The symbiotic relationship between the growing immigrant population and big city party machines during the Gilded Age was mutually beneficial.   Assess the validity of this statement.



          The political machine is sometimes made odious to good citizens, but it is never wholly bad itself. It is a fixture in American politics, and while it may be broken and rebuilt, cleaned and reformed, it can not be eliminated. The men who rail the loudest against it, as a rule, are every ready to use it or its broken parts as stepping-stones to place and power, even to boss-ship. Its reputation for evil is in every case due to party leaders who have used it for personal purposes and made of it an instrument to defeat the wishes of the people who created it. Contrary to popular belief, a party leader can not make a political machine. The party makes the machine, the machine makes the leader, and then the latter makes himself a boss. A leader of a party is never a boss, because leadership implies followers, and a boss does not lead : he drives, and the machine is his vehicle, the individual members of it his driven cattle.

          ...When civic pride and public spirit are withdrawn from the party organization, the modern political machine remains. It stands before the public disguised as a committee ; but every member is there for business, and his first thought is to get all he can out of the party before he is succeeded by some one more unscrupulous.... Once a boss is firmly established in his place his first thought is to take care of the machine, to keep it in good working order, for without it he can not longer retain power.

Source:  Bird S. Coler, Municipal Government (New York, D.Appleton & Co., 1900), 189-194.



          Senator Tweed is in a fair way to distinguish himself as a reformer...From beginning to end the Tweed party has not manifested the slightest disposition to evade or prevaricate...As a whole, the appoints of the heads of the various departments of the City Government...are far above the average in point of personal fitness, and should be satisfactory.

Source:  New York Times, April 8, 1870.



 What tells in holdin' your grip on your district is to go right down among the poor families and help them in different ways they need help... If there's a fire in Ninth, Tenth, or Eleventh Avenue, for example, any hour of the day or night, I'm usually there with some of my election district captains as soon as the fire engines... I just get quarters for them if their clothes were burned up, and fix them up till they get things runnin' again. It's philanthropy, but it's politics too-mighty good politics. Who can tell how many votes one of these fires bring me? The poor are the most grateful people in the world, and, let me tell you, they have more friends in their neighborhoods than the rich have in theirs...

Another thing, I can always get a job for a deservin' man. I make it a point to keep on track of jobs, and it seldom happens that I don't have a few up my sleeve ready for use.

Source:  William L. Riordon, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, 1905 (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1963), 35-36.




       The basis of the power of the Tammany organization is the hold it has on large numbers of the poorer classes. To these classes as a whole it is nevertheless, always and entirely an evil. It robs and cheats them at every turn. It makes heavier the already sore burdens that they must bear. It increases the cost of the living which at best is so hard to get. It tends to make health more difficult and deaths more frequent. It levies toll on their contributions to public treasury, and denies them their fair share of the public employment. In the enforcement of the laws in which they are most deeply interested justice, order, and decency have no place. In quarters where poorer classes are compelled to dwell in pollutes, by the sale of license for the grossest immorality, the surroundings in which their children must be reared.

Source:  "Tammany Past and Present," The Forum, Oct. 1898, p. 210.



          The very definition of a "Ring" is that encircles enough influential men in the organization of each party to control the action of both party machines; men who in public push to extremes the abstract ideas of their respective parties, while they secretly join their hands in schemes for personal power and profit.

Source:  "The New York City 'Ring,' "  Samuel Tilden, The New York City Ring:  Its Origin, Maturity and Fall (1873), p. 11.



          First, the tenement hordes. They perplex at times the most sanguine optimist. The poverty they have brought us is black and bitter; they crowd as do no other living beings to save space, which is rent, and where they go they make slums. Their customs are strange, their language unintelligible. They slave and starve to make money, for the tyranny of a thousand years from which freedom was brought only with gold has taught them the full value of it. It taught them, too, to stick together in good and evil report since all the world was against New York's ghetto; it is clannish.

Source:  Jacob Riis "The Jews of New York" 1896: 58-62.



"Who stole the people's money?"

Source:  Thomas Nast, Cartoons and Illustrations, Dover Publications Inc. (New York 1974).





"The Evolution of the Anarchist"

A Cartoon parody of Immigrants at Castle Garden, c. 1889.



A Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed. American History told by Contemporaries, Volume IV: Welding of the Nation 1845-1900. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1960.
B Callow, Jr., Alexander B., The Tweed Ring. New York: Oxford University Press, 1966.
C Dollar, Charles M., Gary W. Reichard, ed. American Issues: A Documentary Reader, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994.
D Callow, Jr., Alexander B., The Tweed Ring. New York: Oxford University Press, 1966.
E Callow, Jr., Alexander B., The Tweed Ring. New York: Oxford University Press, 1966.
F "Collection of Nast Drawings--The Tweed Ring," <http://tenant.net/Community/LES/jacob4.html>
G Nash, Gary B., et al., eds. The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers, 1994.


DBQ Question created by:
Ms. Kerry Mullaney
Maria Regina H. S.
Hartsdale, NY  10530
created in:  April, 2000