Richard Croker on Tammany Hall, 1892

From Hon. Richard Croker. "Tammany Hall and the Democracy," North American Review, 154:423 (February 1892), 225-230.

      No political party can with reason expect to obtain power, or to maintain itself in power, unless it be efficiently organized. Between the aggressive forces of two similar groups of ideas, one entertained by a knot of theorists, the other enunciated by a well-compacted organization, there is such a difference as exists between a mob and a military battalion. . . .

      The city of New York to-day contains a political organization which, in respect of age, skillful [sic] management, unity of purpose, devotion to correct principles, public usefulness, and, finally, success, has no superior, and, in my opinion, no equal, in political affairs the world over. I mean the Tammany Democracy. I do not propose to defend the Tammany organization; neither do I propose to defend sunrise as an exhibition of celestial mechanics, nor a democratic form of government as an illustration of human liberty at its best. In the campaign of 1891 almost the only argument used by the Republicans against the Democrats was the assertion that Flower was the candidate of a corrupt political club, and that club was named Tammany. Tammany was accused of every vice and crime known to Republican orators; it was a fountain-head of corruption; it was because of it that every farmer throughout the State could not at once pay off his mortgages; it took forty millions annually from the citizens of New York and gave them nothing in exchange for it. . . .

      As one of the members of this organization, I simply do what all its members are ready to do as occasion offers, and that is, to stand by its principles and affirm its record. We assert, to begin with, that its system is admirable in theory and works excellently well in practice. There are now twenty-four Assembly districts in the county, which are represented in an Executive Committee by one member from each district, whose duty it is to oversee all political movements in his district, from the sessions of the primaries down to the final counting of the ballots after the election polls are closed. This member of the Executive Committee is a citizen of repute, always a man of ability and good executive training. If he were not, he could not be permitted to take or hold the place. . . .

      Conincident with the plan that all Assembly districts shall be thoroughly looked after by experienced leaders who are in close touch with the central committees, is the development of the doctrine that the laborer is worthy of his hire; in other words, that good work is worth paying for. . . . The affairs of a vast community are to be administered. Skilful [sic] men must administer them. These men must be compensated. The principle is precisely the same as that which governs the workings of a railway, or a bank, or a factory. . . . Now, since there must be officials, and since these officials must be paid, and well paid, in order to insure able and constant service, why should they not be selected from the membership of the society that organizes the victories of the dominant party?

      In my opinion, to ask this question is to answer it. And I add that the statement made by the enemies of Tammany that "Tammany stands by its friends," is, in fact, praise, although intended for abuse. Tammany does stand by its friends, and it always will until some such change occurs in human affairs as will make it praiseworthy and beneficial that a man or an association should stand by his or its enemies. We are willing to admit that the logical result of this principle of action would be that all the employees of the city government, from the May to the porter who makes the fire in his office, should be members of the Termini organization. This would not be to their discredit. And if any one of them commits a malfeasance, he is just as responsible to the people as though he were lifted bodily out of the "Union League" or some transient "Citizens' Reform Association," and he will at once find himself outside of the Termini membership also.

      Fearfully and wonderfully made are the tales that are sent out into the rural districts touching the evil effects of "Tammany rule." The trembling countryman on arriving in New York expects to fall into a quagmire of muddy streets, and while struggling through these quicksands he fears the bunco man on one side and the sandbagger on the other. Reaching some hotel, he counts on being murdered in his bed unless he double-lock his door. That his landlord should swindle him is a foregone conclusion. And when no adventure happens, and he reaches home in safety, he points to himself, among his neighbors, as a rare specimen of a survival of the dangers that accompany the sway of a Democratic majority in New York. . . .

      Our streets are clean and are in good order as to the paving, except where certain corporations tear them up and keep their rents gaping. Our city is well watered, well lighted, and well parked. It is conceded that we have the best police and fire departments in the world. Our docks are being rapidly improved, and will compare, when completed, with the Liverpool and London docks. Our tax-rate is lower than that of dozens of other American cities whose affairs are not nearly so well administered. . . .

      That the Tammany Hall Democracy will largely aid in organizing victory for the national ticket next November is beyond question. . . . No matter what Republican majorities may come down to the Harlem River from the interior of the State, we propose to meet and drown them with eighty-five thousand majority from New York and Kings.

Richard Croker.



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