New York Politics and Foltz’s Public Defender Bill

From Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz -- Online Notes For The Book

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This Note lists sources that provide a context for New York's political climate when Foltz's public defender bill was introduced.


Tammany Hall

On Tammany Hall: Carolyn B. Ramsey, The Discretionary Power of “Public” Prosecutors in Historical Perspective, 39 AM. CRIM. L. REV. 1309, 1339-41 (2002), is an excellent source on discretionary power and its corruption of all elements of the criminal justice system. Professor Ramsey’s splendid study builds on a cache of clippings, and case studies in an archive of the period. HERBERT ASBURY, THE GANGS OF NEW YORK (1928) captures the personalities and the breadth of Tammany’s influence.

The writings of Arthur Train, who was in the district attorney’s office in Tammany’s heyday, also give a vivid contemporary picture. In MY DAY IN COURT (1939), he outlines the history of Tammany control of the district attorney’s office. See also, TRAIN, THE PRISONER AT THE BAR (1906) (first edition) in which he proposed a government official to aid the criminally accused. LINCOLN STEFFANS, SHAME OF THE CITES 203 (1903) wrote that Tammany was totally open in its corruption and did not hypocritically hide its real interests. One of the bosses, Richard Croker, freely stated under oath that he was primarily concerned to line his own pocket, for instance.

Thomas Grady

On Thomas Grady: State Senator Grady was the Tammany man who introduced the public defender bill for Clara Foltz. Many accounts of New York politics in the late nineteenth century mention Tom Grady as a quintessential Tammany figure. In MY DAY IN COURT, at 8-11, Arthur Train wrote that it was impossible to get any prosecutorial action without an introduction like this: “He’s a friend of Senator Grady. Tom Foley sent him over here. Look out for him.”

ROBERT MCELROY, GROVER CLEVELAND: THE MAN AND THE STATESMAN 9 (1923) depicts Grady as the greatest Tammany orator in the time of the Croker bossdom especially. “In repose his fat, good-natured face, gave no indication of the tremendous motor-power that responded to the touch of a self-starter.” ALEXANDER DEALVA STANWOOD, FOUR FAMOUS NEW YORKERS: THE POLITICAL CAREERS OF CLEVELAND, PLATT, HILL AND ROOSEVELT 272 (1923) comments that Grady “trained in a school in which scruple or principle was unknown.”

Late Nineteenth Century New York Politics

On New York politics: For the background of New York politics in the late nineteenth century, EDWIN G. BURROWS & MIKE WALLACE, GOTHAM: A HISTORY OF NEW YORK CITY TO 1898 (1999) is incomparable. It also has an account of the 1897 election. On the interaction of reformers, regulars and Tammany forces described in the text, the sources are in general agreement on Platt’s motives and operations.

While it is my surmise that Platt arranged for Grady to introduce the public defender bill, the fact that Foltz communicated with Platt and his two chief lieutenants, Lemuel Quigg and Edward Lauterbach, near the time of its introduction is clear from their signatures torn off in Trella’s autograph book. On the other hand, it might be argued that since the Republicans enjoyed an overwhelming majority in the legislature, Platt could have easily seen to the bill’s passage if he were really interested in public defense.

Thomas C. Platt and the 1897 Mayoral Election

The sources are also in agreement on the description of the 1897 Mayoral election and Tracy’s role as a spoiler at Platt’s instigation. I found the account centering on four Mayoral campaigns in New York City, including 1897, especially compelling. DAVID C.HAMMACK, POWER AND SOCIETY—GREATER NEW YORK AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY (1982). Also important is RICHARD L MCCORMICK, FROM REALIGNMENT TO REFORM: POLITICAL CHANGE IN NEW YORK STATE, 1893-1910 (1981), which is especially good on description of Thomas Platt’s impressive administrative methods for controlling the state. HAROLD F. GOSNELL, BOSS PLATT AND HIS NEW YORK MACHINE: A STUDY OF THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP OF THOMAS C. PLATT, THEODORE ROOSEVELT, AND OTHERS (1924) is rightly considered a classic.

WILLIAM BENNETT MUNRO, PERSONALITY IN POLITICS: REFORMERS, BOSSES, AND LEADERS WHAT THEY DO AND HOW THEY DO IT 45 (1924) is also interesting on Platt. See also JOHN M. DOBSON, POLITICS IN THE GILDED AGE—A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON REFORM (1972); Robert Crosby Eager, Governing New York State: Republicans and Reform, 1894-1900 (1977) (unpublished Ph.D dissertation, Stanford University); GERALD W. MCFARLAND, MUGWUMPS, MORALS AND POLITICS, 1884-1920 (1975) describes and analyzes the reformers of the period; his earlier article, The New York Mugwumps of 1884: A Profile 78 POL SCI. Q. 40 (1963) focuses on their high economic and social class. Albert Shaw, The Municipal Election in New York, 16 AMERICAN MONTHLY REVIEW OF REVIEWS 515, (1897) describes Platt’s maneuver in the Tracy nomination and says the Democratic candidate was nothing but a stand-in for Richard Croker, the Tammany boss. The article also says Tracy practiced law with Platt’s son, and profited from Platt’s control of the legislature.

See generally PAUL A. CARTER, THE SPIRITUAL CRISIS OF THE GILDED AGE (1971); JOHN G. SPROAT, THE BEST MEN, LIBERAL REFORMERS IN THE GILDED AGE (1968); JOHN A GARRATY, THE NEW COMMONWEALTH 1877-1890 (1968). Geoffrey Blodgett, The Mugwump Reputation, 1870 to the Present, 66 J. AM.HIST 867 (1980) gives a very enlightening historiography of the upper class reform movement labeled “mugwumpery.” Many of the players among the reformers were lawyers, so that the Bar history is also the story of New York in this period. GEORGE MARTIN, CAUSES AND CONFLICTS—THE CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF THE NEW YORK BAR (1997).

Women in the Anti-Tammany Efforts

Most of the sources for the political history of New York say virtually nothing about the participation of women in the anti-Tammany efforts. But see, Women Against the Tiger, N.Y. Times, Nov. 3, 1894 (Social leaders express their opposition to corruption); Jo Freeman, “One Man, One Vote, One Woman, One Throat”: Women in New York City Politics, 1890-1910, 1 AM. NINETEENTH CENTURY HIST. 3 (on Gerritson, Platt’s role, the election of 1897, and the division of suffragists and activists); S. Sara Monoson, The Lady and the Tiger: Women’s Electoral Activism in New York City–Before Suffrage, II J. of Women’s Hist. 100, 100-35 (Fall 1990).

Biographical Works

Biographical works: In addition to the works cited, contemporary biographies that were especially helpful were: LOTHROP STODDARD, MASTER OF MANHATTAN (1931) (Richard Croker); THERON STRONG, LANDMARKS OF A LAWYER’S LIFETIME (1914); THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF THOMAS COLLIER PLATT (Louis J. Lang ed., 1910); HENRY W. TAFT, LEGAL MISCELLANIES (1941); GERALD KURLAND, SETH LOW (1971); ALLEN NEVINS, ABRAM HEWITT (1935); and P. C. JESSUP, ELIHU ROOT (1938).

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