The History of Tammany Hall

CHAPTER XXXV
“ Chief ” Murphy’s Leadership
— further details
1912-1913



MAYOR GAYNOR was by no means pliable to Tammany purposes;  he both asserted and exercised his independence of “Chief” Murphy.  But although great powers were centralized in his office, there were nevertheless numbers of Tammany men in the various departments, bureaus and courts.  Of the 85,000 regular employees of New York City in 1912 (including 10,118 policemen and 4,346 firemen), many were Tammany men, the larger number of them occupying subordinate positions.  The entire city payroll at this time aggregated about $89,000,000 — an average outlay of $7,500,000 a month for salaries and wages alone.  The city budget for 1913 was $190,411,000.

Despite the appointment of successive Police Commissioners — there had been eight within eleven years — to remedy matters in the Police Department, the state of affairs in that department was still a fruitful cause of scandal.  This continuing scandal was brought to a vivid climax by a murder the deliberate audacity of which horrified and aroused the people of the city.

On April 15, 1912, Police Lieutenant Charles Becker went, at the head of his “raiding squad,” to the gambling house of Herman Rosenthal on West Forty-fifth street.  On July 11, 1912, Rosenthal went to the West Side Police Court to protest against the “oppression” of the police in stationing a uniformed man constantly on duty in his house.  Shortly thereafter, Rosenthal made an affidavit, which was published in the New York World on July 14, 1912, swearing that Police Lieutenant Becker had been his partner in the operation of the gambling house and had made the raid for certain personal purposes hereafter explained.

If at this time a Tammany district attorney had been in office, the results might not have been fatal to Rosenthal.  But the district attorney, Charles S. Whitman, was an official noted for his excellent record.  It was well realized that when he agreed to listen to Rosenthal’s charges against Becker, he could not be “reached” by any “influence” or intimidated by any threat.  The alternative on the part of somebody vitally interested was to slay Rosenthal on the principle that “dead men tell no tales,” and thus prevent important disclosures being made to the district attorney.

At 2 o’clock on the morning of July 16, 1912, Rosenthal was summoned out from the doorway of the Hotel Metropole at Broadway and Forty-third street, and shot to death by four “gunmen” from within an automobile, which immediately after the shooting sped away with the murderers.  Arrests of suspects quickly followed.  By July 29, 1912, District Attorney Whitman held four men, all of whom had become informers.  These four were “Bald Jack” Rose, “Bridgie” Webber, Harry Vallon, and Sam Schepps — two of whom, Rose and Vallon, had voluntarily surrendered.  On statements made by Rose and Vallon, the Grand Jury returned an indictment against Becker charging murder in the first degree.  A few days later, Becker was re-indicted, and indictments were handed in against the four “gunmen” — Louis Rosenberg, alias “Lefty Louie,” 23 years old;  Harry Horowitz, alias “Gyp the Blood,” 26 years old;  Jacob Seidenshner, alias “Whitey Lewis,” 26 years old, and Frank Cirofici, alias “Dago Frank,” 29 years old.  These “gunmen” were variously arrested at different places.

Stirred by this brutal murder, a mass meeting of citizens was held at Cooper Union on August 14, 1912.  Resolutions were adopted part of which approved a proposal for an appropriation by the city of $25,000 for an investigation into police conditions and a thorough inquiry into the causes and possible remedies of systems of blackmail and graft.  A Citizens’ Committee was appointed by this mass meeting to report on these conditions.

Of the police force this committee reported on February 26, 1913, that :

“ The corruption is so ingrained that the man of ordinary decent character entering the force and not possessed of extraordinary moral fiber may easily succumb.  About him are the evidences of graft and the enjoyment of irregular incomes substantially increasing the patrolman’s salary.  Inadequate condemnation is shown by his associates in the force for such practises;  on the contrary, there is much indirect pressure which induces him to break his oath of office;  the families of grafting policemen live better than his own, and the urgencies of his family and of his own social needs tempt him to thrive as do his corrupt associates.  Such a system makes for too many of the police an organized school of crime.  The improvement of recent years — and there is some — is not great enough to satisfy an aroused public.

“ But not resting with this general knowledge of the existence of such matters, this Committee has made an intensive examination of the conditions in a number of police precincts.  We know that the connection between members of the police force and crime or commercialized vice is continuous, profitable and so much a matter of course that explicit bargains do not have to be made;  naturally this “honor among thieves” is occasionally violated, as is customary among thieves, both the keeping and the breaking of faith being determined by these policemen for their own profit.

“ Well knowing this police ‘system,’ grand juries will not on police testimony indict violators of the law, lest they [the grand juries] be lending themselves to police persecution of a selected criminal who had refused tribute, and so be helping the police ‘system.’  For the same reason petit juries will acquit, and judges will discharge, and crime increases and goes unpunished, while honest policemen are discredited and discouraged.

“ Evil thus breeds new maggots of evil.  The sums collected by the police excite the greed of certain politicians;  they demand their shares, and in their turn they protect the criminal breaches of the law and the police in corruption.  The presence of ‘politics’ brings strength and complexity to the ‘system’ and makes it harder to break up.  The city, we believe, is convinced that it is time for more radical efforts at improvement.”[1]

A Committee of the Board of Aldermen, appointed to inquire into matters connected with the Police Department, held eighty public sessions, took 4,800 pages of testimony and records, handed in certain conclusions, and made recommendations for further laws.  “We have received shocking evidence of a widespread corrupt alliance between the police and gamblers and disorderly house keepers,” this committee reported in part.[2]  During the same time, District Attorney Whitman was vigorously prosecuting public offenders.  In a single year four police inspectors were convicted of conspiracy and were also under indictment for bribery, one police captain was convicted of extortion, one lieutenant was convicted of extortion, one patrolman of perjury, and two patrolmen were convicted of extortion.  In addition, there were various indictments of patrolmen for extortion.  Of the convicted, the captain and one patrolman confessed;  an attorney and a citizen indicted for bribery in connection with police matters, also confessed.

To return to the trials for the murder of Rosenthal: At Becker’s trial Rose testified that his connection with Becker had begun in 1911, after a “raid” on a gambling house kept by him (Rose) on Second Avenue;  that the levying of tribute on “unraided” gamblers was systematized;  that Rosenthal was brought under this system of “protection”;  that Rosenthal and Becker had become partners;  and that Rosenthal, in March, 1912, had refused to “give up” $500 for the defense of Becker’s press agent who was charged with the killing of a negro in a “raid” on a crap game.  According further to Rose’s testimony, this refusal brought on strained relations between Becker and Rosenthal;  and that after the “raid” on Rosenthal’s gambling house, on April 15, 1912, when Rosenthal threatened “to squeal,” Becker began to plan for the “fixing” of Rosenthal.  In June, 1912 — so Rose testified — when “Big Jack” Zelig, an East Side gang leader, was in the City Prison, the plan was determined upon of negotiating with him that, in exchange for his release, some of his “gunmen” should “attend to” Rosenthal.  The four “gunmen” arrested, Rose swore, were the tools that committed the murder, and he (Rose) had acted as Becker’s agent in arranging matters with them.  The testimony further showed that on the afternoon after the murder, the quartet of “gunmen” had received $1,000 as payment, after which they quit the city.

On the testimony of Rose and others, Becker was convicted on October 24, 1913;  the conviction of the four young “gunmen” soon followed.  All five were sentenced to death.  By a decision of the Court of Appeals, on February 24, 1914, Becker was allowed a new trial upon the ground that by reason of hostile rulings his trial had not been fair, but the conviction of the four “gunmen” was affirmed.  They were electrocuted at Sing Sing prison on April 13, 1914.  Subsequently, after a second trial, Becker was again convicted, and was duly electrocuted.

Another source of quick-ripening trouble to Tammany Hall, turning large numbers of voters against its chief, Mr. Murphy, and against the whole system of the “Organization,” was the summary manner in which it impeached and disposed of Governor William Sulzer.

Mr. Sulzer had been a member of Tammany Hall for twenty-five years, and had always been pushed into office by Tammany Hall since the time when, as a young man, he had been one of Mr. Croker’s protégés.  Elected to the New York State Assembly, he had been made its Speaker at a youthful age.  Later he had been repeatedly sent to Congress by Tammany Hall nominations, and it was primarily a Tammany backing that caused his nomination and election as Governor, in 1912.  Tammany believed that it had every reason to feel sure that as Governor Mr. Sulzer would continue pliable and docile to the “Organization’s” orders and interests.

“Boss” Murphy, however, was soon disillusioned when Governor Sulzer declined dictation.  According to Mr. Sulzer’s detailed story,[3] he (Sulzer), immediately prior to going into office as Governor, spent an afternoon with Mr. Murphy at his request in his private room at Delmonico’s.  “His attitude,” Mr. Sulzer related, “was very friendly and confidential.  He said he was my friend;  that he knew of my financial condition and wanted to help me out.  As he went on, I was amazed at his knowledge of my intimate personal affairs.  To my astonishment, he informed me that he knew I was heavily in debt.  Then he offered me enough money to pay my debts and have enough left to take things easy while Governor.  He said that this was really a party matter and that the money he would give me was party money ... and that nobody would know anything about it;  that I could pay what I owed and go to Albany feeling easy financially.  He then asked me how much I needed, to whom I owed it, and other personal questions.

“As I did not want to be tied hard and fast as Governor in advance, I declined Mr. Murphy’s offer, saying that I was paying off my debts gradually;  that my creditors were friends and would not press me;  that I was economical, that I would try to get along on my salary as Governor.”  Mr. Sulzer asserted that Mr. Murphy repeated the offer, and that when he (Sulzer) again refused, Mr. Murphy said, “If you need money at any time, let me know, and you can have what you want.  We cleaned up a lot of money on your campaign.  I can afford to let you have what you want and never miss it.”

Then, according further to Mr. Sulzer’s story, Mr. Murphy wanted Governor Sulzer to meet him at the hotel in Albany where Murphy was staying;  Sulzer did not go.  Subsequently, on the night of February 2, 1913, they met at Justice Edward E. McCall’s house in New York City, where Murphy urged the appointment of his friend, John Galvin, to succeed Mr. Willcox as a member of the Public Service Commission in New York City.  The Public Service Commission is a body invested with enormous authority in the matter of granting of public franchises and other comprehensive powers;  it had been under anti-Tammany control, and it was a body the domination of which was pressingly sought by Tammany;  there were vast subway franchises to be awarded, and the powers of that body could be used with almost autocratic effect in certain ways over the entire range of recognized public service corporations.  Governor Sulzer would not appoint Galvin, but finally compromised upon the selection of Justice Edward E. McCall as Chairman of the Public Service Commission.

“At this meeting and subsequently,” Mr. Sulzer declared, “Mr. Murphy demanded from me pledges regarding legislation and especially concerning appointments to the Public Service Commission, the Health Department, the Labor Department, the State Hospital Commission, the Department of State Prisons and the Department of Highways.”  Murphy insisted that various Tammany men whom he named should be appointed to those offices.  Mr. Murphy, however, favored the retention in office of C. Gordon Reel, State Superintendent of Highways, saying that he was “a good man.”  “Mr. Murphy added,” Mr. Sulzer’s statement continued, “that if I wished a new State Superintendent of Highways, ‘Jim’ Gaffney was the best all-around man for the job.”

“When I took office as Governor of the State last January,” Mr. Sulzer declared in a signed published statement,

on the very first day my attention was abruptly called to the fact that during the year just ended there had been spent in the State $34,000,000 WITHOUT A SINGLE AUDIT.

“On the second day that I was in office a messenger presented to me bills amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, pointing out to me where I was to sign my name.  If I had attached my signature to those bills they would have been immediately paid, and yet the messenger thought that he was telling me nothing unusual when he said that other Governors had signed bills that way, and that one Governor had left a rubber stamp outside his office with the messenger, so that he would not be bothered.

“‘Leave those bills there,’ I said, ‘and I’ll look into them.  The rubber stamp period is over.’”

After Mr. Sulzer had become Governor he learned, as his statement read, that the State Architect had expended more than $4,800,000 in the previous year;  that this was done practically on the certificate of that official, and that there had been no proper audit;  the vouchers had been carried to the trustees of public buildings, composed of the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor and Speaker of the Assembly by a clerk and approved by the use of a regular office stamp.  Governor Sulzer also learned, he said, that the appropriation for 1912 had been exceeded by nearly half a million dollars, and that there was no proper supervision.  Governor Sulzer appointed John A. Hennessy as Commissioner to investigate reports of graft in these and other departments.  At the same time, he appointed George W. Blake as Commissioner to inquire into prison management.

Mr. Hennessy’s report disclosed the most widespread graft.  In construction work on public buildings, large bills had been submitted for inferior material;  the payrolls on the electrical and other contracts had been padded;  regular State employees had been displaced as inspectors and timekeepers by political henchmen from Tammany District Leader James J. Hagan’s district in Manhattan, from which the State Architect, his secretary, and the foreman on the general work came.  At Governor Sulzer’s request, Mr. Hennessy asked the State Architect for his resignation, but Senator Frawley, another Tammany district leader, intervened with a protest to Governor Sulzer against any interference with the work on the State Capitol or other State buildings.

“I sent for Hennessy,” Mr. Sulzer’s narrative went on, “who in my presence related to Senator Frawley the main facts in the case, but Frawley still persisted that nothing should be done with the State Architect’s office, at least until there had been further consideration of the case.  I told Hennessy to return to the State Architect (Mr. Hoofer) and insist upon his resignation.  What happened between these two men I can only tell from Hennessy’s recital to me.  Hoofer told him that he (Hoofer) was not a free agent, that he had no control over his deputies, that he had no control over his secretary, nor did he have any control over the men who checked up the work.  He (Hoofer) said they were all appointed through Tammany Hall.... Hoofer said he wanted to consult somebody in New York.  While I held the ’phone, I told Hennessy to ask Hoofer the name of the man, and Hennessy responded that Hoofer wanted an opportunity to see Charles F. Murphy and explain certain things.”

Governor Sulzer allowed a few days’ delay.  Shortly before the time limit that Governor Sulzer had set for Hoofer’s resignation, “John H. Delaney came to me,” Mr. Sulzer’s story went on, “ and said that he had been talking to ‘the Chief’ over the ’phone, and that Murphy wanted Hoofer’s resignation to go over until such time as he could discuss the case with me.”  A little later “Senator Wagner, Senator Frawley and John H. Delaney came into the Executive Chamber and informed me that Murphy was insistent that nothing should be done in the case of Hoofer during that week, and it was a subject that would have to be discussed with the organization.”  Upon Governor Sulzer’s demand that he resign or be immediately removed, Mr. Hoofer wrote his resignation.

The next official removed by Governor Sulzer was C. Gordon Reel, State Superintendent of Highways, following Commissioner Hennessy’s investigation and the disclosures of extensive graft in highway contracts in a large number of counties.  The amount of this graft has been variously estimated at from $5,000,000 to $9,000,000.  That the system of plundering the State in the building of roads was no fiction was shown later in the large number of indictments (followed by many convictions) handed down against politico-contractors and State employes in New York State.

In the most important of the indictments found by the Suffolk County Grand Jury on January 22, 1914, the Grand Jury charged “grand larceny” and “conspiracy” in the construction of a so-called “cementitious Hudson River gravel road” the specifications of which designated a material absolutely controlled by Henry Steers, of the contracting firm of Bradley, Gaffney & Steers, commonly known as “the Tammany Trust.”

During an investigation conducted by James W. Osborne, in behalf of New York State, the testimony, on February 17, 1914, indicated that State Superintendent of Highways Reel ordered the use of a patented road for roadways and caused the specifications to be changed so as to favor the Gaffney-Bradley-Steers Company which controlled this particular patented pavement.  And when Mr. Sulzer testified, on February 29, 1914, before the Assembly “Graft Hunt” Investigating Committee, he said that an average of 30 per cent. of the money paid for those State roads (which had been investigated by Mr. Hennessy) went into the contract, and that 70 per cent. went into the pockets of politicians and contractors.  Mr. Sulzer asserted that about $9,000,000 had been stolen in 1912.

According to Mr. Sulzer, Mr. Reel’s appointment as State Commissioner of Highways had been Mr. Murphy’s “personal selection.”  When Governor Sulzer’s attitude indicated Reel’s removal, Mr. Murphy (so Sulzer stated) pressed forward the appointment of “Jim” Gaffney to succeed Reel.  “Mr. Murphy demanded the appointment of Gaffney, and still later a prominent New Yorker came to me in the Executive Mansion bringing the message from Mr. Murphy that it was ‘Gaffney or war.’  I declined to appoint Gaffney.

“This is the Gaffney who, only a few months afterwards, on September 4, 1913, in undisputed testimony before the Supreme Court of New York, was shown to have demanded and received $30,000 in money (refusing to take a check) from one of the aqueduct contractors, nominally for ‘advice.’  This is the man who Mr. Murphy demanded should be put in a position where he would superintend and control the spending of sixty-five millions of the money of the State in road contracts.”

Mr. Sulzer here referred to the testimony of Harry B. Hanger, aqueduct contractor, who swore that he paid Mr. Gaffney $30,000 for “expert advice on the labor situation” on one contract, and $10,000 for the same services on another contract.  Mr. Gaffney later — on March 20, 1914 — himself testified before the Special Grand Jury in New York City as to this transaction.

It was the same Mr. Gaffney, too, whose name was involved in the award of Contract No. 22 for the Catskill Aqueduct.  This contract was awarded on March 19, 1909, over two lower bidders to Patterson & Company, a firm of no great capital or experience.  James W. Patterson, Jr., head of that firm, subsequently testified before the Grand Jury, in 1914, to his making arrangements to pay 5 per cent. of the contract price ($824,942.50) as a “contribution to Tammany Hall.”  John M. Murphy, a Bronx contractor, testified that, as agent for James E. Gaffney, he had arranged to sell the contract, and had received from Mr. Gaffney 10 per cent., or $4,125, as his share of a certain $41,250, after threatening “to kick over the whole deal” if Gaffney did not give the proper “honorarium.”

It appeared from the testimony that $41,250 in bills had been deposited in escrow to be handed over by James G. Shaw, the “stakeholder,” to a some one designated as Gaffney, on the day after the award of Aqueduct Contract No. 22.  Questioned as to whom this $41,250 was given, Mr. Shaw could not remember, which forgetfulness made the fastening of legal proof impossible.  The special Grand Jury investigating this matter reported, however, in a presentment to Justice Vernon M. Davis, in the Supreme Court, New York City, on April 21, 1914, that the Grand Jurors were morally satisfied that a crime had been committed in the sale of Contract No. 22 to Patterson & Company, and that this contract could not have been sold and delivered, as it was, in the name of James E. Gaffney, “without the collusion of a member of the Board (of Water Supply) itself.”  Inasmuch as five years ad passed since the transaction, the Statute of Limitations intervened to bar criminal prosecution.

In an inquiry later conducted by District Attorney Whitman, James C. Stewart swore that one “Gaffney” asked him for a contribution of five per cent. upon $3,000,000 worth of canal work that he (Stewart) was seeking.  Stewart refused to make the arrangement;  his bid was much the lowest, but he did not then get the contract.  Precisely what “Gaffney” it was who proposed the handing over of this $150,000, Stewart averred that he could not tell;  he had never seen him previously.  When, on January 30, 1914, District Attorney Whitman brought Stewart and James E. Gaffney face to face, Stewart said that he could not identify Mr. Gaffney as the man who demanded the $150,000.

During the course of this same inquiry Mr. Sulzer testified, on January 21, 1914, that on learning that Stewart was to be denied the contracts, he telegraphed on December 18, 1912, to the Canal Board asking it to defer action until he could consult with its members.  Whereupon John H. Delaney came to him and excitedly said, “My God, Congressman, what have you done? It angered the Chief more than anything else I have ever known.  The Chief is wild.”  The “Chief,” otherwise Charles F. Murphy, demanded an interview with the Governor-elect at once.

In this interview, which was held at Delmonico’s, Mr. Sulzer quoted Mr. Murphy as saying to him, “Why did you send that telegram to the Canal Board ?  You have no right to butt in on things that don’t concern you.  I’m attending to that matter, and I want you to keep your hands off.  If you are going to begin this way, I can see now where you will end as Governor.  You do what you are told hereafter, and don’t take any action on matters that don’t concern you without conferring with me.”  When Mr. Sulzer said he was going to be Governor, Mr. Murphy (so Sulzer testified) replied :  “So that is the way you understand it ?  Well, if you go along that line, I can see where you will end up damned quick.  You are going to be Governor ?  Like hell you are !”

Mr. Sulzer further testified at this hearing that on the evening of March 3, 1913, at a luncheon in Washington, he told Senator O’Gorman that Mr. Murphy was putting the “screws” on him and bringing to bear all the influence he could to have James E. Gaffney appointed Commissioner of Highways, and that Senator O’Gorman had said:  Governor, if you appoint Jim Gaffney Commissioner of Highways it will be a disgrace to the State of New York and it will ruin your political career as the Governor.  Don’t you know that Gaffney is Murphy’s chief bagman ?  Don’t you know he is the man Murphy sends out to hold up the contractors ?  Don’t you know he is the man that held up my client, James G. Stewart, for over a hundred thousand dollars, and he would have got away with it if Stewart had not come to me, and if I had not gone to Murphy and read the Riot Act, telling him that I would not stand for that kind of politics;  that he had to stop Gaffney, and that if he didn’t stop Gaffney, so far as my client was concerned, I would expose him.”

Subsequently Mr. Sulzer met Mr. Murphy several times, and was importuned (so he testified) to appoint Mr. Gaffney.  When Sulzer replied that it was impossible, Mr. Murphy announced, “Well, it’s Gaffney or war.”  Mr. Sulzer’s testimony went on :  “At this conversation, one of the things Mr. Murphy said to me was, ‘If you don’t do this, I will wreck your administration.’  It was not the first time he had threatened me, and I answered, ‘I am the Governor, and I am going to be the Governor.’  He said, ‘You may be the Governor, but I have got the Legislature, and the Legislature controls the Governor, and if you don’t do what I tell you to do, I will throw you out of office.’”  After Governor Sulzer had removed Reel, Mr. Murphy was still pressing Gaffney’s appointment.

Of the inquiries into graft carried on by George W. Blake and John W. Hennessy, Mr. Sulzer testified :  “Their reports staggered me, and believe me, it takes something to stagger me.  There was graft, graft everywhere, nor any man to stop it.”  Mr. Sulzer testified that Mr. Murphy had sought to hamper the graft exposure by causing to be cut off — for the first time in the, State’s history, he said — the Governor’s contingent fund, and he described how it became necessary to raise money by private subscription to enable the graft inquiry to be carried on.

“I have been in office now for six months,” wrote Mr. Sulzer in a signed article later, “and in that time I have learned enough to be able to say without fear of contradiction that in the past three years $50,000,000 of the people’s money has been wasted or stolen.”

In a talk, on March 18, 1913, with Mr. Murphy over appointments to the Supreme Court of New York State, the Tammany chief — so Mr. Sulzer related — “threatented me with public disgrace unless I agreed to his program on legislative matters and appointments.  It was at this conference, too, that he talked about the things he ‘had on me,’ and said that I had better listen to him and not to his enemies up the State;  that if I did what he told me I would have things easy and no trouble, and that if I didn’t do what he wanted me to, I would have all the trouble I wanted....

“He was very insulting.  Then I asked him what he could do to destroy me.  And he said :  ‘Never mind;  you will find out in good time.  Stand by the organization and you will be all right.  If you go against the organization, I will make your administration the laughing stock of the State.’  It was at this time that he asked me to call off George Blake, the commissioner who was investigating the prisons.... I told him that Blake was an efficient man and that I was going to let him go on with his work, and he said, ‘If you do you will be sorry for it.  Mark what I am telling you now !’

“I told him what I had heard about the vileness of things in the Sing Sing and Auburn prisons.  I said :  ‘We certainly ought not to stand for them.  I want to get at the facts, and if there is anything wrong, stop it;  if there is any graft, eliminate it.’  Mr. Murphy told me that he didn’t want anything done in connection with Sing Sing prison by Blake or any other man;  that the warden there, Mr. Kennedy, was a friend of his and a good man, and he wanted him left alone.  This, remember, was the warden whom I afterward removed from his place on charges and who was since indicted by the Westchester grand jury.”  It may be noted here that later there were a number of prosecutions in prison graft cases.  The graft in the prisons reached a total of many millions of dollars in the one item alone of the substitution of bad food for the good food paid for by the State.  Extensive grafting was found in other respects.

Mr. Sulzer added that one of the agents through whom Mr. Murphy most frequently communicated with him was Justice Edward E. McCall.  “Judge McCall usually spoke of Mr. Murphy as ‘the Chief,’ and would say to me that ‘the Chief’ wished such and such a thing done, or demanded that I follow such and such a course of action.  Every Tammany member of either house who approached me from day to day used the same language, saying that ‘the Chief’ demanded this or demanded that, or that ‘the Chief’ had telephoned to put through such a piece of legislation, or kill some other piece of legislation.”

Meanwhile, on March 10, 1913, reports of trouble between Governor Sulzer and Mr. Murphy had become public;  when on this date Sulzer removed C. Gordon Reel as State Superintendent of Highways, it was reported in the newspapers that Murphy had asked Governor Sulzer to name James E. Gaffney, his partner in the contracting business, as Reel’s successor.  On the next day, Mr. Murphy hotly denied that he had asked Gaffney’s appointment.  From day to day further reports of estrangement were published.  In a speech before the Democratic editors of the State, on March 25, Sulzer asserted :  “No man, no party, no organization can make me a rubber stamp.  I am the Governor.  Let no man doubt that.”

It appeared that Mr. Murphy had the idea that Sulzer was at heart a Progressive;  it may be explained that the Progressive party had polled a large vote and was recognized as a powerful political factor.

It was on the night of April 13, 1913, that Governor Sulzer, according to his interview published later in the New York Evening Mail, held his final interview with Mr. Murphy.  “I asked him,” Mr. Sulzer said, “not to interfere with the trial of Stilwell in the Senate.  I said, ‘What are you going to do about him ?’  ‘Stand by him, of course,’ replied Mr. Murphy.  ‘Stilwell will be acquitted.  It will only be a three-day wonder.  How do you expect a Senator to live on $1,500 a year ?  That is only chicken feed.’... Before we parted that night, I warned Mr. Murphy that he would wreck the party and accomplish his own destruction if he persisted in shielding grafters and violating platform pledges.  His angry retort was that I was an ingrate, and that he would disgrace and destroy me.”

In fact, as Mr. Murphy predicted, Senator Stephen J. Stilwell was voted not guilty of official misconduct, by a vote of 28 to 21 in the Senate, after an investigation by the judiciary committee of charges of bribery made against him by George H. Kendall, president of the New York Bank Note Company.  But subsequently Stilwell was indicted in New York County, convicted of bribery upon substantially the same evidence as that upon which a majority of his colleagues in the State Senate had acquitted him, and he was sentenced to a two-year term in prison.

Replying later to Mr. Sulzer’s charges, Mr. Murphy definitely denied that he had ever recommended the appointment of James E. Gaffney as Highways Commissioner;  that he ever mentioned Gaffney’s name to Governor Sulzer for any office;  he emphatically denied that he ever made the threats that Sulzer attributed to him or that he ever sent for Mr. Sulzer to come and see him.  Mr. Murphy asserted that he never saw Sulzer alone after he became Governor “because I knew he’d do just what he has done — perjure himself.”

In April, 1913, Governor Sulzer pushed his Direct Primary Bill, and Tammany members of the Legislature decided in retaliation to defeat all bills favored by him and to “hold up” all of his appointments.  On April 24, 1913, Tammany legislators were stirred to anger by his veto of a direct primary bill that they had concocted;  a few days later they overwhelmingly voted down his direct primary bill.  More retaliation followed on both sides.

It was during this time — in May, 1913 — that the New York World published specific charges that in return for a promise made two years previously to get a lucrative post for J.A. Connolly, a personal friend, Justice Cohalan, Murphy’s legal and political adviser, had taken a note from Connolly for $4,000.  This promise, it was charged, had not been kept.  There were, it was also charged, back of this note a series of transactions in the years 1904 to 1906 between Connolly and Cohalan involving the payment of various sums amounting to $3,940.55;  Connolly claimed that Cohalan had demanded and obtained from him 55 per cent. of the net profits on all city work that was given to Connolly’s firm by means of Cohalan’s influence.  Connolly further claimed that the payments to Cohalan were calculated on this basis, and that their friendship ceased when Cohalan demanded $1,500 more than Connolly reckoned was due him.  Threatened with an action at law, Cohalan surrendered the $4,000 note to Connolly’s attorney.

These charges were investigated by the Grievance Committee of the Bar Association;  the report of that committee confirmed every charge made.  Refusing to recognize the jurisdiction of the Bar Association, Justice Cohalan requested Governor Sulzer to have the charges passed upon by the Legislature;  this Governor Sulzer did in a special message embodying the report of the Grievance Committee of the Bar Association.  The Legislature ordered a trial before the Joint Judiciary Committee.  Justice Cohalan admitted on the witness stand that he had made a great mistake in his dealings with Connolly, and that the money he had paid to Connolly was blackmail given in the hope of hushing up the affair for the good of his party.  William D. Guthrie, representing the Bar Association, reviewed the case in detail, and demanded Justice Cohalan’s removal.  The Joint Judiciary Committee’s report recommended that the case against Justice Cohalan be dismissed, which report was upheld by a majority vote of the Legislature.  Opponents of Tammany pointed out that this was a characteristic action from a Legislature dominated by Tammany influences.




1 Report of the Citizens’ Committee Appointed at the Cooper Union Meeting, August 12, 1912, pp. 6-7.

2 Preliminary Legislative Report of Special Committee of Board of Aldermen, p. 6.

3 An extended interview published in the New York Evening Mail, October 20 and 21, 1913.