense of that connection and, you know, this wasn't just -- political parties in this situation was not just a political party. it was for them, almost as sacred as the church because it was just as central to their survival. and again, loyalty is everything. and so they could not turn their backs on tammany and the democratic party simply because of corruption, a corruption that went too far. they want to reform it from within. and that, they would do, to some degree. reform in a kind of tammany sense. thus roman numeral 3, tammany and reform, thus scaling back the kind of the extremes of the tweed. being a little more moderate in, oh, yeah. >> did this corruption scandal
have a broader impact on the national democratic party or is it mostly limited to new york city? >> good question, it certainly had national implications, "harper's weekly" was a national magazine, and cartoons were spread across the country, and they did -- they had a tremendous effect in terms of linking political corruption with local urban politics, but at the same time there's political corruption across the board. in the late 1860s, the grant administration. so this is the republican party general, the rhetoric is one of moral uprightness, and we looked at it earlier, grant's attack on catholic schools in the name of, you know, republican political principles. still, grant's administration was one of the most corrupt ever, at least corrupt up to that point.
so there was a lot of graft at the national level. it's interesting, though, that despite the graft in the grant administration, the republican party still emerged as a kind of party of good governance because they spoke that rhetoric, whatever a graft was going on, they spoke the language of good government and purity where the tammany people, the democrats never spoke that way, even the southern democrats were not quite so righteous, 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 i didn't want to get too much into it here. but, i mean, it's a good question that you ask, so to clarify at the national level, this is playing out at the national level as well. excuse me here. got to get a reliable marker.
civil service reform. pendleton act. it was around the early 1880s. i don't have the exact date. but here's the situation. to cut down on graft on, like, just giving your job -- giving jobs to your friends, the idea is we don't need cronies in government, we need people that can actually do the job. and so we need a civil service, that is you're going to get a job in government, not because you know somebody, but because you're qualified, so there will be a civil service test you will take. this is something that will be played out at the national level. there's a pendleton act, if the
civil service reform act that mandated that a greater percentage of federal government jobs would be acquired only through passing a civil service exam. this is in terms of the plunket readings. there's a big issue with plunk et 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. there's a whole tweed scandal in just the general operation of local politics convinced many reformers, again, largely protestant reformers, people from the first political culture, that the way to get good government was to have civil service reform, to have, ideally every position in government being staffed by somebody who was qualified, how do we know that they're qualified, well, they passed the civil service test.
now, i'll digress a bit here because this goes back to one of the earlier figures i looked at. james michael curly, the mayor and one time governor in boston, and massachusetts. he won his first elected position, he earned when he was in jail. he was in jail because he took -- he and this other friend of his took civil service exams for a poor irish catholic who needed a city job but couldn't pass the civil service exam, and the thing is a civil service exam as 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 or even, dare i say, the college degree, right, you go to apply for a job. you must have a four-year degree.
really, to do this job, do i need a four-year degree? yes, you do. probably don't need a four year degree to do many jobs but it's required. it's a way of weeding people out. and that certainly was the purpose of the civil service at the local level. and so curly's response, he was breaking the law. he was taking a test for somebody else, misrepresenting himself, but he turned that to his advantages in his campaign. his campaign slogan was he did it for a friend, and he got elected. you know, again, you do it for a friend. that's the kind of guy, i want a friend like that who can help me out. so, again, this does, the local and the national political conversation, if you will, dueling up on civil service. but it's interest 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 corrupt one. even, you know, contemporary
politics, if government at the federal level is attacked, it's not so much for corruption but big government, big spending too much. it's not that bureaucrats are corrupt, it is that they're bureaucrats but corruption continues to be a link to local politics, the smoke filled room, if you will, and even often, again, still with irish catholics, even though, again, the irish catholic dominance of the city is long past, but that image endures. of the tammany style politician. the term tammany, long after the demise of tammy hill, is still a part of our political vocabulary, as a symbol of kind of corruption. tammany knew this, and they knew they could not simply go on conducting business as usual and so they began a kind of reform effort of their own. the fall of boss tweed was actually a key transition point, not just in
tammany trying to spruce up its image a bit to be more respectable, but in the shift from a non irish catholic leadership to irish catholic leadership, and the key figure here on your outline here is honest john kelly, who rose to power as the first irish catholic boss in new york in the 1870s. kelly was a long time tammany operative. he knew how tammany worked, but he had been ill and out of the country during the worst of the tweed scandals, and so he had a relatively clean record. now, again most reformers weren't necessarily buying the honest john label. but the emergence of this irish catholic leader only heightens the kind of ethnic tension. it's like it's bad enough when scots presbyterian was leading
the irish catholic, now they are in leadership positions themselves. and again, there's some truth even that nasty political cartoon we began was the link between irish catholics, and local politics. it is true, it is true and best expressed by an anecdote often linked to old honest john kelly, apparently in 1879, the dedication of st. patrick's cathedral in new york, kelly rose up to speak. now kelly, just so you know, he was actually married to the niece of new york's cardinal arch bishop, john mccloskey. there's a connection there: a family connection. reformers who might wonder about the church and local politics. you know, there's definitely a connection there. but kelly, according to the story, apparently kind of raised hiss glass at the dinner after the dedication of the cathedral. god bless the two greatest organizations in the world, the catholic church and tammany hall. a brief pause, the person next to him says, what's the second
one? it's like there are one. and again, most people, certainly most irish catholics would have no problem with that. again, irish supported tammany because tammany supported them in any number of ways. tammany was often the difference between life and death for the poor of new york, and again, what are your options, when you look at power. who do you turn to for help, you turn to tammany hall, however much these people may enrich themselves, does seem to care about you in some way. brings you coal in winter when you have no heat. brings you a turkey at thanksgiving when you have no food. or the respectable mine owners in eastern pennsylvania who were all above board and did everything of course according to the laws, well, not
everything according to the law, but present ed themselves as being respectable, law-abiding, even if they didn't care about their workers. there's no choice here for the poor in new york at the time. and again, tammany had that irish catholics in new york, the personal connection, certainly a connection to the church, connection to neighborhood, ultimately a connection to community, and so what i want to stress here is that though they are certainly disbursing material benefits this isn't simply about material benefits, here's a check, go buy something for yourself. it is about community, and i think even though the reading that we have for today, the excerpts from plunket, this text, which this is a book, a book that this comes from, this is -- most historians who deal with this will focus on the civil service issue because
plunket has these things to say, about civil service, how it's ruining politics, destroying politics, because it's certainly undermining tammany style politics. i want to focus on another aspect of the book, the ways in which plunket presents tammany in the context of community. again, it's not simply distributing material benefits, going to tammany, and pick up a check and go home. it's about community and building relationships. but building relationships certainly through certainly providing material needs. plunket, george washington plunket is your last image for today. the photograph, this is plunket at the new york county courthouse boot black stand, which is kind of his papal throne, full, 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.
plunket, like tweed, held a variety of positions from anything from local alderman, kind of like a city councilman to new york state assembly, and senator, but again, the particular position didn't matter so much as his access to patronage jobs. this is how he built loyalty for voters, and this is also how he enriched himself, and again, think of the tweed scandal, and the problem of kind of excessive enrichment. point of tammany hall was written 30 years after. 1935, things have changed somewhat, some distinctions shall we say have been introduced but there's no pretense here. there's no like, you know, we're honest politicians, above board. we would never enrich ourselves through politics. no, he's very up front. the first chapter, he'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 you would say aris till yan, but a key moral distinction here, one you haven't encountered in your philosophy classes, the distinction between honest graft, and dishonest graft, and just to read you this passage, everybody is talking these days about tammany men growing rich on graft, nobody thinks the drawing the distinction between honest graflt and dishonest graft, there's all the difference in the world between the two. many have grown rich in politics, i have myself, i made a big fortune out of the game, and getting richer every day, but i've not go gone for dishonest graft, blackmailers, saloon keepers, disorderly people, and neither is any of the men who have made fortunes in politics. there's an honest graft. i'm an example of how it works. i might sum up the whole thing by saying i see my opportunities and i took them. let me explain by examples. my party is in power in the
city, and take a lot of public improvements, while i'm tipped off they're going to lay out a new park in a certain place: i see my opportunity, and i take it. i go to that place and go buy up all the land in the neighborhood. makes the land public, and there's a rush to get my land which nobody cared particular for before. made it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight, of course it is, well, that's honest graft. so again, let's say a unique particular kind of moral distinction, one there nonetheless. again, this didn't assure reformers that everything was above board. it certainly seems like and was just kind of a justification for what he's doing, but he goes on to make a more important distinction, certainly the honest dishonest graph is intended to be comical. all of these reflections are done in a very kind of light way. this is not a work of political theory. though we'll see he takes on
political theory a little later. but he goes on to make a distinction that his for all of the lightness and tone of this, it is very very important. and he does it in a chapter where he's responding to one of these exposes that was written at the time, a book, the shame of the cities, that's exposing all of this corruption, that's exposing the graft that he's in some ways kind of freely admitting t "the shame of the city" is written by lincoln stephans, stephans means well, like all reformers, he doesn't know how to make distinctions. he can't see a difference between honest graft, and dishonest graft. if consequential he gets things all 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. a looter goes in for himself alone, without considering his organization or his city. the politician looks after his
interests, the organization's interests, and the city's interests over time. -- interests all at the same time. see the distinction. for instance, i ain't no looter. a looter hogs it. i never hogged. i made my pile in politics, but at the same time, i served the organization and got more big improvements in new york city than any other living man, and i never monkeyed with the penal code. >> and you know, it's like fractionalization, sure, but again, for his constituents if they're getting jobs on improvements, building projects, that's fine. and it doesn't have to be equal. if anything, you know, the kind of fancy clothes he might wear, might be something to aspire to. the big key is this distinction between a politician and a looter. a looter keeps it all. you could say looking back, tweed given the enormous disparity between what he took in, and what he distributed, tweed would be judged a looter, keeping too much for himself,
and that's the sin. that's the immorality when you keep too much for yourself. but you spread it around, you take a little more for yourself. okay, you know, you're the leader, you deserve to get a little more. as long as you're spreading it around, let's say fairly, if not exactly equally, then you're fine, and again, think of what the alternatives are. the coal owners in eastern pennsylvania, the slaughter house owners that we'll be looking at later this semester after break, and slaughter house owners on the back of the yard's neighborhood in chicago. so it's not that tammany has no moral code. they just happen to have a different one, and the difference between right and wrong here is primarily how you treat others. it's not strict adherence to the rules. because for tammany people, politics is not about rules. it's not about ideas. it's about people.
i assume most of the people in this class are history majors. you know, you were never led astray by political science. political sings -- science. well, plunket himself has a few things to say about political science, and book learning, and all of that. now, that's not to say that plunket does not have his political theory. he does. like aristotle in the ancient world and founding fathers, plunket believes that politics is rooted in human nature, a reflection of human nature. plunket happens to have a different conception of human nature and maybe aristotle and the founding fathers. this is in chapter 6, to hold your district, so it's like to hold your district to get reelected. to hold your district. study human nature, and act according. there's only one way to hold a district, you must study human nature and act according. you can't study human nature in books. sorry people. books is a hindrance, more than anything else.
if you've been to college, so much the worse for you. you'll have to unlearn all you learn before you can get right down to human nature and unlearning takes a lot of time. some men can never forget what they learned in college. such men may get to be district leaders by a fluke, but they never last. to learn real human nature you have to go out among the people, see them and be seen. i know every man, woman and child in the 15th district, except those that have been born this summer, i know some of them too. i know what they like. what they don't like. they're strong at, what they're weak in, and i reach them by approaching at the right side. for instance, here's how i gather. i hear a young man who's proud of his voice, i ask him to come around to washington hall and join our glee club. he comes and sings, and he's a follower of plunk et for life, the young fellow has a reputation as a baseball player in a vacant lot. i bring him into our baseball club.
that fixes him. you'll find him working for my tickets at the polls next election day. and then there's the fellow that likes rowing on the river, the young fellow that makes a name as a waltz on the block, i give the young handy with his jukes. them opportunities to show themselves off. i don't shower them with political arguments. i just study human nature and act according. again, he's building up loyalty, not simply through politics directly or not discussing the great political theories or ideas or what needs to be done to improve the city or anything thing like that but giving people something to do, by giving them a social life. by encouraging them to do the things they like to do that they then come to associate with their political party, and a lot his -- it's interesting just as a quick aside here. a lot of these activities that were done through political
parties or through a fraternal organization, often ethnic fraternal organizations, gradually get absorbed by the schools. the school becomes everything. the spirit of the civil service, we have to get people, you know, playing baseball for tammany hall, no, no, no, play for the high school. you want to sing, don't sing for tammany hall. sing at your high school. these activities, sports, music, the arts, entertainment. if you will, that people developed in this political context, in the context of political clubs, gradually the school absorbs everyone. plunket could see that happen, thus his bias, against schools and book learning. so again, he sees human nature and acts according. he gives people something to do. he builds up kind of community life through things that are not directly related to politics,
singing, playing sports, but that have political benefits for him. he gives them something to do, he earn encourages their activities, and they pay him back by voting for him. this is kind of a multiplier effect. it just takes doing this for a few people. say who should i vote for this november and that will be all. tammany is great, they help me sing, they help me play baseball. in terms of human nature, aside from singing and playing sports, tammany also recognized more basic aspects of human nature, the need for food, clothing and shelter, and this is continued at a later section in chapter 6, how to hold your district, study nature and act accordingly. later he writes, in terms of direct aid, fighting for the material needs of people, plunk etwrites, people, to go right down among poor teams, and help them in
different ways they need help. i got a regular system for this. if there's a fire on 9th, 10th or 11th avenue, i'm usually there with some of my election district captains, captains, the family burned out, ask whether they are republicans and democrats and i don't refer them to the charity organization which would investigate their case in a month or two and decide they were worthy of help about the time they're dead from starvation, just get quarters for them, buy clothes for them, if they clothes were burned up, and fix them up until they get things running again. it's philanthropy but it's politics too. mighty good politics. who can tell how many votes one of these fires bring me. it's like, is he setting the fires himself? great for people in the world, and let me tell you, they have more friends in their neighborhoods than the rich have in theirs. if there's a family in my district in want, i know it before the charitable societies do, and me and my men are first on the ground. i have a special look of such cases. the consequences that the poor look up to george w. plunket as
a father, come to him in time of trouble. and don't waste your time. the consequences that the poor look up to george w. plunket as a father, come to him in trouble, and don't forget him on election day, so again, these are kind of -- there's an exchange here. you need something, i need something. i just want to comment a bit on part of this passage where it talks about the charity organization society. again, this is a big distinction, at least, at the time between the protestant charity organizations which he's referring to and the catholic ones, and among the protestants, there was much more the sense of a suspicion of the poor. if you're poor, why are you poor. why do you need food. haven't you been saving money. have you been irresponsible, are you drunk? we need to determine if you are truly needy or just a lazy good for nothing. this attitude was creeping into
some catholic charities as well. in general, the catholic notion from the bible that the poor, you will always have with you. well, it's not your fault. look at the city. the city is full of poor people. you're going to say it's your fault because you're poor so with the catholic organizations, charity organizations, there are generally far fewer questions asked but the protestants were notorious for undergoing this kind of moral scrutiny of the poor to make sure they weren't lazy good for nothings, you know, looking for handout, and these attitudes of course are still with us today. as spoken about tammany mainly in terms of irish catholics, and i think certainly in the public profile of tammany and the leadership at this time, they were the dominant group. but new york was changing certainly by the late 19th century, there's a new wave of immigrants, early in the semester, we looked at the germans and irish coming in the middle, late 20th century. in the late 20th century,
largely from the southern and eastern europe, so a lot of italians in new york city, largely italians and jews. you might think, oh, with italians, there's going to be a natural religious connection between the irish, with the irish, that didn't play out. in some ways, in terms of tammany politics, the alliance was more with jews than with italians, as we have seen earlier in the semester, it's not like a common faith was able to overcome ethnic divisions in the church. in some ways, it kind of increase the rivalry to some degree. the demographics of new york are changing. new immigrants are coming in. what's tammany to do with them? historians have often made a contrast between kind of east coast urban politics and the midwest. saying that the irish on the east coast were a bit more tribal, less willing to bring in other ethnic groups. in the midwest, chicago being the best example, they were much intent in terms of ethnic
groups. there was certainly truth to that. in plunket's own account, tammany sees the new immigrants, particularly the jewish immigrants, and you know, religion is not a divider for them. it's like every person represents a vote. and before he says, i don't care if you're a republican or democrat, i'll help you, i can get your vote, when it comes to the new immigrant groups, i don't care what your ethnic group is, you know, everyone in new york city is a potential voter. and i'm going to do what i can to get your vote. and this, he says, toward the end, the last selection that i gave for you. and he's talking about johnny hern of the third and fourth district, one of these, what i call ward healers. the guys that are out on the streets kind of making contact with the people, determining what they need and providing them with what they need. and so he writes about this.
johnny hern of the third and fourth districts are just the men for such places. he's talking about there's different places in the city, different ethnic groups. johnny hern is perfect for the third and fourth district, half irishmen and half jews. he's as popular with one race as the other. he eats corned beef and kosher meat with equal nonchalance, and it's all the same whether he takes his hat off in church or pulls down over his ears in the synagogue. when in rome, do as the romans do. this example here of certainly johnny hern, it's an irish name, but he moves freely among irish catholics, and jewish immigrants. and this irish jewish alliance, if you will, is very important in new york at this time, and certainly in the entertainment world, broadway, dominated by the irish, passed the torch to jews, and something we'll look at later in the semester when
tammany produces its first presidential candidate, hal smith, smith's team around him his kind of election team, is largely jewish in competition. so this kind of irish-jewish alliance that plunket points to here, would continue on in tammany, even to tammany's first attempt at winning a national election. okay. so on that, any questions? okay. just to finish up here then. especially in that last passage that i read to you, by plunket's, politics seems capable of uniting people across lines of ethnicity and religion. of course the reality is more complicated. we have already seen, even within the catholic church, ethnic divisions undermine
unity. catholics who do share a common faith nonetheless were deep ly divided by ethnicity because the ethnicity represented in some case, like with the germans a different language, but in all cases, certainly a different culture, and culture matters. faith was not enough to unite people across different cultures. in the beginning of the next class, and for the next couple of weeks, we're going to keep our attention on the city, but turn to a different city, the other kind of great city of the industrial era, chicago. then again, a particular neighborhood within the city, the back of the yards, the slaughter house section of chicago. and we're going to look at the ways in which this largely catholic neighborhood, nonetheless was home to ethnic divisions that remained strong well into the 1930s. we saw already how a certain kind of church leaders tried to overcome these divisions by making everybody the same, by getting rid of ethnicity, by
participating in the public school system, and such. that wasn't going to work in chicago. the ethnic ties were very very strong. but what we'll see coming out of the back of the neighborhood in the late 19th century into the 1930s, is a new kind of politics, one that was in many ways rooted in the kind of practical concerns of tammy, but was able to kind of move beyond them and form something like a principled language of justice, never going into the moralism of the protestant reformism, and the principled language of justice that was -- that was needed in response to the greatest economic challenge facing the city in the late 19th and early 20th century, the great depression, a depression that didn't seem to end, follow the cycle of previous ones, and that called for something more than the type of direct kind of material aid that tammany was able to provide before the
depression. okay. so we'll see you all on thursday. at least six presidents recorded conversations while in office. hear many of those conversations on c-spans new podcast "presidential recordings." >> season one focuses on the presidency of lyndon johnson. you'll hear about the 1964 civil rights act, the 1964 presidential campaign, the gulf of tonkin incident, the march on salma, and not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly johnson's secretaries knew because they were tasked with transcribing
many of those conversations. in fact, they were the ones who made sure that the conversations were taped as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and theirs. >> you'll also hear some blunt talk. >> jim. >> yes, sir. >> i want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy on me the day he died, and the number assigned to me now, and if mine are not blessed, i want them right quick. >> yes, sir. i promise i'll stay right behind these black gates. >> presidential recordings, find it on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts. >> how exactly did america get up to its neck in debt. >> we believe one of the greatest characteristics are striving to provide equal
opportunity for all americans. >> students across the country are giving us behind the scenes looks as they work on their entries using the #student cam, and if you're a middle or high school student, you can join the conversation by entering the c-span student cam competition, create a 5 to 6-minute documentary, using c-span video clips that answer the question how does the federal government impact your life. >> be passionate about what you're discussing, to discuss your view no matter how large or small you think the audience will receive it to be. and know that in the greatest country in the history of the earth, your view does matter. >> to all the film makers out there, remember the content is king, and just remember to be as neutral and impartial as possible in your portrayal of both sides of an issue. >> c-span awards $100,000 in totally cash prizes, and you have a shot at winning the grand prize of $5,000.
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