Frank Johnson Goodnow.

The Tweed ring in New York city online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryFrank Johnson GoodnowThe Tweed ring in New York city → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

*a^ Z^'^P:'.





TiiW E E D R I ]^ G








^ 7
■ /


[ in


The year 1857 marks an important epoch in the liistory of the city
of New York. It may be taken as the date of a great change in the
character of tlie popnlatioii of tlie city — a change whicli has vastly
increased the difRculties of municipal government, and presented
problems whose solution has unfoi-tunately not yet been attained.
The middle classes, which liad thus far controlled the municipal
government, were displaced by an ignorant proletariat, mostly of
foreign birth, which came under the sway of ambitious })olitical
leaders and was made to subserve schemes of political corruption such
as had not before been concocted on American soil.

The year 1857 is also the date of a great change in the legal posi-
tion of the city. Down to this time all charters, and almost all laws
affecting the government of the city, were either framed or suggested
l)y the municipal authorities, or made to depend for their validity on
tlie approval of the peoijlc Hut in 1857 the legislature committed
itself finally and definitely to the doctrine that it migiit change at
will the city institutions, framing the municipal government and dis-
tributing the municipal powers as it saw lit. Since this date the
largest city of the American continent has lain at the mercy of the
State legislature; and the legislature has not scrupled to remodel and
disarrange the governmental institutions of the city. Its charter has
l)een subjected to a continual "tinkering " that has made the law un-
certain, and a comprehension of its administration extremely difficult.

By the charter and laws affecting the city, passed in 1857, the
city government w^as arranged somewhat as follows: —

The common council, in tlie pompous phraseology of the charter,
was to be the "legislative authority " of the corporation. Its legis-
lative power, however, was nothing compared with the powers that it
l)ossessed under earlier charters. Since 1830 the common council had
been losing its controlling jiosition in the city government, while the
mayor and the heads of tlie city de2)artnients had been gaining power
at its expense. All the limitations that had been imposed upon the
council by previous charters and laws were preserved in the charter
of 1857, and a series of new laws was passed whicli, without ex-
])ressly amending the charter, in fact greatly limited the power of
the council. A law of 1857 established for the county an elective
board of supervisors, distinct from tlie city authorities, which was to
levy the local taxes ^ and attend to those branches of the administra-

1 Popyri^ht. 1888, by Fnnk J. Gordnow.

" Till! levying of tliu local taxes in the city always reqiiired a special uuthoiizatiou of

r 18 ]

tionj that were attended to in the State at large by the county Other laws defined the executive d^artLnts of The
city. This was a serious limitation of tlie power of the city council •
It practically took the entire organization of the city government out
of Its hands. Although the council had no power to borrow money
1 still possessed the nominal power of making the appropriations ior
the city government ; but in course of time the legislature, as a
result of the practice of granting to the Board of Supervisors power
to levy taxes for the city and county, usurped the power of makin


Online LibraryFrank Johnson GoodnowThe Tweed ring in New York city → online text (page 1 of 2)