This week I finished my reading of Plunkitt’s autobiography, and I can say for certain that he knew how to be a politician. A good one, that is. His tactics of being elected as such were genius. He was passionate in his fight against Civil Service laws that were being implemented when he was around. This week’s question, I believe, can be answered with the previous statement. It asks: “why was Plunkitt so open about the way he made money?”
Here’s what I think. I think he was trying to prove a point with his success. Let me elaborate. Plunkitt was a politician, right? That meant he had opportunities that he took advantage of wholeheartedly. But here’s the thing. People of his era had no distinction between a deceitful and a wise way to do business. For example, if someone were going to make a road, and they needed land that no one wanted before, then if he caught wind of it, he would buy the land and sell it to them for more. Genius, isn’t it? Not to some people. They thought it wrong, and so they passed laws to prevent this, aka Civil Service Reform.
Long story short, Plunkitt was trying to show people what the Civil Service laws were destroying by using his life as an example. As I have stated in a previous post, Civil Service made it very difficult to get into certain jobs in politics, and those it chose would never be fired. To Plunkitt, it was ruining the country. He himself said that it would be better for people to know how to deal with people, like he did, rather than ‘studying books’.
It wasn’t just the Civil Service he was against, there were other laws that were trying to eliminate the very elements that made up Tammany. One of these was the primary election law that had been amended to let anyone be in charge pf political parties, ideally those who were ‘chosen’ through the results of Civil Service. This, he claimed, would not only ruin his party, but all political parties. It’s understandable why Plunkitt said what he said, for the most part.
So to restate my answer, Plunkitt used his success in making money as an example of what the Civil Service Reform was taking away from people. What’s interesting is that what he was against is still around today, and though he and Tammany did their best, it is unclear if it will ever be repealed.