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At the height of his power in New York City, around 1870, William Marcy (Boss) Tweed’s hands were everywhere in city government and party politics. His success in looting the city treasury and using the payoff to achieve his objectives earned him a reputation as the classic example of the corrupt municipal boss. Amidst the turbulent political and social conditions of a metropolis in the making, Boss Tweed was, according to Mr. Mandelbaum, the right man at the right time—“a master communicator” who “united the elements in a divided society.” In effect he replaced the good communications which the author argues are essential to democratic decision-making. Mr. Mandelbaum’s analysis of the historical situation is a cogent case study in the democratization of American society.
How Tweed earned his reputation as the paradigm of the corrupt city boss.
|1.||Communication and Community||1|
|2.||Benchmarks and Barriers||7|
|3.||Communicating Across a Distance||19|
|4.||Communication and Organization||27|
|5.||The Democratic Dream||40|
|6.||Decentralized Government and the Big Pay-Off||46|
|7.||The Moment of Opportunity||59|
|8.||The Fall of the Ring||76|
|9.||In Pursuit of Economy||87|
|10.||Self-Confirming Suspicions: The End of Reform||105|
|11.||Structure, Not Party||114|
|12.||The Rejection of Kelly||131|
|13.||The Growth of Regulation||141|
|14.||Administering a Complex Environment||155|
|15.||Giant Without Direction||169|
|16.||Communication and Social Change||182|
|A Note on Sources and Intellectual Debts||187|
Posted December 28, 2003
Most people's concept of William Meagher 'Boss' Tweed, if any, is that of a manipulative mastermind who understood how to best bilk New Yorkers out of tens of millions of dollars, only to be brought down by a resentful member of his 'ring' and the brilliant political cartoons of Thomas Nast. Seymour Mandelbaum's study, BOSS TWEED'S NEW YORK, reveals that this is a gross minimalization of the facts. As the title suggests, it was New York's political and economic machinery of the times that made it easy for anyone to loot the public's coffers. Other politicians before Tweed took advantage of this vulnerability. In fact, many New Yorkers bitterly accepted that graft was a way of life. Mandelbaum goes to great pains to explain, however, that it was the degree to which Tweed took advantage of these weaknesses that set him apart from other thieves. But the more interesting aspect of BOSS TWEED'S NEW YORK is the discussion of Tweed's downfall. There was much more to it than Nast's wonderful cartoons or the informant's testimony. Again, as the title explains, it was New York itself--it's changing immigrant make-up, the proliferation of the press, and the compression of communication between political wards--that accelerated his decline. The point is that the real subject of this book is New York City during and just after the Civil War years. It is a provocative and surprising account of the metropolis under unprecedented changes and pressures. Changes and pressures that came so quickly that the mighty Tweed could not keep up with them. And this has been a gross minimalization of Mr. Mandelbaum's thesis. Read it for yourself. You will find it an invaluable addition to your collection of books on political or New York history.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 30, 2001
About twenty pages of the text are dedicated to a biographical sketch of William Marcy Tweed. Tweed appears suddenly and disappears that quickly. There is little history as to how he attaind his power. He is of passing, not intense, interest. More space is dedicated to the reformer Mayor John Kelly than to the 'Boss'. Mr. Mandelbaum's main concentration is on New York City from post Civil War to the 1880's and there are things of interest; the attempts at regulations for law, medicine etc. He describes endeavors to solve important problems e.g., street cleaning and garbage collection - serious issues in the era of horse drawn transportation. Still, these are discussed post-Tweed. The index is limited. There is a Note on Sources and there are numerous footnotes; however, these could have been better used to form the nonexistent bibliography.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.