Party Machines and Immigrants Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Political Party Machines and Immigration in 19th Century America

After a bitterly contested Revolution ended in the liberation of England's former colonies, the fledgling American nation embarked on the precarious path towards a style of democratic governance that had never been enacted on so large a scale. While the latter part of the 18th century was defined by political idealism, as exemplified by contributions made by our nation's Founding Fathers, the 19th century soon gave rise to an insidious process of power consolidation and voter exploitation. The egalitarian political parties envisioned during the heady days of American Independence devolved into institutional party machines, typified by widespread corruption, fraudulent activities, autocratic rule, and a blatant disregard for the foundational importance of democracy. The most effective political party machines during the 19th century were ran ruthlessly by so-called "bosses," or political titans who maintained control over their jurisdiction through a combination of allegiances within business community, loyalty from elected officials, and outright intimidation of opponents. Infamous party machines such as New York City's Tammany Hall and the Cook County Democratic Organization in Chicago emerged, promising to fill the power vacuum created by the accelerating pace of industrialization, and the seemingly continuous flow of European immigration needed to fuel America's roaring economic engine. By examining potential links between the 19th century's unprecedented wave of immigration and the rise of political party machines which soon came to dominate the American political system, it is possible to determine how the ideals of democracy were so easily tarnished.

The influence of immigration trends on local politics within America's largest cities became increasingly prevalent during the 19th century, as a massive influx of European immigrants to the New World fundamentally altered the demographic and cultural landscape in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and other rapidly growing urban areas. With immigrants of Irish, Italian, German, Polish, and Jewish ancestry arriving in America every day to pursue the newfound concept of personal liberty, politicians soon realized the enormous potential to be derived by exploiting this unending stream of uninformed voters. Forming now infamous "naturalization committees," the Tammany Hall regime of William M. Tweed organized systematic citizenship campaigns throughout New York City, arranging unwitting immigrants to file the necessary paperwork for citizenship in exchange for their loyal political patronage. By consolidating power through the brutal application of political authority, party machine leaders were able create political arrangements that did not align with demographic realities, and "in New York City the machine organization…

Sources Used in Document:


Judd, D., & Swanstrom, T. (2008). City politics. (8th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education.

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