Life According to George Washington Plunkitt

10.11.2004 | Trad Anon | Partisan Reader, Urban Affairs | 2 Comments

Say, let me tell of one case- After the battle of San Juan Hill, the Americans found a dead man with a light complexion, red hair and blue eyes. They could see he wasn’t a Spaniard, although he had on a Spanish uniform. Several officers looked him over, and then a private of the Seventy-first Regiment saw him and yelled, “Good Lord, that’s Flaherty.” That man grew up in my district, and he was once the most patriotic American boy on the West Side. He couldn’t see a flag without yellin’ himself hoarse.

Now, how did he come to be lying dead with a Spanish uniform on? I found out all about it, and I’ll vouch for the story. Well, in the municipal campaign of 1897, that young man, chockful of patriotism, worked day and night for the Tammany ticket. Tammany won, and the young man determined to devote his life to the service of the city. He picked out a place that would suit him, and sent in his application to the head of department. He got a reply that he must take a civil service examination to get the place. He didn’t know what these examinations were, so he went, all lighthearted, to the Civil Service Board. He read the questions about the mummies, the bird on the iron, and all the other fool questions-and he left that office an enemy of the country that he had loved so well. The mummies and the bird blasted his patriotism. He went to Cuba, enlisted in the Spanish army at the breakin’ out of the war, and died fightin’ his country.

That is but one victim of the infamous civil service. If that young man had not run up against the civil examination, but had been allowed to serve his country as he wished, he would be in a good office today, drawin’ a good salary. Ah, how many young men have had their patriotism blasted in the same way!

Now, what is goin’ to happen when civil service crushes out patriotism? Only one thing can happen: the republic will go to pieces. Then a czar or a sultan will turn up, which brings me to the fourthly of my argumnents-that is, there’ll be hell to pay. And that ain’t no lie.


Some people are wonderin’ why it is that the Brooklyn Democrats have been sidin’ with David B. Hill and the upstate crowd. There’s no cause for wonder. I have made a careful study of the Brooklynite, and I can tell you why. It’s because a Brooklynite is a natural-born hay. seed, and can never become a real New Yorker. He can’t be trained into it. Consolidation didn’t make him a New Yorker, and nothin’ on earth can. A man born in Germany can settle down and become a good New Yorker. So can an Irishman; in fact, the first word an Irish boy learns in the old country is “New York,” and when he grows up and comes here, he is at home right away. Even a Jap or a Chinaman can become a New Yorker, but a Brooklynite never can.

And why? Because Brooklyn don’t seem to be like any other place on earth. Once let a man grow up amidst Brooklyn’s cobblestones, with the odor of Newton Creek and Gowanus Canal ever in his nostrils, and there’s no place in the world for him except Brooklyn. And even if he don’t grow up there; if he is born there and lives there only in his boyhood and then moves away, he is still beyond redemption.


Plunkitt’s Fondest Dream

The time is comm’ and though I’m no youngster, I may see it, when New York City will break away from the State and become a state itself. It’s got to come. The feelin’ between this city and the hayseeds that make a livin’ by plunderin’ it is every bit as bitter as the feelin’ between the North and South before the war. And, let me tell you, if there ain’t a peaceful separation before long, we may have the horrors of civil war right here in New York State. Why, I know a lot of men in my district who would like nothin’ better today than to go out gunnin’ for hayseeds!

New York City has got a bigger population than most of the states in the Union. It’s got more wealth than any dozen of them. Yet the people here, as I explained before, are nothin’ but slaves of the Albany gang. We have stood the slavery a long, long time, but the uprisin’ is near at hand. It will be a fight for liberty, just like the American Revolution. We’ll get liberty peacefully if we can; by cruel war if we must.

Just think how lovely things would be here if we had a Tammany Governor and Legislature meetin’, say in the neighborhood of Fifty-ninth Street, and a Tammany Mayor and Board of Aldermen doin’ business in City Hall! How sweet and peaceful everything would go on!

The people wouldn’t have to bother about nothin’. Tammany would take care of everything for them in its nice quiet way. You wouldn’t hear of any conflicts between the state and city authorities. They would settle every-thing pleasant and comfortable at Tammany Hall, and every bill introduced in the Legislature by Tammany would be sure to go through. The Republicans wouldn’t count.

Imagine how the city would be built up in a short time! At present we can’t make a public improvement of any consequence without goin’ to Albany for permission, and most of the time we get turned down when we go there. But, with a Tammany Governor and Legislature up at Fifty-ninth Street, how public works would hum here! The Mayor and Aldermen could decide on an improvement, telephone the Capitol, have a bill put through in a jiffy and-there you are. We could have a state constitution, too, which would extend the debt limit so that we could issue a whole lot more bonds. As things are now, all the money spent for docks, for instance, is charged against the city in calculatin’ the debt limit, although the Dock Department provides immense revenues. It’s the same with some other departments. This humbug would be dropped if Tammany ruled at the Capitol and the City Hall, and the city would have money to burn.

Another thing-the constitution of the new state wouldn’t have a word about civil service, and if any man dared to introduce any kind of a civil service bill in the Legislature, he would be fired out the window. Then we would have government of the people by the people who were elected to govern them. That’s the kind of government Lincoln meant. What a glorious future for the city! Whenever I think of it I feel like goin’ out and celebratin’, and I’m really almost sorry that I don’t drink.

You may ask what would become of the upstate people if New York City left them in the lurch and went into the State business on its own account. Well, we wouldn’t be under no obligation to provide for them; still I would be in favor of helpin’ them along for a while until they could learn to work and earn an honest livin’, just like the United States Government looks after the Indians. These hayseeds have been so used to livin’ off of New York City that they would be helpless after we left them. It wouldn’t do to let them starve. We might make some sort of an appropriation for them for a few years, but it would be with the distinct understandin’ that they must get busy right away and learn to support themselves. If, after say five years, they weren’t self-supportin’, we could withdraw the appropriation and let them shift for themselves. The plan might succeed and it might not. We’d be doin’ our duty anyhow.

Some persons might say: “But how about it if the hayseed politicians moved down here and went in to get control of the government of the new state?” We could provide against that easy by passin’ a law that these politicians couldn’t come below the Bronx without a sort of passport limitin’ the time of their stay here, and forbiddin’ them to monkey with politics here. I don’t know just what kind of a bill would be required to fix this, but with a Tammany Constitution, Governor, Legislature and Mayor, there would be no trouble in settlin’ a little matter of that sort.

Say, I don’t wish I was a poet, for if I was, I guess I’d be livin’ in a garret on no dollars a week instead of runnin’ a great contractin’ and transportation business which is doin’ pretty well, thank you; but, honest, now, the notion takes me sometimes to yell poetry of the red-hot, hail-glorious-land kind when I think of New York City as a state by itself.

God Bless New York! To damnation with stayin' wit dis Union and dar WARS. Kick dem Hayseeds back tar Washington, seize de Reserveriors and call it de Freeport of NYC! Dat'll showem!
10.12.2004 | Constantine Constantus
If New York city were a man, he would be named Denny Crane. NYC refuses to retire at its peak, and has become sterile and child proof as modern Las Vegas. The big apple is an elder statesmen with tremors and worms. It has become a joke to the rest of the country--not a funny joke, but a sad one. But New York City is a woman, and nobody dreams of running away to her bed anymore. She has even become bored with herself. New York created American Nationalism, a medium for her oily commerce in satire and curmudgeonry, and now she cannot kill her own play toy with the weapons that created it...and we weep. We have nothing to look forward to anymore because old New York is dead, and she still insists she is young and vital. Bright lipstick and sequins on the wrinkled Grande Dame of Vaudeville...we do not take her seriously. She is afternoon tea for the pearl and fur set. There is no more sweat and sinew. We respect what she has done, but the feeding tube has already been removed. The soul of America, has wandered off into the haystacks in search of more vital politics, culture and arts.

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