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The Political Machine Essay, Research Paper

The Political Machine

In the late 19th century, cities in America had been faced with numerous complications due to immigration. Our government was inefficient and unstable, and with increasing immigration, a new system or power was a necessity for the continuous growth of our nation. Cities were failing to remain in control, as foreigners sought employment opportunities and places to stay. The emergence of the political machine brought not only a new form of politics, but also a bright path for new immigrants.

The political machine arose after the Civil War, where it became the basis of government in several major cities. The political machine was an organization that controlled a political party in a city, and it offered services to voters in exchange for their support. The political machine consisted of a pyramid system. At the bottom of the pyramid were the precinct wards and captains. Their duties were to gain voters support on a city block or neighborhood, and report their success to the ward boss. The middle of the pyramid held the ward bosses. The ward bosses secured the votes received by giving jobs and favors to the poor. Finally, the top of the pyramid consisted of the city boss. He controlled all the activities of each political party, as well as city services such as the police and certain business affairs. With the effort of each part of the pyramid, this new form of government seemed to be successful, until matters were taken into hands of greed.

With the limited power of the political machines and only secured votes, elections sometimes couldn t be held and political machines turned to fraud. They often padded voting lists of valid voters with the names of: dogs, children, and people who have died. Then, under these fake names, they would cast as many votes needed to win the election. As new candidates flooded a political machine, opportunities for graft arose and a political machine could easily manipulate their personnel. A simple housing project could be around $100,000, when the machine would issue a bill for double or triple that cost and receive kickbacks or illegal payments back for personal use. Political machines were often found to accept bribes from businesses and allow illegal activities such as gambling to flourish. These activities consequently gave the political machine a bad name.

The Tweed Ring Scandal, led by William Marcy Tweed, was one of the earliest political machines with William himself having an enormous amount of power. Tammany Hall was the name of his democratic machine, located in New York City. His group of politicians led one of the most corrupt political machines pocketing as much as $200 million from the cities kickbacks and payoffs. Through his continuous accounts of fraud and graft, public outrage gradually flourished and his reign was finally broken. Tweed was convicted of 120 acts of fraud and extortion, and was sent for a 12-year term in prison. Due to many failures in political machines, corruption had become a major political issue in national politics.

Why hadn t the political machine and the pyramid work? Either the pyramid gave the political machine too many opportunities to demand it s own desires and put society after themselves, or the balance of power just hadn t measured out correctly and people were taking advantage of each other. Even though a portion of the political machines income was beneficial to society, negative consequences still arose and corrupted the idea of the political machine. Just as there has been a flaw in the political machine, who knows maybe the constitution may have a hidden flaw as well. Lets just hope we aren t paying accumulated tax money for the governments personal needs.


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