In New York, in the fall of 1894, Tammany Hall was overthrown by a coalition composed partly of the regular Republicans, partly of anti-Tammany Democrats, and partly of Independents. Under the last head must be included a great many men who in national politics habitually act with one or the other of the two great parties, but who feel that in municipal politics good citizens should act independently. The tidal wave, which was running high against the Democratic party, was undoubtedly very influential in bringing about the anti-Tammany victory; but the chief factor in producing the result was the widespread anger and disgust felt by decent citizens at the corruption which under the sway of Tammany had honey-combed every department of the city government, but especially the police force. A few well-meaning persons have at times tried to show that this corruption was not actually so very great. In reality it would be difficult to overestimate the utter rottenness of many branches of the city administration. There were a few honorable and high-minded Tammany officials, and there were a few bureaus which were conducted with some measure of efficiency, although dishonestly. But the corruption had become so wide-spread as seriously to impair the work of administration, and to bring us back within appreciable distance of the days of Tweed.
The chief centre of corruption was the police department. No man not intimately acquainted with both the lower and the humbler sides of New York life—for there is a wide distinction between the two—can realize how far this corruption extended. Except in rare instances, where prominent politicians made demands which could not be refused, both promotions and appointments to- wards the close of Tammany rule were almost solely for money, and the prices were discussed with cynical frankness. There was a well-recognized tariff of charges, ranging from two or three hundred dollars for appointment as a patrol-man, to twelve or fifteen thousand dollars for promotion to the position of captain. The money was reimbursed to those who paid it by an elaborate system of blackmail. This was chiefly carried on at the expense of gamblers, liquor sellers, and keepers of disorderly houses; but every form of vice and crime contributed more or less, and a great many respectable people who were ignorant or timid were blackmailed under pretense of forbidding or allowing them to violate obscure ordinances, and the like. From top to bottom the New York police force was utterly demoralized by the gangrene of such a system, where venality and blackmail went hand in hand with the basest forms of low ward politics, and where the policeman, the ward politician, the liquor seller, and the criminal alternately preyed on one another and helped one another to prey on the general public.