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Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York

1 rating: 4.0
A book

Starred Review. William Marcy Tweed didn't invent graft, but he rigged elections and stole from the public on an unprecedented scale, gaining a stranglehold on New York City and amassing a vast personal fortune. By the early 1870s, he and his "ring" … see full wiki

Author: Kenneth D. Ackerman
Genre: Biography
Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers
Date Published: January 2005
1 review about Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt...

Fair and well written history of another man who was known as "The Boss"

  • Oct 5, 2009
If you are an avid student of U.S. history, you have no doubt come across frequent references to New York City's legendary Tammany Hall.  So just what was Tammany Hall anyway?  Tammany Hall evolved from a fraternal organization founded in 1789 known as the Society of St. Tammany. Tammany Hall embraced recent immigrants and the workingmen of the city.  Eventually, under the direction of one William Tweed, this organization would join forces with the Democratic party and emerge as the most powerful political organization in the nation.  In "Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York" author Kenneth Ackerman documents the rise and fall of Tammany Hall's most famous and controversial leader.  It is compelling reading.

The story of "Boss Tweed" is not quite as cut and dried as you might think.  Certainly there was corruption of monumental proportions.  The foursome that would forever be known as "Tweed Ring" included Tweed himself (Commissioner of Public Works), Peter B. Sweeny (Public Parks Board), Richard Connelly (Comptroller) and A. Oakey Hall (Mayor).  With the passage of "home rule" for NYC by the state legislature in 1870, the stage was now set for the "Tweed Ring" to wreak havoc with New York city's finances.  That legislation, which was backed by Tweed himelf in Albany was a recipe for disaster.  With virtually no checks and balances in place, it has been estimated that between 45 and 200 million dollars was swindled from the City.  By 1871, New York City was a house of cards ready to crumble.  It would take the courageous leadership of a number of prominent individuals, most notably cartoonist Thomas Nast of Harper's Weekly, George Jones and Louis Jennings of the New York Times and future presidential candidate Samuel Tilden to finally bring the "Tweed Ring" to its knees.

But as Ackerman points out there was another side to William Tweed.  He possessed genuine empathy for the recently arrived immigrant and the workingmen of his city.  To many such people he provided a patronage job and hope for a bright future in a new land.  Tweed was also a visionary.  It was Tweed who essentially laid the foundation for what would become the modern New York City.  As you will see, this was an exceptionally talented yet fatally flawed individual.  It might be hard to believe but by the end of his life William Tweed had actually become a rather sympathetic figure.  How the mighty had fallen!

As I mentioned earlier, there have been references to Tammany Hall in any number of books I have read in the past few years.   After  reading "Boss Tweed:  The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York" I now possess a far greater understanding of the pivotal role that this organization played in the history of New York City.  This knowledge will certainly enhance my future reading.   "Boss Tweed" is an extremely informative and very well written book that can be enjoyed by a large cross section of readers.    Highly recommended.
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