PLUNKITT OF TAMMANY HALL
By George Washington Plunkitt
A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics, Delivered by
Ex-senator George Washington Plunkitt, the Tammany Philosopher, from His
Rostrum--the New York County Court House Bootblack Stand
Recorded by William L. Riordon
Preface by William L. Riordon
A Tribute by Charles F. Murphy
Chapter 1. Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft
Chapter 2. How To Become a Statesman
Chapter 3. The Curse of Civil Service Reform
Chapter 4. Reformers Only Mornin' Glories
Chapter 5. New York City Is Pie for the Hayseeds
Chapter 6. To Hold Your District: Study Human Nature and Act Accordin'
Chapter 7. On The Shame of the Cities
Chapter 8. Ingratitude in Politics
Chapter 9. Reciprocity in Patronage
Chapter 10. Brooklynites Natural-Born Hayseeds
Chapter 11. Tammany Leaders Not Bookworms
Chapter 12. Dangers of the Dress Suit in Politics
Chapter 13. On Municipal Ownership
Chapter 14. Tammany the Only Lastin' Democracy
Chapter 15. Concerning Gas in Politics
Chapter 16. Plunkitt's Fondest Dream
Chapter 17. Tammany's Patriotism
Chapter 18. On the Use of Money in Politics
Chapter 19. The Successful Politician Does Not Drink
Chapter 20. Bosses Preserve the Nation
Chapter 21. Concerning Excise
Chapter 22. A Parting Word on the Future Party in America
Chapter 23. Strenuous Life of the Tammany District Leader
discloses the mental
operations of perhaps the most
thoroughly practical politician
of the day--George Washington Plunkitt,
Tammany leader of the Fifteenth Assembly District, Sachem of the Tammany
Society and Chairman of the Elections Committee of Tammany Hall, who
has held the offices of State Senator, Assemblyman', Police Magistrate,
County Supervisor and Alderman, and who boasts of his record in filling
four public offices in one year and drawing
salaries from three of them
at the same time.
The discourses that follow were delivered by him from his rostrum, the
bootblack stand in the County Court-house, at various times in the
last half-dozen years. Their absolutefrankness
unconventionality of thought and expression charmed me. Plunkitt said
right out what all practical politicians think but are afraid to say.
Some of the discourses I published as interviews in the New York Evening
Post, the New York Sun, the New York World, and the Boston Transcript.
They were reproduced in newspapers throughout the country and several
of them, notably
the talks on "The Curse of Civil Service Reform" and
"Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft," became subjects of discussion
the United States Senate and in college lectures. There seemed to be
a general recognition
of Plunkitt as a striking
type of the practical
politician, a politician, moreover, who dared to say publicly
others in his class whisper
among themselves in the City Hall corridors
and the hotel lobbies.
I thought it a pity to let Plunkitt's revelations of himself--as frank
in their way as Rousseau's Confessions--perish in the files of the
newspapers; so I collected the talks I had published, added several new
ones, and now give to the world in this volume
philosophy which is as unique
as it is refreshing.
No New Yorker needs to be informed who George Washington Plunkitt is.
For the information of others, the following sketch
of his career
given. He was born, as he proudly
tells, in Central Park--that is, in
the territory now included in the park. He began life as a driver of
a cart, then became a butcher's boy, and later went into the butcher
business for himself. How he entered politics
he explains in one of his
discourses. His advancement
was rapid. He was in the Assembly soon after
he cast his first vote and has held office most of the time for forty
In 1870, through a strange combination
of circumstances, he held the
places of Assemblyman, Alderman, Police Magistrate and County Supervisor
and drew three salaries at once--a record unexampled in New York
Plunkitt is now a millionaire. He owes his fortune mainly
political pull, as he confesses in "Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft."
He is in the contracting, transportation, real estate, and every
other business out of which he can make money. He has no office. His
headquarters is the County Courthouse bootblack stand. There he receives
his constituents, transacts his general business and pours forth his
Plunkitt has been one of the great powers in Tammany Hall for a quarter
of a century. While he was in the Assembly and the State Senate he
was one of the most influential
members and introduced the bills that
provided for the outlying parks of New York City, the Harlem River
Speedway, the Washington Bridge, the 155th Street Viaduct, the grading
of Eighth Avenue north of Fifty-seventh Street, additions to the Museum
of Natural History, the West Side Court, and many other important public
improvements. He is one of the closest friends and most valued advisers
of Charles F. Murphy, leader of Tammany Hall.
William L. Riordon
A Tribute to Plunkitt by the Leader of Tammany Hall
SENATOR PLUNKITT is a straight organization man. He believes in party
government; he does not indulge
in cant and hypocrisy
and he is never
afraid to say exactly what he thinks. He is a believer
political organization and all-the-year-around work, and he holds to the
doctrine that, in making appointments to office, party workers should
be preferred if they are fitted to perform the duties of the office.
Plunkitt is one of the veteran
leaders of the organization; he has
always been faithful
and reliable, and he has performed valuable
services for Tammany Hall.
CHARLES F. MURPHY
PLUNKITT OF TAMMANY HALL
Chapter 1. Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft
EVERYBODY is talkin' these days about Tammany men growin' rich on graft,
but nobody thinks of drawin' the distinction
between honest graft and
dishonest graft. There's all the difference in the world between the
two. Yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics. I have myself.
I've made a big fortune out of the game, and I'm gettin' richer every
day, but I've not gone in for dishonest
saloonkeepers, disorderly people, etc.--and neither has any of the men
who have made big fortunes in politics.
There's an honest graft, and I'm an example of how it works. I might sum
up the whole thing by sayin': "I seen my opportunities and I took 'em."
Just let me explain by examples. My party's in power in the city, and
it's goin' to undertake
a lot of public improvements. Well, I'm tipped
off, say, that they're going to lay out a new park at a certain place.
I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all
the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes
its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared
particular for before.
Ain't it perfectly
honest to charge
a good price and make a profit on my
investment and foresight? Of course, it is. Well, that's honest graft.
Or supposin' it's a new bridge
they're goin' to build. I get tipped off
and I buy as much property as I can that has to be taken for approaches.
I sell at my own price later on and drop some more money in the bank.
Wouldn't you? It's just like lookin' ahead in Wall Street or in the
coffee or cotton market. It's honest graft, and I'm lookin' for it every
day in the year. I will tell you frankly
that I've got a good lot of it,
I'll tell you of one case. They were goin' to fix up a big park, no
matter where. I got on to it, and went lookin' about for land in that
I could get nothin' at a bargain
but a big piece of swamp, but I took it
fast enough and held on to it. What turned out was just what I counted
on. They couldn't make the park complete without Plunkitt's swamp, and
they had to pay a good price for it. Anything dishonest
Up in the watershed I made some money, too. I bought up several bits of
land there some years ago and made a pretty good guess that they would
be bought up for water purposes later by the city.
Somehow, I always guessed about right, and shouldn't I enjoy the
profit of my foresight? It was rather amusin' when the condemnation
commissioners came along and found piece after piece of the land in the
name of George Plunkitt of the Fifteenth Assembly District, New York
City. They wondered how I knew just what to buy. The answer is--I
seen my opportunity and I took it. I haven't confined myself to land;
anything that pays is in my line.
For instance, the city is repavin' a street and has several hundred
thousand old granite
blocks to sell. I am on hand to buy, and I know
just what they are worth.
How? Never mind that. I had a sort of monopoly
of this business for a
while, but once a newspaper tried to do me. It got some outside men to
come over from Brooklyn and New Jersey to bid against me.
Was I done? Not much. I went to each of the men and said: "How many of
these 250,000 stories do you want?" One said 20,000, and another wanted
15,000, and other wanted 10,000. I said: "All right, let me bid for the
lot, and I'll give each of you all you want for nothin'."
They agreed, of course. Then the auctioneer yelled: "How much am I bid
for these 250,000 fine pavin' stones?"
"Two dollars and fifty cents," says I.
"Two dollars and fifty cents!" screamed the auctioneer. "Oh, that's a
joke! Give me a real bid."
He found the bid was real enough. My rivals stood silent. I got the
lot for $2.50 and gave them their share. That's how the attempt to do
Plunkitt ended, and that's how all such attempts end.
I've told you how I got rich by honest graft. Now, let me tell you that
most politicians who are accused of robbin' the city get rich the same
They didn't steal a dollar from the city treasury. They just seen their
opportunities and took them. That is why, when a reform
comes in and spends a half million dollars in tryin' to find the public
robberies they talked about in the campaign, they don't find them.
The books are always all right. The money in the city treasury is all
right. Everything is all right. All they can show is that the Tammany
heads of departments looked after their friends, within the law, and
gave them what opportunities they could to make honest graft. Now, let
me tell you that's never goin' to hurt Tammany with the people. Every
good man looks after his friends, and any man who doesn't isn't likely
to be popular. If I have a good thing to hand out in private life, I
give it to a friend--Why shouldn't I do the same in public life?
Another kind of honest graft. Tammany has raised a good many salaries.
There was an awful howl by the reformers, but don't you know that
Tammany gains ten votes for every one it lost by salary raisin'?
The Wall Street banker
thinks it shameful
to raise a department clerk's
salary from $1500 to $1800 a year, but every man who draws a salary
himself says: "That's all right. I wish it was me." And he feels
very much like votin' the Tammany ticket on election
day, just out of
Tammany was beat in 1901 because the people were deceived into believin'
that it worked dishonest
graft. They didn't draw a distinction
dishonest and honest graft, but they saw that some Tammany men grew
rich, and supposed
they had been robbin' the city treasury or levyin'
blackmail on disorderly houses, or workin' in with the gamblers and
As a matter of policy, if nothing else, why should the Tammany leaders
go into such dirty business, when there is so much honest graft lyin'
around when they are in power? Did you ever consider that?
Now, in conclusion, I want to say that I don't own a dishonest
If my worst enemy was given the job of writin' my epitaph
when I'm gone,
he couldn't do more than write:
"George W. Plunkitt. He Seen His Opportunities, and He Took 'Em."
Chapter 2. How to Become a Statesman
THERE'S thousands of young men in this city who will go to the polls for
the first time next November. Among them will be many who have watched
the careers of successful men in politics, and who are longin' to make
names and fortunes for themselves at the same game--It is to these
youths that I want to give advice. First, let me say that I am in a
position to give what the courts call experttestimony
on the subject. I
don't think you can easily find a better example than I am of success
in politics. After forty years' experience at the game I am--well, I'm
George Washington Plunkitt. Everybody knows what figure I cut in the
greatest organization on earth, and if you hear people say that I've
laid away a million or so since I was a butcher's boy in Washington
Market, don't come to me for an indignantdenial
I'm pretty comfortable,
Now, havin' qualified as an expert, as the lawyers say, I am goin' to
give advice free to the young men who are goin' to cast their first
votes, and who are lookin' forward to political glory and lots of cash.
Some young men think they can learn how to be successful in politics
from books, and they cram their heads with all sorts of college rot.
They couldn't make a bigger mistake. Now, understand me I ain't sayin'
nothin' against colleges. I guess they'll have to exist as long as
there's book-worms, and I suppose they do some good in a certain way,
but they don't count in politics. In fact, a young man who has gone
through the college course is handicapped at the outset. He may succeed
in politics, but the chances are 100 to 1 against him.
Another mistake: some young men think that the best way to prepare for
the political game is to practice speakin' and becomin' orators. That's
all wrong. We've got some orators in Tammany Hall, but they're chiefly
ornamental. You never heard of Charlie Murphy delivering a speech, did
you? Or Richard Croker, or John Kelly, or any other man who has been a
real power in the organization? Look at the thirty-six district leaders
of Tammany Hall today. How many of them travel on their tongues? Maybe
one or two, and they don't count when business is doin' at Tammany
Hall. The men who rule have practiced
keepin' their tongues still, not
exercisin' them. So you want to drop the orator
idea unless you mean to
go into politics
just to perform the skyrocket act.
Now, I've told you what not to do; I guess I can explain best what to
do to succeed in politics
by tellin' you what I did. After goin' through
of the business while I was a boy by workin' around
the district headquarters
and hustlin' about the polls on election
I set out when I cast my first vote to win fame and money in New York
City politics. Did I offer my services to the district leader as a
stump-speaker? Not much. The woods are always full of speakers. Did
I get up a hook on municipal
government and show it to the leader? I
wasn't such a fool. What I did was to get some marketable goods before
goin' to the leaders. What do I mean by marketable goods? Let me tell
you: I had a cousin, a young man who didn't take any particular
interest in politics. I went to him and said: "Tommy, I'm goin' to be a
series [´siəri:z] n.连续；系列；丛书 (初中英语单词)politics [´pɔlitiks] n.政治(学)；政治活动 (初中英语单词)tribute [´tribju:t] n.贡物；献礼；颂词 (初中英语单词)politician [,pɔli´tiʃən] n.政治家；政客 (初中英语单词)preserve [pri´zə:v] v.保藏 n.保藏物 (初中英语单词)volume [´vɔlju:m, ´vɑljəm] n.卷；书籍；体积；容量 (初中英语单词)mental [´mentl] a.精神的；心理的 (初中英语单词)assembly [ə´sembli] n.集会；装配；与会者 (初中英语单词)absolute [´æbsəlu:t] a.绝对的 n.绝对 (初中英语单词)discussion [di´skʌʃən] n.讨论；辩论 (初中英语单词)recognition [,rekəg´niʃən] n.认出；认识；承认 (初中英语单词)striking [´straikiŋ] a.显著的，明显的 (初中英语单词)moreover [mɔ:´rəuvə] ad.再者，此外，而且 (初中英语单词)whisper [´wispə] v.耳语 n.低语；沙沙声 (初中英语单词)system [´sistəm] n.系统，体系，制度 (初中英语单词)sketch [sketʃ] n.素描；短剧 v.草拟 (初中英语单词)career [kə´riə] n.经历；生涯；职业 (初中英语单词)proudly [´praudli] ad.骄傲地；傲慢地 (初中英语单词)combination [,kɔmbi´neiʃən] n.结合；联合；团体 (初中英语单词)mainly [´meinli] ad.主要地；大体上 (初中英语单词)transportation [,trænspɔ:´teiʃən] n.运输；运送；运费 (初中英语单词)estate [i´steit] n.财产；庄园；等级 (初中英语单词)faithful [´feiθfəl] a.忠实的；可靠的 (初中英语单词)distinction [di´stiŋkʃən] n.差别；特征；卓越 (初中英语单词)undertake [,ʌndə´teik] vt.从事；承担；担保 (初中英语单词)neighborhood [´neibəhud] n.邻居；邻近；附近 (初中英语单词)charge [tʃɑ:dʒ] v.收费；冲锋 n.费用 (初中英语单词)frankly [´fræŋkli] ad.直率地；慷慨地 (初中英语单词)bargain [´bɑ:gin] n.买卖合同 v.议(价) (初中英语单词)instance [´instəns] n.例子，实例，例证 (初中英语单词)awhile [ə´wail] ad.少顷；片刻 (初中英语单词)jersey [´dʒə:zi] n.毛织运动衫；毛线衫 (初中英语单词)reform [ri´fɔ:m] v.&n.改革；改良；革除 (初中英语单词)banker [´bæŋkə] n.银行家 (初中英语单词)election [i´lekʃən] n.选举；选择 (初中英语单词)supposed [sə´pəuzd] a.想象的；假定的 (初中英语单词)conclusion [kən´klu:ʒən] n.结束；结论；推论 (初中英语单词)expert [´ekspə:t] n.&a.专家；内行 (初中英语单词)headquarters [´hed,kwɔ:təz] n.总部(署)，司令部 (初中英语单词)philosopher [fi´lɔsəfə] n.哲学家；思想家；哲人 (高中英语单词)municipal [mju:´nisipəl] a.市政的；地方性的 (高中英语单词)concerning [kən´sə:niŋ] prep.关于 (高中英语单词)senate [´senit] n.参议院；上院 (高中英语单词)unique [ju:´ni:k] a.唯一的 n.独一无二 (高中英语单词)millionaire [,miljə´neə] n.百万富翁 (高中英语单词)influential [,influ´enʃəl] a.有力的，有影响的 (高中英语单词)indulge [in´dʌldʒ] v.(使)沉迷；沉溺；放任 (高中英语单词)veteran [´vetərən] n.老兵 a.老练的 (高中英语单词)reliable [ri´laiəbl] a.可靠的；可信赖的 (高中英语单词)everyday [´evridei] a.每日的，日常的 (高中英语单词)perfectly [´pə:fiktli] ad.理想地；完美地 (高中英语单词)granite [´grænit] n.花岗岩 (高中英语单词)monopoly [mə´nɔpəli] n.垄断(权)；专利事业 (高中英语单词)campaign [kæm´pein] n.战役；行动 vi.从军 (高中英语单词)testimony [´testiməni] n.证明；证据；表明 (高中英语单词)parting [´pɑ:tiŋ] a.&n.分离(的) (英语四级单词)strenuous [´strenjuəs] a.费力的；奋发的 (英语四级单词)alderman [´ɔ:ldəmən] n.市参议员；总督 (英语四级单词)drawing [´drɔ:iŋ] n.画图；制图；图样 (英语四级单词)advancement [əd´vɑ:nsmənt] n.前进；促进；提升 (英语四级单词)bridge [bridʒ] n.桥(梁)；鼻梁；桥牌 (英语四级单词)believer [bi´li:və] n.信徒 (英语四级单词)foresight [´fɔ:sait] n.先见，深谋远虑 (英语四级单词)shameful [´ʃeimfəl] a.可耻的；猥亵的 (英语四级单词)policy [´pɔlisi] n.政策；权谋；保险单 (英语四级单词)indignant [in´dignənt] a.义愤的，愤慨的 (英语四级单词)orator [´ɔrətə] n.演说者；雄辩家 (英语四级单词)dishonest [dis´ɔnist] a.不诚实的 (英语六级单词)ingratitude [in´grætitju:d] n.忘恩负义 (英语六级单词)supervisor [´su:pəvaizə, ´sju:-] n.管理人；监督人 (英语六级单词)frankness [´fræŋknis] n.坦白，直率，真诚 (英语六级单词)notably [´nəutəbli] ad.显著地；著名地 (英语六级单词)publicly [´pʌblikli] ad.公然；公众所有地 (英语六级单词)courthouse [´kɔ:thaus] n.法院大楼 (英语六级单词)hypocrisy [hi´pɔkrisi] n.伪善 (英语六级单词)epitaph [´epitɑ:f] n.墓志铭 (英语六级单词)denial [di´naiəl] n.否认；拒绝 (英语六级单词)practiced [´præktist] a.经验丰富的；熟练的 (英语六级单词)apprenticeship [ə´prentisʃip] n.学徒工身份 (英语六级单词)