English Essay #13
George Washington Plunkett was a famous New York politician in the early 1900’s. He was part of Tammany Hall, which was a Democratic political machine in New Yory at the time.
In his autobiography Plunkett makes three things clear. Number one is the difference between honest graft and dishonest graft. The second thing is that city politics in that time were dependent on your willingness to Serve and help people. The third thing that he made clear was how much he opposed the Civil Service movement.
Plunkett got very rich by practicing what he called “honest graft”. He was very upfront about how he made his money because, as he said it was perfectly honest. Basically if he got wind that the city was planning on making a big improvement to a certain part of the city, he would buy property in that area and sell it off after it had gained value. He claimed that this was totally different from”dishonest graft”. He defined dishonest graft as breaking the law to make money in politics. He said that practicing dishonest graf was unacceptable, not only because it was wrong, but also because their was so much opportunity for honest graft in politics. Today all graft is illegal, so there is no such thing as honest graft any more.
Plunkett got his popularity from his willingness to help people. He believed that to be successful in politics you must be a servant to people. He made a point of helping get jobs for people who didn’t have any, even republicans. He also helped out families who had fallen on hard times. Plunkett paid particular attention to young men, he recognized that they were the future and wanted to get them involved in politics. As a way of gaining the loyalty of young men, Plunkett would find out what they were good at or proud of. He then gave the young men a chance to show themselves off by placing them in a baseball club if they were an athlete, or a choir if they liked to sing.
Civil Service was a movement that look many offices out of elected officials hands and hired “experts” to take their place and do the job full time. Plunkett was a fierce enemy of Civil Service reform. He believed that a politician should have the chance to hold any office and didn’t think that it was a good idea to have regularly paid professionals, who were immune to votes hold any office. Also Civil Service didn’t like honest graft, it was trying to get ride of it. This was a big problem to Plunkett because he believed that without the ability to get rewarded and make a lot of money, many young men would loose interest in politics (0r as Plunkett said, “loss their patriotism”).
George Washington Plunkett’s autobiography does a good job of showing what city politics were like in the early 1900’s.