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Boss Tweed

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William Marcy Tweed was the most corrupt "American Politician" the state of New York has ever seen. Tweed was known as "Boss Tweed" and he was the first man to be the boss of New York after the ten year struggle. ("American Heritage") The Boss was the leader of a political machine, which was a political organization that controlled

enough votes to maintain control over the community. Political machines were able to restructure the city governments; they also resulted in poorer services, corruption and aggravation of the immigrants and minorities. ("Encyclopedia of American History") He was able to infiltrate Tammany Hall and bribe or smooth-talk any government official that stood in his way. Famously, Tweed is known for the construction of the New York Courthouse. It wasn't until the New York Times wrote an exposÐ"© 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. He began his early careers as a volunteer fireman and later took part in forming the Americus Engine Company No. 6 (the Big Six) in 1848. ("Ackerman") Curiously enough, the cause for Tweed's burning desire for money has never been established, and because of the lack of any primary source in his early life, never will.

Tweed was a large man, to say the least. He never smoked and rarely drank but instead preferred feasting on Ð''culinary delights', such as oysters, duck and tenderloin. He had 300 pounds packed on to his almost-6 foot frame. ("Ackerman") His reddish-brown hair was always kept away from his face, revealing his eyes that were described as both "foxy and gritty". ("American Heritage") The Boss had no problem in revealing his wealth and was often seen sporting a 10 1/2-carat diamond stickpin. His rise to fame began in 1851 when he was elected alderman.

By that time, in 1851, the Board of Aldermen was already known as the forty thieves. He was soon elected leader of the central committee of Tammany Hall and only a few months later, the Grand Sachem. Contrary to popular belief, not everything about Tweed's political career was corrupt. During the time of the horrific draft, riots broke out in the streets of New York. Instead of sending patrols through the downtown streets or fleeing to the suburbs he walked peacefully among the protestors. To this, the establishment and newspapers granted him there approval and acceptance of his philosophy that "All serious problems might not be solved, but they must be managed". ("Ackerman") He managed the draft by creating exemptions and finding substitutes. Now, Tweed was considered a reformer and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1852. ("Kelly")

William Tweed was then elected to the New York City Board of Advisors in 1856 and then, a year later, became a New York State Senator. After his term in Senate, William Marcy Tweed became Boss Tweed. He was able to control the Democratic New York State and city nominations from 1860 until 1870. ("Kelly") Much of this was due to the creation of the "Tweed Ring" which began in 1866, innocently enough as a lunch club. The atmosphere for the birth of the Tweed Ring was due largely to Tweed's predecessor, Fernando Wood, who was mayor throughout most of the 1850s and early 1890s. Tweed joined forces with "three capital rogues". ("American Heritage") The first was the district attorney, Abraham Oakey Hall who was the mayor from 1898 to 1872. Then there was Peter Barr Sweeny, a lobbyist and ex-district attorney. Lastly, there was Richard Connolly who later became the city comptroller.

First the Tweed Ring gained control of the City's Democratic Party and then, over the following five years, this quartet "stormed four fortresses of power". ("Brezina") These fortresses included The City Hall, the Hall of Justice, the Capital in Albany and most notably Tammany Hall. Tammany Hall was actually the common name for the Tammany Society which was a growing political organization. Tammany Society began in 1789 as a social and charitable club. However, it soon acquired a new political character, and became known as the champion of the immigrant and working class. Their main way of getting votes was from illegally granting citizenship and giving city jobs to immigrants; and also providing services for the poor. ("Encarta") The 12,000 men who were placed in city jobs were known as the "Shiny-Hat brigade" and on Election Day would storm the polls in their uniforms and often vote multiple times. ("American Heritage")

Tweed "wholeheartedly" loved the City of New York and even in his corruption made it better. He gave state money to schools, hospitals and his city patronage jobs helped people provide for their families. ("Ackerman") He even "crossed the barrier between church and state" by providing money to the Roman Catholic parochial school system. (Which was a big step considering the anti-catholic feeling of that time period) Even though the improvements were all about gaining votes, the City prospered greatly from his Ð''charity'.

Boss Tweed's main source of "wampum" or hard cash was the construction of the New York City courthouse. The courthouse cost the state and country more than the Erie Canal or roughly 16 normal courthouses. ("Brezina") The architect was John Kellum (who notable also designed the NY Herald building). His completed plans were said to be the "Renaissance marvel proclaiming the greatness of New York and the sanctity of the law." ("American Heritage") However, little was done with construction until 1862 when Tweed became the president of the board of supervisors.

In the beginning, it was the Board of Commissioners vs. the Board of Supervisors. It wasn't until Tweed mediated between them and they decided that the city would foot the



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