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All rights rtstrvtd


. St up and electrotyped April, 1903,

J. S, Cubing A Co. - Berwick ft Smith Co.
Norwood, MMI., U.S.A-


THE story of Mr. Jerome's campaign as it
is set down in the following pages is a story by
an eye-witness, but by an eye-witness who had
in the beginning no intention whatsoever of
playing the chronicler. My own hasty notes
of Mr. Jerome's speeches have therefore been
supplemented in some instances by the notes
of private stenographers and of reporters ; and
many scenes still vivid in my memory scenes
in the streets, scenes in auditoriums, scenes at
headquarters have in the lapse of days lost
the precision of dates and of details that in a
chronicle is not to be dispensed with. Had the
whole record been preserved with perfect accu-
racy, it would doubtless still have been un-
publishable ; there is no precedent for making
public, after a few months' interval, a record of
the daily speech and action of contemporary
men. Nevertheless, in the daily speech and
action of the group of men of which Mr. Jerome
was for some five weeks the centre, lay no small
part of what was inspiriting and significant in
his campaign. It was in great part a campaign
of amateurs and an improvised campaign. In

vi Preface

some sort Mr. Jerome was himself an amateur
in politics. He had indeed been an active
member of the City Club from the time of its
foundation ; he had been chairman of the Com-
mittee of Seventy and member of the Executive
Committee in the campaign that resulted in the
election of Mayor Strong ; he had been asso-
ciate counsel in the investigation made by the
Lexow Committee ; but apart from these spo-
radic incursions into politics, he had confined
himself to executing with singular audacity and
energy the duties of a judge in the Court of
Special Sessions. With one exception, none
of the adherents who first rallied round him
had ever taken part in the organisation of a
canvass. None of them had long been friends
of his, and few of them had long been friends
of one another; as a group they came into
existence unexpectedly, fortuitously, to meet
the needs of the occasion. The bond uniting
them was new and accidental as the bond unit-
ing a group of Western ranchmen. They were
not Westerners : they were city-bred, they were
college-bred, they were even super-civilised, yet
to a man bred in the West they conjured up
an image of the plains. Their talk was pictur-
esque and varied as the talk of cow-boys, which

Preface vii

is saying much for it ; they were as ready with
a jest, as slothful seemingly, as swift in the
despatch of business ; there was as little for-
malism among them, as little cant, as little
pose. There was not even much heat of indig-
nation. In Mr. Jerome, indeed, there burned
beneath a cavalier exterior the wrath of a He-
brew prophet ; but his allies were not hot, they
were determined simply ; they took cognizance
of grievances and outrages only as matters of
which they purposed trying to make an end.
And precisely as in the West it has been found
that wherever a few men of our race are gath-
ered together there exists, potentially at least,
for all the purposes of justice, law, and neces-
sary order, the Anglo-Saxon state, so it was
found that in this random group there was
the making of an effective political machine.
There from time immemorial has lain the safe-
guard of the race against all species of oppres-
sion ; and there to-day lies its safeguard against
the tyranny of any dominant machine.

Mr. Jerome's appearance in the field of
politics was to me of even more immediate
interest than to the general public, for reasons
of my own. I knew him, as the general public
knew him, only through the medium of the

viii Preface


daily press ; but I had for years been wondering,
not unhopefully, what would be the effect in an
American election of a candidate who from the
platform told the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth, as steadily as from the
witness stand ; and in the preceding months I
had been engaged, in company with Josiah
Flynt, in an investigation of the Powers that
Prey and the alliance between them and the
Powers that Rule. Here was a man in office
knowing more than I could know of the alli-
ance between the Powers that Rule and the
Powers that Prey, and determined to dissolve it ;
here, as a few nights' speeches showed, was a
candidate that told the truth. It happened also
that I had written in my academic days a book
directed against both scepticism and so-called
idealism in philosophy, in the interest of the
realism of the man of science and of the plain
man ; a book which was essentially a plea for
loyalty, even in metaphysics and even for rea-
sons strictly metaphysical, to truth and fact.
The principles of that book I was intending
to illustrate further with reference to literary
criticism and with reference to politics in the
United States. The volume on politics had
been planned already ; it was to have begun

Preface ix

with a defence, although a qualified defence,
of Tammany ; it was to have continued with
an attack upon so-called reformers, and to have
concluded with the exposition of a system of
reform quite different from theirs, a system
of loyalty to truth and fact. A living man is
of more interest than any system, and an ex-
periment than any theory. I found myself
recording a campaign instead of elaborating the
book I had projected, or even plying my more
immediate trade of novelist. Mr. Jerome's
course of action proved so excellent an illustra-
tion of what I had to say concerning politics
that the illustration has taken precedence of
the text.

Imperfect as the record is, the interest of the
campaign recorded seems to me to be neither
merely local nor ephemeral. For the time
being, at least, New York is obviously the
chief city of America; its daily news is in some
sort, like that of Washington, the daily news
of every city in the United States. The mu-
nicipal conditions that have long prevailed
there are in essentials the conditions that pre-
vail in almost every large city of the United
States, in almost every city numbering more
than fifty thousand inhabitants. The sources

x Preface

of danger and of safety are the same ; the out-
look is on the whole the same. It is true, as
Mr. Jerome said in his closing speeches, that
democracy is on its trial ; so much is patent
even to those who have no great fear for the
result. The name and even the watchwords
of democracy are in America indeed assured of
their supremacy. But in the course of appli-
cation to the complex world of fact, all simple
formulas are destined to undergo strange trans-
mutations. As the simple formulas of Chris-
tianity have served as manifesto for a bewildering
variety of systems of ethics and church govern-
ment, in some at least of which it may be plau-
sibly asserted that the essence of Christianity
has disappeared, so the simple formulas of
democracy may serve as manifesto for a be-
wildering variety of forms of civil government.
What the form will be that bears in the United
States the title of democracy may well be matter
of doubt and even of anxiety ; the United
States is not the smallest or the simplest fact
in the vast complex world. And nowhere
perhaps so well as in the city of New York
can be seen the interaction of the forces that
are moulding the government of the republic
from within.












** or THF

A Fight for the City


WHEN at the close of the municipal cam-
paign of 1901 Mr. Shepard formulated
the two main causes that had led to the victory
of the Fusion Ticket, he found them in the
offence given to the public by the words and
acts of William Devery, first Chief and then
Deputy Commissioner of Police under the late
administration, and in the part played in the
last weeks of the canvass by the Fusion candi-
date for District Attorney of the County of
New York, William Travers Jerome. Mr.
Jerome had been for five years a justice of the
Court of Special Sessions, and in the spring
and summer preceding the canvass had been
the centre of attention as a principal in a pro-
longed duel with Devery.

Devery had at once given offence and con-
quered notoriety by playing with a certain un-
expected zest the part assigned him. He was

2 A Fight for the City

a dictator, and he bore himself like a dictator.
The power of the police over the masses of the
population is much like that exercised during
the Renaissance in Italy by princelets of a reign-
ing family. Devery's position was for all the
world that of the ducal tyrant of some Italian
state, in an Elizabethan play. Being a man
not without a sense for fact, he knew it; and
being a man not without a sense for the effec-
tive embodiment of fact, he suited mien and
words and gestures to his role. The classes of
society whose taste controls our printed criticism
conceived differently the bearing even of a dic-
tator ; tastes differ on such points from class to
class, and even from age to age. What in the
early Elizabethan period thrilled the auditor as
the " large utterance " of men raised above the
common lot of mortals, came to be derided in
the mouth of ancient Pistol as King Cambyses'
vein ; the applauded actor of one generation
was the robustious periwig-pated fellow of the
next. Such a robustious periwig-pated fellow
Devery seemed to the politer circles whose at-
tention had been attracted by his emphasis. To
them his dictatorial dignity appeared mere strut
and bluster, the more comic for his unwavering
gravity, and for the disregard of the Republic's
English shown in each authoritative phrase.

The Hunting of John Doe 3

Besides, they never dreamed that he was a
potentate at all.

Mr. Devery had been for years, so far as
the great public knew him, a figure for opera
bouffe. He was, in the opinion of Tammany,
" the best chief of police that New York has
ever had," and his language was a continuous
performance in inspired mixed metaphor and
Irish bull. His phrases achieved currency, in
particular the phrase " touchin' on an 1 apper-
tainin' to." " Touchin' on an* appertainin' to
that there's nothin' doin'," from the frequency
with which he uttered it, had the success of a
popular line in a comic song. From time to
time he was not to be found at police head-
quarters, and was reported ill with an attack
of grippe, or out of town. At such periods a
burly figure, that Mr. Devery's most intimate
friends might have mistaken for him, was likely
to be discovered, very unsteady on his legs,
throwing handfuls of silver amongst a crowd,
and watching them scramble for the pieces ;
or very unsteady on his seat, driving faster than
the law allows, and either stared at or ostenta-
tiously ignored by patrolmen. Naturally he
was the delight of the daily prints : in the ab-
sence of a fresh rumour of disaster or victory
for the troops in the Philippines, or of a strike

4 A Fight for the City

amongst labourers or the formation of a trust
amongst employers of labour at home, he was
always news. They reported his phrases, and
invented, hilariously, the theory of a Devery
Double. He was money in the bank, or rather
money at the desk on the next Saturday, for a
witty, devil-may-care horde of newspaper-men,
who found him easy to caricature, and easy to
convert into a "story for a filler." He took
his celebrity good-humouredly ; indeed, he was
rather proud of it. Ridicule and attack were
welcome or indifferent to him. Both were
advertisement, and both were homage. An
anecdote will make his mode of dealing with
them plain. On I forget what occasion the
newspapers that print woodcuts were all solici-
tous to get his photograph, and he refused to
sit for them. Why, no one knows ; the re-
fusal was a whim ; he would sit, or he would
not, as the humour struck him. The Commer-
cial Advertiser at that time had made a specialty
of setting forth his entire unfitness for the
office that he held. Lincoln Steffens, then
City Editor of the Commercial Advertiser,
called him up on the telephone. " That
you, Chief? This is Steffens. Top of the
morning to you. As soon as I heard you
would not let yourself be photographed I

The Hunting of John Doe 5

knew you were saving the chance for me."
" Well, of all the cold-storage nerve : say
you're a ripe peach!" "Sure. We give
more space to you than any other paper in
the city. When shall I send the photogra-
pher ? Right away ? " " You're on. Say,
don't you want a job in the police ? I need a
man with a front like that ! " A few days after-
ward the photograph was reproduced in the Com-
mercial Advertiser exclusively. As Deputy Police
Commissioner, he held court every Thursday,
where he sat in judgment on delinquent mem-
bers of the force, and made maxims for their
instruction. " When ye're caught with the
goods on, don't say nothin','' is a dictum that
achieved instant currency. He presided like
an Oriental caliph, ungoverned by law or evi-
dence, inspired by the witticism or the irrita-
tion of the moment. A patrolman was brought
before him charged with reckless shooting in
the streets ; the chief glared at him : " Did you
hit your man ? No ? Fined thirty days' pay
for not hittin' him. Next time you hit 'im."
Every Thursday afternoon the proceedings in
his court were reported in the newspapers in
the columns dedicated to comedy ; every
Thursday evening gentlemen in the clubs dedi-
cated to civic spirit discussed the disgrace to

6 A Fight for the City

the city of having a man like Mr. Devery at
the head of its police; and laughed bitterly
at his judgments while they discussed him. In
their indignation and disgust no doubt they
often did him scant justice. He had some
seven thousand men to keep in hand, by mili-
tary reckoning a brigade, and nobody has ever
suggested that his hold on them was not mas-
terly. He knew his men from helmet to shoe-
leather ; he had been one of them ; and when
he gave a command they walked in the eye of
the lord. Indeed, even since he has been dis-
charged, it is gravely believed and feared that
the rank and file still take his orders. Men
who have ever had a regiment to discipline and
to control will not think him an absolute buf-
foon. As to brutality of speech and harshness
in judgment, there are few colonels few
good colonels, that is in either the Ameri-
can or the British army, to go no farther, who
have not found both necessary. A regiment
cannot be kept smart by politeness, and the
men do not respect a commander who knows
no better than to try politeness as an instru-
ment of control, by way of experiment. The
leading truth about Mr. Devery is, not that he
was ridiculous, but that he was in his own world
formidable. His superiors backed him up ; his

The Hunting of John Doe 7

subordinates for the most part were devoted to
) him ; and even the malcontents obeyed him.

It was not till the late winter and early spring
of 1901 that the inhabitants of the brownstone
districts, the prosperous minority in a word,
received a revelation of the nature of Devery's
rule, and of the degree of its arrogance, and
that Mr. Jerome came prominently into notice.
The Reverend Mr. Paddock, who had been
working on the East Side, laid a complaint
before one of Devery's subordinates, Captain
Herlihy, about police rule in Allen Street, the
" Red-light District/' and was publicly cursed
and insulted for his pains. Bishop Potter sent
an admirably temperate letter to Mayor Van
Wyck, Devery's official superior, seeking re-
dress, but no redress was forthcoming. In
their refusal to listen to Bishop Potter the ad-
ministration made a mistake : they roused a
body in the commonwealth to all practical in-
tents and purposes both unaware of their exist-
ence and at a pinch more powerful than they.
The Committee of Fifteen was organised to
inquire into the conditions of Mr. Devery's
rule. Mr. Croker, prompt to recognise the
blunder of his henchmen, appointed a Tam-
many Committee of Five for the same purpose,
putting Lewis Nixon, a notably honest man, at

8 A Fight for the City

the head of it, and ordering it to take action
before the Committee of Fifteen could complete
its organisation. Mr. Nixon chose to begin
his investigations by a raid on an alleged pool-
room at No. 20 Dey Street, and applied to
Justice Jerome for a warrant ; and there the
defeat of Tammany in the coming election and
the duel with Devery began. Mr. Jerome
knew, down to the ground, the nature of
"fake" or tipped-off raids. The magistrate
issues a warrant, and hands it to a police officer
to serve it ; the police officer organises a raid-
ing party, and sends word beforehand to the
gambling-hell of the time set for the raid ; and
the raiding party finds a set of empty rooms, in
charge perhaps of a facetious caretaker. Mr.
Jerome was quite ready to issue warrants ; but
he declined to be a figure in a comedy. He made
out the warrants against John Doe, put them
in his pocket, and in company with Mr. Nixon
and Mr. Philbin led a raiding party ignorant of
its destination to 20 Dey Street, and rushed the
place. Rushing means hustling watchmen,
breaking barred doors, and a free fight, ending
possibly in an exchange of pistol shots with such
of the occupants of the rooms within as try to
make good an escape. In an outer room dedi-
cated to lounging and drinking Mr. Jerome, Mr.

The Hunting of John Doe 9

Nixon, Mr. Philbin, and their party stumbled
upon eight members of the police force de-
tailed to get evidence against the place. These
testified subsequently that they each drew
fourteen hundred dollars a year from the tax-
payers of the city of New York ; that they had
frequented that room for thirty-five days con-
secutively, barring Sundays, and that they were
perfectly unaware of any gambling conducted
in the house. In another room, where some-
thing like a hundred men had been rounded
up, and reduced to submission, Mr. Jerome
gave an officer the warrants to serve and opened
court. Conducting raids in person and opening
court informally in gambling hells were un-
precedented departures from the dignity and
decorum prescribed by public opinion to a mag-
istrate. In this, the first instance of such depar-
ture, he had scarcely declared the room in which
he sat a court-room and himself a judge presid-
ing, when a man perfectly well known to the
invading party detached himself from the
crowd and said sotto voce, " Mr. Jerome, I
can't afford to be caught here ; you must help
me get out." "You don't seem to understand
that this is a court-room. Hold up your hand
and be sworn." The man hesitated. People
who have talked with Mr. Jerome only in clubs

io A Fight for the City

have never met the judge. His manner in
court is exceptionally tranquil and unassuming,
but every spectator knows himself to stand in
the presence of the power and dignity of the law.
" You can take your choice, and take it quickly :
go to jail for contempt of court, or hold up
your hand." The man held up his hand and
was sworn. " What is your name ? " " John
Doe." " I shall be obliged to commit John
Doe to the House of Detention in order to
find him when I want him. I do not know
his residence." Then the unwilling prisoner
told his name : he was Maurice Holahan,
President of the Board of Public Works.
He explained to the newspapers the next
day that he had gone to 20 Dey Street look-
ing for his "wayward son." Neither the
newspapers nor the public took the explana-
tion seriously, and the wayward son was indig-
nant. Indeed, the town shook with irreverent
laughter, and the wayward son made undutiful
allegations about certain of his father's deal-

This was the first of Mr. Jerome's John
Doe raids. The Committee of Five never
asked him, or anyone, for another warrant.
The little comedy Mr. Croker had planned
turned suddenly too grave for his taste, and

The Hunting of John Doe n

the Committee of Five ceased to exist. The
Committee of Fifteen awoke to the fact that
they had found a man precisely suited to their
needs. They were non-political and non-par-
tisan ; they were in search of information about
the actual conditions of police rule in New York
City ; when their informants led them to believe
that a place should be raided, they applied to
Mr. Jerome for the warrants. The hunting of
John Doe was undertaken in earnest, with Mr.
Jerome as chief huntsman. John Doe was Mr.
Devery as supposedly the official head of the
system of blackmail by the police ; but any con-
federate or subordinate of his was welcome game.
In view of the current belief that gambling in
the city was in the hands of a small syndicate
of Mr. Devery's intimate friends, it was de-
termined to make gambling-houses the main
objective of the raids. The keepers of the
gambling-houses were not themselves the men
wanted ; they were taken into custody and
prosecuted mainly in the hope that some of
them would turn state's evidence. They had
paid their money for protection ; it was hoped
that when they found the police could not de-
liver the goods, they would rise against their
blackmailers. Through the spring and summer
months, night after night, the raids went on,

12 A Fight for the City

Mr. Jerome risking his life freely amongst the
least scrupulous class in the city. He had not
sought the position of chief huntsman or its
notoriety. He was not a professional reformer,
or an aspirant for political advancement ; he was
ostensibly a club-man and man about town like
another. As a Deputy Assistant in the Dis-
trict Attorney's office, and later, as a judge, he
had learned the police game ; he was at once
by knowledge and position the one man who
could, and would, do the work cut out for the
Committee of Fifteen. Conducting a raid, ex-
amining the prisoners, waiting at the police
station afterward for such of them as could
secure bail, meant, commonly, staying abroad
all night ; and his official duties required him
to open court in the Special Sessions at ten
the next morning. His fellow club-men criti-
cised him for making himself conspicuous. His
brother lawyers and judges criticised him for
" lowering the dignity of the bench." The
newspapers caricatured him as Carrie Nation
Jerome with a little hatchet. No doubt he
enjoyed certain incidents in many of his nights ;
but the man who enjoys leading or assisting in
a raid must be of an adventurous sort It is the
custom in raiding to send two or three men in
advance whose business it is to mix with the

The Hunting of John Doe 13

players. On the first notice that the rush has
begun, they are two or three against a hundred ;
they must hold the crowd from escaping by door
or window. On battering down the door of
one pool-room, Mr. Jerome discovered on the
inside one of his own men, Hammond, with a
prisoner in his left hand, a prisoner and a re-
volver in his right, struggling forward to the
arrest of a third. McClellan, another of his
assistants (now awaiting trial for having shot on
a more recent raid a man who had fired twice at
him), was on three occasions overpowered and
beaten to a pulp before the rest of his party out-
side could break in and come to his assistance.
More than once Mr. Jerome himself was obliged
to bear a hand in a free fight before he could open
one of his phenomenally informal courts. At
times, of course, the raid ended in pure comedy.
One evening Mr. Jerome and his party took by
storm an absolutely empty house. The appur-
tenances of gambling were in evidence, but the
John Doe warrants remained in the pockets of
the justice ; he found nobody to serve them on.
He sat on a roulette-table and said : " Sporting
life is checkered, but never dull ; some days you
can't lay up a cent," when there blew in from
the street a young exquisite who, at sight of his
hosts, looked as if he were taking the count in

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Online LibraryAlfred HodderA fight for the city → online text (page 1 of 13)