The History of Tammany Hall
Governor Sulzers Impeachment and Tammanys Defeat
THE campaign of retaliation against Governor Sulzer soon came to a climax.
On July 15, 1913, a committee called the Frawley Committee (headed by Senator Frawley) was appointed to inquire into Governor Sulzers receipts and expenditures of campaign funds. After taking testimony, that committee submitted its report with the finding that, following his campaign for Governor, Mr. Sulzer had omitted declaring in his campaign statement $19,000 of contributions to his campaign fund and had purchased, for his personal account, stocks with part of the moneys thus received.
The evidence, according to the committees report, showed that a total of $109,016 in cash or stock had been in Mr. Sulzers possession, and that this sum came from campaign contributions. Mr. Sulzer had used both cash and checks to purchase stocks; and as far as could be brought out by the records and testimony, his Wall Street transactions with three brokerage firms covered a total of $72,428.28, dating from January 1, 1912. It appeared that the greater part of these payments were made after he became a candidate for Governor and was elected to that office. Mr. Murphy and other Tammany leaders pointed out that while these very transactions had been going on, Mr. Sulzer had in his public speeches pretended that he was a poor man.
Mr. Sulzers own version was that if he had made a mistake in signing his campaign statement it was due to haste and carelessness and not to intent to deceive. But, he added,
this is not the only explanation of the failure to itemize certain moneys which were received in the campaign. Some of the moneys were not for campaign purposes at all, but were loans. They were given to me by friends who knew I was heavily in debt, and who loaned me the money to pay my debts or to use as I saw fit. These friends wanted nothing, and in case of my election I knew there was nothing they would ask me to do, or that I could do for them. Politics had nothing to do with the matter.
All the moneys given to me, or sent to me for the campaign, were turned over to the committee, to which reference has been made, or were subsequently given to Mr. Murphy. Whether the latter turned these moneys over to the State Committee or not I cannot say, but an investigation of the report filed by that committee negatives the assumption.
On August 13, 1913, the Assembly, by a vote of 79 to 45, impeached Governor Sulzer on eight articles. Trial by the High Court for the Trial of Impeachments, consisting of the State Senate and the Judges of the Court of Appeals, followed.
Governor Sulzer vigorously fought back, and public opinion was greatly aroused over his charges that the affair was simply a case of the Tammany Organization summarily disciplining him for refusing to be its tool. He was convicted on three of the eight articles of impeachment : (1) that he had filed with the Secretary of State a false sworn statement of his campaign receipts and expenditures; (2) perjury in swearing to the truth of the campaign accounting; (3) committing a misdemeanor in suppressing evidence and preventing or seeking to prevent witnesses from appearing before the legislative committee. On October 17, 1913, Governor Sulzer was removed from office by a vote of 43 to 12 by the High Court for the Trial of Impeachments.
It should be noted that Chief Justice Edgar M. Cullen, of the Court of Appeals, who presided at the trial, voted to acquit Mr. Sulzer on every one of the articles. Never before the present case, said Chief Justice Cullen, has it been attempted to impeach a public officer for acts committed when he was not an officer of the State.... Chief Justice Cullen held that Mr. Sulzer had committed no offense in failing to state the amounts and sources of his campaign contributions, and that there was no evidence of any deceit or fraud.
Governor Sulzers supporters set forth the following as the main actual reasons why proceedings for his removal were pushed :
First : Mr. Sulzers persistent efforts to secure the enactment of the Full Crew legislation to conserve human life on the railroads.
Second : Mr. Sulzers success in securing the enactment of the laws that he recommended to compel honest dealings on the New York Stock Exchange.
Third : Mr. Sulzers refusal to approve the McKee Public Schools Bills which would have given control of public schools to a religious denomination.
Fourth : Mr. Sulzers successful efforts in causing the repeal of the notorious charter of the Long Sault Development Company, by which the State of New York received back its greatest water power and the most valuable of its natural resources.
Fifth : Mr. Sulzers defiance of the bosses big and little and his fight for honest and genuine direct primaries.
Sixth : Mr. Sulzers determined refusal to be a proxy Governor or a rubber stamp.
Seventh : Mr. Sulzers absolute refusal to follow boss dictation regarding legislation and appointments, and his blunt refusal to call off Blake and Hennessy, and stop the investigations which were being made, under his direction, to uncover fraud and expose graft in the State Departments.
Eighth : Mr. Sulzers moral courage, in the performance of public duty, wherein he insisted on the trial and punishment of Senator Stilwell for extortion.
Ninth : Mr. Sulzers determination to set in motion the machinery of the law, in various counties of the State, to indict the grafters and bring them to justice.
There could be no questioning that the proceedings against Sulzer had an effect upon the public mind the reverse of that expected by Boss Murphy and his advisers.
The attempt of Tammany Halls leaders to pose in this case as the conservers of political virtue met with a sardonic reception and quickly reacted upon them in unmistakable terms. Public opinion in general made no attempt to mitigate Mr. Sulzers acts, but, with a keen perception of the fundamental facts, it saw that the real reason why Governor Sulzer was so brutally punished was not because of those acts but because he had finally broken away from Tammany dictation and had sought to be somewhat of an independent Governor. Every intelligent person knew that this was his crime in the view of the Tammany organization, and, according to Tammany standards, the worst crime that could be committed. That an organization which had been steeped in corruption and graft should so ostentatiously pretend to be the exposer and punisher of infractions in an official who had defied its power, excited mockery, resentment and indignation. Public sympathy turned toward the deposed Governor, and he was nominated for the Assembly by the Progressives in an East Side district.
As we have seen, one of the chief issues upon which Gaynor had made his Mayoralty campaign in 1909 was for municipally built and operated subways.
After becoming Mayor, he underwent a decided change of mind. The subway rights were awarded to the Interborough Rapid Transit Company and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company. The Final Report of the Joint Legislative Committee appointed to investigate the Public Service Commissions severely criticizes the policy and the terms under which the contracts were made by the Public Service Commission and the Board of Estimate. On the other hand, defenders of the Board of Estimates action point out that the reasons why that Board changed from city to company subways were that by the co-operation of the companies, the city had the benefit of $150,000,000 more in funds than would have been the case without that co-operation; that the new subway lines instead of being independent, disconnected routes, unrelated to existing transportation lines, would be built in appropriate extenso of subway facilities already in operation; and that by this arrangement not only would the service be harmonized and improved but the payment of double fares would be done away with and an aggregate of vast sums thus saved to the traveling public. The circular routes by which the citys transportation problems will be more effectively and constructively solved were adopted despite Gaynors favoring the Interborough Rapid Transit Companys perpendicular routes plan.
One feature of the testimony later before the Joint Legislative Committee especially attracting public attention was the imputation that in the contract for the third-tracking of the Interborough Rapid Transit Companys elevated railroads, a fund of $2,000,000 was surreptitiously provided in the form of a commission to John F. Stevens. Formerly Mr. Stevens had been associated in the construction of the Panama Canal with Mr. Shonts who now was president of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company. This company, in the third-tracking work, wanted exemption from supervision by the Public Service Commission. According to a memorandum preserved by George W. Young, an Interborough director, this contract with Mr. Stevens was entered into (so, it was asserted, Mr. Shonts told Mr. Lane, another director), because in connection with the securing of the contract which had been closed between the City of Greater New York and the Interborough, Mr. Shonts had found it necessary to make certain commitments and incur certain obligations, and that it was by means of the Stevens contract that he expected to meet and pay these commitments and obligations.
The Joint Legislative Committee thus comments on the testimony : It is perfectly clear that Mr. Shonts did tell Mr. Lane something about commitments and obligations in respect to this strange proposition; it is equally clear that he was not under any business commitment or honorable obligation to Mr. Stevens. He made a request of the Public Service [Commission] Chairman for an exception from the general contract, relieving third tracking from official supervision, and had told the reason for it in his desire to give the contract to Mr. Stevens. He did obtain exemption from supervision, and that applied to the contractor to whom finally the contract was awarded.
The chairman of the Public Service Commission here referred to was Edward E. McCall. Whatever may be the shadowy implications conveyed in this report, no statement is made that any corruption was used, nor is any proof presented that any official was improperly influenced. The salient fact was that McCall, in an era when corporation activities were more and more rigorously scrutinized by official bodies, should have reverted to bygone standards and graciously allowed a removal of that very supervision which it was expected the Public Service Commission would insist upon exercising.
Tammany Halls nominee in the municipal campaign of 1913 was this same Edward E. McCall.
When an attorney, Mr. McCall had been connected with certain operations of the New York Life Insurance Company, of which corporation his brother, John A. McCall, was president. It appeared from the testimony before the Legislative Insurance Investigating Committee, in 1905, that Edward E. McCall had given notes, totalling about $10,000, to Andy Hamilton, the chief legislative lobbyist at Albany of that company and distributor of the Yellow Dog Fund.
Precisely why Edward E. McCall should have given those notes was not explained. Hamilton received great sums in all for legislative purposes; in the transferring of some of the sums Edward E. McCall figured. Both Edward E. McCall and Andy Hamilton received excessive remuneration from the New York Life Insurance Company, apparently for legal services in a certain case, which sums, according to the report of Charles E. Hughes, there was no adequate reason for paying. At the same time that these sums were paid to them, both Edward E. McCall and Hamilton were under a regular retainer as attorneys by the New York Life Insurance Company, each of them receiving $10,000 a year.
Mr. McCall was put upon the Supreme Court Bench in 1902, by Tammany backing, and remained there until his appointment, in 1913, by Governor Sulzer as Chairman of the Public Service Commission, First District.
The greatest exertions were made by Tammany to sway the electorate so as to swing the election in its favor. Tammany realized that the Sulzer episode would be an important issue, but it did not anticipate that the summary removal of Governor Sulzer, with all the attendant circumstances, would make so unpleasant an impression, driving large numbers of voters to the other side. Tammany thought that it had put Sulzer on the defensive; it did not quite foresee the effect of revelations which, before the campaign was over, placed Tammany seriously on the defensive and its leaders under the necessity of making explanations.
Moreover, in selecting its candidates and developing its campaign tactics Tammany did not appreciate the very much altered attitude of a large section of the public toward municipal politics. There had arisen in New York City an increased public demand for proved administrative capacity. The old days of public toleration of choosing politicians for good fellowship or subservient qualities had about gone. The emphasis was now placed by Tammanys opponents upon the fact that cities should be not merely governed, but well governed, by men of vision, ability and integrity.
The candidate for Mayor of the Republicans and Fusionists was John Purroy Mitchel, a young Independent Democrat, who was credited with having made a notable record as Commissioner of Accounts. Later he had been President of the Board of Aldermen, and then Collector of the Port of New York. Nominated with him were William A. Prendergast, for Comptroller, and George McAneny for President of the Board of Aldermen; all were eulogized by their supporters with having served the city with constructive ability and marked efficiency, and with having opposed and exposed Tammany graft and extravagance.
The Socialist Partys candidate for Mayor was Charles Edward Russell, a writer of note and a man of high personal character.
Full of bitterness was this campaign. Perhaps the most effective speakers against Tammany Hall were John A. Hennessy and former Governor Sulzer. Mr. Hennessy in a public speech on October 23, 1913, specifically charged that he held a note for $35,000 that had been signed by a Justice of the Supreme Court who had been Mr. Murphys alternative candidate for Mayor. I do not say that the $35,000 was ever paid to anybody. I dont suspect him of any vices that would induce him to borrow $35,000. ... If he has had to pay $35,000 or more for his [Supreme Court] nomination, why he simply followed a tradition in the organization to which he belonged.
Mr. Hennessy charged Mr. McCall with not answering the question of where he got his campaign money, and asked Mr. McCall whether, in 1902 (when McCall was a candidate for the Supreme Court nomination) he, McCall, had not met George W. Plunkett, a Tammany district leader the originator of the term honest graft in a room in the Hoffman House, and whether Anthony N. Brady was not in another room at the same time. I want to ask Judge McCall, Mr. Hennessy continued, whether his sponsor, Charlie Murphy, had not seen Anthony Brady in respect to McCalls nomination in the Hoffman House, and I want to ask Judge McCall if the gentleman who brought him and Plunkett together to discuss that nomination, did not have something to do with Murphy and Mr. Brady in respect of that nomination. Mr. Hennessy charged that one man that Mr. McCall paid was Plunkett, but he (Hennessy) did not know whether he paid Murphy, or whether he paid the amount to somebody who paid Murphy; he (Hennessy) did not undertake to assert that.
The Anthony N. Brady here mentioned was a traction magnate, who, beginning as a clerk in Albany, had by means of legislative manipulation giving richly valuable railway and other franchises, accumulated an estate of $90,000,000.
In several speeches Mr. Hennessy pointedly asserted that James Stewart, a contractor, had paid $25,000 to a former friend of Charles F. Murphy, and inquired whether J. Sergeant Cram (a prominent Tammany light) had not received $5,000, and Norman E. Mack another $5,000.
At a public meeting on October 25, 1913, Mr. Sulzer declared that he had sent to Charles F. Murphy $10,000 that Allan Ryan (Thomas F. Ryans son), had contributed to his campaign fund, and that Mr. Murphy had never accounted for it.
Mr. Sulzer named John H. Delaney (later State Commissioner of the Department of Efficiency and Economy), as the messenger who had carried the $10,000 in bills to Mr. Murphy. This money, Mr. Sulzer asserted, had originally been handed to him (Sulzer) in his New York office by Mr. McGlone, Allan Ryans secretary, and that he (Sulzer) gave the $10,000 to Delaney, who took it uptown and gave it to Murphy. Late that afternoon, Mr. Sulzer continued, I saw Mr. Murphy at Delmonicos. During our conversation, I said, Did John give you the ten from Ryan ? Mr. Murphy replied : 'Yes, thats all right, but its only a drop in the bucket. Youll have to do better than that. So far as I know, Mr. Sulzer continued, and I am pretty well advised, Mr. Murphy never accounted for that $10,000, any more than he accounted for the Brady $25,000 which I refused and which he accepted from Judge Beardsley [Bradys legal representative]. At all events, I think Mr. Murphy should tell the voters what he did with the money. Mr. Sulzer declared that he (Sulzer) was still in debt, and that I am a poorer man to-day than I was when I became a candidate for Governor. No one acquainted with Sulzers career could doubt that had he been essentially corrupt, he could have become a millionaire from huckstering of legislation when he was Speaker of the Assembly; there was no bribing him, however, with money; he was, in fact, a poor man.
Mr. Sulzer then declared that Thomas F. Ryan was Boss Murphys master.
This, in fact, was the very point made by the Socialists : that the political bosses were only the tools of the great financial and industrial magnates; and that where the political bosses gathered in their millions, the magnates accumulated their tens or hundreds of millions of dollars as their individual fortunes. Why, queried the Socialists, concentrate attention on the instruments ? Why not, said they, attack the power of the whole social, political and industrial system of which the political boss was merely one expression ? This system, according to the Socialist party, was the capitalist system for the overthrow of which they declared and agitated. They pointed out that behind Mr. Murphy and Tammany Hall, as well as behind the Republican organization where it was in power, were traction, railroad, telephone, electric lighting, industrial and other financial interests all selfishly utilizing the power embodied in political bosses for their own ends and aggrandizement, and that these were the real powers that could make and unmake political bosses.
Gaffney, Cram and Plunkett had all denied allegations aimed at them; Murphy and McCall had remained silent. But on October 26, 1913, McCall and Murphy both issued statements. Mr. McCall denied the charge that he had paid $35,000 for the nomination for the Supreme Court in 1902. Mr. Murphy made public an affidavit in which he (Murphy) denied that McCall had ever paid him anything at any time, and branding the charge as false. On the next day Mr. Murphy gave out a long statement making a sweeping denial of Mr. Sulzers statements; he asserted that he had received the $25,000 from Anthony N. Brady, but that he had returned the money the next day; he also denied that he had ever received $10,000 from Ryan.
Mr. Hennessy returned to the attack. On the same day he charged that a seat in the United States Senate (to succeed Senator Root) had been offered to Sulzer if he would yield to Mr. Murphy, and that it was Mr. McCall who acted as the intermediary. In a public speech on the following day, October 28, 1913, Mr. Hennessy demanded the tracing of Mr. Bradys $25,000, and suggested that it might be well to examine the executors of Bradys estate and find out whether Brady had deposited $25,000 two days after Judge Beardsley had handed that money to Mr. Murphy. I knew Mr. Brady very well, Mr. Hennessy went on. I have known Mr. Brady since he was selling groceries in Albany twenty-five or twenty-six years ago,... and I know that he never carried around $25,000 in bills every day in his pocket; so if he got this $25,000 in bills from Mr. Murphy, he undoubtedly deposited it somewhere. Mr. Hennessy chided Mr. Murphy with having been told by his district leaders to answer him, after he (Murphy) had declared that he would not notice the charges, and said that Mr. Murphy was shoving it off on a dead man.
When, on October 29, 1913, former Judge Beardsley, counsel for the Brady estate, issued a statement asserting that the $25,000 was returned to Brady, Mr. Hennessy in a public speech demanded proof and charged that an alibi was being proved over the body of a dead man. Mr. Hennessy made the charge that in the campaign of 1910 Mr. Murphy had collected fully $150,000 for which he had not accounted in the statement filed with the Secretary of State. Most of this money, Mr. Hennessy declared, came from contractors who were clubbed into giving it.
So this exciting campaign drew to a close amid sensational charges, counter charges, denials and reiterations.
Over in Queens Borough, the Democratic boss of that section, Joe Cassidy, was in serious difficulties; he had long, with some intermissions, ruled that part of the city; and although he was not a Tammany man, nor did Tammany rule Queens, in the strict sense of the meaning, yet he was an ally of Tammany and had always consulted Mr. Murphy.
Local Boss Cassidy and one of his lieutenants were under indictment for conspiring in selling a nomination in 1911, to the Supreme Court Bench to William Willett, Jr., and Willett was indicted for being a party to the conspiracy. During his trial later, Cassidy admitted that he was boss, but asserted his honesty. Questioned as to why he did not deposit a certain sum in bank, he replied, I was used to carrying money in my pocket. I was lonesome without a roll in my pocket. It may be said here that Willett was convicted, and likewise were Cassidy and one of his lieutenants by a jury on February 2, 1914; Cassidy and Willett were each sentenced to an indeterminate sentence of not less than a year in prison and a fine of $1,000, and Cassidys lieutenant go-between, Louis T. Walter, received a sentence of three months and a fine of $1,000. After serving a year in prison Cassidy was released and later (January 19, 1917) was restored to citizenship by Governor Whitman.
Intelligent people contemplated with wonderment the antiquated tactics that Tammany Hall was blindly following. Although the discussion of pressing economic problems was vitally concerning great masses of people, Tammany Hall seemed unaware of their existence. The rapid development of the trusts, the concentration of capitalist power and wealth, the tense unrest among different classes of people, were reflected in various political and industrial movements, but in Tammany Hall no attention was given to them. Oblivious to the great industrial changes and popular agitations and thought, Tammany still adhered to its old semi-feudalistic methods of carrying its vote; it concerned itself only with matters of offices, jobs, contracts and interested legislation; it depended upon immense campaign funds and the personal following of its leaders in marshaling the army of voters all of whom by jobs or other such self interest sought to perpetuate its power.
New York City had also grown too vast for the Tammany district leaders to control as they did in the decades when it was smaller and compact. Great numbers of people had moved from Manhattan to other boroughs; and this constant process of migration had much weakened the power of Tammany organization leaders in keeping in touch with the voters. The Jewish vote had grown to enormous proportions, and so had the Italian, but the Jewish vote was generally a vote racially independent of Tammany and not particularly sympathetic to the character, racial and religious, of its leaders.
Tammany Hall was overwhelmingly defeated. Mr. Mitchels plurality was 124,262. The vote resulted: Mitchel, 358,181; McCall, 233,919; Russell, 32,057. All of the anti-Tammany candidates for city offices were elected by varying pluralities. Mr. Sulzer was triumphantly elected to the Assembly. However, Tammany men could glean some slight consolation in this hour of disaster; Lieutenant Governor Martin Glynn, who had succeeded Sulzer as Governor, could be generally depended upon to appoint some Tammany men to various appointive offices; when his list of appointments was handed down they were not altogether disappointed. Tammany was especially jubilant in getting control of the Public Service Commission, not to mention a firmer hold in various State departments.
The results of the municipal election cut Tammany off from city, county and national patronage; in such an extremity Mr. Murphy had little to offer famishing followers except soothing words which counted for nothing where practical results were demanded.
The mutterings against Mr. Murphy in certain quarters grew to open rebellion; no longer was he fulsomely praised as a sagacious political strategist; he was now derisively called a stupid blunderer for his successive actions and particularly for his campaign of reprisal against Sulzer a campaign producing so inflaming an effect against Tammany.
A resolution introduced in the Democratic Club, on February 2, 1914, demanded that he retire from all participation in the partys affairs, to which Mr. Murphy defiantly replied in an interview, I am the leader of Tammany Hall. You can add that I am going to remain the leader of Tammany Hall no matter what some others might think they have to say about it. Believing that at least thirty-two of the thirty-four Tammany district leaders would vote to continue him in power, Boss Murphy made this announcement with apparent confidence. Indeed, it was reported that the Executive Committee of Tammany Hall had voted to retain his leadership.
A few days later some extracts from a letter written by Richard Croker to John Fox were made public. Murphy was a big handicap to McCall, Mr. Croker wrote. The Hall will never win under Murphys management. I hope some good man will get in and drive all them grafters contractors out. On March 10, 1914, at a meeting of the Democratic Club, Charles F. Murphy, James E. Gaffney, Thomas F. Foley, George W. Plunkett and Thomas Darlington were rudely read out of that club on the nominal ground of non-payment of dues, whereupon Thomas F. Smith, Secretary of Tammany Hall, styled that action a joke and declared that the club has cut no figure locally since 1896.
Mr. Murphy remained the Chief of Tammany Hall.
The various official inquiries into the system of graft in State contracts conducted by Special Commissioner James W. Osborne and other officials continued after the election. In January, 1914, Bart Dunn, an associate Tammany leader of the Eighteenth Assembly District and a close friend of Charles F. Murphy, was convicted of conspiracy in highways construction graft, and sentenced to ten months in the penitentiary and to pay a fine of $500; he took an appeal and was let out on bail. Subsequently, however, he was compelled to serve six months in prison.
On February 15, 1914, after he had been summoned to testify again in an investigation by District Attorney Whitman, State Treasurer John J. Kennedy committed suicide. As State Treasurer, Kennedy was ex-officio a member of the State Canal Board which had control of contracts now under investigation; his son was, in conjunction with others, one of whom was under indictment, in the business of bonding contractors on canal and other State work. It was believed that worry arising from the forthcoming examination as to his sons transactions, was the cause of Kennedys suicide.
At a hearing conducted by the District Attorneys office, in New York City, on February 26, 1914, Mr. Sulzer again related, this time in testimony, the story of the $25,000 campaign contribution by Anthony N. Brady and that of $10,000 by Allan Ryan, both of which contributions were made in 1912. Once, Mr. Sulzer testified, in a talk with Murphy, he told me that Ryan had given a check for $25,000 in 1912. Murphy said that he would report that, but not the $10,000. He said he would find a dummy for that. He also found dummies for Bradys $25,000. Mr. Sulzer explained that a certain $25,000 that Mr. Murphy had returned to Brady was not the $25,000 that Brady had contributed to the campaign of 1912. Brady, so Mr. Sulzer testified, had sued Murphy for $40,000 and Murphy had settled the suit for $25,000; the records would disclose this suit, Mr. Sulzer said.
Thus far some of the smaller grafters have been convicted and sentenced to jail, but the really powerful politicians involved have not suffered. After two months consideration of the charges of graft and official misconduct brought against C. Gordon Reel, State Engineer John A. Bensel, Duncan W. Peck, State Superintendent of Public Works the three officials forming the highways Commission under the regime of which, it was charged, the large grafting had been going on the Albany County Grand Jury, on April 28, 1914, reported that no indictments had been found against any of these men, nor against Charles A. Foley, Deputy Superintendent of Highways. According to facts disclosed by Mr. Osbornes investigation, many of the 318 repair contracts let by Foley and passed by Reel, Bensel and Peck, were awarded only after contractors had contributed to the Democratic campaign fund. Numerous of the roads covered by these contracts were so badly constructed that they went to pieces within a year; and the State, so Mr. Osborne charged, thereby lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
1 Final Report of the Joint Legislative Committee Appointed to Investigate the Public Service Commissions, March, 1917, p. 67.
2 Ibid., p. 68.