TWEED'S NEW YORK: Another Look by Leo Hershkowitz
Kirkus Star

TWEED'S NEW YORK: Another Look

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

This rousing mythbuster about New York's post-Civil War Democratic ""Boss"" Tweed comes from the author's journey through the municipal archives, allegedly untouched by prior researchers. He charges that Tweed's ferocious bossism and graft are essentially a fabrication originated by hostile 19th-century newspapers and perpetuated with no review of the evidence. The myth: Tweed, an Irish or perhaps Jewish king of the Tammany machine, appropriated staggering amounts of public funds for himself and his ""Ring"" of cronies until brought to justice in 1873. Hershkowitz' findings: Tweed, a Protestant of Scots descent, a local fire commissioner and Odd Fellow lodgeman, entered politics during the lower-middle-class upsurge of the 1850s, and held a series of state and city offices in rather mediocre, passive fashion, initiating public-service improvements while warming a nest-egg as a corporate director. No graft was proven, however. After years of Republican scandal-mongering, he was sentenced for the technical crime of failure to audit--then spent 12 additional years in prison without a trial, subject to $3 million bail. No member of the ""Ring"" came to his defense--because, according to Hershkowitz, the omnipotent ""Ring"" never existed. Nor did the Tammany menace, a mere component in the ""fractured"" flux of New York politics magnified by the Republican-paid cartoonist Thomas Nast. The book concludes that Tweed was ""simply a big target. . . useful as an electoral gimmick, and Republicans were desperate"" after the Grant Administration's corruption. ""Most importantly, by now [1870] Tweed was identified as the leading spokesman for the interests of the city and the immigrant."" Hershkowitz' challenging, sharply rendered particulars are sure to be challenged in turn; the book has already had front page New York Times attention.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 1976
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday