In the late 19th century, battle lines of distaste and resentment were drawn between the new immigrant class and the current American citizens. In New York City, the Nativists and the Irish Catholic community clashed on opposing sides of the line. The majority of Irish Catholic immigrants were uneducated, unskilled, and alien to the industrial city life of the new world. Their mass numbers filled up the city’s slums, poor houses, and prisons. With strong aversion from New York Nativists, the Irish immigrant community was initially obstructed from attaining governmental support. This void in representation of such a massive percentage of New York’s population allowed for the emergence and great success of Tammany Hall leaders like George Washington Plunkitt. George Washington Plunkitt, born in 1842, grew up surrounded by this new immigrant Irish-Catholic community. He identified with the city’s immigrant poor and working class; the resented New York Irish were Plunkitt’s community. Although Plunkitt used his political status for his own benefit, his position as a political leader was useful for his community.
Plunkitt’s nepotistic beliefs, while controversial, proved to benefit his community. He had a strong belief in the spoils system and stood for “rewarding the men that won the victory” (12). He could not foresee the existence of a party system that did not place its own workers in offices (13). He candidly discussed the impossibilities of “[keeping] an organization together without patronage” (36). In response to an accusation of Tammany Hall’s patronage, Plunkitt expressed his belief that there is no one more in need, better fit, or more anxious to serve the city than Tammany workers (51). Although this outlook gave Plunkitt a controversial ‘quid pro quo’ attitude towards government affairs, his community benefitted from this arrangement. This arrangement allowed Plunkitt to provide jobs to his supporters who might have otherwise suffered...
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