Tweed "Boss" entregado a las autoridades

Tweed

William Magear "Boss" Tweed, líder de la corrupta organización política Tammany Hall de la ciudad de Nueva York durante la década de 1860 y principios de la de 1870, es entregado a las autoridades de la ciudad de Nueva York después de su captura en España.

Tweed se convirtió en una figura poderosa en Tammany Hall, la maquinaria política demócrata de la ciudad de Nueva York, a fines de la década de 1850. A mediados de la década de 1860, había ascendido a la posición más alta en la organización y formó el "Tweed Ring", que compraba votos abiertamente, fomentaba la corrupción judicial, extraía millones de los contratos de la ciudad y dominaba la política de la ciudad de Nueva York. El Tweed Ring alcanzó su punto máximo de fraude en 1871 con la remodelación del Palacio de Justicia de la Ciudad, una flagrante malversación de fondos de la ciudad que fue expuesta por Los New York Times. Tweed y sus lacayos esperaban que las críticas pasaran, pero gracias a los esfuerzos de oponentes como Harper's Weekly El caricaturista político Thomas Nast, que llevó a cabo una cruzada contra Tweed, prácticamente todos los miembros de Tammany Hall fueron barridos del poder en las elecciones de noviembre de 1871.

Posteriormente, todos los Tweed Ring fueron juzgados y condenados a prisión. Boss Tweed cumplió condena por falsificación y hurto y otros cargos, pero en 1875 escapó de prisión y viajó a Cuba y España. En 1876, fue arrestado por la policía española, que al parecer lo reconoció por una famosa caricatura de Nash. Después de la extradición de Tweed a los Estados Unidos, fue devuelto a prisión, donde murió en 1878.

LEER MÁS: La loca investigación del injerto de los años 30 que derrocó al alcalde de Nueva York y luego a Tammany Hall


Campaña de Thomas Nast contra Boss Tweed

En los años posteriores a la Guerra Civil, un ex luchador callejero y arreglador político del Lower East Side llamado William M. Tweed se hizo conocido como "Boss Tweed" en la ciudad de Nueva York. Tweed nunca se desempeñó como alcalde. Los cargos públicos que ocupó en ocasiones siempre fueron menores.

Sin embargo, Tweed, al margen del gobierno, era, con mucho, el político más poderoso de la ciudad. Su organización, conocida por los conocedores simplemente como "The Ring", recaudó millones de dólares en corrupción ilegal.

Tweed finalmente fue derribado por los informes de los periódicos, principalmente en las páginas del New York Times. Pero un destacado caricaturista político, Thomas Nast de Harper's Weekly, también jugó un papel vital para mantener al público concentrado en las fechorías de Tweed y The Ring.

La historia de Boss Tweed y su impresionante caída del poder no se puede contar sin apreciar cómo Thomas Nast describió su robo desenfrenado de una manera que cualquiera podría entender.


William "Boss" Tweed y las máquinas políticas

Utilice esta narrativa con los jefes urbanos, ¿eran proveedores de servicios esenciales o políticos corruptos? Punto-contrapunto y análisis de dibujos animados: Thomas Nast toma & # 8220Boss Tweed & # 8221, 1871 Fuente primaria para dar una imagen completa de las máquinas políticas y su relación con los inmigrantes.

Nueva York fue un lugar lleno de gente después de la Guerra Civil. Las calles sin pavimentar de la ciudad estaban sembradas de basura arrojada por las ventanas y estiércol de caballo de animales que tiraban de carruajes. El humo negro obstruía el aire, emanaba del carbón ardiente y la madera que calentaba las casas y las fábricas de energía. Enfermedades como el cólera y la tuberculosis prosperaron en un entorno insalubre. Más de un millón de personas se agolparon en la ciudad, muchas de ellas en viviendas en ruinas. La pobreza, el analfabetismo, la delincuencia y el vicio eran problemas rampantes para los pobres y para los inmigrantes irlandeses y alemanes, que constituían casi la mitad de la población. El gobierno de la ciudad ofreció muy pocos servicios básicos para aliviar el sufrimiento, y las iglesias y organizaciones benéficas privadas a menudo se vieron abrumadas por la necesidad. Un político descubrió cómo proporcionar estos servicios y obtener algo a cambio.

William Magear & # 8220Boss & # 8221 Tweed era hijo de un fabricante de muebles. Desde temprana edad, Tweed descubrió que tenía un don para la política, con su imponente figura y carisma. Pronto comenzó a servir en cargos políticos locales de la ciudad de Nueva York y fue elegido concejal del Séptimo Distrito, uniéndose a los llamados 40 ladrones que representaban a los distritos de la ciudad. Cumplió un mandato frustrante en el Congreso durante las tensiones seccionales de la década de 1850 y luego volvió felizmente a la política local, donde creía que estaba la acción. Rápidamente se convirtió en uno de los principales políticos de la ciudad de Nueva York y uno de los más corruptos.

William Tweed, el & # 8220boss & # 8221 de Tammany Hall, jugó un papel importante en la política de la ciudad de Nueva York a mediados del siglo XIX.

A fines de la década de 1850, Tweed había ascendido a través de una variedad de oficinas locales, incluido bombero voluntario, comisionado escolar, miembro de la junta de supervisores del condado y comisionado de la calle. Aprendió a hacer amigos y aliados políticos y se convirtió en una estrella en ascenso. Sus amigos lo seleccionaron para encabezar la maquinaria política de la ciudad, que era representativa de otras en las principales ciudades estadounidenses en las que un partido político y un jefe dirigían una ciudad importante. En la ciudad de Nueva York, Tammany Hall era la organización que controlaba el Partido Demócrata y la mayoría de los votos.

Uno de los primeros actos de Tweed & # 8217 fue restaurar el orden después de los disturbios del reclutamiento de la ciudad de Nueva York en 1863, cuando muchos irlandeses protestaron por el reclutamiento mientras que los hombres más ricos pagaron $ 300 para contratar sustitutos para luchar en la guerra. Tweed diseñó un trato en el que algunos hombres de familia (en lugar de solo los ricos) recibían exenciones e incluso un préstamo de Tammany Hall para pagar un sustituto. Había ganado mucha autonomía y control local, que el gobierno federal tuvo que aceptar. En 1870, la legislatura estatal otorgó a la ciudad de Nueva York un nuevo estatuto que otorgó a los funcionarios locales, en lugar de a los de la capital del estado en Albany, poder sobre los cargos y nombramientos políticos locales. Se llamó & # 8220Tweed Charter & # 8221 porque Tweed deseaba tan desesperadamente ese control que pagó cientos de miles de dólares en sobornos por ello.

El corrupto & # 8220Tweed Ring & # 8221 estaba recaudando millones de dólares del soborno y robando la parte superior. Tweed repartió miles de trabajos y contratos lucrativos como patrocinio, y esperaba favores, sobornos y comisiones ilegales a cambio. Parte de ese dinero se distribuyó a los jueces para que emitieran fallos favorables. Los proyectos de construcción masivos, como nuevos hospitales, museos elaborados, juzgados de mármol, carreteras pavimentadas y el puente de Brooklyn, tenían millones de dólares en costos acolchados agregados que iban directamente a Boss Tweed y sus compinches. De hecho, el tribunal del condado originalmente tenía un presupuesto de $ 250,000, pero finalmente costó más de $ 13 millones y ni siquiera se completó. El anillo Tweed se quedó con la mayor parte del dinero. El anillo también absorbió enormes cantidades de bienes inmuebles, era dueño de la imprenta que contrataba negocios oficiales de la ciudad, como las papeletas, y recibía grandes recompensas de los ferrocarriles. Pronto, Tweed era dueño de una extravagante mansión en la Quinta Avenida y una finca en Connecticut, organizaba lujosas fiestas y bodas, y poseía joyas de diamantes por valor de decenas de miles de dólares. En total, el Tweed Ring generó entre 50 y 200 millones de dólares en dinero corrupto. Boss Tweed & # 8217s avarice conocía pocos límites.

La corrupción en el gobierno de la ciudad de Nueva York fue mucho más allá de la codicia, sin embargo, abarató el estado de derecho y degradó una sociedad civil saludable. La mayoría de las personas en el gobierno local recibieron sus trabajos por patrocinio más que por mérito y talento. Tweed Ring también manipuló las elecciones de diversas formas. Contrató a personas para que votaran varias veces e hizo que los alguaciles y los diputados temporales los protegieran mientras lo hacían. Llenaba las urnas con votos falsos y sobornaba o detenía a los inspectores electorales que cuestionaban sus métodos. Como dijo Tweed más tarde, las papeletas no dieron resultado, los contadores dieron el resultado. A veces, el anillo simplemente ignoró las papeletas y falsificó los resultados de las elecciones. Los candidatos de Tammany a menudo recibieron más votos que votantes elegibles en un distrito. Además, la red utilizó la intimidación y la violencia callejera mediante la contratación de matones o policías corruptos para influir en las mentes de los votantes y recibió recompensas de actividades delictivas que permitió que florecieran.

Las manipulaciones electorales de Tweed & # 8217 eran bien conocidas, con tácticas de intimidación que mantenían el conteo de votos bajo el control de Tweed Ring & # 8217s.

Aunque Boss Tweed y Tammany Hall se involucraron en políticas corruptas, sin duda ayudaron a los inmigrantes y pobres de la ciudad de muchas maneras. Miles de inmigrantes recientes en Nueva York se naturalizaron como ciudadanos estadounidenses y los hombres adultos tenían derecho al voto. Debido a que la ciudad de Nueva York, al igual que otras áreas urbanas importantes, a menudo carecía de servicios básicos, Tweed Ring los proporcionaba por el precio de un voto, o varios votos. Tweed se aseguró de que los inmigrantes tuvieran trabajo, encontraran un lugar para vivir, tuvieran suficiente comida, recibieran atención médica e incluso tuvieran suficiente dinero para el carbón para calentar sus apartamentos durante el frío del invierno. Además, contribuyó con millones de dólares a las instituciones que beneficiaban y cuidaban a los inmigrantes, como las iglesias y sinagogas de su vecindario, escuelas católicas, hospitales, orfanatos y organizaciones benéficas. Cuando se incendiaron edificios de viviendas en ruinas, los miembros del círculo siguieron a los camiones de bomberos para asegurarse de que las familias tuvieran un lugar para quedarse y comida para comer. Los inmigrantes en Nueva York estaban agradecidos por los servicios tan necesarios de la ciudad y las organizaciones benéficas privadas. Tweed Ring parecía estar creando una sociedad más saludable, y en números abrumadores, los inmigrantes votaron felizmente por los demócratas que dirigían la ciudad.

Al final, sin embargo, la codicia de Boss Tweed fue demasiado grande y su explotación fue demasiado descarada. los New York Times expuso la corrupción desenfrenada de su anillo y publicó historias de los diversos fraudes. Mientras tanto, el periódico Harper & # 8217s semanal publicó las caricaturas editoriales de Thomas Nast, que satirizaban al Tweed Ring por sus actividades ilegales. Tweed en realidad estaba más preocupado por las caricaturas que por las historias de investigación, porque muchos de sus electores eran analfabetos pero entendían el mensaje de los dibujos. Ofreció sobornos al editor de la New York Times ya Nast para detener sus críticas públicas, pero ninguno aceptó.

Boss Tweed fue arrestado en octubre de 1871 y procesado poco después. Fue juzgado en 1873, y después de un jurado indeciso en el primer juicio, fue declarado culpable en un segundo juicio de más de 200 delitos, incluidos falsificación y hurto. Fue condenado a 12 años de prisión.

Una de las caricaturas de Thomas Nast & # 8217, llamada The Brains, argumentó que Boss Tweed ganó sus elecciones gracias al dinero, no al cerebro.

Mientras estaba en la cárcel, a Tweed se le permitió visitar a su familia en casa y comer con ellos mientras unos guardias esperaban en su puerta. Aprovechó la oportunidad en una de estas comidas para escapar disfrazado a través del Hudson hasta Nueva Jersey, y luego en barco a Florida, de allí a Cuba y finalmente a España. Debido a que el gobierno de España quería que Estados Unidos pusiera fin a su apoyo a los rebeldes cubanos, acordó cooperar con las autoridades estadounidenses y detener a Tweed. Con la ayuda de las caricaturas de Nast para obtener al menos una aproximación cercana a la apariencia de Tweed, la policía española lo reconoció, lo arrestó y lo devolvió a los Estados Unidos. Con su salud rota y pocos seguidores restantes, Tweed murió en la cárcel en 1878.

Mire este video de ayuda con la tarea de BRI en Boss Tweed para ver su ascenso y caída y cómo Tammany Hall afecta a la ciudad de Nueva York de Gilded Age.

Tammany Hall y Tweed Ring son modelos infames de la corrupción urbana de la Edad Dorada. Las maquinarias políticas dirigían de manera corrupta varias ciudades importantes de los Estados Unidos, particularmente en el noreste y el medio oeste, donde se habían asentado millones de inmigrantes. Es posible que las máquinas hayan proporcionado servicios esenciales para los inmigrantes, pero su corrupción destruyó el buen gobierno y la sociedad civil al socavar el estado de derecho. A principios del siglo XX, los reformadores progresistas habían comenzado a apuntar a los patrones y las máquinas políticas para reformar el gobierno de la ciudad en los Estados Unidos.

Preguntas de revisión

1. Antes de ser conocido como & # 8220Boss & # 8221 Tweed, William Tweed se desempeñó brevemente como

  1. alcalde de la ciudad de Nueva York
  2. gobernador de Nueva York
  3. un miembro del Congreso
  4. presidente de la Junta Electoral de Nueva York

2. El tratamiento de Tammany Hall & # 8217 a los inmigrantes que vivían en la ciudad de Nueva York se puede describir mejor como

  1. liderando la lucha por el nativismo
  2. ayudar a los inmigrantes con los servicios básicos
  3. alentar a los inmigrantes a vivir en enclaves étnicos de la ciudad
  4. Proporcionar capacitación laboral para trabajadores calificados.

3. ¿Tammany Hall y Boss Tweed estaban más estrechamente asociados con qué partido político?

4. El Tweed Ring sacó la mayor parte de su dinero de la corrupción. Un ejemplo importante fue

  1. cobrar dinero a las empresas para protegerlas de los jefes del crimen
  2. gravar injustamente a los inmigrantes
  3. inflar el costo de los principales proyectos de la ciudad, como el palacio de justicia
  4. inflar los peajes cobrados para cruzar el puente de Brooklyn

5. A finales del siglo XIX, Thomas Nast era más conocido como

  1. un oponente político de William Tweed & # 8217s que se desempeñó como gobernador de Nueva York
  2. un crítico del Tweed Ring que publicó exposiciones sobre Boss Tweed
  3. un inmigrante que fue ayudado por Tweed y pasó a una exitosa carrera política
  4. un crítico de Tweed que dibujó caricaturas políticas exponiendo su corrupción

6. Un evento que impulsó a William Tweed a una posición de respeto y más poder en la ciudad de Nueva York fue su

  1. Primera elección exitosa como alcalde de Nueva York en 1864.
  2. éxito en la restauración del orden después de los disturbios en 1863
  3. capacidad para autorizar obras públicas en beneficio de un gran número de inmigrantes
  4. éxito en la provisión de viviendas cómodas para familias de bajos ingresos

Preguntas de respuesta gratuita

  1. Explique el efecto positivo y negativo del Tweed Ring en la ciudad de Nueva York.
  2. Evalúe el impacto de la maquinaria política en las ciudades estadounidenses a finales del siglo XIX y principios del XX.

Preguntas de práctica AP

Thomas Nast representa Boss Tweed en Harper & # 8217s Weekly (21 de octubre de 1871).

1. La intención de Thomas Nast & # 8217 al dibujar la caricatura política era

  1. Demostrar la generosidad del jefe político a finales del siglo XIX.
  2. mostrar cuán corruptos eran Boss Tweed y Tammany Hall en la política de Nueva York
  3. ilustrar la codicia de los industriales durante finales del siglo XIX
  4. mostrar cuán honestos eran los políticos

2. ¿Cuál de los siguientes surgió para buscar corregir los problemas creados por la situación satirizada en la caricatura?

  1. El movimiento populista
  2. La era progresista
  3. Los que no saben nada
  4. El segundo gran despertar

3. ¿Qué grupo probablemente se benefició más de la situación descrita en la caricatura?

  1. Inmigrantes a los Estados Unidos
  2. Miembros de sindicatos
  3. afroamericano
  4. Partidarios del sufragio femenino & # 8217s

Fuentes primarias

Recursos sugeridos

Ackerman, Kenneth D. Boss Tweed: El ascenso y la caída del político corrupto que concibió el alma de la Nueva York moderna. Nueva York: Carroll y Graf, 2005.

Allswang, John M. Jefes, Máquinas y Votos Urbanos . Baltimore, MD: Prensa de la Universidad Johns Hopkins, 1986.

Marcas, H.W. Coloso americano: El triunfo del capitalismo, 1865-1900. Nueva York: Doubleday, 2010.

Lynch, Dennis Tilden. Boss Tweed: La historia de una generación sombría. New Brunswick, Nueva Jersey: Transacción, 2002.

Trachtenberg, Alan. La incorporación de América: cultura y sociedad en la edad dorada. Nueva York: Hill y Wang, 1982.

White, Richard. La República que representa: Estados Unidos durante la Reconstrucción y la Edad Dorada, 1865-1896. Oxford, Reino Unido: Oxford University Press, 2017.


La casa que construyó Tweed

Hoy, entre los altísimos edificios del bajo Manhattan, se amontona una destartalada pila de mármol de Massachusetts. Es el antiguo palacio de justicia del condado de Nueva York, un pequeño edificio abandonado de solo tres pisos de altura. Solo unas pocas oficinas dentro de sus paredes grises sucias todavía se usan. No hay nada en esta grotesca reliquia que sugiera un pasado estridente o un gran escándalo. Pero en sus antiguas habitaciones y a lo largo de sus pasillos hay, para los conocedores, un rugido de la historia tan fuerte como el sonido del mar en las conchas.

El palacio de justicia fue diseñado con grandes expectativas. Sería un ejemplo heroico de arquitectura renacentista. Pero cuando Tweed Ring terminó con el edificio, era heroico solo por la cantidad de dinero gastado en él, suficiente dinero, según un reformador, para construir dieciséis juzgados. Cuesta más que el Canal Erie, dijo el New York Times. Estas y otras quejas indican el impacto de una de las hazañas de corrupción más descaradas y grandiosas en la historia municipal estadounidense. La casa que construyó Tweed fue el legado del Boss a Nueva York, una Acrópolis de injerto, un santuario para boodle.

William Marcy Tweed parecía algo que Dios había cortado con un hacha desafilada. Su pelaje escarpado pesaba casi ciento cincuenta kilos. Todo en él era grande: su prole de ocho hijos sus puños sus hombros su cabeza, con su cabello castaño rojizo tallado en un bigote y barba sus ojos, astutos o "arenosos", como los reformadores los llamaban su diamante, que brillaba como un planeta en la pechera de su camisa y, finalmente, su nariz. "Su nariz es mitad Brougham, mitad romana", dijo un observador, "y un hombre con una nariz de ese tipo no es un hombre con el que se pueda jugar".

Nacido en Nueva York en 1823, hijo de un presidente, Tweed comenzó su ascenso a la mala fama en 1851 cuando fue elegido concejal y se convirtió en el líder de una banda corrupta y depredadora de concejales y concejales asistentes, acertadamente llamados los Cuarenta Ladrones. Después de dos años singularmente indistinguibles como congresista a mediados de los cincuenta, Tweed comenzó una lucha de diez años por el poder que lo convirtió en el primer hombre en llevar el título de Jefe de Nueva York.

En estos años se abrió camino hacia arriba hasta convertirse en el Gran Sachem de Tammany y en el presidente del poderoso comité central demócrata del condado de Nueva York. Su creciente poder pronto se sintió dentro del gobierno de la ciudad de Nueva York, y acumuló sinecuras —comisionado de la escuela, comisionado de calle adjunto, supervisor— como un pistolero agregaría muescas a su arma.

En 1866 Boss Tweed estaba a punto de convertirse en la mayor fuerza política de Nueva York. En el mismo año formó su notorio Anillo uniendo fuerzas con tres pícaros de la capital: el fiscal de distrito, Abraham Oakey Hall, que se desempeñaría como alcalde de 1868 a 1872 Peter Barr Sweeny, un cabildero y ex fiscal de distrito a quien Tweed convirtió en ciudad. chambelán y un hombre que más tarde sería el contralor de la ciudad, Richard Connolly. Durante los siguientes cinco años, el Tweed Ring ahogó a Nueva York en su abrazo político. Como un Atila invasor, Tweed irrumpió en las cuatro fortalezas del poder en el estado de Nueva York: el Ayuntamiento, el Tammany Hall, el Salón de la Justicia y el Capitolio en Albany. Pronto hubo 12.000 hombres de Tammany colocados en puestos clave de la ciudad. Desde Tweed's Town, la parte baja de Nueva York, que abarca Hell's Kitchen, Satan's Circus, Bowery, Cat Alley, Cockroach Row y Five Points, con sus calles llenas de arañas repletas de basura y pobres, llegaron los votos de las inundaciones. de inmigrantes, a cambio de la generosidad de trabajos y alimentos del Jefe. Y el día de las elecciones, los valientes de Tammany de la "brigada de sombrero brillante", como se llamaban a sí mismos, se abalanzaron sobre las cabinas electorales, temprano y a menudo, sus gritos de guerra animados por el agua del fuego, para regresar al wigwam esa noche con nuevos cueros cabelludos políticos. Esta máquina política funcionaba con cadenas de "wampum", como el Anillo llamaba pintorescamente al dinero en efectivo, y una de las principales fuentes de este wampum tan necesario resultó ser el nuevo edificio del juzgado del condado.

La casa que construyó Tweed en realidad se inició años antes de que se formara el Anillo. En 1858, el distinguido arquitecto John Kellum, que había diseñado el edificio del New York Herald, completó los planos del nuevo palacio de justicia en medio de un gran estallido de orgullo cívico. Aquí iba a haber una maravilla renacentista que proclamaba la grandeza de Nueva York y la santidad de la ley. A excepción de proporcionar un sitio en City Hall Park, poco se hizo hasta 1862, cuando, por casualidad, William Tweed se convirtió en presidente de la Junta de Supervisores. Hubo una disputa sobre quién debería asignar los fondos para el nuevo edificio, la Junta de Comisionados del estado o la Junta de Supervisores de la ciudad. Tweed inclinó la balanza a favor de hacer que la ciudad pagara la cuenta y, de repente, las asignaciones se volvieron rápidas.

La ley de promulgación de 1858 estableció específicamente que el edificio, con todos sus muebles, no debería costar más de $ 250,000. Pero esto no fue suficiente, argumentó Tweed, para construir un tributo apropiado a la ciudad y a la ley. La Junta de Supervisores estuvo de acuerdo y se autorizaron $ 1,000,000 más. En 1864 se concedieron 800.000 dólares adicionales. Pero incluso esto no fue suficiente. En 1865, se asignaron $ 300,000 más, pero al año siguiente se necesitaba aún más dinero, y Tweed presionó con éxito para obtener $ 300,000 adicionales.

Cuando se concedió medio millón de dólares más en 1866, un grupo reformista olfateó el olor acre de la corrupción. Parecía un poco extraño que se hubieran gastado $ 3,150,000 del dinero de los contribuyentes pero que el palacio de justicia aún no estuviera terminado, excepto por una esquina ocupada por el tribunal de apelaciones. Los reformadores exigieron indignados una investigación. Los funcionarios de la ciudad y el condado de Nueva York fueron serviciales, pero sus sentimientos estaban algo alterados. Señalaron que la Junta de Supervisores ya había establecido un comité para investigar los contratos de los juzgados. Sin embargo, para hacer justicia, establecieron otro comité, bautizándolo como Comité Especial para Investigar el Palacio de Justicia. Este comité debía investigar el comité de investigación establecido por la Junta de Supervisores que estaba investigando el palacio de justicia. El Comité Especial se tomó un tiempo notablemente corto para declarar que el comité de investigación, los contratos y todo lo demás sobre el juzgado estaban libres de fraude.

El ritmo de las asignaciones para el palacio de justicia aumentó a medida que el Tweed Ring expandía su poder. Boss Tweed demostró su autoridad indiscutible sobre la legislatura estatal haciendo que contribuya con una gran cantidad de dinero al juzgado, y completó un doblete persuadiendo a la ciudad al mismo tiempo para que donara $ 6,997,893.24 más. “Imagínense”, decía un periódico, “la industria incansable, el desgaste de los músculos, la ansiedad de la mente, los días de cansancio y las noches de insomnio, que debe haberle costado al 'Jefe' conseguir todas estas sumas de dinero. " Así, de 1858 a 1871, se habían gastado más de trece millones de dólares en el nuevo palacio de justicia.

Cuando, en 1871, los neoyorquinos finalmente se dieron cuenta de que su palacio de justicia había sido una mina de oro de injertos, una de las primeras preguntas que se hicieron fue cómo se había perpetrado esta increíble estafa. Parecía que un robo tan colosal sólo podía ser diseñado mediante una estratagema complicada y sutil. Lo que asombró, enfureció y quizás avergonzó a los neoyorquinos fue la revelación de que el Anillo, confiado en su poder y desdeñoso de la detección, había empleado tácticas tan descaradas.

El plan dependía de que cada miembro del Anillo desempeñara un papel adaptado a sus talentos y funciones particulares. El papel de Boss Tweed era operar exclusivamente en el área de la toma de decisiones de alto nivel y ejercer su considerable encanto, siempre realzado por una cartera abultada, entre sus conocidos en los gobiernos de la ciudad y el estado de Nueva York. Para ayudarlo en el suave arte de la persuasión política, Tweed, como la mayoría de los ejecutivos exitosos, contaba con un asistente ingenioso e imaginativo. Peter Barr Sweeny, el chambelán de la ciudad. Oscuro, inquietante, misterioso, Sweeny parecía para algunos más una sombra que un hombre. De complexión corpulenta, con un bigote de morsa negro azabache y una gran cabeza cubierta por una masa de espeso cabello negro, siempre vestía ropa negra y un sombrero negro de alta corona. Sweeny, un manipulador detrás de escena, era tremendamente tímido en público. En 1857, como fiscal de distrito, se quebró en su primer discurso ante un jurado y fue tan humillado que renunció y huyó a Europa. Su fuerte era operar como el alter ego de Tweed en las asambleas partidarias, oficinas privadas y pasillos de hoteles. Esta reputación de astucia furtiva le valió muchos apodos (Brains Sweeny, Sly Sweeny, Spider Sweeny), pero sus amigos lo llamaban Squire. Fueron Tweed y Sweeny quienes hicieron todos los arreglos iniciales entre el Ring y los contratistas del juzgado elegidos cuidadosamente.

La tercera figura importante en la operación fue el contralor de la ciudad, Richard Connolly. Su alto sombrero de copa, sus anteojos con montura dorada, su nariz majestuosa, su rostro bien afeitado y su barriga regordeta le daban una apariencia distinguida, y sus compinches lo llamaban el Gran Juez. Connolly fingió ingeniosamente una inocencia que llevó a los no iniciados a pensar en él como un simple niño en el juego de la política. Pero el apodo que le dieron los reformadores, Slippery Dick, resultó acertado cuando en 1871 se demostró que valía seis millones de dólares, aunque su salario había sido de sólo 3.600 dólares en 1857. Era el trabajo de Connolly como contable y experto financiero del Ring. supervisar el asalto a la parte más vulnerable del tesoro de la ciudad. Después de que los contratistas presentaron las facturas por su trabajo, Connolly se aseguró de que el Anillo recibiera el sesenta y cinco por ciento del monto adeudado como su comisión, y el treinta y cinco por ciento restante para los contratistas. Luego hizo pagos, o órdenes, extraídas de la tesorería de la ciudad, las aprobó como contralor de la ciudad y se las entregó a Boss Tweed, quien a su vez "persuadió" a la Junta de Supervisores para que diera su aprobación oficial a las órdenes. La operación llegó a su etapa final cuando las órdenes de arresto acolchadas se colocaron en el escritorio del colorido “Elegant Oakey” Hall, el alcalde de Nueva York.

Abraham Oakey Hall, un hombrecillo nervioso y chispeante que tenía el toque de un tiburón de piscina con el electorado, deleitó a Nueva York con su retórica violeta y su llamativa elegancia. Fue político, dramaturgo (el tostador de corazones, Déjame besarlo por su madre, fue una de sus obras que disfrutaban los espectadores de Nueva York), periodista, abogado, poeta, clubman, conferenciante, humorista y farsante. Oakey Hall tenía solo un defecto como alcalde, comentó un periódico, "una falta de habilidad". Pero había un talento que a Hall no le faltaba: podía escribir su nombre. Cuando, como el oficial más alto de la ciudad, firmó las órdenes infladas, la escritura estaba hecha.

De esta manera, tan cruda y sin embargo tan directa, los contribuyentes de Nueva York se vieron despojados de trece millones de dólares. Lo que hizo que la construcción del palacio de justicia del condado fuera un clásico en los anales de la corrupción estadounidense fue la forma en que se gastaba el dinero. Como dijo el reformador Robert Roosevelt (tío de Theodore Roosevelt), las facturas emitidas por los contratistas de Tweed no eran simplemente monstruosas, "eran manifiestamente fabulosas". Por solo tres mesas y cuarenta sillas, por ejemplo, la ciudad pagó $ 179,729.60. Roscoe Conkling, el senador republicano de Nueva York, se quejó de que el dinero gastado en muebles era casi tres veces más alto de lo que le costó a la administración de Grant dirigir todo el cuerpo diplomático de los Estados Unidos durante dos años, y si uno recuerda la administración de Grant, esto fue toda una hazaña. Conkling se refería al costo de muebles, alfombras y cortinas suministradas por una empresa dirigida por un viejo amigo de Boss Tweed, James Ingersoll. La cantidad gastada en estos artículos fue "la suma bastante sorprendente" de $ 5,691,144.26. Fascinado por la factura de 350.000 dólares solo por alfombras, el New York Times le pidió una explicación a Ingersoll. "Hay una cosa que ustedes, en el Veces no parece tener en cuenta ", fue la respuesta enojada. “Las alfombras de estos edificios públicos deben cambiarse con mucha más frecuencia que en las casas particulares”. Incluso después de esta explicación, el Times concluyó que a la ciudad se le había cobrado de más $ 336,821.31.

John Keyser, el contratista de plomería del edificio, estableció un récord para ser envidiado incluso por sus colegas altamente remunerados de hoy. Recibió casi un millón y medio de dólares por "instalaciones de iluminación de gas y plomería". Se estimó que en solo un año, Keyser ganó más de un millón de dólares. En comparación con Ingersoll y Keyser, el carpintero de Tweed, "Lucky" George Miller, presentó facturas insignificantes. La madera con un valor estimado de no más de $ 48,000 le costó a la ciudad solo $ 460,000. En cuanto al mármol del edificio, lo suministró una cantera propiedad del Jefe. El New York Times, siempre un crítico molesto de Tweed, afirmó que costó más extraer el mármol de lo que había costado construir todo el palacio de justicia en Brooklyn.

Los precios de las cajas fuertes y los toldos sugerían una obsesión por la seguridad y la sombra. J. McBride Davidson, quien mantenía un bar privado en su oficina para políticos selectos, cobraba más de $ 400,000 por cajas fuertes. James W. Smith cobró 150 dólares cada uno por 160 toldos. Considerando esto, más el costo de la carpintería, un periódico calculó que cada ventana de la corte costaba la asombrosa suma de $ 8,000. Smith se defendió diciendo que su proyecto de ley de toldos incluía retirarlos en el otoño, volver a colocarlos en la primavera y repararlos. Otro fabricante dijo que los toldos no valían más de $ 12,50 cada uno.

Cuando una persona está construyendo una casa, por lo general no espera recibir una gran factura por las reparaciones antes de que se complete la estructura. Sin embargo, la casa que construyó Tweed les costó a los contribuyentes de Nueva York casi dos millones de dólares en reparaciones antes de que estuviera terminada. Aquí Andrew Garvey, un ex bombero de 240 libras, estableció un récord que le valió el título de "Príncipe de Yeseros". En un año, Garvey cobró a la ciudad $ 500,000 por enlucido y $ 1,000,000 por reparar el mismo trabajo. Su factura por el trabajo de enlucido de tres años en un edificio supuestamente de mármol fue de $ 2,870,464.06 — el Veces sugirió que los seis centavos se donen a organizaciones benéficas, ¡y de esto, $ 1,294,684.13 fueron para reparaciones! Si Garvey era un príncipe, el carpintero de Tweed calificó al menos un condado. Por "reparar y alterar el trabajo de la madera", Lucky George recibió casi $ 800,000. Sin embargo, en comparación con sus colegas, John Keyser era solo un caballero con armadura desgastada. Recibió solo $ 51,481.74 por reparar sus accesorios de plomería e iluminación.

A pesar de toda la impactante demostración de glotonería, en los libros de cuentas secretos del Anillo se esparcieron pruebas de buen humor, cierto entusiasmo, la sensación de que había hombres que realmente disfrutaban de su trabajo. Por ejemplo, se giró un cheque a nombre de Fillippo Donnoruma por $ 66,000. Fue respaldado por "Phillip Dummy". Otro cheque, por $ 64,000, fue hecho a nombre de “T. C. Efectivo ". Y encajada entre columnas de figuras masivas estaba esta pequeña obra maestra de subestimación: "Escobas, etc. ... $ 41,190.95".

Luego estaba el cargo por los termómetros, que debe describirse como frívolo. Tweed compró once termómetros para el nuevo palacio de justicia, cada uno de cinco pies de largo y un pie de ancho y encerrados en un marco tallado llamativamente. Las caras estaban hechas de papel barato, muy barnizado y mal pintado. Todo en ellos era barato. El costo de los once termómetros fue exactamente de $ 7500. Un periodista preguntó a un fabricante de termómetros de renombre cuántos termómetros podía suministrar por esta cantidad. "Por $ 7,500", dijo, "podría hacer una fila en el juzgado". El cargo de la New York Printing Company de 186.495,61 dólares por material de oficina fue único. It included the printing of all the reams of contractors’ bills as well as the repair bills.

When the Tweed Ring was exposed in 1871, it became a favorite pastime to calculate how far, placed end to end, the furnishings and materials charged to the city for the courthouse would reach. One newspaper reckoned that there was carpeting enough to reach from New York almost to New Haven, or halfway to Albany. Another wag estimated that since Ingersoll was paid $170,729.60 for chairs alone, if each cost $5, the city had bought 34,145 chairs. Now if they were placed in a straight line, they would reach 85,363 feet, or nearly eighteen miles. What would happen, asked the New York Times , if the sum spent for cabinet work and furniture were spent in furnishing private houses? Allowing $10,000 per house, the paper estimated, it would furnish nearly 3,000 houses.

The revelations of the cost of the building inspired several New Yorkers to visit their new courthouse. Although they realized that corruption had been at work, they expected to see some kind of magnificence for their thirteen million dollars. Instead they found an unfinished waste of masonry—gloomy rooms, dark halls, and ugly, fake marble walls—resembling more an ancient tenement than a new public building. In 1871, after thirteen years of construction work, not all of the floors were occupied. One of the largest rooms, the Bureau of Arrears of Taxes, had no roof. The county clerk’s office, sheriff’s office, and office of the surrogate were not carpeted but were covered with oilcloth and grimy matting. The walls were filthy, and in many places large chunks of plaster had peeled off, leaving ugly blotches—a fitting tribute to the Prince of Plasterer’s repair bills. One visitor counted 164 windows and shuddered at the cost of awnings and curtains, many of which had not yet been delivered. When the prominent reformer George C. Barrett made his pilgrimage, he came away shocked. His impression left no doubt that the city must long endure a reminder of the most audacious swindle in its history. “It might be considered,” he said, “that the cornerstone of the temple was conceived in sin, and its dome, if ever finished, will be glazed all over with iniquity. The whole atmosphere was corrupt. You look up at its ceilings and find gaudy decorations you wonder which is the greatest, the vulgarity or the corruptness of the place.” As a final irony, the grand dome which had been planned to crown the county’s temple of justice was never completed.

Boss Tweed and his friends reached the zenith of their power in July, 1871. On July 4, Tammany wildly celebrated the glories of Independence Day and the beneficent leadership of Grand Sachem William Marcy Tweed. Four days later came the beginning of the end. The New York Times , leading one of the greatest crusades against civic corruption in American history, began publishing the facts and figures on the Ring’s adventures in graft. The Times was aided by Harper’s Weekly with its acerbic cartoons by Thomas Nast, who drew the courthouse with “Thou Shalt Steal As Much As Thou Canst” over its portal. The evidence was turned over to the newspaper by an unhappy Tammany warrior, ex-Sheriff James O’Brien. Furious because Tweed had not paid a fraudulent claim he had made against the city, O’Brien had hired a spy in Connolly’s office to copy entries out of the Ring’s secret account books.

While it was estimated that the Ring in all its various operations had stolen anywhere from twenty million to two hundred million dollars from the city and state, it was the courthouse that captured New York’s attention and ignited its wrath. At first the Boss had magnificent poise. “Well,” he said, “what are you going to do about it?” And Mayor Hall—or “Mayor Haul,” as Nast labelled him—quipped, “Who’s going to sue?” But as the Times , day by day, week by week, revealed the enormity of the courthouse scandal—the plaster, the carpets, the repair bills, the thermometers —the Forty Thieves panicked and Oakey Hall became a prophet: “We are likely to have what befell Adam,” he said, “an early Fall.” Tweed tried to bribe the Times into silence and failed, while Nast refused an offer of $500,000 to study art abroad rather than corruption at home. The Boss said of Thomas Nast, “I don’t care a straw for your newspaper articles my constituents don’t know how to read, but they can’t help seeing them damned pictures.” By the fall of 1871, the Ring was on the threshold of collapse. As new evidence of wrongdoing accumulated, a mass meeting of outraged New Yorkers was held at Cooper Union and a committee of seventy leading citizens was organized to bring about the fall of Tweed. Under the leadership of Samuel J. Tilden, who later became governor of New York and the Democratic nominee for President in 1876, a civil suit to recover the stolen money was brought against the Ring’s leaders. In the November, 1871, election, one of the most exciting in New York history, the Ring was smashed when Tammany was crushed at the polls. New York now awaited expectantly the trials of all the culprits who had so boldly picked the civic purse, but the city was to be denied that satisfaction.

When Tweed was arrested in December, Connolly, Sweeny, and most of the other leading members of the Ring fled to Europe or to Canada and were never punished. Connolly wandered about Europe and died there, a man without a country, while Sweeny returned to New York in the eighteen eighties and lived out his years there in quiet respectability. One who did not flee was Mayor Oakey Hall. At his trial it was asked how the Mayor could have signed hundreds of padded courthouse warrants and not been aware of it. His attorney explained that the Elegant Oakey had “an ineradicable aversion to details.” Hall was acquitted.

Only the Boss paid a price, a small price considering the crime. Tweed spent less than half his remaining years—from his downfall in 1871 until his death in 1878—in jail. In 1873 he was sentenced to twelve years in prison for fraud, but the court of appeals reduced the sentence to a year on a legal technicality. After his release in 1875 Tweed was arrested as the result of action brought by the state of New York to recover six million dollars he was accused of having stolen. While in prison awaiting trial the Boss was often allowed to visit his home under guard. During one such visit, in December of 1875, Tweed escaped to Cuba and then to Spain, only to be recognized from a Nast caricature. He was returned to New York in November, 1876, and was confined to the Ludlow Street Jail to await trial. He died there on April 12, 1878, at the age of fifty-five.

In the years after Tweed’s death the horrendous scandals of his Ring softened into just another memory of old New York, but one which Tweed had made certain would not be forgotten. The shabby little building in City Hall Park, the house that Tweed built, was as unforgettable a memorial as a statue in Times Square. And Tweed had provided his own epitaph. When he arrived at the Blackwell’s Island prison to begin his one-year sentence, the warden asked him what his profession was. The Boss, in a clear, strong voice, answered, “Statesman!”


13 Facts About Boss Tweed

Few men are as synonymous with political corruption as William Magear Tweed—“Boss Tweed” as most knew him. The “Grand Sachem” of New York City’s Democratic political machine, Tammany Hall, effectively ran Gotham during the late 1860s and early 1870s, treating its coffers as his personal bank account and its leaders as his errand boys. But his decadent ambitions earned him plenty of enemies, and eventually proved his undoing. Here are a few tidbits about the Boss and some of his more egregious activities.

1. HE LEARNED POLITICS WORKING AS A FIREMAN.

Tweed was initially groomed to go into his father’s business as a chair-maker, before going to school for accounting (learning skills that no doubt proved helpful when he was cooking the city budget). But he found his true calling upon joining the volunteer fire company, where he would help form Americus Engine Company No. 6. It was in this world that he learned how to develop alliances and work the system, developing strong-arm tactics to ensure that su engine was the first that made it to a fire. His competitiveness led him to come close to being expelled from the firefighters—but by bribing the right people, he reduced his life sentence to a three-month suspension. All of these skills, and the working class associates he made, helped stoke his interest in politics. It’s appropriate that Engine 6's snarling tiger logo would become the symbol of Tammany.

2. HE MAY HAVE SAVED A REPUBLICAN MAYOR'S LIFE.

One of Tweed's earliest political moves was to help protect the life of a mayor from a different party. During the draft riots of 1863, while Tweed was deputy street commissioner, many of the city’s poor and Irish (Tammany’s core constituency) took to the streets in violent protest against the conscription law that required they pay $300 or die on the battlefield for the Union. Tweed took on the role of peacemaker, urging calm, and was one of those who informed Republican mayor George Opdyke that City Hall was not safe, convincing him to go somewhere he could avoid the anti-draft violence. Never one to miss an opportunity, Tweed leveraged the goodwill he earned for tamping down the riots into a deal that allowed many of the poor to avoid fighting, and paid the $300 conscription exemption cost for others—earning him a major political victory over the Republicans.

3. HE STOLE BIG.

Tweed and his cronies stole somewhere between $30 million and $200 million from the city ($365 million to $2.4 billion today). During his glory days, Tweed was the third-largest landowner in New York City, with a mansion on Fifth Avenue and 43 rd Street (with a horse stable nearby), a Greenwich estate, and two yachts.

4. HE WORE MANY HATS.

While he is most famous for his position as Grand Sachem (or “Boss”) of Tammany Hall, Tweed used his influence and skill with handing out political favors to land a wide range of titles. He served terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and the New York State Senate, and had himself appointed deputy street commissioner of New York City. He served as director of the Erie Railroad, proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel, and director of the Tenth National Bank. He bought the New-York Printing Company and Manufacturing Stationers’ Company, then saw that they were made the city’s official printer and stationery printer, respectively (and that they overcharged for their services).

5. HE FAKED BEING A LAWYER.

Despite never studying as an attorney, Tweed was certified as a lawyer by his friend George Barnard. Opening a law office, he was then able to charge exorbitant fees to individuals and companies seeking his influence, under the catchall “legal services.”

6. HIS ALLIES TRIED TO ERECT A STATUE OF HIM—WHILE HE WAS STILL ALIVE.

In 1871, Tammany pushed to build a bronze statue in Manhattan in Tweed’s honor (although the project was originally suggested as a spoof by journalists). While this may have seemed perfectly reasonable to Tweed, the press was not so enthusiastic. “Has Tweed gone mad, that he thus challenges public attention to his life and acts?” los Evening Post wrote. Sensing that a statue might be a step too far, Tweed suggested to those behind the campaign: “Statues are not erected to living men … I claim to be a live man, and hope (Divine Providence permitting) to survive in all my vigor, politically and physically, for some years to come.” The plans were scrapped.

7. HE SHARED THE WEALTH.

One of Tweed’s greatest skills was getting the men he selected into positions of power. From running the Tammany Hall general committee (which controlled the Democratic Party’s nominations for all city positions) early in his political career, to seeing that former New York City mayor and Tweed protégé John T. Hoffman ascended to the state governorship, Tweed made sure that power and profits were distributed widely among his friends. But while his favors almost always served his own selfish purposes, they could also help the city’s people—if at the expense of the city itself. “Because of Tweed, New York got better, even for the poor,” author and journalist Pete Hamill grants.

8. HE WAS A MAN OF EXCESS—BUT DIDN’T SMOKE.

Tweed’s most famous accessory may be the huge 10.5-carat diamond stickpin he wore on his shirt front. The gifts one of his daughters received on her wedding day were reported to be worth $14 million in today’s dollars. He feasted on duck, oysters, tenderloin, and excessive amounts of food, as his significant waistline could attest. But he didn’t smoke and barely drank—though he kept plenty of cigars and whisky on hand for any visiting friends.

9. CARTOONS TOOK HIM DOWN.

Tweed made plenty of enemies, but perhaps his toughest was Harper’s Weekly political cartoonist Thomas Nast. The German immigrant vividly conveyed the city’s corruption with images of a bloated Tweed, replacing his head with a bag of money in one famous depiction, and using the snarling visual of a tiger (from Tweed’s own Engine No. 6 mascot) to represent the predatory Tammany Hall.

Tweed recognized the power and danger that Nast’s widely seen illustrations presented: "My constituents don't know how to read, but they can't help seeing them damned pictures!" As he did with so many others, Tweed attempted to pay for Nast’s acquiescence, sending a crony (pretending to a representative for a European benefactor interested in studying art) to the illustrator’s house with a promise of $500,000—if he would just move to Europe for the foreseeable future. But Nast refused to be bribed, and the attempt only fueled his unkind cartoons, which fueled public outrage about Tweed's acts.

10. AN ARREST COULDN’T STOP HIM FROM GETTING ELECTED.

In 1871, following a devastating series of articles in The New York Times about the corruption in city government, sheriff (and Tammany man) Matthew Brennan placed Tweed under arrest, just a week before voters went to the polls to decide the Boss’s State Senate seat. Brennan quietly accepted a $1 million bond for Tweed’s bail and moved on, and the Grand Sachem defeated his rival days later.

11. IT TOOK THREE MORE ARRESTS TO LOCK HIM UP FOR GOOD.

In 1873, reform lawyer Samuel J. Tilden convicted Tweed on charges of larceny and forgery, though he was released two years later. He was quickly re-arrested on civil charges, convicted and imprisoned again (since he could not pay the $6.3 million he was judged to owe for his crimes). But life in jail did not suit Tweed, and during one of the home visits he was granted by authorities, he escaped to Cuba, then Spain, working as a seaman for two years before he was spotted by an American who—adding insult to custody—recognized him from Nast's cartoons. He was captured and sent back to the U.S.

12. HE WAS DOUBLE-CROSSED IN JAIL.

Desperate to get out of prison after his third apprehension, Tweed struck a deal with the state attorney general to confess all he had done, if it would mean release. He revealed all of his crimes (or at least as many as he could remember) in 1877, only to have the lawman back out of his agreement (the attorney general did, after all, work for New York’s governor and Tweed’s old foe Samuel Tilden).

13. DESPITE OTHERS’ EFFORTS, HE HAD A BLOWOUT FUNERAL.

While in prison, Tweed contracted severe pneumonia and died in 1878, reportedly worth not much more than $2,500. It was an ignoble end, and New York City Mayor Smith Ely refused to fly the City Hall flag at half-staff. His daughter was determined to keep the funeral “private and unostentatious,” allowing only close friends and family—with much of his family not even able to make the funeral (his wife and another daughter lived in Paris as invalids and two sons were in Europe). His body was encased in an ice box for funeral services. But despite these efforts to keep Tweed’s passing quiet, large crowds turned out in front of his daughter’s house for the funeral. Even the Veces, critical to Tweed’s downfall, reported that “Some were of the opinion that his punishment had been harder than he deserved.”

Bonus Fact: This "Bourbon Ballad" about him is the best:

There was Tweed
Under his rule the ballot-box was freed!
Six times as big a vote he could record
As there were people living in the ward!


Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York

For a decade or so in the 1860s and early 1870s, William Tweed - known colloquially as "Boss" Tweed - reigned supreme over patronage and power in New York City. His rapid, and to most people - not least of whom would be Tweed himself - shocking demise and subsequent imprisonment makes for an entertaining book. Along the way, the reader is introduced to many other flawed individuals, some famous and some not.

Tweed&aposs story is well-told by Kenneth Ackerman, but only once he has attained power. Des For a decade or so in the 1860s and early 1870s, William Tweed - known colloquially as "Boss" Tweed - reigned supreme over patronage and power in New York City. His rapid, and to most people - not least of whom would be Tweed himself - shocking demise and subsequent imprisonment makes for an entertaining book. Along the way, the reader is introduced to many other flawed individuals, some famous and some not.

Tweed's story is well-told by Kenneth Ackerman, but only once he has attained power. Despite "The Rise" being part of the title, it really seems to be missing from the narrative. Ackerman basically skims over Tweed's early years, so quickly that you hardly notice it. I did not think that he explained Tweed's ascent very well. He became involved in business, in a fire department, and began amassing power. How he did this was not made clear. I was not expecting something akin to Robert Caro's monumental work on Robert Moses, but it seems like a few key moments are missing here.

One moment that is not missing is the 1863 NYC draft riots. Ackerman shows Tweed steadying the situation when the local officials proved unable to do so. From there, the book catalogues how Tweed and his "Ring" managed to defraud the city of millions of dollars. How much Tweed, A. Oakey Hall, Peter Sweeny, and Richard Connolly actually did pilfer is and has been disputed, and at this point it probably is impossible to arrive at an accurate figure. There was graft everywhere, voter intimidation, and buying of offices.

Ackerman does well in introducing, at length, many other notable characters aside from Tweed: Thomas Nast the cartoonist, George Jones the owner of the New York Times, Samuel Tilden (Governor for ywo years and 1876 Democratic nominee for President), and several others. Even Ulysses S. Grant makes an appearance. Ackerman weaves these folks into the story line, showing how each of them influenced events. This is a strength of the book. It also makes me categorize the book as "history" instead of "biography" because Tweed is almost entirely absent in sections. Ackerman shows that, much like most things in life, pretty much nobody involved here has totally clean hands. Seemingly each person did something that personally benefited himself (there were few women in this story aside from occasional mention of Tweed's wife or daughters - definitely a reflection of the time period), while ostensibly trying to say that they were providing a service to society.

Tweed's imprisonment, and then his sudden escape from jail (well, he actually escaped from his own house as he did get special treatment from the wardens) makes for the stuff of fiction. How he got away, and then made it as far as Spain before being brought all the way back to New York, is almost hard to believe. Ackerman unfortunately does not explain why Tweed suddenly left the house he was hiding in over in New Jersey, going to Florida and then Cuba and then Spain. He does chronicle Tweed's deteriorating health during this time period (Tweed was a huge man, 300 pounds) and how the endless trials and the imprisonment, combined with the depletion of his ill-gotten fortune, caused him to age prematurely and die in middle age (later for that time period).

Ackerman is sympathetic, I think, to Tweed. No, he does not excuse anything untoward that Tweed did, and shows that even when he was helping poor immigrants it was more out of political calculation than actual concern for peoples' well-being. But he focuses on how the rest of the Ring really got away Scot-free, and how Tweed was at the short end of the stick of several people (such as Tilden) who had their own less-than-noble motives in trying to imprison him and then keep him in prison. Fair point, and I do think that Tweed bore the brunt of the punishment. Several others were almost as guilty as Tweed, if not just as guilty, and they served no prison time. So could one say that Tweed was treated unfairly? Yes, I think so. Yet I could not summon much sympathy for someone who so blatantly stole from the public trough and would have kept right on stealing had he not been caught.


ɻoss Tweed'

TWEED WAS DYING that morning, locked inside New York City's Ludlow Street Jail at Grand Street on the Lower East Side. At about 11:40 A.M., he began to whisper his lawyer William Edelstein had to lean close and place his ear near Tweed's lips to hear over the noise of horses on the street, women haggling at the nearby Essex Street Market. "Well, Tilden and Fairchild have killed me," he said. Tweed had saved his last words for his tormentors: Charles Fairchild, the New York State attorney general who had cheated him, broken his pledge to free him in exchange for a full confession, and Samuel Jones Tilden, the New York governor whoɽ built a national political career on Tweed's downfall and now demanded that he die behind bars.

"I hope they are satisfied now." He smiled faintly. A few minutes later, he lost consciousness.

For two weeks, Tweed had borne a cascade of ailments: fever, bronchitis, pneumonia. Months earlier, heɽ suffered a heart attack, aggravated by kidney failure brought on by Bright's disease. His huge body, once three hundred pounds and known for its swagger, now sagged on the narrow bed, struggling to breathe his sporadic coughs hung in the cool, dank air. Hollowed cheeks and a thin ghost-white beard dominated his long face. Blue eyes that had once twinkled for friends and glared at enemies seemed vacant, haunted by depression.

At noon, just as midday bells sounded from the Essex Street Market tower, Tweed died, prematurely old at fifty-five years, surrounded by strangers.

It had been almost five years since Tweed had walked the streets of New York City, his lifelong home, as a free man. A year before that, Tweed had stood at the height of power and could laugh at bureaucrats like Fairchild and Tilden whoɽ begged him for favors like everyone else. He, William Magear Tweed, had been the single most influential man in New York City and a rising force on the national stage. Physically imposing and mentally sharp, Tweed reigned supreme. He was more than simply boss of Tammany Hall, commissioner of Public Works, and state senator. He controlled judges, mayors, governors, and newspapers. He flaunted his wealth, conspicuous and garish beyond anything supportable by his government salaries or even traditional "honest graft" as practiced by generations of politicians before and since. Tweed was the third-largest landowner in the city, director of the Erie Railway, the Tenth National Bank, and the New-York Printing Company, proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel, and president of the Americus Club. He owned two steam-powered yachts, a Fifth Avenue mansion, an estate in Greenwich, Connecticut, and a shirtfront diamond pin valued at over $15,000 ($300,000 in today's money). Still, he gloried as friend to the poor, champion of immigrants, builder of a greater New York, and arbiter of influence and patronage. And he stole . on a massive scale.

Once the proof of Tweed's thefts from the city exploded in banner newspaper headlines, his house of cards collapsed. City investigators ultimately estimated that Tweed and his city "ring," during a three-year period, had made off with a staggering $45 million from the local treasury-an amount larger than the entire annual U.S. federal budget before the Civil War. Even then, political enemies and lawmen couldn't touch him it would take a popular uprising to topple Tweed, led by a newspaper, the New-York Times, and a magazine, Harper's Weekly. Only after newspapers had produced the evidence did prosecutors like Tilden and Fairchild dare to put Tweed behind bars.

In December 1873, a jury had convicted Tweed on 204 counts of criminal misdemeanor fraud growing from the famous "Tweed Ring" scandals, and Judge Noah Davis had sentenced him to twelve years' imprisonment on Blackwell's Island. Judge Davis had overstepped. Laws at the time actually capped penalties in multiple-count misdemeanor indictments to a single small fine and a single one-year jail term and an appeals court had freed Tweed a year later over the discrepancy, but Tilden had intervened again and ordered Tweed immediately rearrested and Judge Davis had set bail at an impossibly high $3 million.

Now, after four years in jail, Tweed alone remained behind bars. All his friends and fellow thieves, the other Ring fugitives, had fled the country or settled their charges with the government. Tweed alone had become the scapegoat, the face of corruption. Increasingly, reformers criticized the prosecutors for their clumsy handling of the case, running up huge legal costs while failing to recover more than a pittance of the stolen city funds.

Tweed hated prison it defied him-despite the fact that the jailers gave him every comfort money could buy: a private room, hot meals, a bathtub, a window to the street, and friends to visit. He grew impatient at the lawyers' wrangling. In December 1875, he escaped and fled. One night that month, he sneaked away from his jail guards and secretly crossed the Hudson River to New Jersey. He later admitted paying $60,000 in bribes to finance the dramatic breakout. Once loose, he traveled in disguise, wearing a wig, a clean-shaven face, and workman's clothes, and using a false name. He reached Cuba and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Spain, only to face arrest there. Spanish authorities had seized him on his arrival at Vigo and handed him back to a United States Navy frigate that returned him to New York City.

Then, back behind bars, exhausted, destitute, and sick, Tweed tried to surrender: "I am an old man, greatly broken in health, cast down in spirit, and can no longer bear my burden," heɽ written from jail, agreeing with Fairchild and Tilden and throwing himself on their mercy. After years of denials, he now offered them a full confession of his crimes, including names of accomplices, surrender of all his property, and help in any legal steps to recover stolen city funds-all in exchange for his freedom. He wanted to be with his wife and children, he said, to live out his last years.

He delivered his confession both in writing and through eleven days of riveting public testimony before a committee of city aldermen. Newspapers carried full transcripts of the startling disclosures as Tweed appeared day after day in a packed City Hall chamber and poured out his secrets, explaining how heɽ bribed the state legislature, fixed elections, skimmed money from city contractors, and systematically diverted public funds. Parts of his story had little or no corroboration, raising suspicions that heɽ exaggerated his own guilt simply to flatter his jailers and help win his release. He made no excuses, no alibis, and no complaints sitting in the stuffy room, he answered every question, rarely showing temper or impatience.

New Yorkers who earlier had despised Tweed for his arrogance and greed now grudgingly grew to respect "the old man"-for his terrible mistakes, his punishment, and his apparent atonement. The aldermen who took his testimony supported Tweed's plea for release from jail, as did old political rivals like "Honest John" Kelly, Tweed's replacement as leader of Tammany Hall.

But Tilden and Fairchild, sitting at the state capitol in Albany, were deaf to his pleas. Samuel Tilden had already run for president in 1876 heɽ received more popular votes than Rutherford B. Hayes and lost the presidency by a single electoral vote in a contested outcome. He was considering a second try in 1880. Fairchild too saw higher political office in his future, including a possible run for the New York governor's mansion. Why should either risk his reputation now over Tweed?

Tweed's last appearance outside the Ludlow Street Jail came on March 26, 1878, two weeks before his death. Sheriffs had taken him to the state Supreme Court to testify in one of the many lawsuits resulting from his scandals. As guards led him through the marble courthouse corridors, he eagerly greeted the two or three old-timers who weren't ashamed to shake his hand. Newsmen noticed how Tweed now walked with a limp and spoke in a rasping voice. When Tweed took the witness stand, he delivered a prepared statement: "Under promises made to me by the officials of the state and the city, I was induced to give evidence before the Common Council of this city . as to what are called 'Ring Frauds,'" he read. "I am advised by my counsel not to answer a single question put to me on this case . until the promises made to me . are fulfilled and I am liberated."

The judge accepted Tweed's response at face value and allowed him to leave the court without being cross-examined by any of the lawyers.

Six days later, Tweed got his answer. Attorney General Fairchild issued a public letter denying heɽ made any deals with Tweed-despite contrary statements heɽ given earlier to Tweed's own lawyer and to John Kelly. Fairchild declared the whole incident a sham and a trick he never bothered even to send Tweed a copy of the letter: Tweed read it in the newspapers. When he saw Fairchild's denial, he knew the game was up. A few days later came the fever, then the cough, then pneumonia.

John Murray Carnochan, Tweed's physician at the Ludlow Street Jail, didn't hesitate to pinpoint the cause of death. "Behind all these phases of disease," he told newspaper writers after the autopsy, "was [Tweed's] great nervous prostration, brought about by his prolonged confinement in an unhealthful locality"-the moldy jailhouse on Ludlow Street-"and by the unfavorable result of the efforts recently made to effect his release."

Tweed's family had largely abandoned him by the time he died: public shame had driven them away. Mary Jane, his wife of thirty-three years, had gone to Paris with their grown son William, Jr. she traveled under the false name "Weed" to avoid any connection with her disgraced husband. "My wife! . She is God's own workmanship," he confided to an interviewer. "The only thing against her is that she had such a worthless husband." Tweed's two youngest sons, ten-year-old George and fourteen-year-old Charles, had been kept in a New England boarding school for the past five years and forbidden to see their father. His two oldest daughters, Mary Amelia and Lizzie, both lived with husbands in New Orleans, over a thousand miles away, both taking the same married name, Maginnis.

Of all Tweed's children, only his daughter Josephine, twenty-four years old, still lived in New York City. She came frequently to the Ludlow Street Jail to visit her father and always tried to act cheerful around him. Sheɽ come quickly this morning on hearing from the doctors, but had stepped away from her father's bedside to fetch him his favorite treat of tea and ice cream. She hadn't come back yet when he died at noon.

News of Tweed's death spread quickly through the busy metropolis of nine hundred thousand souls. New Yorkers had known him for twenty-five years as hero, villain, and criminal. He once had counted his friends and colleagues in the thousands. "Nine men out of ten either know me or I know them," heɽ bragged back in the 1860s, when he still commanded the city's respect, "women and children you may include." Now crowds gathered at newspaper offices and government buildings with public bulletin boards-over a hundred people at City Hall alone. Boys selling extra editions of the Sol de nueva york, the World, y el Heraldo made a fast business. The Boss dead? It couldn't be true! One rumor had it that Tweed had faked his own demise as just another gimmick to win release from jail.

Most New Yorkers sympathized at the news. "Poor old man, poor man, but perhaps it was best for him," Judge Van Vorst of the Court of Common Pleas told a reporter. "Tweed had a great many friends among the poor and friendless," added Bernard Reilly, sheriff of New York County. "Other people will regret his death because they think he has been rather harshly dealt with . he cannot be considered wholly as a bad man. He erred deplorably. And he has paid for his errors by dying in prison."

But self-styled reformers rejected any pity for Tweed. Theyɽ won a great victory by overthrowing his corrupt machine and refused to compromise now over misplaced sentiment for a sick old man. los New-York Times had dramatically unearthed and disclosed the Tweed Ring's secret accounts-the greatest journalistic scoop to that time, directly leading to Tweed's downfall now it led the assault: "Such talents as [Tweed] had were devoted to cheating the people and robbing the public Treasury," insisted its lead editorial the next day, adding that "his tastes were gross, his life impure, and his influence, both political and personal, more pernicious than that of any other public man of his generation."

Thomas Nast, the brilliant young illustrator whose cartoons in Harper's Weekly had made Tweed a laughingstock in New York City, still featured the ex-Boss in his weekly drawings. These days he portrayed Tweed as a tiny parakeet-no longer the fierce Tammany Tiger but instead a pathetic "jailbird" with prison stripes on his feathers and a ball and chain locked to his ankle. Nast's final drawing of Tweed before the Boss's death, published in January 1878, had mocked the appeals for Tweed's release by showing miniature jailbird Tweed gripped in a giant hand called "Prison," ready to crush him at a whim. "[I]f it be right that men should be punished for great offenses, there was nothing unkind, unjust, or unreasonable in the punishment of Tweed," echoed a Harper's Weekly editorial that week. It was right that Tweed should die in jail a broken man, others said. "Without his boldness and skill the gigantic Ring robberies would not have been committed," concluded James Gordon Bennett, Jr.'s Heraldo de Nueva York. The "finger of scorn," as Tom Nast had drawn it, must follow him to the grave.

William Tweed had left enormous footprints on his city he had built as grandly as heɽ stolen. His monuments dotted every corner of Manhattan-the new Brooklyn Bridge rising across the East River, the opulent new County Courthouse by City Hall, the widened, paved streets up Broadway and around Central Park. Just as striking were shadows of his crimes-the huge debt and ruined credit that would haunt city finances for a generation, the broken lives and shattered trust of former friends. Tweed had defined a grimy reality of American politics, perfecting forms of graft and voting-box abuse mimicked by political bosses for the next century, but never on so grand a scale. His fall had created a new role for a free, skeptical press in the public arena, and his legal persecution had set a tone for political scandals lasting generations.


Boss Tweed

Famously, Tweed is known for the construction of the New York Courthouse. It wasn't until the New York Times wrote an expose on Boss Tweed that his grafting became publicly known and finally consequences caught up with his actions. William M. Tweed was born the son of a chair maker in New York in 1823. He attended public school and then followed in his father's footsteps by learning the trade also. Tweed was born on April 3, 1823 in New York City, New York. He started as a street fighter in the Cherry Hill section of the Lower East Side where he was one of eight children. Because of this, he was sent to a boarding school in New Jersey for a year, where he focused on accounting.

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William ‘Boss’ Tweed and the bitter days of Tammany Hall

PODCAST Listen to it for FREE on iTunes or other podcasting services. Or click this link to listen to the show or download it directly from our satellite site
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You cannot understand New York without understanding its most corrupt politician — William ‘Boss’ Tweed, a larger than life personality with lofty ambitions to steal millions of dollars from the city.

With the help of his ‘Tweed Ring’, the former chair-maker had complete control over the city — what was being built, how much it would cost and who was being paid.

How do you bring down a corrupt government when it seems almost everyone’s in on it? We reveal the downfall of the Tweed Ring and the end to one of the biggest political scandals in New York history. It began with a sleigh ride.

ADEMÁS: Find out how Tammany Hall, the dominant political machine of the 19th century, got its start — as a rather innocent social club that required men to dress up and pretend they’re Indians.

William M. Tweed, son of a chair maker, as photographed by Matthew Brady in 1865. The Lower East Side would not spawn a man as powerful as Tweed until the rise of Al Smith in the 20th Century. Tweed’s influence, however, came at great expense to the city.

The M. in his middle name is something of a controversy. Marcy or Magear? It’s commonly assumed to stand for Marcy however, there’s no real documentary evidence for this (according to biographer Kenneth Ackerman) while Magear is his mother’s maiden name.

Below: a younger-looking Tweed appears on a tobacco box

The powerful Democratic machine Tammany Hall (or, officially the Tammany Society) was actually in a hall, located at Frankfurt and Nassau streets, near City Hall. Built in 1811, the new headquarters saw the once benign social organization morph into an influential and often ruthless group with political objectives.

During Tweed’s reign, Tammany Hall was actually located at 14th Street between 3rd Avenue and Irving Place. Tammany moved here in 1867 and would remain until the late 20s, when they would move just around the corner to Union Square. This photo was taken in 1914. Today the Con Edison building, with its beautiful clock tower, stands in its place.

The Tweed Ring — on in this case ‘the Four Knaves’ — as interpreted by their harshest critic, illustrator Thomas Nast. The Ring was composed of Tweed, Mayor A. Oakey Hall, chamberlain Peter Sweeny and ‘Slippery Dick’ Connolly, the comptroller. Emanating from this core group would be other underlings and associates who would assist in the Ring’s graft and embezzlement

Nast’s charges of voting fraud below weren’t hyperbole. The elections of 1868, which installed Hall into the mayor’s seat and Tammany disciple John Hoffman into the governor’s chair, was one of the most manipulated in American history. Fraud was only too common in New York elections in the 19th century.

The New York County Courthouse, also known as the Tweed Courthouse for the vast amount money supposedly thrown at it during construction. Contractors would wildly overbill for their often shoddy work, with members of the Tweed Ring skimming from the totals. It would take over 20 years for the building to finally be completed — longer than it took to build the Brooklyn Bridge.

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS: If you want to learn more about Boss Tweed, go immediately to Kenneth Ackerman’s excellent ‘Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York’. For a broader overview on Tammany Hall, seek out a copy of Oliver E. Allen’s ‘The Tiger: The Rise And Fall of Tammany Hall’ which I believe it out of print but worth looking for.

RELATED PODCASTS: Listen to our prior show on Greenwood Cemetery, where Tweed is buried. Re-visit our Union Square show to get a taste of Tammany’s wily Fernando Wood. Last year I wrote about the Ludlow Street Jail, where Tweed saw his final days.