A party machine is an organization headed

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by a boss or a self-ruling group that commands
enough votes to maintain political and
administrative control of a city, county, or state.
This 19th-century political cartoon by Thomas
Nast illustrated the corruption of political
machines that could occur within the political
party system. This particular cartoon refers to
William Tweed and his cronies who controlled
New York City politics. Use the internet or
printed resources to research William Tweed and
the Tammany Hall party machine and answer the
questions below.

1) How did William Tweed garner votes to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives?
2) How did this political cartoon by Thomas Nast play a role in the prosecution of Boss Tweed?
3) What was Tammany Hall?
4) Explain how the above cartoon depicted a realignment from a Democratic system of
government to a Republican system during the third political party system.


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Answer: Tweed became a powerful figure in Tammany Hall—New York City’s Democratic political machine—in the late 1850s. By the mid 1860s, he had risen to the top position in the organization and formed the “Tweed Ring,” which openly bought votes, encouraged judicial corruption, extracted millions from city contracts, and dominated New York City politics. The Tweed Ring reached its peak of fraudulence in 1871 with the remodeling of the City Court House, a blatant embezzlement of city funds that was exposed by The New York Times. Tweed and his flunkies hoped the criticism would blow over, but thanks to the efforts of opponents such as Harper’s Weekly political cartoonist Thomas Nast, who conducted a crusade against Tweed, virtually every Tammany Hall member was swept from power in the elections of November 1871.

All the Tweed Ring were subsequently tried and sentenced to prison. Boss Tweed served time for forgery and larceny and other charges but in 1875 escaped from prison and traveled to Cuba and Spain. In 1876, he was arrested by Spanish police, who reportedly recognized him from a famous Nash cartoon depiction. After Tweed’s extradition to the United States, he was returned to prison, where he died in 1878.

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Prof. Elena Toy
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