William Marcy Tweed (1823 - 1878)
Tweed was the New York political boss whose
grand-scale corruption symbolized the low political standards of the Gilded
He got his start in politics with volunteer
fire companies, which were closely tied to Tammany Hall, and he soon learned
tricky devices like running dummy candidates to divide the opposition.
The City Council during his service was known as the Forty Thieves.
Tweed offered $5 million to The
New York Times if it would not print the information on his corruption
and $500,000 to Nast if he would stop his anti-Tweed cartoons. Tweed was treated
luxuriously in prison, even being allowed to take carriage rides. He escaped
and fled to Cuba and Spain disguised as a sailor but was recognized and returned
to harsher jail treatment.
Always genial and friendly, Tweed held no personal
grudges against Thomas Nast and others who brought him down. He said he was
only surprised that they wouldnt take his bribes.
Quote: (When asked
how his ring had managed to keep the scandals hidden for so long): Well,
we used money wherever we could. (1869)
REFERENCE: Alexander Callow, The
Tweed Ring (1966).
Horace Greeley (1811 - 1872)
Greeley was the most famous newspaper editor
of the nineteenth century, whose eccentric involvements in reform and politics
made him an object of humor and anger.
He started on a Vermont newspaper at age fourteen
and in 1841 launched the New York Tribune in close
association with Whig politicians Thurlow Weed and William Seward.
At various times he supported Fourierism, ending
capital punishment, prohibition, cooperative labor unions, womens rights
(though not suffrage), and homesteading. He once spent a few months in an
unsuccessful farming venture and then published a book called What
I Know of Farming.
He had a high, squeaky voice and whiskers and
always wore a broad-brimmed hat and white socks. He tried numerous times for
political office, but except for a few months in Congress, he always failed.
He had often been satirized but took personally the attacks on him in the
1872 campaign: one cartoon depicted him shaking hands with Booth over Lincolns
body. He already showed signs of mental instability before the election and
died shortly thereafter.
Quote: We are
henceforth to be one American people. Let us forget that we fought. Let us
remember only that we have made peace. (1872)
REFERENCE: Lurton D. Ingersoll, The
Life of Horace Greeley (1974).
James G. Blaine (1830 - 1893)
Blaine was the colorful Republican politician,
presidential candidate, and secretary of state during the Gilded Age.
Blaine married his wife secretly because she
was a schoolteacher who was supposed to remain single. She came from a well-off
Maine family, and they helped him get his start in politics there.
Although he had the grand platform manner of
earlier politicians, Blaine excelled at personal contact and humorous banter.
He could easily remember thousands of names and connect each of them with
an anecdote about the person.
By dramatically producing and reading the Mulligan
letters, which supposedly proved his involvement in railroad corruption,
he convinced many people of his innocence. Although never charged with crime,
he became wealthy by trading favors with the owners of railroads and other
letter requires no answer. After reading it file it away in your most secret
drawer or give it to the flames.Do not say a wordno matter who
may ask you. (Letter to Sherman, 1884)
REFERENCE: R. Hal Williams, Years
of Decision (1978).