“I suggested the caucus, and suggested that the Republicans should resolve in caucus to support me in this measure. I said, ‘Here is a way of getting over it if money matters are mentioned. If you go in caucus, and if the resolution is arrived at, you can say, I was governed by the caucus, and had to do it because the caucus did, and I personally went against it.’ … The result was, the caucus did pass the resolution that they would stand by the charter and agree to the caucus determination.”
The purchase of the Republican senators whose votes carried the Republican caucus cost Mr. Tweed, he declared on oath, at a time when it was less to his interest to lie than to tell the truth, some forty thousand dollars apiece; an amount agreed upon after much skillful haggling and neat diplomacy. And all through these delicate negotiations, he said his trusted counselor, adviser, and go-between was the editor of a leading Republican journal! But disclosure came at last, and with disclosure one of those periodical convulsions which we have come to depend upon as the only means of purifying the disorders of our body politic. The honest element of both parties united to shake off the incubus, and when the work was done genuine Republicans began to bestir themselves for a real “reform within the party.” The reorganization was entrusted by the state committee to Horace Greeley and William Orton; the place of the former, on his declining to serve, being filled by Jackson S. Schultz. Some idea of the abuses which they were called upon to correct may be inferred from what follows, for which vouchers could be given if space allowed: —
The sub-committee appointed to correct the roll of one district found it so hopelessly filled with non-residents, bogus names, and dead men that it was not capable of correction, but had to be cast aside, and a new one made. Of the seven hundred and fifty-one names, twenty-two, as the roll itself showed, lived out of the district; and of the rest, only two hundred and seventy-nine could be found by the census-taker. In another district two hundred and forty-seven of the alleged members were either Democrats, or unknown or fictitious persons; and this district was claimed to be “rather exceptionally free from irregularities”! It was proved by sworn testimony that at the Republican primaries, at the preceding election, some of the polls were taken possession of by policemen, who refused many prominent Republicans admittance, while they allowed Democrats to enroll, and vote upon the selection of delegates.
The reorganizing committee produced, as the result of their labors, the organization which has developed into the exclusive political machine, which to-day dominates the party in the city of New York. The crying evil which the framers of the new system were called upon to meet was temporarily suppressed. Their scheme expressly provided (Art. XIV.) that no person holding office under Democratic control should be a member of the organization. and that all votes cast for such should be null and void. The gentlemen who undertook the work of reform either saw but one side of the great evil of “patronage,” or did not feel called upon to denounce it, save where it bore heavily against their own party. That a Republican politician should hold office at the will of a Tammany sachem seemed an intolerable abuse; but that the same worker should be dependent for his living upon the nod of a Republican boss appeared to be only another bond to strengthen the party discipline. The new plan had but a temporary success. Indeed, its framers never claimed anything more for it. It was urged by many, at the time, that the evils had not been wholly rooted out, and that the seeds of the old abuses would in time sprout again. The condition of the organization to-day has justified their declarations. Mr. George Bliss, who in 1876 insisted that the fair expression of opinion was seldom prevented at the primaries and caucuses of the Republican party, and confidently declared that no abuse had failed of prompt correction, upon proper appeal in the manner provided, announced in 1879 that the system, for at least a year past, had been fairly honeycombed by a dry rat. “The rolls,” he declared, in an open letter to President Arthur, then chairman of the Republican state committee, “are utterly deceptive.” No annual revision was had, as the constitution required. Mr. Arthur’s own association contained the names of many non-residents; in another district, out of six hundred names, the post-office officials had been unable to reach more than one half; and of the thirteen thousand three hundred and thirty-five members on the rolls of the twenty-four associations, over half should have been stricken off. In 1878, it was claimed that the associations were again full of avowed Democrats, whilst good Republicans, who had an absolute right to become members, were refused admittance, either by direct rejection, or by referring the nominations to committees which never reported; “leaving no course but an appeal to the central committee, which is sure not to act against the henchmen.” Elections conducted “with conspicuous unfairness,” fraudulent enrollment, arbitrary exclusions, unfair expulsions, and other abuses as bad were the charges brought against the system which to-day controls the Republican party machinery of the great city of New York, by the gentleman who three years before was its warm advocate. Although it was not until 1879 that Mr. Bliss felt bound to demand a reform, yet Mr. Schultz himself asserted, as early as 1876, that the primary had come to be no place for any one but the professional politician; and it was generally admitted even then, and tacitly conceded by those who “ran” the machine themselves, that the district associations were very far from representing the great majority of the party. The Union League Club, assuming to speak for the educated and public-spirited element, resolved that the national convention, in considering candidates for the presidential election of 1876, should avoid selecting any man whose affiliations might suggest a reasonable doubt of the purity of his political methods. That resolution, though couched in the most temperate language, and backed by the highest public opinion of the city and State, gave offense to the arrogant masters of the machine, who would brook no suggestion of interference with their sovereignty; and within ten days these little evening clubs, at which one tenth of the party assumed to speak with absolute authority for the other nine tenths, answered to their master’s call, and all of them returned their quota of delegates to the state convention, pledged to his control. “This,” said Mr. Cornell, in his dispatch to Senator Conkling, as one of Cæsar’s lieutenants might have reported to his general the crushing of some barbarian revolt, — “this is the answer of the Republicans of New York to the impudent declarations of the Union League Club.” But if matters were bad then, they are worse to-day. “Not over one in three of the presidents of the twenty-six Republican associations,” said the New York Times, after a recent election of officers, “is a man of ordinary capacity for public affairs, or even of ordinary education; sixteen of the twenty-six hold city, state, or federal office; and of the remaining ten, one is said to have been selected for an office under the general government, and two are mere figure-heads for office-holders behind them. … From alderman to judge of the supreme court, no name appears on the party ticket which has not been selected by some of this band of office-holders and office-seekers. They send the delegates who assume to speak for the eighty thousand New York Republicans at a state convention, and save for the casual jurisdiction of the state committee, there is no authority in the party which they cannot set at defiance. Their representatives in the board of aldermen must do their bidding, under penalty of expulsion from the charmed circle. Republican members of the legislature take their cue from them in all matters pertaining to the government of the city. There is no power which has to dispose of public patronage, from the police board or the petty courts to the President of the United States, that cannot be made to feel the pressure of the organizations which regulate at its head the flow of the fountain of political action in the first city of the United States.”