POLITICS IN THE GILDED AGE Objective: Analyze political machines methods of maintaining power
POLITICAL MACHINES During late 1800’s, many cities run by a Political machine. This was an organized group, headed by a city boss, that controlled activities of a political party in a city.
ROLE OF THE POLITICAL BOSS The “Boss” (typically the mayor) – controlled jobs – business licenses – influenced the court system Precinct captains and ward bosses were often 1 st or 2 nd generation immigrants helped immigrants with – naturalization – Jobs – housing – in exchange for votes Boss Tweed ran NYC
Many Political Bosses were Corrupt… HOW corrupt were they?
GRAFT Many Bosses got rich through GRAFT-the illegal use of political influence for personal gain. To win elections, some filled the list of eligible voters w/names of dogs, children, & the dead.
CIVIL SERVICE VS. PATRONAGE Patronage- Giving of government jobs to people of the same party who had helped a candidate get elected. Civil Service- Government jobs. Reformers called for a merit system. Civil service jobs would go to the most qualified, regardless of political views.
PENDLETON CIVIL SERVICE ACT OF 1883 Created a civil service commission to give government jobs based on merit, not politics….Helped to reform civil service.
CIVIL SERVICE REPLACES PATRONAGE Nationally, some politicians pushed for reform in the hiring system The system had been based on Patronage; giving jobs and favors to those who helped a candidate get elected Reformers pushed for an adoption of a merit system of hiring the most qualified for jobs The Pendleton Civil Service Act of 1883 authorized a bipartisan commission to make appointments for federal jobs based on performance Applicants for federal jobs are required to take a Civil Service Exam
KICKBACKS Workers on city construction projects would charge a higher price & then “kick back” part of the fee to the bosses. Bosses also taking bribes from businesses in return for allowing illegal or unsafe activities.
MUNICIPAL GRAFT AND SCANDAL Some political machines used fake names and voted multiple times to ensure victory (“Vote early and often”) – called Election fraud The fact that police forces were hired by the boss prevented close scrutiny
BOSS TWEED & TAMMANY HALL William Marcy Tweed, a.k.a. “Boss Tweed”, one of the most powerful political bosses. Became head of Tammany Hall, New York City’s most powerful Democratic machine.
THE TWEED RING SCANDAL Between 1869-1871, Tweed led the Tweed Ring, a group of corrupt politicians, in defrauding the city Tweed was indicted on 120 counts of fraud and extortion Tweed was sentenced to 12 years in jail – released after one, arrested again, and escaped to Spain Boss Tweed
Fraud systematically plundered New York City – estimated at between $30 million and $200 million. – (that would be worth between $365 million and $2.4 billion today)
Fraud The record for brassiness goes to Boss William Tweed, – swindled New York out of a fortune – Tammany Hall in the 1860s and 1870s. Tweed’s masterpiece of graft was a chunky three- story courthouse in Lower Manhattan originally budgeted at $250,000. – City had spent more than $13 million – The building was still not finished.
Fraud By 1870, the Tweed ring was able to milk the city through such devices as faked leases, padded bills, false vouchers, unnecessary repairs, and overpriced goods and services bought from suppliers controlled by the ring. Examples of the flagrant abuse of the public’s money were: 1)40 old chairs and three tables: $179,792.60 (about $2 million today) 2)Repairing fixtures: $1,149,874.50 (about $14 million today) 3)A plasterer's wages during a nine month period: $2,870,464.06 (about $34 million today) 4)30 months of advertising paid to a Tweed-controlled printing company: $7,168,212.23 (about $87 million today)