The Boss and the Machine
by Samuel P. Orth
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Soon afterwards Croker retired to his Irish castle, relinquishing the leadership to Charles Murphy, the present boss. The growing alertness of the voters, however, makes Murphy's task a more difficult one than that of any of his predecessors. It is doubtful if the nature of the machine has changed during all the years of its history. Tweed and Croker were only natural products of the system. They typify the vulgar climax of organized looting.

In 1913 the Independent Democrats, Republicans, and Progressives united in a fusion movement. They nominated and, after a most spirited campaign, elected John Purroy Mitchel as mayor. He was a young man, not yet forty, had held important city offices, and President Wilson had appointed him Collector of the Port of New York. His experience, his vigor, ability, and straight-dealing commended him to the friends of good government, and they were not disappointed. The Mitchel regime set a new record for clean and efficient municipal administration. Men of high character and ability were enlisted in public service, and the Police Department, under Commissioner Woods, achieved a new usefulness. The decent citizens, not alone in the metropolis, but throughout the country, believed with Theodore Roosevelt that Mr. Mitchel was "the best mayor New York ever had." But neither the effectiveness of his administration nor the combined efforts of the friends of good government could save him from the designs of Tammany Hall when, in 1917, he was a candidate for reelection. Through a tactical blunder of the Fusionists, a small Republican group was permitted to control the party primaries and nominate a candidate of its own; the Socialists, greatly augmented by various pacifist groups, made heavy inroads among the foreign-born voters. And, while the whole power and finesse of Tammany were assiduously undermining the mayor's strength, ethnic, religious, partizan, and geographical prejudices combined to elect the machine candidate, Judge Hylan, a comparatively unknown Brooklyn magistrate.

How could Tammany regain its power, and that usually within two years, after such disclosures as we have seen? The main reason is the scientific efficiency of the organization. The victory of Burr in New York in 1800 was the first triumph of the first ward machine in America, and Tammany has forgotten neither this victory nor the methods by which it was achieved. The organization which was then set in motion has simply been enlarged to keep easy pace with the city's growth. There are, in fact, two organizations, Tammany Hall, the political machine, and Tammany Society, the "Columbian Order" organized by Mooney, which is ruled by sachems elected by the members. Both organizations, however, are one in spirit. We need concern ourselves only with the organization of Tammany Hall.

The framework of Tammany Hall's machinery has always been the general committee, still known, in the phraseology of Burr's day, as "the Democratic-Republican General Committee." It is a very democratic body composed of representatives from every assembly district, apportioned according to the number of voters in the district. The present apportionment is one committeeman for every fifteen votes. This makes a committee of over 9000, an unwieldy number. It is justified, however, on two very practical grounds: first, that it is large enough to keep close to the voters; and second, that its assessment of ten dollars a member brings in $90,000 a year to the war chest. This general committee holds stated meetings and appoints subcommittees. The executive committee, composed of the leaders of the assembly districts and the chairman and treasurer of the county committee, is the real working body of the great committee. It attends to all important routine matters, selects candidates for office, and conducts their campaigns. It is customary for the members of the general committee to designate the district leaders for the executive committee, but they are elected by their own districts respectively at the annual primary elections. The district leader is a very important wheel in the machine. He not only leads his district but represents it on the executive committee; and this brotherhood of leaders forms the potent oligarchy of Tammany. Its sanction crowns the high chieftain, the boss, who, in turn, must be constantly on the alert that his throne is not undermined; that is to say, he and his district leaders must "play politics" within their own bailiwicks to keep their heads on their own shoulders. After their enfranchisement in New York (1917) women were made eligible to the general and executive committees. Thirty-seven were at once elected to the executive committee, and plans were made to give them one-half of the representation on the general committee.

Each of the twenty-three assembly districts is in turn divided into election districts of about 400 voters, each with a precinct captain who is acquainted with every voter in his precinct and keeps track, as far as possible, of his affairs. In every assembly district there are headquarters and a club house, where the voters can go in the evening and enjoy a smoke, a bottle, and a more or less quiet game.

This organization is never dormant. And this is the key to its vitality. There is no mystery about it. Tammany is as vigilant between elections as it is on election day. It has always been solicitous for the poor and the humble, who most need and best appreciate help and attention. Every poor immigrant is welcomed, introduced to the district headquarters, given work, or food, or shelter. Tammany is his practical friend; and in return he is merely to become naturalized as quickly as possible under the wardship of a Tammany captain and by the grace of a Tammany judge, and then to vote the Tammany ticket. The new citizen's lessons in political science are all flavored with highly practical notions.

Tammany's machinery enables a house-to-house canvass to be made in one day. But this machinery must be oiled. There are three sources of the necessary lubricant: offices, jobs, the sale of favors; these are dependent on winning the elections. From its very earliest days, fraud at the polls has been a Tammany practice. As long as property qualifications were required, money was furnished for buying houses which could harbor a whole settlement of voters. It was not, however, until the adoption of universal suffrage that wholesale frauds became possible or useful; for with a limited suffrage it was necessary to sway only a few score votes to carry an ordinary election.

Fernando Wood set a new pace in this race for votes. It has been estimated that in 1854 there "were about 40,000 shiftless, unprincipled persons who lived by their wits and the labor of others. The trade of a part of these was turning primary elections, packing nominating conventions, repeating, and breaking up meetings." Wood also systematized naturalization. A card bearing the following legend was the open sesame to American citizenship:

"Common Pleas: Please naturalize the bearer. N. Seagrist, Chairman."

Seagrist was one of the men charged by an aldermanic committee "with robbing the funeral pall of Henry Clay when his sacred person passed through this city."

When Hoffman was first elected mayor, over 15,000 persons were registered who could not be found at the places indicated. The naturalization machinery was then running at high speed. In 1868, from 25,000 to 30,000 foreigners were naturalized in New York in six weeks. Of 156,288 votes cast in the city, 25,000 were afterwards shown to be fraudulent. It was about this time that an official whose duty it was to swear in the election inspectors, not finding a Bible at hand, used a volume of Ollendorf's "New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak French." The courts sustained this substitution on the ground that it could not possibly have vitiated the election!

A new federal naturalization law and rigid election laws have made wholesale frauds impossible; and the genius of Tammany is now attempting to adjust itself to the new immigration, the new political spirit, and the new communal vigilance. Its power is believed by some optimistic observers to be waning. But the evidences are not wanting that its vitality and internal discipline are still persistent.


New York City is not unique in its experience with political bossdom. Nearly every American city, in a greater or less degree, for longer or shorter periods, has been dominated by oligarchies.

Around Philadelphia, American sentiment has woven the memories of great events. It still remains, of all our large cities, the most "American." It has fewer aliens than any other, a larger percentage of home owners, a larger number of small tradespeople and skilled artisans—the sort of population which democracy exalts, and who in turn are presumed to be the bulwark of democracy. These good citizens, busied with the anxieties and excitements of their private concerns, discovered, in the decade following the Civil War, that their city had slipped unawares into the control of a compact oligarchy, the notorious Gas Ring. The city government at this time was composed of thirty-two independent boards and departments, responsible to the council, but responsible to the council in name only and through the medium of a council committee. The coordinating force, the political gravitation which impelled all these diverse boards and council committees to act in unison, was the Gas Department. This department was controlled by a few designing and capable individuals under the captaincy of James McManes. They had reduced to political servitude all the employees of the department, numbering about two thousand. Then they had extended their sway over other city departments, especially the police department. Through the connivance of the police and control over the registration of voters, they soon dominated the primaries and the nominating conventions. They carried the banner of the Republican party, the dominant party in Philadelphia and in the State, under which they more easily controlled elections, for the people voted "regular." Then every one of the city's servants was made to pay to the Gas Ring money as well as obeisance. Tradespeople who sold supplies to the city, contractors who did its work, saloon-keepers and dive-owners who wanted protection—all paid. The city's debt increased at the rate of $3,000,000 a year, without visible evidence of the application of money to the city's growing needs.

In 1883 the citizens finally aroused themselves and petitioned the legislature for a new charter. They confessed: "Philadelphia is now recognized as the worst paved and worst cleaned city in the civilized world. The water supply is so bad that during many weeks of the last winter it was not only distasteful and unwholesome for drinking, but offensive for bathing purposes. The effort to clean the streets was abandoned for months and no attempt was made to that end until some public-spirited citizens, at their own expense, cleaned a number of the principal thoroughfares.... The physical condition of the sewers" is "dangerous to the health and most offensive to the comfort of our people. Public work has been done so badly that structures have to be renewed almost as soon as finished. Others have been in part constructed at enormous expense and then permitted to fall to decay without completion." This is a graphic and faithful description of the result which follows government of the Ring, for the Ring, with the people's money. The legislature in 1885 granted Philadelphia a new charter, called the Bullitt Law, which went into effect in 1887, and which greatly simplified the structure of the government and centered responsibility in the mayor. It was then necessary for the Ring to control primaries and win elections in order to keep the city within its clutches. So began in Philadelphia the practice of fraudulent registering and voting on a scale that has probably never been equaled elsewhere in America. Names taken from tombstones in the cemeteries and from the register of births found their way to the polling registers. Dogs, cats, horses, anything living or dead, with a name, served the purpose.

The exposure of these frauds was undertaken in 1900 by the Municipal League. In two wards, where the population had decreased one per cent in ten years (1890-1900), it was found that the registered voters had increased one hundred per cent. From one house sixty-two voters were registered, of sundry occupations as follows: "Professors, bricklayers, gentlemen, moulders, cashiers, barbers, ministers, bakers, doctors, drivers, bartenders, plumbers, clerks, cooks, merchants, stevedores, bookkeepers, waiters, florists, boilermakers, salesmen, soldiers, electricians, printers, book agents, and restaurant keepers." One hundred and twenty-two voters, according to the register, lived at another house, including nine agents, nine machinists, nine gentlemen, nine waiters, nine salesmen, four barbers, four bakers, fourteen clerks, three laborers, two bartenders, a milkman, an optician, a piano-mover, a window-cleaner, a nurse, and so on.

On the day before the election the Municipal League sent registered letters to all the registered voters of certain precincts. Sixty-three per cent were returned, marked by the postman, "not at," "deceased," "removed," "not known." Of forty-four letters addressed to names registered from one four-story house, eighteen were returned. From another house, supposed to be sheltering forty-eight voters, forty-one were returned; from another, to which sixty-two were sent, sixty-one came back. The league reported that "two hundred and fifty-two votes were returned in a division that had less than one hundred legal voters within its boundaries." Repeating and ballot-box stuffing were common. Election officers would place fifty or more ballots in the box before the polls opened or would hand out a handful of ballots to the recognized repeaters. The high-water mark of boss rule was reached under Mayor Ashbridge, "Stars-and-Stripes Sam," who had been elected in 1899. The moderation of Martin, who had succeeded McManes as boss, was cast aside; the mayor was himself a member of the Ring. When Ashbridge retired, the Municipal League reported: "The four years of the Ashbridge administration have passed into history leaving behind them a scar on the fame and reputation of our city which will be a long time healing. Never before, and let us hope never again, will there be such brazen defiance of public opinion, such flagrant disregard of public interest, such abuse of power and responsibility for private ends."

Since that time the fortunes of the Philadelphia Ring have fluctuated. Its hold upon the city, however, is not broken, but is still strong enough to justify Owen Wister's observation: "Not a Dickens, only a Zola, would have the face (and the stomach) to tell the whole truth about Philadelphia."

St. Louis was one of the first cities of America to possess the much-coveted home rule. The Missouri State Constitution of 1875 granted the city the power to frame its own charter, under certain limitations. The new charter provided for a mayor elected for four years with the power of appointing certain heads of departments; others, however, were to be elected directly by the people. It provided for a Municipal Assembly composed of two houses: the Council, with thirteen members, elected at large for four years, and the House of Delegates, with twenty-eight members, one from each ward, elected for two years. These two houses were given coordinate powers; one was presumed to be a check on the other. The Assembly fixed the tax rate, granted franchises, and passed upon all public improvements. The Police Department was, however, under the control of the mayor and four commissioners, the latter appointed by the Governor. The city was usually Republican by about 8000 majority; the State was safely Democratic. The city, until a few years ago, had few tenements and a small floating population.

Outwardly, all seemed well with the city until 1901, when the inside workings of its government were revealed to the public gaze through the vengeance of a disappointed franchise-seeker. The Suburban Railway Company sought an extension of its franchises. It had approached the man known as the dispenser of such favors, but, thinking his price ($145,000) too high, had sought to deal directly with the Municipal Assembly. The price agreed upon for the House of Delegates was $75,000; for the Council, $60,000. These sums were placed in safety vaults controlled by a dual lock. The representative of the Company held one of the keys; the representative of the Assembly, the other; so that neither party could take the money without the presence of both. The Assembly duly granted the franchises; but property owners along the line of the proposed extension secured an injunction, which delayed the proceedings until the term of the venal House of Delegates had expired. The Assemblymen, having delivered the goods, demanded their pay. The Company, held up by the courts, refused. Mutterings of the disappointed conspirators reached the ear of an enterprising newspaper reporter. Thereby the Circuit Attorney, Joseph W. Folk, struck the trail of the gang. Both the president of the railway company and the "agent" of the rogues of the Assembly turned state's evidence; the safe-deposit boxes were opened, disclosing the packages containing one hundred and thirty-five $1000 bills.

This exposure led to others—the "Central Traction Conspiracy," the "Lighting Deal," the "Garbage Deal." In the cleaning-up process, thirty-nine persons were indicted, twenty-four for bribery and fifteen for perjury.

The evidence which Folk presented in the prosecution of these scoundrels merely confirmed what had long been an unsavory rumor: that franchises and contracts were bought and sold like merchandise; that the buyers were men of eminence in the city's business affairs; and that the sellers were the people's representatives in the Assembly. The Grand Jury reported: "Our investigation, covering more or less fully a period of ten years shows that, with few exceptions, no ordinance has been passed wherein valuable privileges or franchises are granted until those interested have paid the legislators the money demanded for action in the particular case.... So long has this practice existed that such members have come to regard the receipt of money for action on pending measures as a legitimate perquisite of a legislator."

These legislators, it appeared from the testimony, had formed a water-tight ring or "combine" in 1899, for the purpose of systematizing this traffic. A regular scale of prices was adopted: so much for an excavation, so much per foot for a railway switch, so much for a street pavement, so much for a grain elevator. Edward R. Butler was the master under whose commands for many years this trafficking was reduced to systematic perfection. He had come to St. Louis when a young man, had opened a blacksmith shop, had built up a good trade in horseshoeing, and also a pliant political following in his ward. His attempt to defeat the home rule charter in 1876 had given him wider prominence, and he soon became the boss of the Democratic machine. His energy, shrewdness, liberality, and capacity for friendship gave him sway over both Republican and Democratic votes in certain portions of the city. A prominent St. Louis attorney says that for over twenty years "he named candidates on both tickets, fixed, collected, and disbursed campaign assessments, determined the results in elections, and in fine, practically controlled the public affairs of St. Louis." He was the agent usually sought by franchise-seekers, and he said that had the Suburban Company dealt with him instead of with the members of the Assembly, they might have avoided exposure. He was indicted four times in the upheaval, twice for attempting to bribe the Board of Health in the garbage deal—he was a stockholder in the company seeking the contract—and twice for bribery in the lighting contract.

Cincinnati inherited from the Civil War the domestic excitements and political antagonisms of a border city. Its large German population gave it a conservative political demeanor, slow to accept changes, loyal to the Republican party as it was to the Union. This reduced partizan opposition to a docile minority, willing to dicker for public spoils with the intrenched majority.

George B. Cox was for thirty years the boss of this city. Events had prepared the way for him. Following closely upon the war, Tom Campbell, a crafty criminal lawyer, was the local leader of the Republicans, and John R. McLean, owner of the Cincinnati Enquirer, a very rich man, of the Democrats. These two men were cronies: they bartered the votes of their followers. For some years crime ran its repulsive course: brawlers, thieves, cutthroats escaped conviction through the defensive influence of the lawyer-boss. In 1880, Cox, who had served an apprenticeship in his brother-in-law's gambling house, was elected to the city council. Thence he was promoted to the decennial board of equalization which appraised all real estate every ten years. There followed a great decrease in the valuation of some of the choicest holdings in the city. In 1884 there were riots in Cincinnati. After the acquittal of two brutes who had murdered a man for a trifling sum of money, exasperated citizens burned the criminal court house. The barter in justice stopped, but the barter in offices and in votes continued. The Blaine campaign then in progress was in great danger. Cox, already a master of the political game, promised the Republican leaders that if they would give him a campaign fund he would turn in a Republican majority from Cincinnati. He did; and for many years thereafter the returns from Hamilton County, in which Cincinnati is situated, brought cheer to Republican State headquarters on election night.

Cox was an unostentatious, silent man, giving one the impression of sullenness, and almost entirely lacking in those qualities of comradeship which one usually seeks in the "Boss" type. From a barren little room over the "Mecca" saloon, with the help of a telephone, he managed his machine. He never obtruded himself upon the public. He always remained in the background. Nor did he ever take vast sums. Moderation was the rule of his loot.

By 1905 a movement set in to rid the city of machine rule. Cox saw this movement growing in strength. So he imported boatloads of floaters from Kentucky. These floaters registered "from dives, and doggeries, from coal bins and water closets; no space was too small to harbor a man." For once he threw prudence to the winds. Exposure followed; over 2800 illegal voters were found. The newspapers, so long docile, now provided the necessary publicity. A little paper, the Citizen's Bulletin, which had started as a handbill of reform, when all the dailies seemed closed to the facts, now grew into a sturdy weekly. And, to add the capstone to Cox's undoing, William H. Taft, the most distinguished son of Cincinnati, then Secretary of War in President Roosevelt's cabinet, in a campaign speech in Akron, Ohio, advised the Republicans to repudiate him. This confounded the "regulars," and Cox was partially beaten. The reformers elected their candidate for mayor, but the boss retained his hold on the county and the city council. And, in spite of all that was done, Cox remained an influence in politics until his death, May 20, 1916.

San Francisco has had a varied and impressive political experience. The first legislature of California incorporated the mining town into the city of San Francisco, April 15, 1850. Its government from the outset was corrupt and inefficient. Lawlessness culminated in the murder of the editor of the Bulletin, J. King of William, on May 14, 1856, and a vigilance committee was organized to clean up the city, and watch the ballot-box on election day.

Soon the legislature was petitioned to change the charter. The petition recites: "Without a change in the city government which shall diminish the weight of taxation, the city will neither be able to discharge the interest on debts already contracted, nor to meet the demands for current disbursements.... The present condition of the streets and public improvements of the city abundantly attest the total inefficiency of the present system."

The legislature passed the "Consolidation Act," and from 1856 to 1900 county and city were governed as a political unit. At first the hopes for more frugal government seemed to be fulfilled. But all encouraging symptoms soon vanished. Partizan rule followed, encouraged by the tinkering of the legislature, which imposed on the charter layer upon layer of amendments, dictated by partizan craft, not by local needs. The administrative departments were managed by Boards of Commissioners, under the dictation of "Blind Boss Buckley," who governed his kingdom for many years with the despotic benevolence characteristic of his kind. The citizens saw their money squandered and their public improvements lagging. It took twenty-five years to complete the City Hall, at a cost of $5,500,000. An official of the Citizens' Non-partizan party, in 1895, said: "There is no city in the Union with a quarter of a million people, which would not be the better for a little judicious hanging."

The repeated attempts made by citizens of San Francisco to get a new charter finally succeeded, and in 1900 the city hopefully entered a new epoch under a charter of its own making which contained several radical changes. Executive responsibility was centered in the mayor, fortified by a comprehensive civil service. The foundations were laid for municipal ownership of public utilities, and the initiative and referendum were adopted for all public franchises. The legislative power was vested in a board of eighteen supervisors elected at large.

No other American city so dramatically represents the futility of basing political optimism on a mere plan. It was only a step from the mediocrity enthroned by the first election under the new charter to the gross inefficiency and corruption of a new ring, under a new boss. A Grand Jury (called the "Andrews Jury") made a report indicating that the administration was trafficking in favors sold to gamblers, prize-fighters, criminals, and the whole gamut of the underworld; that illegal profits were being reaped from illegal contracts, and that every branch of the executive department was honeycombed with corruption. The Grand Jury believed and said all this, but it lacked the legal proof upon which Mayor Schmitz and his accomplices could be indicted. In spite of this report, Schmitz was reelected in 1905 as the candidate of the Labor-Union party.

Now graft in San Francisco became simply universal. George Kennan, summarizing the practices of the looters, says they "took toll everywhere from everybody and in almost every imaginable way: they went into partnership with dishonest contractors; sold privileges and permits to business men; extorted money from restaurants and saloons; levied assessments on municipal employees; shared the profits of houses of prostitution; forced beer, whiskey, champagne, and cigars on restaurants and saloons on commission; blackmailed gamblers, pool-sellers, and promoters of prize-fights; sold franchises to wealthy corporations; created such municipal bureaus as the commissary department and the city commercial company in order to make robbery of the city more easy; leased rooms and buildings for municipal offices at exorbitant rates, and compelled the lessees to share profits; held up milkmen, kite-advertisers, junk-dealers, and even street-sweepers; and took bribes from everybody who wanted an illegal privilege and was willing to pay for it. The motto of the administration seemed to be 'Encourage dishonesty, and then let no dishonest dollar escape.'"

The machinery through which this was effected was simple: the mayor had vast appointing powers and by this means directly controlled all the city departments. But the mayor was only an automaton. Back of him was Abe Ruef, the Boss, an unscrupulous lawyer who had wormed his way into the labor party, and manipulated the "leaders" like puppets. Ruef's game also was elementary. He sold his omnipotence for cash, either under the respectable cloak of "retainer" or under the more common device of commissions and dividends, so that thugs retained him for their freedom, contractors for the favors they expected, and public service corporations for their franchises.

Finally, through the persistence of a few private citizens, a Grand Jury was summoned. Under the foremanship of B. P. Oliver it made a thorough investigation. Francis J. Heney was employed as special prosecutor and William J. Burns as detective. Heney and Burns formed an aggressive team. The Ring proved as vulnerable as it was rotten. Over three hundred indictments were returned, involving persons in every walk of life. Ruef was sentenced to fourteen years in the penitentiary. Schmitz was freed on a technicality, after being found guilty and sentenced to five years. Most of the other indictments were not tried, the prosecutor's attention having been diverted to the trail of the franchise-seekers, who have thus far eluded conviction.

Minneapolis, a city blending New England traditions with Scandinavian thrift, illustrates, in its experiences with "Doc" Ames, the maneuvers of the peripatetic boss. Ames was four times mayor of the city, but never his own successor. Each succeeding experience with him grew more lurid of indecency, until his third term was crystallized in Minneapolis tradition as "the notorious Ames administration." Domestic scandal made him a social outcast, political corruption a byword, and Ames disappeared from public view for ten years.

In 1900 a new primary law provided the opportunity to return him to power for the fourth time. Ames, who had been a Democrat, now found it convenient to become a Republican. The new law, like most of the early primary laws, permitted members of one party to vote in the primaries of the other party. So Ames's following, estimated at about fifteen hundred, voted in the Republican primaries, and he became a regular candidate of that party in a presidential year, when citizens felt the special urge to vote for the party.

Ames was the type of boss with whom discipline is secondary to personal aggrandizement. He had a passion for popularity; was imposing of presence; possessed considerable professional skill; and played constantly for the support of the poor. The attacks upon him he turned into political capital by saying that he was made a victim by the rich because he championed the poor. Susceptible to flattery and fond of display, he lacked the power to command. He had followers, not henchmen. His following was composed of the lowly, who were duped by his phrases, and of criminals, who knew his bent; and they followed him into any party whither he found it convenient to go, Republican, Democratic, or Populist.

The charter of Minneapolis gave the mayor considerable appointing power. He was virtually the dictator of the Police Department. This was the great opportunity of Ames and his floating vote. His own brother, a weak individual with a dubious record, was made Chief of Police. Within a few weeks about one-half of the police force was discharged, and the places filled with men who could be trusted by the gang. The number of detectives was increased and an ex-gambler placed at their head. A medical student from Ames's office was commissioned a special policeman to gather loot from the women of the street.

Through a telepathy of their own, the criminal classes all over the country soon learned of the favorable conditions in Minneapolis, under which every form of gambling and low vice flourished; and burglars, pickpockets, safe-blowers, and harlots made their way thither. Mr. W. A. Frisbie, the editor of a leading Minneapolis paper, described the situation in the following words: "It is no exaggeration to say that in this period fully 99% of the police department's efficiency was devoted to the devising and enforcing of blackmail. Ordinary patrolmen on beats feared to arrest known criminals for fear the prisoners would prove to be 'protected'....The horde of detective favorites hung lazily about police headquarters, waiting for some citizen to make complaint of property stolen, only that they might enforce additional blackmail against the thief, or possibly secure the booty for themselves. One detective is now (1903) serving time in the state prison for retaining a stolen diamond pin."

The mayor thought he had a machine for grinding blackmail from every criminal operation in his city, but he had only a gang, without discipline or coordinating power, and weakened by jealousy and suspicion. The wonder is that it lasted fifteen months. Then came the "April Grand Jury," under the foremanship of a courageous and resourceful business man. The regime of criminals crumbled; forty-nine indictments, involving twelve persons, were returned.

The Grand Jury, however, at first stood alone in its investigations. The crowd of politicians and vultures were against it, and no appropriations were granted for getting evidence. So its members paid expenses out of their own pockets, and its foreman himself interviewed prisoners and discovered the trail that led to the Ring's undoing. Ames's brother was convicted on second trial and sentenced to six and a half years in the penitentiary, while two of his accomplices received shorter terms. Mayor Ames, under indictment and heavy bonds, fled to Indiana.

The President of the City Council, a business man of education, tact, and sincerity, became mayor, for an interim of four months; enough time, as it proved, for him to return the city to its normal political life.

These examples are sufficient to illustrate the organization and working of the municipal machine. It must not be imagined by the reader that these cities alone, and a few others made notorious by the magazine muck-rakers, are the only American cities that have developed oligarchies. In truth, not a single American city, great or small, has entirely escaped, for a greater or lesser period, the sway of a coterie of politicians. It has not always been a corrupt sway; but it has rarely, if ever, given efficient administration.

Happily there are not wanting signs that the general conditions which have fostered the Ring are disappearing. The period of reform set in about 1890, when people began to be interested in the study of municipal government. It was not long afterwards that the first authoritative books on the subject appeared. Then colleges began to give courses in municipal government; editors began to realize the public's concern in local questions and to discuss neighborhood politics as well as national politics. By 1900 a new era broke—the era of the Grand Jury. Nothing so hopeful in local politics had occurred in our history as the disclosures which followed. They provoked the residuum of conscience in the citizenry and the determination that honesty should rule in public business and politics as well as in private transactions. The Grand Jury inquisitions, however, demonstrated clearly that the criminal law was no remedy for municipal misrule. The great majority of floaters and illegal voters who were indicted never faced a trial jury. The results of the prosecutions for bribery and grosser political crimes were scarcely more encouraging. It is true that one Abe Ruef in a California penitentiary is worth untold sermons, editorials, and platform admonitions, and serves as a potent warning to all public malefactors. Yet the example is soon forgotten; and the people return to their former political habits.

But out of this decade of gang-hunting and its impressive experiences with the shortcomings of our criminal laws came the new municipal era which we have now fully entered, the era of enlightened administration. This new era calls for a reconstruction of the city government. Its principal feature is the rapid spread of the Galveston or Commission form of government and of its modification, the City Manager plan, the aim of which is to centralize governmental authority and to entice able men into municipal office. And there are many other manifestations of the new civic spirit. The mesmeric influence of national party names in civic politics is waning; the rise of home rule for the city is severing the unholy alliance between the legislature and the local Ring; the power to grant franchises is being taken away from legislative bodies and placed directly with the people; nominations are passing out of the hands of cliques and are being made the gift of the voters through petitions and primaries; efficient reforms in the taxing and budgetary machinery have been instituted, and the development of the merit system in the civil service is creating a class of municipal experts beyond the reach of political gangsters.

There have sprung up all sorts of collateral organizations to help the officials: societies for municipal research, municipal reference libraries, citizens' unions, municipal leagues, and municipal parties. These are further supplemented by organizations which indirectly add to the momentum of practical, enlightened municipal sentiment: boards of commerce, associations of business and professional men of every variety, women's clubs, men's clubs, children's clubs, recreation clubs, social clubs, every one with its own peculiar vigilance upon some corner of the city's affairs. So every important city is guarded by a network of voluntary organizations.

All these changes in city government, in municipal laws and political mechanisms, and in the people's attitude toward their cities, have tended to dignify municipal service. The city job has been lifted to a higher plane. Lord Rosebery, the brilliant chairman of the first London County Council, the governing body of the world's largest city, said many years ago: "I wish that my voice could extend to every municipality in the kingdom, and impress upon every man, however high his position, however great his wealth, however consummate his talents may be, the importance and nobility of municipal work." It is such a spirit as this that has made the government of Glasgow a model of democratic efficiency; and it is the beginnings of this spirit that the municipal historian finds developing in the last twenty years of American life. It is indeed difficult to see how our cities can slip back again into the clutches of bosses and rings and repeat the shameful history of the last decades of the nineteenth century.


The American people, when they wrote their first state constitutions, were filled with a profound distrust of executive authority, the offspring of their experience with the arbitrary King George. So they saw to it that the executive authority in their own government was reduced to its lowest terms, and that the legislative authority, which was presumed to represent the people, was exalted to legal omnipotence. In the original States, the legislature appointed many of the judicial and administrative officers; it was above the executive veto; it had political supremacy; it determined the form of local governments and divided the State into election precincts; it appointed the delegates to the Continental Congress, towards which it displayed the attitude of a sovereign. It was altogether the most important arm of the state government; in fact it virtually was the state government. The Federal Constitution created a government of specified powers, reserving to the States all authority not expressly given to the central government. Congress can legislate only on subjects permitted by the Constitution; on the other hand, a state legislature can legislate on any subject not expressly forbidden. The state legislature possesses authority over a far wider range of subjects than Congress—subjects, moreover, which press much nearer to the daily activities of the citizens, such as the wide realm of private law, personal relations, local government, and property.

In the earlier days, men of first-class ability, such as Alexander Hamilton, Samuel Adams, and James Madison, did not disdain membership in the state legislatures. But the development of party spirit and machine politics brought with it a great change. Then came the legislative caucus; and party politics soon reigned in every capital. As the legislature was ruled by the majority, the dominant party elected presiding officers, designated committees, appointed subordinates, and controlled lawmaking. The party was therefore in a position to pay its political debts and bestow upon its supporters valuable favors. Further, as the legislature apportioned the various electoral districts, the dominant party could, by means of the gerrymander, entrench itself even in unfriendly localities. And, to crown its political power, it elected United States Senators. But, as the power of the party increased, unfortunately the personnel of the legislature deteriorated. Able men, as a rule, shunned a service that not only took them from their private affairs for a number of months, but also involved them in partizan rivalries and trickeries. Gradually the people came to lose confidence in the legislative body and to put their trust more in the Executive or else reserved governmental powers to themselves. It was about 1835 that the decline of the legislature's powers set in, when new state constitutions began to clip its prerogatives, one after another.

The bulky constitutions now adopted by most of the States are eloquent testimony to the complete collapse of the legislature as an administrative body and to the people's general distrust of their chosen representatives. The initiative, referendum, recall, and the withholding of important subjects from the legislature's power, are among the devices intended to free the people from the machinations of their wilful representatives.

Now, most of the evils which these heroic measures have sought to remedy can be traced directly to the partizan ownership of the state legislature. The boss controlling the members of the legislature could not only dole out his favors to the privilege seekers; he could assuage the greed of the municipal ring; and could, to a lesser degree, command federal patronage by an entente cordiale with congressmen and senators; and through his power in presidential conventions and elections he had a direct connection with the presidential office itself.

It was in the days before the legislature was prohibited from granting, by special act, franchises and charters, when banks, turnpike companies, railroads, and all sorts of corporations came asking for charters, that the figure of the lobbyist first appeared. He acted as a middleman between the seeker and the giver. The preeminent figure of this type in state and legislative politics for several decades preceding the Civil War was Thurlow Weed of New York. As an influencer of legislatures, he stands easily first in ability and achievement. His great personal attractions won him willing followers whom he knew how to use. He was party manager, as well as lobbyist and boss in a real sense long before that term was coined. His capacity for politics amounted to genius. He never sought office; and his memory has been left singularly free from taint. He became the editor of the Albany Journal and made it the leading Whig "up-state" paper. His friend Seward, whom he had lifted into the Governor's chair, passed on to the United States Senate; and when Horace Greeley with the New York Tribune joined their forces, this potent triumvirate ruled the Empire State. Greeley was its spokesman, Seward its leader, but Weed was its designer. From his room No. 11 in the old Astor House, he beckoned to forces that made or unmade presidents, governors, ambassadors, congressmen, judges, and legislators.

With the tremendous increase of business after the Civil War, New York City became the central office of the nation's business, and many of the interests centered there found it wise to have permanent representatives at Albany to scrutinize every bill that even remotely touched their welfare, to promote legislation that was frankly in their favor, and to prevent "strikes"—the bills designed for blackmail. After a time, however, the number of "strikes" decreased, as well as the number of lobbyists attending the session. The corporate interests had learned efficiency. Instead of dealing with legislators individually, they arranged with the boss the price of peace or of desirable legislation. The boss transmitted his wishes to his puppets. This form of government depends upon a machine that controls the legislature. In New York both parties were moved by machines. "Tom" Platt was the "easy boss" of the Republicans; and Tammany and its "up-state" affiliations controlled the Democrats. "Right here," says Platt in his Autobiography (1910), "it may be appropriate to say that I have had more or less to do with the organization of the New York legislature since 1873." He had. For forty years he practically named the Speaker and committees when his party won, and he named the price when his party lost. All that an "interest" had to do, under the new plan, was to "see the boss," and the powers of government were delivered into its lap.

Some of this legislative bargaining was revealed in the insurance investigation of 1905, conducted by the Armstrong Committee with Charles E. Hughes as counsel. Officers of the New York Life Insurance Company testified that their company had given $50,000 to the Republican campaign of 1904. An item of $235,000, innocently charged to "Home office annex account," was traced to the hands of a notorious lobbyist at Albany. Three insurance companies had paid regularly $50,000 each to the Republican campaign fund. Boss Platt himself was compelled reluctantly to relate how he had for fifteen years received ten one thousand dollar bundles of greenbacks from the Equitable Life as "consideration" for party goods delivered. John A. McCall, President of the New York Life, said: "I don't care about the Republican side of it or the Democratic side of it. It doesn't count at all with me. What is best for the New York Life moves and actuates me."

In another investigation Mr. H. O. Havemeyer of the Sugar Trust said: "We have large interests in this State; we need police protection and fire protection; we need everything that the city furnishes and gives, and we have to support these things. Every individual and corporation and firm—trust or whatever you call it—does these things and we do them." No distinction is made, then, between the government that ought to furnish this "protection" and the machine that sells it!

No episode in recent political history shows better the relations of the legislature to the political machine and the great power of invisible government than the impeachment and removal of Governor William Sulzer in 1913. Sulzer had been four times elected to the legislature. He served as Speaker in 1893. He was sent to Congress by an East Side district in New York City in 1895 and served continuously until his nomination for Governor of New York in 1912. All these years he was known as a Tammany man. During his campaign for Governor he made many promises for reform, and after his election he issued a bombastic declaration of independence. His words were discounted in the light of his previous record. Immediately after his inauguration, however, he began a house-cleaning. He set to work an economy and efficiency commission; he removed a Tammany superintendent of prisons; made unusually good appointments without paying any attention to the machine; and urged upon the legislature vigorous and vital laws.

But the Tammany party had a large working majority in both houses, and the changed Sulzer was given no support. The crucial moment came when an emasculated primary law was handed to him for his signature. An effective primary law had been a leading campaign issue, all the parties being pledged to such an enactment. The one which the Governor was now requested to sign had been framed by the machine to suit its pleasure. The Governor vetoed it. The legislature adjourned on the 3rd of May. The Governor promptly reconvened it in extra session (June 7th) for the purpose of passing an adequate primary law. Threats that had been made against him by the machine now took form. An investigating committee, appointed by the Senate to examine the Governor's record, largely by chance happened upon "pay dirt," and early on the morning of the 13th of August, after an all-night session, the Assembly passed a motion made by its Tammany floor leader to impeach the Governor.

The articles of impeachment charged: first, that the Governor had filed a false report of his campaign expenses; second, that since he had made such statement under oath he was guilty of perjury; third, that he had bribed witnesses to withhold testimony from the investigating committee; fourth, that he had used threats in suppression of evidence before the same tribunal; fifth, that he had persuaded a witness from responding to the committee's subpoena; sixth, that he had used campaign contributions for private speculation in the stock market; seventh, that he had used his power as Governor to influence the political action of certain officials; lastly, that he had used this power for affecting the stock market to his gain.

Unfortunately for the Governor, the first, second, and sixth charges had a background of facts, although the rest were ridiculous and trivial. By a vote of 43 to 12 he was removed from the governorship. The proceeding was not merely an impeachment of New York's Governor. It was an impeachment of its government. Every citizen knew that if Sulzer had obeyed Murphy, his shortcomings would never have been his undoing.

The great commonwealth of Pennsylvania was for sixty years under the domination of the House of Cameron and the House of Quay. Simon Cameron's entry into public notoriety was symbolic of his whole career. In 1838, he was one of a commission of two to disburse to the Winnebago Indians at Prairie du Chien $100,000 in gold. But, instead of receiving gold, the poor Indians received only a few thousand dollars in the notes of a bank of which Cameron was the cashier. Cameron was for this reason called "the Great Winnebago." He built a large fortune by canal and railway contracts, and later by rolling-mills and furnaces. He was one of the first men in American politics to purchase political power by the lavish use of cash, and to use political power for the gratification of financial greed. In 1857 he was elected to the United States Senate as a Republican by a legislature in which the Democrats had a majority. Three Democrats voted for him, and so bitter was the feeling against the renegade trio that no hotel in Harrisburg would shelter them.

In 1860 he was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. President Lincoln made him Secretary of War. But his management was so ill-savored that a committee of leading business men from the largest cities of the country told the President that it was impossible to transact business with such a man. These complaints coupled with other considerations moved Lincoln to dismiss Cameron. He did so in characteristic fashion. On January 11, 1862, he sent Cameron a curt note saying that he proposed to appoint him minister to Russia. And thither into exile Cameron went. A few months later, the House of Representatives passed a resolution of censure, citing Cameron's employment of irresponsible persons and his purchase of supplies by private contract instead of competitive bidding. The resolution, however, was later expunged from the records; and Cameron, on his return from Russia, again entered the Senate under circumstances so suspicious that only the political influence of the boss thwarted an action for bribery. In 1877 he resigned, naming as his successor his son "Don," who was promptly elected.

In the meantime another personage had appeared on the scene. "Cameron made the use of money an essential to success in politics, but Quay made politics expensive beyond the most extravagant dreams." From the time he arrived of age until his death, with the exception of three or four years, Matthew S. Quay held public office. When the Civil War broke out, he had been for some time prothonotary of Beaver County, and during the war he served as Governor Curtin's private secretary. In 1865 he was elected to the legislature. In 1877 he induced the legislature to resurrect the discarded office of Recorder of Philadelphia, and for two years he collected the annual fees of $40,000. In 1887 he was elected to the United States Senate, in which he remained except for a brief interval until his death.

In 1899 came revelations of Quay's substantial interests in state moneys. The suicide of the cashier of the People's Bank of Philadelphia, which was largely owned by politicians and was a favorite depository of state funds, led to an investigation of the bank's affairs, and disclosed the fact that Quay and some of his associates had used state funds for speculation. Quay's famous telegram to the cashier was found among the dead official's papers, "If you can buy and carry a thousand Met. for me I will shake the plum tree."

Quay was indicted, but escaped trial by pleading the statute of limitations as preventing the introduction of necessary evidence against him. A great crowd of shouting henchmen accosted him as a hero when he left the courtroom, and escorted him to his hotel. And the legislature soon thereafter elected him to his third term in the Senate.

Pittsburgh, as well as Philadelphia, had its machine which was carefully geared to Quay's state machine. The connection was made clear by the testimony of William Flinn, a contractor boss, before a committee of the United States Senate. Flinn explained the reason for a written agreement between Quay on the one hand and Flinn and one Brown in behalf of Chris Magee, the Big Boss, on the other, for the division of the sovereignty of western Pennsylvania. "Senator Quay told me," said Flinn, "that he would not permit us to elect the Republican candidate for mayor in Pittsburgh unless we adjust the politics to suit him." The people evidently had nothing to say about it.

The experiences of New York and Pennsylvania are by no means isolated; they are illustrative. Very few States have escaped a legislative scandal. In particular, Rhode Island, Delaware, Illinois, Colorado, Montana, California, Ohio, Mississippi, Texas can give pertinent testimony to the willingness of legislatures to prostitute their great powers to the will of the boss or the machine.


American political maneuver culminates at Washington. The Presidency and membership in the Senate and the House of Representatives are the great stakes. By a venerable tradition, scrupulously followed, the judicial department is kept beyond the reach of party greed.

The framers of the Constitution believed that they had contrived a method of electing the President and Vice-President which would preserve the choice from partizan taint. Each State should choose a number of electors "equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress." These electors were to form an independent body, to meet in their respective States and "ballot for two persons," and send the result of their balloting to the Capitol, where the President of the Senate, in the presence of the Senate and the House of Representatives, opened the certificates and counted the votes. The one receiving the greatest number of votes was to be declared elected President, the one receiving the next highest number of votes, Vice-President. George Washington was the only President elected by such an autonomous group. The election of John Adams was bitterly contested, and the voters knew, when they were casting their ballots in 1796, whether they were voting for a Federalist or a Jeffersonian. From that day forward this greatest of political prizes has been awarded through partizan competition. In 1804 the method of selecting the Vice-President was changed by the twelfth constitutional amendment. The electors since that time ballot for President and Vice-President. Whatever may be the legal privileges of the members of the Electoral College, they are considered, by the voters, as agents of the party upon whose tickets their names appear, and to abuse this relationship would universally be deemed an act of perfidy.

The Constitution permits the legislatures of the States to determine how the electors shall be chosen. In the earlier period, the legislatures elected them; later they were elected by the people; sometimes they were elected at large, but usually they were chosen by districts. And this is now the general custom. Since the development of direct nominations, there has been a strong movement towards the abolition of the Electoral College and the election of the President by direct vote.

The President is the most powerful official in our government and in many respects he is the most powerful ruler in the world. He is Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy. His is virtually the sole responsibility in conducting international relations. He is at the head of the civil administration and all the important administrative departments are answerable to him. He possesses a vast power of appointment through which he dispenses political favors. His wish is potent in shaping legislation and his veto is rarely overridden. With Congress he must be in daily contact; for the Senate has the power of ratifying or discarding his appointments and of sanctioning or rejecting his treaties with foreign countries; and the House of Representatives originates all money bills and thus possesses a formidable check upon executive usurpation.

The Constitution originally reposed the choice of United States Senators with the state legislatures. A great deal of virtue was to flow from such an indirect election. The members of the legislature were presumed to act with calm judgment and to choose only the wise and experienced for the dignity of the toga. And until the period following the Civil War the great majority of the States delighted to send their ablest statesmen to the Senate. Upon its roll we find the names of many of our illustrious orators and jurists. After the Civil War, when the spirit of commercialism invaded every activity, men who were merely rich began to aspire to senatorial honors. The debauch of the state legislatures which was revealed in the closing year of the nineteenth century and the opening days of the twentieth so revolted the people that the seventeenth constitutional amendment was adopted (1913) providing for the election of senators by direct vote.

The House of Representatives was designed to be the "popular house." Its election from small districts, by direct vote, every two years is a guarantee of its popular character. From this characteristic it has never departed. It is the People's House. It originates all revenue measures. On its floor, in the rough and tumble of debate, partizan motives are rarely absent.

Upon this national tripod, the Presidency, the Senate, and the House, is builded the vast national party machine. Every citizen is familiar with the outer aspect of these great national parties as they strive in placid times to create a real issue of the tariff, or imperialism, or what not, so as to establish at least an ostensible difference between them; or as they, in critical times, make the party name synonymous with national security. The high-sounding platforms, the frenzied orators, the parades, mass meetings, special trains, pamphlets, books, editorials, lithographs, posters—all these paraphernalia are conjured up in the voter's mind when he reads the words Democratic and Republican.

But, from the standpoint of the professional politician, all this that the voter sees is a mask, the patriotic veneer to hide the machine, that complex hierarchy of committees ranging from Washington to every cross-roads in the Republic. The committee system, described in a former chapter, was perfected by the Republican party during the days of the Civil War, under the stress of national necessity. The great party leaders were then in Congress. When the assassination of Lincoln placed Andrew Johnson in power, the bitter quarrel between Congress and the President firmly united the Republicans; and in order to carry the mid-election in 1866, they organized a Congressional Campaign Committee to conduct the canvass. This practice has been continued by both parties, and in "off" years it plays a very prominent part in the party campaign. Congress alone, however, was only half the conquest. It was only through control of the Administration that access was gained to the succulent herbage of federal pasturage and that vast political prestige with the voter was achieved.

The President is nominally the head of his party. In reality he may not be; he may be only the President. That depends upon his personality, his desires, his hold upon Congress and upon the people, and upon the circumstances of the hour. During the Grant Administration, as already described, there existed, in every sense of the term, a federal machine. It held Congress, the Executive, and the vast federal patronage in its power. All the federal office-holders, all the postmasters and their assistants, revenue collectors, inspectors, clerks, marshals, deputies, consuls, and ambassadors were a part of the organization, contributing to its maintenance. We often hear today of the "Federal Crowd," a term used to describe such appointees as still subsist on presidential and senatorial favor. In Grant's time, this "crowd" was a genuine machine, constructed, unlike some of its successors, from the center outward. But the "boss" of this machine was not the President. It was controlled by a group of leading Congressmen, who used their power for dictating appointments and framing "desirable" legislation. Grant, in the imagination of the people, symbolized the cause their sacrifices had won; and thus his moral prestige became the cloak of the political plotters.

A number of the ablest men in the Republican party, however, stood aloof; and by 1876 a movement against the manipulators had set in. Civil service reform had become a real issue. Hayes, the "dark horse" who was nominated in that year, declared, in accepting the nomination, that "reform should be thorough, radical, and complete." He promised not to be a candidate for a second term, thus avoiding the temptation, to which almost every President has succumbed, of using the patronage to secure his reelection. The party managers pretended not to hear these promises. And when Hayes, after his inauguration, actually began to put them into force, they set the whole machinery of the party against the President. Matters came to a head when the President issued an order commanding federal office-holders to refrain from political activity. This order was generally defied, especially in New York City in the post-office and customs rings. Two notorious offenders, Cornell and Arthur, were dismissed from office by the President. But the Senate, influenced by Roscoe Conkling's power, refused to confirm the President's new appointees; and under the Tenure of Office Act, which had been passed to tie President Johnson's hands, the offenders remained in office over a year. The fight disciplined the President and the machine in about equal proportions. The President became more amenable and the machine less arbitrary.

President Garfield attempted the impossible feat of obliging both the politicians and the reformers. He was persuaded to make nominations to federal offices in New York without consulting either of the senators from that State, Conkling and Platt. Conkling appealed to the Senate to reject the New York appointees sent in by the President. The Senate failed to sustain him. Conkling and his colleague Platt resigned from the Senate and appealed to the New York legislature, which also refused to sustain them.

While this absurd farce was going on, a more serious ferment was brewing. On July 2, 1881, President Garfield was assassinated by a disappointed office-seeker named Guiteau. The attention of the people was suddenly turned from the ridiculous diversion of the Conkling incident to the tragedy and its cause. They saw the chief office in their gift a mere pawn in the game of place-seekers, the time and energy of their President wasted in bickerings with congressmen over petty appointments, and the machinery of their Government dominated by the machinery of the party for ignoble or selfish ends.

At last the advocates of reform found their opportunity. In 1883 the Civil Service Act was passed, taking from the President about 14,000 appointments. Since then nearly every President, towards the end of his term, especially his second term, has added to the numbers, until nearly two-thirds of the federal offices are now filled by examination. President Cleveland during his second term made sweeping additions. President Roosevelt found about 100,000 in the classified service and left 200,000. President Taft, before his retirement, placed in the classified service assistant postmasters and clerks in first and second-class postoffices, about 42,000 rural delivery carriers, and over 20,000 skilled workers in the navy yards.

The appointing power of the President, however, still remains the principal point of his contact with the machine. He has, of course, other means of showing partizan favors. Tariff laws, laws regulating interstate commerce, reciprocity treaties, "pork barrels," pensions, financial policies, are all pregnant with political possibilities.

The second official unit in the national political hierarchy is the House of Representatives, controlling the pursestrings, which have been the deadly noose of many executive measures. The House is elected every two years, so that it may ever be "near to the people"! This produces a reflex not anticipated by the Fathers of the Constitution. It gives the representative brief respite from the necessities of politics, and hence little time for the necessities of the State.

The House attained the zenith of its power when it arraigned President Johnson at the bar of the Senate for high crimes and misdemeanors in office. It had shackled his appointing power by the Tenure of Office Act; it had forced its plan of reconstruction over his veto; and now it led him, dogged and defiant, to a political trial. Within a few years the character of the House changed. A new generation interested in the issues of prosperity, rather than those of the war, entered public life. The House grew unwieldy in size and its business increased alarmingly. The minority, meanwhile, retained the power, through filibustering, to hold up the business of the country.

It was under such conditions that Speaker Reed, in 1890, crowned himself "Czar" by compelling a quorum. This he did by counting as actually present all members whom the clerk reported as "present but not voting." The minority fought desperately for its last privilege and even took a case to the Supreme Court to test the constitutionality of a law passed by a Reed-made quorum. The court concurred with the sensible opinion of the country that "when the quorum is present, it is there for the purpose of doing business," an opinion that was completely vindicated when the Democratic minority became a majority and adopted the rule for its own advantage.

By this ruling, the Speakership was lifted to a new eminence. The party caucus, which nominated the Speaker, and to which momentous party questions were referred, gave solidarity to the party. But the influence of the Speaker, through his power of appointing committees, of referring bills, of recognizing members who wished to participate in debate, insured that discipline and centralized authority which makes mass action effective. The power of the Speaker was further enlarged by the creation of the Rules Committee, composed of the Speaker and two members from each party designated by him. This committee formed a triumvirate (the minority members were merely formal members) which set the limits of debate, proposed special rules for such occasions as the committee thought proper, and virtually determined the destiny of bills. So it came about, as Bryce remarks, that the choice of the Speaker was "a political event of the highest significance."

It was under the regency of Speaker Cannon that the power of the Speaker's office attained its climax. The Republicans had a large majority in the House and the old war-horses felt like colts. They assumed their leadership, however, with that obliviousness to youth which usually characterizes old age. The gifted and attractive Reed had ruled often by aphorism and wit, but the unimaginative Cannon ruled by the gavel alone; and in the course of time he and his clique of veterans forgot entirely the difference between power and leadership.

Even party regularity could not long endure such tyranny. It was not against party organization that the insurgents finally raised their lances, but against the arbitrary use of the machinery of the organization by a small group of intrenched "standpatters." The revolt began during the debate on the Payne-Aldrich tariff, and in the campaign of 1908 "Cannonism" was denounced from the stump in every part of the country. By March, 1910, the insurgents were able, with the aid of the Democrats, to amend the rules, increasing the Committee on Rules to ten to be elected by the House and making the Speaker ineligible for membership. When the Democrats secured control of the House in the following year, the rules were revised, and the selection of all committees is now determined by a Committee on Committees chosen in party caucus. This change shifts arbitrary power from the shoulders of the Speaker to the shoulders of the party chieftains. The power of the Speaker has been lessened but by no means destroyed. He is still the party chanticleer.

The political power of the House, however, cannot be calculated without admitting to the equation the Senate, the third official unit, and, indeed, the most powerful factor in the national hierarchy. The Senate shares equally with the House the responsibility of lawmaking, and shares with the President the responsibility of appointments and of treaty-making. It has been the scene of many memorable contests with the President for political control. The senators are elder statesmen, who have passed through the refining fires of experience, either in law, business, or politics. A senator is elected for six years; so that he has a period of rest between elections, in which he may forget his constituents in the ardor of his duties.

Within the last few decades a great change has come over the Senate, over its membership, its attitude towards public questions, and its relation to the electorate. This has been brought about through disclosures tending to show the relations on the part of some senators towards "big business." As early as the Granger revelations of railway machinations in politics, in the seventies, a popular distrust of the Senate became pronounced. No suggestion of corruption was implied, but certain senators were known as "railway senators," and were believed to use their partizan influence in their friends' behalf. This feeling increased from year to year, until what was long suspected came suddenly to light, through an entirely unexpected agency. William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper owner who had in vain attempted to secure a nomination for President by the Democrats and to get himself elected Governor of New York, had organized and financed a party of his own, the Independence League. While speaking in behalf of his party, in the fall of 1908, he read extracts from letters written by an official of the Standard Oil Company to various senators. The letters, it later appeared, had been purloined from the Company's files by a faithless employee. They caused a tremendous sensation. The public mind had become so sensitive that the mere fact that an intimacy existed between the most notorious of trusts and some few United States senators—the correspondents called each other "Dear John," "Dear Senator," etc.—was sufficient to arouse the general wrath. The letters disclosed a keen interest on the part of the corporation in the details of legislation, and the public promptly took the Standard Oil Company as a type. They believed, without demanding tangible proof, that other great corporations were, in some sinister manner, influencing legislation. Railroads, insurance companies, great banking concerns, vast industrial corporations, were associated in the public mind as "the Interests." And the United States Senate was deemed the stronghold of the interests. A saturnalia of senatorial muckraking now laid bare the "oligarchy," as the small group of powerful veteran Senators who controlled the senatorial machinery was called. It was disclosed that the centralization of leadership in the Senate coincided with the centralization of power in the Democratic and Republican national machines. In 1911 and 1912 a "money trust" investigation was conducted by the Senate and a comfortable entente was revealed between a group of bankers, insurance companies, manufacturers, and other interests, carried on through an elaborate system of interlocking directorates. Finally, in 1912, the Senate ordered its Committee on Privileges and Elections to investigate campaign contributions paid to the national campaign committees in 1904, 1908, and 1912. The testimony taken before this committee supplied the country with authentic data of the interrelations of Big Business and Big Politics.

The revolt against "Cannonism" in the House had its counterpart in the Senate. By the time the Aldrich tariff bill came to a vote (1909), about ten Republican senators rebelled. The revolt gathered momentum and culminated in 1912 in the organization of the National Progressive party with Theodore Roosevelt as its candidate for President and Hiram Johnson of California for Vice-President. The majority of the Progressives returned to the Republican fold in 1916. But the rupture was not healed, and the Democrats reelected Woodrow Wilson.


In the early days a ballot was simply a piece of paper with the names of the candidates written or printed on it. As party organizations became more ambitious, the party printed its own ballots, and "scratching" was done by pasting gummed stickers, with the names of the substitutes printed on them, over the regular ballot, or by simply striking out a name and writing another one in its place. It was customary to print the different party tickets on different colored paper, so that the judges in charge of the ballot boxes could tell how the men voted. When later laws required all ballots to be printed on white paper and of the same size, the parties used paper of different texture. Election officials could then tell by the "feel" which ticket was voted. Finally paper of the same color and quality was enjoined by some States. But it was not until the State itself undertook to print the ballots that uniformity was secured.

In the meantime the peddling of tickets was a regular occupation on election day. Canvassers invaded homes and places of business, and even surrounded the voting place. It was the custom in many parts of the country for the voters to prepare the ballots before reaching the voting place and carry them in the vest pocket, with a margin showing. This was a sort of signal that the voter's mind had been made up and that he should be let alone, yet even with this signal showing, in hotly contested elections the voter ran a noisy gauntlet of eager solicitors, harassing him on his way to vote as cab drivers assail the traveler when he alights from the train. This free and easy method, tolerable in sparsely settled pioneer districts, failed miserably in the cities. It was necessary to pass rigorous laws against vote buying and selling, and to clear the polling-place of all partizan soliciting. Penal provisions were enacted against intimidation, violence, repeating, false swearing when challenged, ballot-box stuffing, and the more patent forms of partizan vices. In order to stop the practice of "repeating," New York early passed laws requiring voters to be duly registered. But the early laws were defective, and the rolls were easily padded. In most of the cities poll lists were made by the party workers, and the name of each voter was checked off as he voted. It was still impossible for the voter to keep secret his ballot. The buyer of votes could tell whether he got what he paid for; the employer, so disposed, could bully those dependent on him into voting as he wished, and the way was open to all manner of tricks in the printing of ballots with misleading emblems, or with certain names omitted, or with a mixture of candidates from various parties—tricks that were later forbidden by law but were none the less common.

Rather suddenly a great change came over election day. In 1888 Kentucky adopted the Australian ballot for the city of Louisville, and Massachusetts adopted it for all state and local elections. The Massachusetts statute provided that before an election each political party should certify its nominees to the Secretary of the Commonwealth. The State then printed the ballots. All the nominees of all the parties were printed on one sheet. Each office was placed in a separate column, the candidates in alphabetical order, with the names of the parties following. Blank spaces were left for those who wished to vote for others than the regular nominees. This form of ballot prevented "voting straight" with a single mark. The voter, in the seclusion of a booth at the polling-place, had to pick his party's candidates from the numerous columns.

Indiana, in 1889, adopted a similar statute but the ballot had certain modifications to suit the needs of party orthodoxy. Here the columns represented parties, not offices. Each party had a column. Each column was headed by the party name and its device, so that those who could not read could vote for the Rooster or the Eagle or the Fountain. There was a circle placed under the device, and by making his mark in this circle the voter voted straight.

Within eight years thirty-eight States and two Territories had adopted the Australian or blanket ballot in some modified form. It was but a step to the state control of the election machinery. Some state officer, usually the Secretary of State, was designated to see that the election laws were enforced. In New York a State Commissioner of Elections was appointed. The appointment of local inspectors and judges remained for a time in the hands of the parties. But soon in several States even this power was taken from them, and the trend now is towards appointing all election officers by the central authority. These officers also have complete charge of the registration of voters. In some States, like New York, registration has become a rather solemn procedure, requiring the answering of many questions and the signing of the voter's name, all under the threat of perjury if a wilful misrepresentation is made.

So passed out of the control of the party the preparation of the ballot and the use of the ballot on election day. Innumerable rules have been laid down by the State for the conduct of elections. The distribution of the ballots, their custody before election, the order of electional procedure, the counting of the ballots, the making of returns, the custody of the ballot-boxes, and all other necessary details, are regulated by law under official state supervision. The parties are allowed watchers at the polls, but these have no official standing.

If a Revolutionary Father could visit his old haunts on election day, he would be astonished at the sober decorum. In his time elections lasted three days, days filled with harangue, with drinking, betting, raillery, and occasional encounters. Even those whose memory goes back to the Civil War can contrast the ballot peddling, the soliciting, the crowded noisy polling-places, with the calm and quiet with which men deposit their ballots today. For now every ballot is numbered and no one is permitted to take a single copy from the room. Every voter must prepare his ballot in the booth. And every polling-place is an island of immunity in the sea of political excitement.

While the people were thus assuming control of the ballot, they were proceeding to gain control of their legislatures. In 1890 Massachusetts enacted one of the first anti-lobby laws. It has served as a model for many other States. It provided that the sergeant-at-arms should keep dockets in which were enrolled the names of all persons employed as counsel or agents before legislative committees. Each counsel or agent was further compelled to state the length of his engagement, the subjects or bills for which he was employed, and the name and address of his employer.

The first session after the passage of this law, many of the professional lobbyists refused to enroll, and the most notorious ones were seen no more in the State House. The regular counsel of railroads, insurance companies, and other interests signed the proper docket and appeared for their clients in open committee meetings.

The law made it the duty of the Secretary of the Commonwealth to report to the law officers of the State, for prosecution, all those who failed to comply with the act. Sixty-seven such delinquents were reported the first year. The Grand Jury refused to indict them, but the number of recalcitrants has gradually diminished.

The experience of Massachusetts is not unique. Other States passed more or less rigorous anti-lobby laws, and today, in no state Capitol, will the visitor see the disgusting sights that were usual thirty years ago—arrogant and coarse professional "agents" mingling on the floor of the legislature with members, even suggesting procedure to presiding officers, and not infrequently commandeering a majority. Such influences, where they persist, have been driven under cover.

With the decline of the professional lobbyist came the rise of the volunteer lobbyist. Important bills are now considered in formal committee hearings which are well advertised so that interested parties may be present. Publicity and information have taken the place of secrecy in legislative procedure. The gathering of expert testimony by special legislative commissions of inquiry is now a frequent practice in respect to subjects of wide social import, such as workmen's compensation, widows' pensions, and factory conditions.

A number of States have resorted to the initiative and referendum as applied to ordinary legislation. By means of this method a small percentage of the voters, from eight to ten per cent, may initiate proposals and impose upon the voters the function of legislation. South Dakota, in 1898, made constitutional provision for direct legislation. Utah followed in 1900, Oregon in 1902, Nevada in 1904, Montana in 1906, and Oklahoma in 1907. East of the Mississippi, several States have adopted a modified form of the initiative and referendum. In Oregon, where this device of direct government has been most assiduously applied, the voters in 1908 voted upon nineteen different bills and constitutional amendments; in 1910 the number increased to thirty-two; in 1912, to thirty-seven; in 1914 it fell to twenty-nine. The vote cast for these measures rarely exceeded eighty per cent of those voting at the election and frequently fell below sixty.

The electorate that attempts to rid itself of the evils of the state legislature by these heroic methods assumes a heavy responsibility. When the burden of direct legislation is added to the task of choosing from the long list of elective officers which is placed before the voter at every local and state election, it is not surprising that there should set in a reaction in favor of simplified government. The mere separation of state and local elections does not solve the problem. It somewhat minimizes the chances of partizan influence over the voter in local elections; but the voter is still confronted with the long lists of candidates for elective offices. Ballots not infrequently contain two hundred names, sometimes even three hundred or more, covering candidates of four or five parties for scores of offices. These blanket ballots are sometimes three feet long. After an election in Chicago in 1916, one of the leading dailies expressed sympathy "for the voter emerging from the polling-booth, clutching a handful of papers, one of them about half as large as a bed sheet." Probably most voters were able to express a real preference among the national candidates. It is almost equally certain that most voters were not able to express a real preference among important local administrative officials. A huge ballot, all printed over with names, supplemented by a series of smaller ballots, can never be a manageable instrument even for an electorate as intelligent as ours.

Simplification is the prophetic watchword in state government today. For cities, the City Manager and the Commission have offered salvation. A few officers only are elected and these are held strictly responsible, sometimes under the constant threat of the recall, for the entire administration. Over four hundred cities have adopted the form of government by Commission. But nothing has been done to simplify our state governments, which are surrounded by a maze of heterogeneous and undirected boards and authorities. Every time the legislature found itself confronted by a new function to be cared for, it simply created a new board. New York has a hodgepodge of over 116 such authorities; Minnesota, 75; Illinois, 100. Iowa in 1913 and Illinois and Minnesota in 1914, indeed, perfected elaborate proposals for simplifying their state governments. But these suggestions remain dormant. And the New York State Constitutional Convention in 1915 prepared a new Constitution for the State, with the same end in view, but their work was not accepted by the people. It may be said, however, that in our attempt to rid ourselves of boss rule we have swung through the arc of direct government and are now on the returning curve toward representative government, a more intensified representative government that makes evasion of responsibility and duty impossible by fixing it upon one or two men.


The State, at first, had paid little attention to the party, which was regarded as a purely voluntary aggregation of like-minded citizens. Evidently the State could not dictate that you should be a Democrat or a Republican or force you to be an Independent. With the adoption of the Australian ballot, however, came the legal recognition of the party; for as soon as the State recognized the party's designated nominees in the preparation of the official ballot, it recognized the party. It was then discovered that, unless some restrictions were imposed, groups of interested persons in the old parties would manage the nominations of both to their mutual satisfaction. Thus a handful of Democrats would visit Republican caucuses or primaries and a handful of Republicans would return the favor to the Democrats. In other words, the bosses of both parties would cooperate in order to secure nominations satisfactory to themselves. Massachusetts began the reform by defining a party as a group of persons who had cast a certain percentage of the votes at the preceding election. This definition has been widely accepted; and the number of votes has been variously fixed at from two to twenty-five per cent. Other States have followed the New York plan of fixing definitely the number of voters necessary to form a party. In New York no fewer than 10,000 voters can secure recognition as a state party, exception being made in favor of municipal or purely local parties. But merely fixing the numerical minimum of the party was not enough. The State took another step forward in depriving the manipulator of his liberty when it undertook to determine who was entitled to membership in the party and privileged to take part in its nominations and other party procedure. Otherwise the virile minority in each party would control both the membership and the nominations.

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