Just about the time this article will appear, Greater New York will be
holding a local election on what has come to be a national question—good
government. No doubt there will be other “issues.” At this writing
(September 15) the candidates were not named nor the platforms written,
but the regular politicians hate the main issue, and they have a pretty
trick of confusing the honest mind and splitting the honest vote by
raising “local issues” which would settle themselves under prolonged
honest government. So, too, there will probably be some talk about the
effect this election might have upon the next Presidential election;
another clever fraud which seldom fails to work to the advantage of
rings and grafters, and to the humiliation and despair of good
citizenship. We have nothing to do with these deceptions. They may count
in New York, they may determine the result, but let them. They are
common moves in the corruptionist’s game, and, therefore, fair tests of
citizenship, for honesty is not the sole qualification for an honest
voter; intelligence has to play a part, too, and a little intelligence
would defeat all such tricks. Anyhow, they cannot disturb us. I am
writing too far ahead, and my readers, for the most part, will be
reading too far away to know or care anything about them. We can grasp
firmly the essential issues involved and then watch with equanimity the
returns for the answer, plain yes or no, which New York will give to the
only questions that concern us all:

Do we Americans really want good government? Do we know it when we see
it? Are we capable of that sustained good citizenship which alone can
make democracy a success? Or, to save our pride, one other: Is the New
York way the right road to permanent reform?

For New York has good government, or, to be more precise, it has a good
administration. It is not a question there of turning the rascals out
and putting the honest men into their places. The honest men are in, and
this election is to decide whether they are to be kept in, which is a
very different matter. Any people is capable of rising in wrath to
overthrow bad rulers. Philadelphia has done that in its day. New York
has done it several times. With fresh and present outrages to avenge,
particular villains to punish, and the mob sense of common anger to
excite, it is an emotional gratification to go out with the crowd and
“smash something.” This is nothing but revolt, and even monarchies have
uprisings to the credit of their subjects. But revolt is not reform, and
one revolutionary administration is not good government. That we free
Americans are capable of such assertions of our sovereign power, we have
proven; our lynchers are demonstrating it every day. That we can go
forth singly also, and, without passion, with nothing but mild approval
and dull duty to impel us, vote intelligently to sustain a fairly good
municipal government, remains to be shown. And that is what New York has
the chance to show; New York, the leading exponent of the great American
anti-bad government movement for good government.

According to this, the standard course of municipal reform, the
politicians are permitted to organize a party on national lines, take
over the government, corrupt and deceive the people, and run things for
the private profit of the boss and his ring, till the corruption becomes
rampant and a scandal. Then the reformers combine the opposition: the
corrupt and unsatisfied minority, the disgruntled groups of the
majority, the reform organizations; they nominate a mixed ticket, headed
by a “good business man” for mayor, make a “hot campaign” against the
government with “Stop, thief!” for the cry, and make a “clean sweep.”
Usually, this effects only the disciplining of the reckless grafters and
the improvement of the graft system of corrupt government. The good
mayor turns out to be weak or foolish or “not so good.” The politicians
“come it over him,” as they did over the business mayors who followed
the “Gas Ring” revolt in Philadelphia, or the people become disgusted as
they did with Mayor Strong, who was carried into office by the
anti-Tammany rebellion in New York after the Lexow exposures.
Philadelphia gave up after its disappointment, and that is what most
cities do. The repeated failures of revolutionary reform to accomplish
more than the strengthening of the machine have so discredited this
method that wide-awake reformers in several cities—Pittsburg,
Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, and others—are following
the lead of Chicago.

The Chicago plan does not depend for success upon any one man or any one
year’s work, nor upon excitement or any sort of bad government. The
reformers there have no ward organizations, no machine at all; their
appeal is solely to the intelligence of the voter and their power rests
upon that. This is democratic and political, not bourgeois and business
reform, and it is interesting to note that whereas reformers elsewhere
are forever seeking to concentrate all the powers in the mayor, those of
Chicago talk of stripping the mayor to a figurehead and giving his
powers to the aldermen who directly represent the people, and who change
year by year.

The Chicago way is but one way, however, and a new one, and it must be
remembered that this plan has not yet produced a good administration.
New York has that. Chicago, after seven years’ steady work, has a body
of aldermen honest enough and competent to defend the city’s interests
against boodle capital, but that is about all; it has a wretched
administration. New York has stuck to the old way. Provincial and
self-centered, it hardly knows there is any other. Chicago laughs and
other cities wonder, but never mind, New York, by persistence, has at
last achieved a good administration. Will the New Yorkers continue it?
That is the question. What Chicago has, it has secure. Its independent
citizenship is trained to vote every time and to vote for uninteresting,
good aldermen. New York has an independent vote of 100,000, a decisive
minority, but the voters have been taught to vote only once in a long
while, only when excited by picturesque leadership and sensational
exposures, only _against_. New York has been so far an anti-bad
government, anti-Tammany, not a good-government town. Can it vote,
without Tammany in to incite it, for a good mayor? I think this
election, which will answer this question, should decide other cities
how to go about reform.

The administration of Mayor Seth Low may not have been perfect, not in
the best European sense: not expert, not co-ordinated, certainly not
wise. Nevertheless, for an American city, it has been not only honest,
but able, undeniably one of the best in the whole country. Some of the
departments have been dishonest; others have been so inefficient that
they made the whole administration ridiculous. But what of that?
Corruption also is clumsy and makes absurd mistakes when it is new and
untrained. The “oaths” and ceremonies and much of the boodling of the
St. Louis ring seemed laughable to my corrupt friends in Philadelphia
and Tammany Hall, and New York’s own Tweed régime was “no joke,” only
because it was so general, and so expensive—to New York. It took time to
perfect the “Philadelphia plan” of misgovernment, and it took time to
educate Croker and develop his Tammany Hall. It will take time to evolve
masters of the (in America) unstudied art of municipal government—time
and demand. So far there has been no market for municipal experts in
this country. All we are clamoring for to-day in our meek, weak-hearted
way, is that mean, rudimentary virtue miscalled “common honesty.” Do we
really want it? Certainly Mayor Low is pecuniarily honest. He is more;
he is conscientious and experienced and personally efficient. Bred to
business, he rose above it, adding to the training he acquired in the
conduct of an international commercial house, two terms as mayor of
Brooklyn, and to that again a very effective administration, as
president, of the business of Columbia University. He began his
mayoralty with a study of the affairs of New York; he has said himself
that he devoted eight months to its finances: and he mastered this
department and is admitted to be the master in detail of every
department which has engaged his attention. In other words, Mr. Low has
learned the business of New York; he is just about competent now to
become the mayor of a great city. Is there a demand for Mr. Low?

No. When I made my inquiries—before the lying had begun—the Fusion
leaders of the anti-Tammany forces, who nominated Mr. Low, said they
might renominate him. “Who else was there?” they asked. And they thought
he “might” be re-elected. The alternative was Richard Croker or Charles
F. Murphy, his man, for no matter who Tammany’s candidate for mayor was,
if Tammany won, Tammany’s boss would rule. The personal issue was plain
enough. Yet was there no assurance for Mr. Low.

Why? There are many forms of the answer given, but they nearly all
reduce themselves to one—the man’s personality. It is not very engaging.
Mr. Low has many respectable qualities, but these never are amiable.
“Did you ever see his smile?” said a politician who was trying to
account for his instinctive dislike for the mayor. I had; there is no
laughter back of it, no humor, and no sense thereof. The appealing human
element is lacking all through. His good abilities are self-sufficient;
his dignity is smug; his courtesy seems not kind; his self-reliance is
called obstinacy because, though he listens, he seems not to care;
though he understands, he shows no sympathy, and when he decides, his
reasoning is private. His most useful virtues—probity, intelligence, and
conscientiousness—in action are often an irritation; they are so
contented. Mr. Low is the bourgeois reformer type. Even where he
compromises he gets no credit, his concessions make the impression of
surrenders. A politician can say “no” and make a friend, where Mr. Low
will lose one by saying “yes.” Cold and impersonal, he cools even his
heads of departments. Loyal public service they give, because his taste
is for men who would do their duty for their own sake, not for his, and
that excellent service the city has had. But members of Mr. Low’s
administration helped me to characterize him; they could not help it.
Mr. Low’s is not a lovable character.

But what of that? Why should his colleagues love him? Why should anybody
like him? Why should he seek to charm, win affection, and make friends?
He was elected to attend to the business of his office and to appoint
subordinates who should attend to the business of their offices, not to
make “political strength” and win elections. William Travers Jerome, the
picturesque District Attorney, whose sincerity and intellectual honesty
made sure the election of Mr. Low two years ago, detests him as a
bourgeois, but the mayoralty is held in New York to be a bourgeois
office. Mr. Low is the ideal product of the New York theory that
municipal government is business, not politics, and that a business man
who would manage the city as he would a business corporation, would
solve for us all our troubles. Chicago reformers think we have got to
solve our own problems; that government is political business; that men
brought up in politics and experienced in public office will make the
best administrators. They have refused to turn from their politician
mayor, Carter H. Harrison, for the most ideal business candidate, and I
have heard them say that when Chicago was ripe for a better mayor they
would prefer a candidate chosen from among their well-tried aldermen.
Again, I say, however, that this is only one way, and New York has
another, and this other is the standard American way.

But again I say, also, that the New York way is on trial, for New York
has what the whole country has been looking for in all municipal
crises—the non-political ruler. Mr. Low’s very faults, which I have
emphasized for the purpose, emphasize the point. They make it impossible
for him to be a politician even if he should wish to be. As for his
selfishness, his lack of tact, his coldness—these are of no consequence.
He has done his duty all the better for them. Admit that he is
uninteresting; what does that matter? He has served the city. Will the
city not vote for him because it does not like the way he smiles? Absurd
as it sounds, that is what all I have heard against Low amounts to. But
to reduce the situation to a further absurdity, let us eliminate
altogether the personality of Mr. Low. Let us suppose he has no smile,
no courtesy, no dignity, no efficiency, no personality at all; suppose
he were an It and had not given New York a good administration, but had
only honestly tried. What then?

Tammany Hall? That is the alternative. The Tammany politicians see it
just as clear as that, and they are not in the habit of deceiving
themselves. They say “it is a Tammany year,” “Tammany’s turn.” They say
it and they believe it. They study the people, and they know it is all a
matter of citizenship; they admit that they cannot win unless a goodly
part of the independent vote goes to them; and still they say they can
beat Mr. Low or any other man the anti-Tammany forces may nominate. So
we are safe in eliminating Mr. Low and reducing the issue to plain

Tammany is bad government; not inefficient, but dishonest; not a party,
not a delusion and a snare, hardly known by its party name—Democracy;
having little standing in the national councils of the party and caring
little for influence outside of the city. Tammany is Tammany, the
embodiment of corruption. All the world knows and all the world may know
what it is and what it is after. For hypocrisy is not a Tammany vice.
Tammany is for Tammany, and the Tammany men say so. Other rings proclaim
lies and make pretensions; other rogues talk about the tariff and
imperialism. Tammany is honestly dishonest. Time and time again, in
private and in public, the leaders, big and little, have said they are
out for themselves and their own; not for the public, but for “me and my
friends”; not for New York, but for Tammany. Richard Croker said under
oath once that he worked for his own pockets all the time, and Tom
Grady, the Tammany orator, has brought his crowds to their feet cheering
sentiments as primitive, stated with candor as brutal.

The man from Mars would say that such an organization, so
self-confessed, could not be very dangerous to an intelligent people.
Foreigners marvel at it and at us, and even Americans—Pennsylvanians,
for example—cannot understand why we New Yorkers regard Tammany as so
formidable. I think I can explain it. Tammany is corruption with
consent; it is bad government founded on the suffrages of the people.
The Philadelphia machine is more powerful. It rules Philadelphia by
fraud and force and does not require the votes of the people. The
Philadelphians do not vote for their machine; their machine votes for
them. Tammany used to stuff the ballot boxes and intimidate voters;
to-day there is practically none of that. Tammany rules, when it rules,
by right of the votes of the people of New York.

Tammany corruption is democratic corruption. That of the Philadelphia
ring is rooted in special interests. Tammany, too, is allied with
“vested interests”—but Tammany labors under disadvantages not known in
Philadelphia. The Philadelphia ring is of the same party that rules the
State and the nation, and the local ring forms a living chain with the
State and national rings. Tammany is a purely local concern. With a
majority only in old New York, it has not only to buy what it wants from
the Republican majority in the State, but must trade to get the whole
city. Big business everywhere is the chief source of political
corruption, and it is one source in New York; but most of the big
businesses represented in New York have no plants there. Offices there
are, and head offices, of many trusts and railways, for example, but
that is all. There are but two railway terminals in the city, and but
three railways use them. These have to do more with Albany than New
York. So with Wall Street. Philadelphia’s stock exchange deals largely
in Pennsylvania securities, New York’s in those of the whole United
States. There is a small Wall Street group that specializes in local
corporations, and they are active and give Tammany a Wall Street
connection, but the biggest and the majority of our financial leaders,
bribers though they may be in other cities and even in New York State,
are independent of Tammany Hall, and can be honest citizens at home.
From this class, indeed, New York can, and often does, draw some of its
reformers. Not so Philadelphia. That bourgeois opposition which has
persisted for thirty years in the fight against Tammany corruption was
squelched in Philadelphia after its first great uprising. Matt Quay,
through the banks, railways, and other business interests, was able to
reach it. A large part of his power is negative; there is no opposition.
Tammany’s power is positive. Tammany cannot reach all the largest
interests and its hold is upon the people.

Tammany’s democratic corruption rests upon the corruption of the people,
the plain people, and there lies its great significance; its grafting
system is one in which more individuals share than any I have studied.
The people themselves get very little; they come cheap, but they are
interested. Divided into districts, the organization subdivides them
into precincts or neighborhoods, and their sovereign power, in the form
of votes, is bought up by kindness and petty privileges. They are forced
to a surrender, when necessary, by intimidation, but the leader and his
captains have their hold because they take care of their own. They speak
pleasant words, smile friendly smiles, notice the baby, give picnics up
the River or the Sound, or a slap on the back; find jobs, most of them
at the city’s expense, but they have also news-stands, peddling
privileges, railroad and other business places to dispense; they permit
violations of the law, and, if a man has broken the law without
permission, see him through the court. Though a blow in the face is as
readily given as a shake of the hand, Tammany kindness is real kindness,
and will go far, remember long, and take infinite trouble for a friend.

The power that is gathered up thus cheaply, like garbage, in the
districts is concentrated in the district leader, who in turn passes it
on through a general committee to the boss. This is a form of living
government, extra-legal, but very actual, and, though the beginnings of
it are purely democratic, it develops at each stage into an autocracy.
In Philadelphia the boss appoints a district leader and gives him power.
Tammany has done that in two or three notable instances, but never
without causing a bitter fight which lasts often for years. In
Philadelphia the State boss designates the city boss. In New York,
Croker has failed signally to maintain vice-bosses whom he appointed.
The boss of Tammany Hall is a growth, and just as Croker grew, so has
Charles F. Murphy grown up to Croker’s place. Again, whereas in
Philadelphia the boss and his ring handle and keep almost all of the
graft, leaving little to the district leaders, in New York the district
leaders share handsomely in the spoils.

There is more to share in New York. It is impossible to estimate the
amount of it, not only for me, but for anybody. No Tammany man knows it
all. Police friends of mine say that the Tammany leaders never knew how
rich police corruption was till the Lexow committee exposed it, and that
the politicians who had been content with small presents, contributions,
and influence, “did not butt in” for their share till they saw by the
testimony of frightened police grafters that the department was worth
from four to five millions a year. The items are so incredible that I
hesitate to print them. Devery told a friend once that in one year the
police graft was “something over $3,000,000.” Afterward the syndicate
which divided the graft under Devery took in for thirty-six months
$400,000 a month from gambling and poolrooms alone. Saloon bribers,
disorderly house blackmail, policy, etc., etc., bring this total up to
amazing proportions.

Yet this was but one department, and a department that was overlooked by
Tammany for years. The annual budget of the city is about $100,000,000,
and though the power that comes of the expenditure of that amount is
enormous and the opportunities for rake-offs infinite, this sum is not
one-half of the resources of Tammany when it is in power. Her resources
are the resources of the city as a business, as a political, as a social
power. If Tammany could be incorporated, and all its earnings, both
legitimate and illegitimate, gathered up and paid over in dividends, the
stockholders would get more than the New York Central bond and stock
holders, more than the Standard Oil stockholders, and the controlling
clique would wield a power equal to that of the United States Steel
Company. Tammany, when in control of New York, takes out of the city
unbelievable millions of dollars a year.

No wonder the leaders are all rich; no wonder so many more Tammany men
are rich than are the leaders in any other town; no wonder Tammany is
liberal in its division of the graft. Croker took the best and the
safest of it, and he accepted shares in others. He was “in on the Wall
Street end,” and the Tammany clique of financiers have knocked down and
bought up at low prices Manhattan Railway stock by threats of the city’s
power over the road; they have been let in on Metropolitan deals and on
the Third Avenue Railroad grab; the Ice trust is a Tammany trust; they
have banks and trust companies, and through the New York Realty Company
are forcing alliances with such financial groups as that of the Standard
Oil Company. Croker shared in these deals and businesses. He sold
judgeships, taking his pay in the form of contributions to the Tammany
campaign fund, of which he was treasurer, and he had the judges take
from the regular real estate exchange all the enormous real estate
business that passed through the courts, and give it to an exchange
connected with the real estate business of his firm, Peter F. Meyer &
Co. This alone would maintain a ducal estate in England. But his real
estate business was greater than that. It had extraordinary legal
facilities, the free advertising of abuse, the prestige of political
privilege, all of which brought in trade; and it had advance information
and followed, with profitable deals, great public improvements.

Though Croker said he worked for his own pockets all the time, and did
take the best of the graft, he was not “hoggish.” Some of the richest
graft in the city is in the Department of Buildings: $100,000,000 a year
goes into building operations in New York. All of this, from out-houses
to sky-scrapers, is subject to very precise laws and regulations, most
of them wise, some impossible. The Building Department has the
enforcement of these; it passes upon all construction, private and
public, at all stages, from plan-making to actual completion; and can
cause not only “unavoidable delay,” but can wink at most profitable
violations. Architects and builders had to stand in with the department.
They called on the right man and they settled on a scale which was not
fixed, but which generally was on the basis of the department’s estimate
of a fair half of the value of the saving in time or bad material. This
brought in at least a banker’s percentage on one hundred millions a
year. Croker, so far as I can make out, took none of this! it was let
out to other leaders and was their own graft.

District Attorney William Travers Jerome has looked into the Dock
Department, and he knows things which he yet may prove. This is an
important investigation for two reasons. It is very large graft, and the
new Tammany leader, Charlie Murphy, had it. New York wants to know more
about Murphy, and it should want to know about the management of its
docks, since, just as other cities have their corrupt dealings with
railways and their terminals, so New York’s great terminal business is
with steamships and docks. These docks should pay the city handsomely.
Mr. Murphy says they shouldn’t; he is wise, as Croker was before he
became old and garrulous, and, as Tammany men put it, “keeps his mouth
shut,” but he did say that the docks should not be run for revenue to
the city, but for their own improvement. The Dock Board has exclusive
and private and secret control of the expenditure of $10,000,000 a year.
No wonder Murphy chose it.

It is impossible to follow all New York graft from its source to its
final destination. It is impossible to follow here the course of that
which is well known to New Yorkers. There are public works for Tammany
contractors. There are private works for Tammany contractors, and
corporations and individuals find it expedient to let it go to Tammany
contractors. Tammany has a very good system of grafting on public works;
I mean that it is “good” from the criminal point of view—and so it has
for the furnishing of supplies. Low bids and short deliveries, generally
speaking (and that is the only way I can speak here), is the method. But
the Tammany system, as a whole, is weak.

Tammany men as grafters have a confidence in their methods and system,
which, in the light of such perfection as that of Philadelphia, is
amusing, and the average New Yorker takes in “the organization” a queer
sort of pride, which is ignorant and provincial. Tammany is ‘way behind
the times. It is growing; it has improved. In Tweed’s day the
politicians stole from the city treasury, divided the money on the steps
of the City Hall, and, not only the leaders, big and little, but heelers
and outsiders; not only Tweed, but ward carpenters robbed the city; not
only politicians, but newspapers and citizens were “in on the divvy.”
New York, not Tammany alone, was corrupt. When the exposure came, and
Tweed asked his famous question, “What are you going to do about it?”
the ring mayor, A. Oakey Hall, asked another as significant. It was
reported that suit was to be brought against the ring to recover stolen
funds. “Who is going to sue?” said Mayor Hall, who could not think of
anybody of importance sufficiently without sin to throw the first stone.
Stealing was stopped and grafting was made more businesslike, but still
it was too general, and the boodling for the Broadway street railway
franchise prompted a still closer grip on the business. The organization
since then has been gradually concentrating the control of graft. Croker
did not proceed so far along the line as the Philadelphia ring has, as
the police scandals showed. After the Lexow exposures, Tammany took over
that graft, but still let it go practically by districts, and the police
captains still got a third. After the Mazet exposures, Devery became
Chief, and the police graft was so concentrated that the division was
reduced to fourteen parts. Again, later, it was reduced to a syndicate
of four or five men, with a dribble of miscellaneous graft for the
police. In Philadelphia the police have nothing to do with the police
graft; a policeman may collect it, but he acts for a politician, who in
turn passes it up to a small ring. That is the drift in New York. Under
Devery the police officers got comparatively little, and the rank and
file themselves were blackmailed for transfers and promotions, for
remittances of fines, and in a dozen other petty ways.

Philadelphia is the end toward which New York under Tammany is driving
as fast as the lower intelligence and higher conceit of its leaders will
let it. In Philadelphia one very small ring gets everything, dividing
the whole as it pleases, and not all those in the inner ring are
politicians. Trusting few individuals, they are safe from exposure, more
powerful, more deliberate, and they are wise as politicians. When, as in
New York, the number of grafters is large, this delicate business is in
some hands that are rapacious. The police grafters, for example, in
Devery’s day, were not content with the amounts collected from the big
vices. They cultivated minor vices, like policy, to such an extent that
the Policy King was caught and sent to prison, and Devery’s ward-man,
Glennon, was pushed into so tight a hole that there was danger that
District Attorney Jerome would get past Glennon to Devery and the
syndicate. The murder of a witness the night he was in the Tenderloin
police station served to save the day. But, worst of all, Tammany, the
“friend of the people,” permitted the organization of a band of
so-called Cadets, who made a business, under the protection of the
police, of ruining the daughters of the tenements and even of catching
and imprisoning in disorderly houses the wives of poor men. This horrid
traffic never was exposed; it could not and cannot be. Vicious women
were “planted” in tenement houses and (I know this personally) the
children of decent parents counted the customers, witnessed their
transactions with these creatures, and, as a father told with shame and
tears, reported totals at the family table.

Tammany leaders are usually the natural leaders of the people in these
districts, and they are originally good-natured, kindly men. No one has
a more sincere liking than I for some of those common but generous
fellows; their charity is real, at first. But they sell out their own
people. They do give them coal and help them in their private troubles,
but, as they grow rich and powerful, the kindness goes out of the
charity and they not only collect at their saloons or in rents—cash for
their “goodness”; they not only ruin fathers and sons and cause the
troubles they relieve; they sacrifice the children in the schools; let
the Health Department neglect the tenements, and, worst of all, plant
vice in the neighborhood and in the homes of the poor.

This is not only bad; it is bad politics; it has defeated Tammany. Woe
to New York when Tammany learns better. Honest fools talk of the reform
of Tammany Hall. It is an old hope, this, and twice it has been
disappointed, but it is not vain. That is the real danger ahead. The
reform of a corrupt ring means, as I have said before, the reform of its
system of grafting and a wise consideration of certain features of good
government. Croker turned his “best chief of police,” William S. Devery,
out of Tammany Hall, and, slow and old as he was, Croker learned what
clean streets were from Colonel Waring, and gave them. Now there is a
new boss, a young man, Charles F. Murphy, and unknown to New Yorkers. He
looks dense, but he acts with force, decision, and skill. The new mayor
will be his man. He may divide with Croker and leave to the “old man”
all his accustomed graft, but Charlie Murphy will rule Tammany and, if
Tammany is elected, New York also. Lewis Nixon is urging Murphy
publicly, as I write, to declare against the police scandals and all the
worst practices of Tammany. Lewis Nixon is an honest man, but he was one
of the men Croker tried to appoint leader of Tammany Hall. And when he
resigned Mr. Nixon said that he found that a man could not keep that
leadership and his self-respect. Yet Mr. Nixon is a type of the man who
thinks Tammany would be fit to rule New York if the organization would

As a New Yorker, I fear Murphy will prove sagacious enough to do just
that: stop the scandal, put all the graft in the hands of a few tried
and true men, and give the city what it would call good government.
Murphy says he will nominate for mayor a man so “good” that his goodness
will astonish New York. I don’t fear a bad Tammany mayor; I dread the
election of a good one. For I have been to Philadelphia.

Philadelphia had a bad ring mayor, a man who promoted the graft and
caused scandal after scandal. The leaders there, the wisest political
grafters in this country, learned a great lesson from that. As one of
them said to me:

“The American people don’t mind grafting, but they hate scandals. They
don’t kick so much on a jiggered public contract for a boulevard, but
they want the boulevard and no fuss and no dust. We want to give them
that. We want to give them what they really want, a quiet Sabbath, safe
streets, orderly nights, and homes secure. They let us have the police
graft. But this mayor was a hog. You see, he had but one term and he
could get his share only on what was made in his term. He not only took
a hog’s share off what was coming, but he wanted everything to come in
his term. So I’m down on grafting mayors and grafting office holders. I
tell you it’s good politics to have honest men in office. I mean men
that are personally honest.”

So they got John Weaver for mayor, and honest John Weaver is checking
corruption, restoring order, and doing a great many good things, which
it is “good politics” to do. For he is satisfying the people, soothing
their ruffled pride, and reconciling them to machine rule. I have
letters from friends of mine there, honest men, who wish me to bear
witness to the goodness of Mayor Weaver. I do. And I believe that if the
Philadelphia machine leaders are as careful with Mayor Weaver as they
have been and let him continue to give to the end as good government as
he has given so far, the “Philadelphia plan” of graft will last and
Philadelphia will never again be a free American city.

Philadelphia and New York began about the same time, some thirty years
ago, to reform their city governments. Philadelphia got “good
government”—what the Philadelphians call good—from a corrupt ring and
quit, satisfied to be a scandal to the nation and a disgrace to
democracy. New York has gone on fighting, advancing and retreating, for
thirty years, till now it has achieved the beginnings, under Mayor Low,
of a government for the people. Do the New Yorkers know it? Do they
care? They are Americans, mixed and typical; do we Americans really want
good government? Or, as I said at starting, have they worked for thirty
years along the wrong road—crowded with unhappy American cities—the road
to Philadelphia and despair?