George Washington Plunkitt

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George Washington Plunkitt

George Washington Plunkitt (17 November 1842 – November 19, 1924) was a New York State Senator and, as a member of Tammany Hall, a ward boss for the Fifteenth Assembly District.


Plunkitt of Tammany Hall[edit]

as reported to William Riordon. Published by Signet Classic, 1995 ISBN 0 451 52620 1.

Chapter 1, Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft[edit]

  • Everybody is talkin’ these days about Tammany men growin’ rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin’ the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. p. 3, first line
  • There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin’: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.” p. 3
  • Every good man looks after his friends, and any man who doesn’t isn’t likely to be popular. p. 5
  • If I have a good thing to hand out in private life, I give it to a friend. Why shouldn’t I do the same in public life? p.6
  • Another kind of honest graft. Tammany has raised a good many salaries. There was an awful howl by the reformers, but don’t you know that Tammany gains ten votes for every one it lost by salary raisin’? p. 6
  • The Wall Street banker thinks it shameful to raise a department clerk’s salary from $1500 to $1800 a year, but every man who draws a salary himself says: “That’s all right. I wish it was me.” And he feels very much like votin’ the Tammany ticket on election day, just out of sympathy. p. 6
  • As a matter of policy, if nothing else, why should the Tammany leaders go into such dirty business, when there is so much honest graft lyin’ around when they are in power? p. 6

Chapter 2, How to Become a Statesman[edit]

  • Some young men think they can learn how to be successful in politics from books, and they cram their heads with all sorts of college rot. They couldn’t make a bigger mistake. p. 7
  • The men who rule have practiced keepin’ their tongues still, not exercisin’ them. p. 8

Chapter 3, The Curse of Civil Service Reform[edit]

  • This civil service law is the biggest fraud of the age. It is the curse of the nation. p. 11
  • I know more than one young man in past years who worked for the ticket and was just overflowin’ with patriotism, but when he was knocked out by the civil service humbug he got to hate his country and became an Anarchist. p. 11
  • Isn’t it enough to make a man sour on his country when he wants to serve it and won’t be allowed unless he answers a lot of fool questions about the number of cubic inches of water in the Atlantic and the quality of sand in the Sahara desert? p. 11
  • I knew what was comin’ when a young Irishman drops whisky and takes to beer and long pipes in a German saloon. That young man is today one of the wildest Anarchists in town. p. 12
  • What did the people mean when they voted for Tammany? What is representative government, anyhow? Is it all a fake that this is a government of the people, by the people and for the people? If it isn't a fake, then why isn't the people's voice obeyed and Tammany men put in all the offices? p. 12
  • I know that the civil service humbug is stuck into the constitution, too, but, as Tim Campbell said: “What’s the constitution among friends?” p. 13
  • I ain’t up on sillygisms, but I can give you some arguments that nobody can answer. p. 13
  • Before then when a party won, its workers got everything in sight. That was somethin’ to make a man patriotic. p. 14
  • The boys and men don’t get excited any more when they see a United States flag or hear “The Star-Spangled Banner.” They don’t care no more for firecrackers on the Fourth of July. And why should they? What is there in it for them? p. 14

Chapter 4, Reformers Only Mornin’ Glories[edit]

  • They learned how to put up a pretty good bluff—and bluff counts a lot in politics. p. 18
  • Politics is as much a regular business as the grocery or the dry-goods or the drug business. You've got to be trained up to it or you're sure to fail. p. 19
  • I've been studyin’ the political game for forty-five years, and I don’t know it all yet. I’m learnin’ somethin’ all the time. How, then, can you expect what they call “business men” to turn into politics all at once and make a success of it? p. 19
  • That’s the a, b, c of politics. It ain’t easy work to get up to q and z. You have to give nearly all your time and attention to it. p. 20

Chapter 5, New York City Is Pie for the Hayseeds[edit]

  • The hayseeds think we are like the Indians to the National Government—that is, sort of wards of the State, who don’t know how to look after ourselves and have to be taken care of by the Republicans of St. Lawrence, Ontario, and other backwoods counties. p. 21

Chapter 6, To Hold Your District: Study Human Nature and Act Accordin’[edit]

  • You can’t study human nature in books. Books is a hindrance more than anything else. p. 25
  • If you have been to college, so much the worse for you. You'll have to unlearn all you learned before you can get right down to human nature, and unlearnin’ takes a lot of time. Some men can never forget what they learned at college. p. 25
  • I rope them all in by givin’ them opportunities to show themselves off. I don’t trouble them with political arguments. I just study human nature and act accordin’. p. 26

Chapter 7, On The Shame of the Cities[edit]

  • There’s the biggest kind of a difference between political looters and politicians who make a fortune out of politics by keepin’ their eyes wide open. The looter goes in for himself alone without considerin’ his organization or his city. The politician looks after his own interests, the organization’s interests, and the city’s interests all at the same time. See the distinction? p. 29
  • The politician who steals is worse than a thief. He is a fool. With the grand opportunities all around for the man with a political pull, there’s no excuse for stealin’ a cent. p. 32

Chapter 8, Ingratitude in Politics[edit]

  • The politicians who make a lastin’ success in politics are the men who are always loyal to their friends, even up to the gate of State prison, if necessary; men who keep their promises and never lie. p. 35
  • Richard Croker used to say that tellin’ the truth and stickin’ to his friends was the political leader’s stock in trade. p. 35
  • The Irish, above all people in the world, hates a traitor. p. 35

Chapter 9, Reciprocity in Patronage[edit]

  • Men ain’t in politics for nothin’. They want to get somethin’ out of it. p. 37

Chapter 10, Brooklynites Natural-Born Hayseeds[edit]

  • It’s because a Brooklynite is a natural-born hayseed, and can never become a real New Yorker. p. 41
  • Consolidation didn’t make him a New Yorker, and nothin’ on earth can. A man born in Germany can settle down and become a good New Yorker. So can an Irishman; in fact, the first word an Irish boy learns in the old country is “New York,” and when he grows up and comes here, he is at home right away. Even a Jap or a Chinaman can become a New Yorker, but a Brooklynite never can. p. 41
  • Once let a man grow up amidst Brooklyn’s cobblestones, with the odor of Newton Creek and Gowanus Canal ever in his nostrils, and there’s no place in the world for him except Brooklyn. p. 41

Chapter 11, Tammany Leaders Not Bookworms[edit]

  • Most of the leaders are plain American citizens, of the people and near to the people, and they have all the education they need to whip the dudes who part their name in the middle and to run the City Government. p. 45
  • He eats corned beef and kosher meat with equal nonchalance, and it’s all the same to him whether he takes off his hat in the church or pulls it down over his ears in the synagogue. p. 48

Chapter 12, Dangers of the Dress Suit in Politics[edit]

  • Putin’ on style don’t pay in politics. p. 50
  • I know it’s an awful temptation, the hankerin’ to show off your learnin’. I’ve felt it myself, but I always resist it. I know the awful consequences. p. 53
  • Don't show off your learning; that's just another way of style.

Chapter 13, On Municipal Ownership[edit]

  • Who is better fitted to run the railroads and the gas plants and the ferries than the men who make a business of lookin’ after the interests of the city? p. 54
  • You can’t be patriotic on a salary that just keeps the wolf from the door. p. 56

Chapter 14 Tammany the Only Lastin’ Democracy[edit]

  • Jimmy O’Brien brought the manufacture of “Democracies” down to an exact science, and reduced the cost of production so as to bring it within the reach of all. Any man with $50 can now have a “Democracy” of his own. p. 58
  • Say, ain’t some of the papers awful gullible about politics? p. 59
  • There’s always a certain number of suckers and a certain number of men lookin’ for a chance to take them in, and the suckers are sure to be took one way or another. It’s the everlastin’ law of demand and supply. p. 60

Chapter 15. Concerning Gas in Politics[edit]

  • What’s the use of havin’ ill-smellin’ gashouses if there’s no votes in them? p. 62
  • The railroad is a great public institution, and I was never an enemy of public institutions. p. 63

Chapter 16, Plunkitt’s Fondest Dream[edit]

  • The time is comin’ and though I’m no youngster, I may see it, when New York City will break away from the State and become a state itself. p. 65
  • Say, I don’t wish I was a poet, for if I was, I guess I’d be livin’ in a garret on no dollars a week instead of runnin’ a great contractin’ and transportation business which is doin’ pretty well, thank you; but, honest, now, the notion takes me sometimes to yell poetry of the red-hot-hail-glorious-land kind when I think of New York City as a state by itself. p. 67

Chapter 17, Tammany’s Patriotism[edit]

  • The name-parted-in-the-middle aristocrats act in just the same way. They don’t want to be annoyed with firecrackers and the Declaration of Independence, and when they see the Fourth comin’ they hustle off to the woods like my dog. p. 71

Chapter 18, On the Use of Money in Politics[edit]

  • Of course, the day may come when we’ll reject the money of the rich as tainted, but it hadn’t come when I left Tammany Hall at 11:25 A.M. today. p. 73
  • The man is picked out and somehow he gets to understand what’s expected of him in the way of a contribution, and he ponies up—all from gratitude to the organization that honored him, see? p. 74
  • Just remember that there’s thirty-five Assembly districts in New York County, and thirty-six district leaders reachin’ out for the Tammany dough-bag for somethin’ to keep up the patriotism of ten thousand workers, and you wouldn’t wonder that the cry for more, more, is goin’ up from every district organization now and forevermore. Amen. p. 76

Chapter 19, The Successful Politician Does Not Drink[edit]

  • I want to add that no matter how well you learn to play the political game, you won’t make a lastin’ success of it if you're a drinkin’ man. p. 77
  • The most successful saloonkeepers don’t drink themselves and they understand that my temperance is a business proposition, just like their own. p. 77
  • I honestly believe that drink is the greatest curse of the day, except, of course, civil service, and that it has driven more young men to ruin than anything except civil service examinations. p. 78
  • Big Tim made money out of liquor—sellin’ it to other people. That’s the only way to get good out of liquor. p. 79
  • Before midnight we were all in bed, and next mornin’ we were up bright and early attendin’ to business, while other men were nursin’ swelled heads. Is there anything the matter with temperance as a pure business proposition? p. 80

Chapter 20, Bosses Preserve the Nation[edit]

  • Oh, yes, that is a good way to do up the so-called bosses, but have you ever thought what would become of the country if the bosses were put out of business, and their places were taken by a lot of cart-tail orators and college graduates? It would mean chaos. p. 81
  • How nice it is for the people to feel that they can get up in the mornin’ without bein’ afraid of seein’ in the papers that the Commissioner of Water Supply has sandbagged the Dock Commissioner, and that the Mayor and heads of the departments have been taken to the police court as witnesses! p. 82
  • Then will return the good old times, when our district leaders could have nice comfortable primary elections at some place selected by themselves and let in only men that they approved of as good Democrats. p. 83

Chapter 21, Concerning Excise[edit]

  • The Raines liquor law is infamous. It takes away nearly all the profits of the saloonkeepers, and then turns in a large part of the money to the State treasury to relieve the hayseeds from taxes. p. 84
  • Ought these good people be subjected to the immoral influence of money taken from the saloon tainted money? Out of respect for the tender consciences of these pious people, the Raines law ought to exempt them from all contamination from the plunder that comes from the saloon traffic. Say, mark that sarcastic. Some people who ain’t used to fine sarcasm might think I meant it. p. 85
  • I think every man would be better off if he didn’t take any intoxicatin’ drink at all, but as men will drink, they ought to have good stuff without impoverishin’ themselves by goin’ to fancy places and without riskin’ death by goin’ to poor places. p. 86

Chapter 22, A Parting Word on the Future of the Democratic Party in America[edit]

  • The Democratic party of the nation ain’t dead, though it’s been givin’ a lifelike imitation of a corpse for several years. p. 88
  • The trouble is that the party’s been chasin’ after theories and stayin’ up nights readin’ books instead of studyin’ human nature and actin’ accordin’, as I've advised in tellin’ how to hold your district. p. 88

Chapter 23, Strenuous Life of the Tammany District Leader[edit]

  • Brought up in Tammany Hall, he has learned how to reach the hearts of the great mass of voters. He does not bother about reaching their heads. It is his belief that arguments and campaign literature have never gained votes. p. 91

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:

Plunkitt of Tammany Hall at Project Gutenberg.