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Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics (Signet Classics) Rei Anv Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0451526205
ISBN-10: 0451526201
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Editorial Reviews


"This is a model of how teaching materials should be crafted. It is the clearest, most comprehensive, and most interesting discussion of Plunkitt that I have ever read." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Peter Quinn is the author of the novel Banished Children of Eve (winner of an American Book Award) and previously served as speechwriter for New York governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo. A third-generation New Yorker whose granparents were born in Ireland, he is currently Editorial Director for Time Warner and lives in Hastings, New York.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 98 pages
  • Publisher: Signet; Rei Anv edition (November 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451526201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451526205
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.3 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
George Washington Plunkitt is simply charming. Corrupt, of course, but charming nonetheless--and refreshingly honest about his corruption, which is part of his charm. I got more than a few quiet chuckles from his "very plain talks on practical politics" and almost felt I was reading a series of Mark Twain monologues.
A reader has to be careful around Mr. Plunkitt. He exhibits attractive, quintessentially American qualities such as a smart, down-to-earth common sense, a kind of "tell it like it is" honesty and a readiness to hustle to achieve his goals. He also, however, has such negative traits as, among others, anti-intellectualism and a propensity to employ the better parts of his character in the service of very pragmatic--in the derogatory sense--goals. Yet I *like* the man, and I think most readers do. The way he talks about himself endears me to his vices and very nearly makes me forget that graft is graft, whether "honest" or not. This ability of his (or of his interviewer/editor/co-author), apart from his astute observations or the fuller appreciation he might give some readers of the politics of Tammany Hall and the patronage system, is probably the key to his book's enduring popularity. He's simply interesting, and that is enough reason to read his book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
In history's rear view mirror, George Washington Plunkitt appears to be just another guy in a long line of corrupt politicians. There's no denying that he was corrupt, but as William Riordon recounts, Plunkitt honestly believed that he was not doing the public any harm. In fact, he believed that there was such a thing as honest graft, a sort of victimless crime. Certainly this was a self-serving philosophy, but there is a sincerity in his discourses that defies any trace of hypocrisy.
His belief that Tammany Hall was a benevolent organization that served the poor and needy put a bemused smile on my face. After all, Plunkitt doesn't see or doesn't admit to seeing that the robbing of public funds through honest or dishonest graft is what contributed to the social problems, like unemployment, poverty and crime, which for the most part put the needy and poor in their predicament in the first place. But he absolves himself from his actions by his now-famous defense, "I seen my opportunities and I took 'em." And this is what makes Plunkitt such a congenial and magnetic man, what makes him so damned likeable. You KNOW he's a thief, you KNOW he contributed to the misery of thousands. Yet his playful, plain-speaking style, his candidness about his activities, his wit, and, at times, his goofiness, make him different from other Tammany leaders like Boss Tweed, say, or Charlie Murphy. He's more in line with Big Tim Sullivan or James J. Walker.
George Washington Plunkitt was a charmer, no doubt about it. William Riordon was obviously under his spell. And the Johnson/Boswell comparison is very valid. It is difficult to maintain the utter contempt one should have for this thief. And yet... I would have loved to have had drunk with him at Hoffmann's bar and let him speak on for hours. Like Riordon, I think I would have been hypnotized too.
NB--Peter Quinn's brilliant Introduction serves the book well.
Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you want to understand the absolute basics of American urban politics at any time in our nation's history, you MUST read this book.

George Washington Plunkitt was a Tammany wheelhorse -- district leader, State Senator, and organization man. In a series of speeches from his favorite rostrum, the New York County Courthouse Bootblack Stand, he explained how an urban politician operates and becomes both politically and personally successful.

Everything he says in his speeches is as deadly accurate today as it was more than 100 years ago -- build up a following. Know human nature and act accordingly. Do not violate the penal code. See your opportunities and take advantage of them. Do not wear a dress suit to meet with the people. Do not drink to excess. Support the organization. Make friends across the aisle to push through policy. Reward your supporters. Do not hesitate to make deals that advance yourself and the organization. Maintain the party organization. Be there for your constituents in their times of trouble. Empower your constituents and reward their loyalty. Show patriotism.

Every one of those points is absolutely applicable to any political race today. And he said all that back in the 1880s and 1890s. All of these concepts are still being done in modern politics.

Every time a new intern comes on board my shop in the City of Newark (I do the city's press releases), I lend my copy to that intern, and tell them to read it. Sometimes they ask me to purchase it for them, which I do. A few weeks ago, I got a copy for an intern working for a big wheel in the government, and the big wheel got a look at it ahead of the intern. A few days later, the big wheel asked me to get her a copy, too...she'd never read it.
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A Tammeny Hall ward boss of a bygone era speaks with a bluntness that people crave in politicians today. He is open about his involvement in what he calls "honest graft," in contrast to the high-sounding but even more corrupt politicians of today. His words also have a subtle humor and cleverness that make this book entertaining as well as informative.
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