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Tammany Hall vs. Allan Campbell

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THE SPEECH OF CARL SCHURZ

When Mayor Grace rose to introduce the Hon. Carl Schurz the audience was very enthusiastic. Mr. Schurz bowed in acknowledgment of the warmth of his reception, but the applause continued long and vigorously. Then he spoke as follows:

Fellow-Citizens: You will pardon at the outset a remark personal to myself. For several days I have been suffering from a severe cold, which makes it painful to me to speak in a loud voice, but I take so deep an interest in this cause that I could not refrain from making some remarks upon so interesting and auspicious an occasion, and if I should suddenly have to stop you will know the cause, and you will pardon me for it. I suppose I am speaking here to Democrats and Republicans [applause] in a friendly meeting assembled together. Let me say to them that I sympathize with them in all good things to which they aspire, and I shall speak to Democrats and Republicans, and Republicans and Democrats, addressing myself to their good sense and patriotism with equal confidence. New-York City politics are a verry interesting subject of study. [Laughter.] But, like many of the things that students of medicine have to do with, their odor is not always very fine. [Laughter.] Our Municipal Government has a reputation — not only national, but world-wide. The City of New-York is universally known as one of the most magnificent and the dirtiest — [laughter] — one of the busiest and one of the most ill-governed on the face of the globe. It is frequently taken as a proof that the people of a large city are not capable of governing themselves? Now, gentlemen, shall we admit that it is such a proof? Is it not rather a proof of the fact that the people of the City of New-York have of late years but very seldom tried to govern themselves. There is a fine bit of Municipal history which may serve as an illustration. Some, and not a great many, years ago this City had a renowned ruler, who achieved the peculiar distinction of coming very near having a statue erected to him by his admiring fellow-citizens, and then died as a convicted thief in the penitentiary. Ponder over this fact a little more! Do you think that the guilt was all Tweed's own, or do you not think the people of New-York bore some part of the guilt themselves? Do you think he could have become so powerful as he was and plundered you as he did if the citizens of New-York had not permitted him to do so? Why, you permitted him for years to wield a great power without law and without responsibility. You permitted him to distribute your Municipal offices among his henchmen as pay for the work they did — not for you, but for him. You permitted him thus to organize a tremendous band of robbers which fairly subjugated you; you permitted him to control the ballot-box as well as the courts of justice; you permitted him to strengthen himself with spoils to such a degree that he could ask you “What are you going to do about it?” [Laughter.] You threw temptations into his way which the best virtue of Tammany Hall could scarcely resist. [Laughter.] You seduced Tweed with power and with opportunity. You permitted him to say to himself: “Why, if the citizens of New-York let me do these things, why shouldn't I do them?” and when his measure was full, it required a great uprising of the people, almost amounting to a revolution, to break his power and to bring him to justice, and to their honor be it said, in that uprising honest Democrats and honest Republicans took an equal part. [Applause.]

Then you tried to govern yourselves; you made an effort, and you know that then you succeeded in governing yourselves. Have you forgotten that lesson? It almost looks so. For some years you seem to have stopped trying again. A few days ago there was a very singular and singnificant spectacle presented to the people of this City. After Tweed's downfall Tammany Hall came somewhat under the ban of public opinion, and for the few years past, Tammany Hall seems to have been under the ban of the Democratic Party, too; for Tammany Hall had committed that which in the eye of the partisan is the unpardonable sin: it had risen against the decrees of the party; it had resisted the nominations made by the party and it had defeated its tickets. One decree of excommunication was hurled against him after another, and the air was fairly blue with the oaths of prominent Democrats, who swore that they would not shave their beards, that they would scarcely go to bed, before Tammany Hall was swept from the face of the earth. Now, my fellow citizens, what did we see a few days ago? All these hostile factions we saw sitting together in cozy conference, dividing among themselves, like old friends, the Municipal offices as if nothing had happened. There they were, in the truest sense of the term, casting their lots for the garments of this crucified community. [Applause.] And, mark you, there was the boss of Tammany Hall sitting at the head of the table. [Laughter.] The prodigal son was received back and the fatted calf was killed for him. [Laughter.] But who was the prodigal son? [A voice, “John Kelly.”] No, John Kelly looked rather like the rich and benignant and magnificant father, [loud laughter,] receiving the profligates of Irving Hall and of the County Democracy. [Loud applause and laughter.] And to one of them he gave the fatted calf of the Sheriff's office, and to the other the equally fatted calf of the County Clerkship. [Laughter.] And then they sat there at his feet, fairly shedding tears over the magnanimity and generosity of the great old, grand old father. [Laughter and applause.] And it seemed almost as if the County Democracy had caught the spirit of Tammany Hall with this new friendship, for it brought forward its favorite son Pat Keenan. [Laughter.] Why, my fellow-citizens, I must say that I was very much startled when I saw that, for in my political experience, which is not very short, I had very seldom seen so scandalous a thing. But it must be admitted that the success of Tammany and its boss was something not only remarkable, but fairly marvelous.

What is the secret of Tammany's power? It has a man at its head who knows how to keep together his forces. It has at its command, I believe, 40,000 votes — the bulk in this City. They are like a drilled and disciplined political army. When he tells them “Come!” they go. When he tells them, “Defeat this man,” they defeat him — if they can. [Laughter.] When he tells them, “Support this man,” they support him. When he rises in revolt they rise in revolt. He has convinced the other Democratic factions that without his support success is scarcely possible, that with his enmity defeat is very probable. In other words, he has brought them to the conclusion that they cannot get along without him. And now I ask you what has become of those Democratic heroes who, but a short time ago — as it were, only yesterday — swore so loudly that Tammany Hall must be swept from the face of the earth? Why, methinks that some of them might be almost afraid to look into their mirrors, for they might behold there around their heads a very brilliant halo of impudence. How does the Tammany boss hold his forces together? Is it by great political aims? Is Tammany Hall a school of political philosophy — some Athenian academy where profound public problems are solved? Is it a nursery of statesmanship and patriotism for the salvation of this great Republic? Principle! What are their principles? Have they any? It is true now and then, and especially on the fourth of July, they will indulge in a loud wailing chant, mourning over the degeneracy of the times because Tammany Hall cannot rule the whole country after all. [Laughter and applause.] Some time ago their leader set himself up as an Anti-Monopolist, and while he did that his followers faithfully voted in the Legislature for the Elevated Railroad Tax bill, and the protected Judge Westbrook against impeachment. [Applause.] Now then, what is it that holds this wonderful machinery together? Why Mayor Grace has already condensed the whole in one single sentence. He said to you that it is held together simply by the cohesive power of public plunder, in the sublimest meaning of the word. It is a bread and butter brigade in all its purity. The sober truth is that the boss of Tammany Hall feeds his henchmen out of the public crib, and they hold together so that he may have power to get wherewith to feed them. That is all. To them the City is a great soup-house in which Tammany is to get the largest plates and the fattest offices. [Laughter and applause.] The Tammany boss, whoever he may be, will always feel himself bound to put a man wherever there is a salary to draw or a contract to be got. Whenever a corner of that cloak which covers our Municipal affairs is lifted, then the odor of Tammany will rise up at once and tickle the nostrils of the whole community. Remember the scandals of the Receiverships. Why, the man put in by Judge Westbrook at Boss Kelly's request was the very worst of the lot, and then the influence of Tammany was used to protect Judge Westbrook against impeachment. [Applause.] When Controller Campbell — Allan Campbell [applause] — succeeded Mr. Kelly in the Finance Department, he found there 60 superfluous persons who did little or no work, but were remarkably patriotic in the regularity with which they drew their salaries. [Laughter.] Of course, dutiful officer as he was, Mr. Campbell removed them at once and thereby he saved the City some sixty odd thousand dollars. The Tammany boss never forgave him for that — for doing his duty. And so it is all round. He does feed his followers, and he must feed them to hold them together. And now he gives some of the fat slices to the Irving Hall and the County Democracy to hold them together too. A prominent Tammany man boasted some time ago that if they won this Municipal election there would a year hence be only one Democratic organization in this State and that would be Tammany Hall, and I believe it, and you will pay the bills. [Laughter and applause.]

Now, as the boss has to find nourishing things for his henchmen, so he wants, of course, everybody that is put into a high place which has any patronage to it, with his co-operation to dispose of that patronage so as to take care of his creatures as matter of course. Is that demand always complied with? No; not always. Now and then there will be a courageous public officer who will do his duty and refuse to obey the behests of Tammany. So Allan Campbell did, and so Mayor Grace did, to his honor be it said. [Applause.] But you may be sure that the demand will always be made and will always be insisted upon, and that resistance to it will be visited with the deadly enmity of all there is of Tammany influence. They say that Mr. Edson, who was nominated by the United Democracy [hisses] under Boss Kelly's recommendation, has made no pledges to him. That is quite possible, but one thing is sure also, and that is that Mr. Kelly will want and that he expects him to place and appoint his creatures just the same. Now Mr. Edson's most sanguine friends, say that he is a man of principle, and that he will resist Kelly, and that Kelly has made a mistake in his man in recommending Mr. Edson for the Mayorship. My fellow-citizens, then the thing would come to this: That this great City of New-York, if electing a Mayor recommended by Mr. Kelly, may possibly get a good Mayor, if Mr. Kelly has deceived himself in his man. [Laughter.] In other words, we are living under this beautiful system, that the chance of this City for good government depends upon Boss Kelly's making a mistake. [Laughter.] Now, gentlemen, let us be just to Mr. John Kelly; we ought to be just to every man. He is certainly a far better man than his predecessor Tweed was. He does not rob the City for his own benefit and to spend the money in riotous living. He is, perhaps, not even animated by any love of money, but it is rather love of power that animates him. Why, he is a very good man, as bosses go. [Laughter.] He is probably the best men you can get, of the boss variety, but the breed of bosses is not a good thing for a country or a city to live under. [Laughter and applause.] You may show me a very gentle specimen of the species wolf, and say to me that it is the very best wolf that human being ever laid eyes on, but I would not put that wolf in the sheepfold, for the breed of wolves is not good for sheep. [Great applause.] In point of fact, a boss, if he be the best man in the world, has to obey certain necessities of his position. He has to do certain things, and cannot do otherwise. He must find places and food for the followers who are to obey him. He must keep a large band of “strikers” and “heelers” in his pay to do his political work, and sometimes rather dirty work, too. He must find places and salaries and contracts and jobs for them. He must multiply offices to satisfy as many of them as possible. He must permit them to pilfer occasionally, for it won't do for him to quarrel with them too much and to stir up ugly feeling in his own company. He must demand of those who obtained office by his co-operation to put the patronage of their offices at his disposal. He must become the enemy of faithful officers who refuse to do that and prefer to perform their duty. He must, in doing all this, take the money out of the pockets of the tax-payers for his own purposes. He must do it, and he cannot help himself. As soon as he ceased to to do so, he would simply cease to be a boss. You take the Angel Gabriel and make him boss of Tammany Hall and he will have to do these very same things or he will not be boss very long. Thus Mr. Kelly, in his position, his acts and inclinations, is not a mere accident. He is a fair representative and exponent of a system. And if you want this system to blossom out again in full blossom there is a very simple way to accomplish that. You have only to elect the Municipal ticket recommended to you by the united Democracy. The day after election the Tammany boss will appear once more as the great dispenser of all power and patronage. Why, gentlemen, coming events cast their shadows before. On their very ticket you see the Corporation Counsel of the Tweed régime as a candidate for one of the Judgeships of the Superior Court. Why, in one of the wards of this City Barry Genet, one of the jackals of the Tweed régime, runs to-day for Alderman. You will have soon again play by the whole band if you elect this County ticket, but, as prudent men, I trust you will also count the cost. Your support of a lot of political strikers out of the City treasury, that is to say, out of your own pockets, the pockets of the tax-payers, is already rather an expensive luxury; but it is nothing compared with what it will be and what is to come. The Mayor has already alluded to the fact that a new aqueduct must be built for the purpose of giving the poor people good fresh water in the upper stories of their tenement-houses. That aqueduct will cost many millions, any way. Now, I ask you to consider how many more millions, how many times twenty millions, will it cost if Tammany Hall will rule the roost again, and will, with the united Democracy at its heels, make contracts and appoint the men to carry them out and to superintend it? I ask you, will you, tax-payers, dare to run the risk to support the policy of getting a new aqueduct under such circumstances, and with such prospects, putting the work into such hands? And if Tammany comes up again; if it takes control of our affairs, there will be a multitude of such jobs. In Brooklyn the experiment has been tried of investing the Mayor with full and responsible powers. That is a very good system, as it has already proved there, provided always it be in good hands. The experiment is likely to be tried here, too. But when you think of such power being given to one man, while Tammany Hall wields it, don't your hands turn convulsively toward your pockets to feel whether your pocketbooks are still there? [Laughter.] Can you think for a moment of delivering your City and yourselves, bound hand and food, to the control of a power like this?

You may rather prefer to refrain from having these salutary and necessary works done, and yet all these things can be done with perfect safety and with benefit to you all with such men to conduct your Municipal Government as Mayor Low in Brooklyn [applause] and as Mayor Campbell [applause] will be. Does not every sensible man see what is required under such circumstances? Why, it is the simplest thing in the world — a Municipal Government that owes allegiance and service to no political party, to no boss, to the people alone and to their interests; officers in high places who will appoint their subordinates, not at the command of any political power on earth, but merely to do their duty faithfully, honestly, and economically to the whole people of this City; officers who will make the government of this City not a soup-house, but a workshop in the best sense of the term. Judges we need who will not bend the knee to any political power, but who will do impartial justice and be a terror to all evil-doers, to whatever political party they belong. [Applause.] That is the kind of Municipal Government you need, and that is the kind of Municipal Government we earnestly entreat you to adopt.

It is not a Democratic or Republican Government we present to you for your acceptance, but it is a City Government belonging to you all. [Applause.] We recommend candidates who, as we think, are just the men to give you what now you do most stand in need of. We recommend them ot as if we assume any authority, but simply because nobody else has taken the responsibility of doing so. [Applause.] The same thing that has been done by those who gave to Brooklyn the courageous and noble young Mayor they have, is done by us who propose to you to give you an equally courageous and noble Mayor in Mr. Allan Campbell. [Applause.] Now, look around you. Read the papers from day to day. Hear the speeches of the adherents of Tammany Hall and of the united Democracy following it. What have they to say against our candidates? Not a breath against their integrity. That stands above suspicion. It would be useless to attack it. Not a whisper against their fitness. That is known to you all. What is it, then? Why, they bring against them simply that they have not been nominated by Tammany Hall and by all the Democratic factions confederated with it; that they will not be subservient to their behests and to their interests. Why, fellow-citizens, here it is — the honest independence, the very virtue you need most in your Municipal Government — which is made the only charge against them, and on account of these very virtues you are asked not to elect them. It is insisted that you shall defeat them simply because Tammany Hall cannot use and rule them.

Democrats, I ask you, you who sympathize with every word I say, you who are honest when you try to throw off the domination of Tammany Hall from your necks, I ask you, do not you feel that the veriest blush of shame would be an ornament to your cheek when you contemplate the disgrace of your present alliance with Tammany Hall and your subjugation by it? [Applause.] I ask you does not your honor, does not your pride as men long to throw off that odious yoke? And do you not see that when you strike down and annihilate Tammany's power in this City it will never annoy and control you again in this City; but whether you do or not I am sure the citizens of New-York will show that they have lost neither the desire nor the power to govern themselves.

Now, my fellow-citizens, you have indeed a great opportunity. The issue before you is as clear as sunlight. It is the people who want safety and good Government on one side, and it is a nest of politicians who want spoils on the other. That is all. To-day, I saw a good, an excellent cartoon in one of your illustrated papers, representing the Tammany bosses with the heads of the other confederated Democratic factions plotting to divide the lion's skin, while the lion stood behind them fully alive. I trust the citizens of New-York will show them on election day that the lion is indeed alive and let them hear the roar of his voice and the whole power of his strength. [Loud and prolonged applause.]


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).