political bosses primary source

Central Question  Were political bosses corrupt?
Reminder  Political bosses were political leaders who got people to vote for them by giving favors. They
also made deals with various contractors. The ring of people who made deals and got votes for the political
boss were called the political machine. In NYC the political machine was called Tammany Hall.
You are going to read documents by a muckraker and a city political boss. Muckrakers thought that party
bosses were corrupt and prevented democracy from working well.
Document A: Lincoln Steffens
1. First look at the source at the bottom of the page: “Excerpt from a book by muckraker Lincoln Steffens, The
Shame of Cities, published in 1904”.
Muckrakers were journalists who tried to expose bade things that were happening in society – the Book is
called The Shame of Cities … from that you can conclude that the author probably believes that something bad
is happening in city governments.
As you read consider the following:
The audience of Steffens’ magazines was probably middle-class readers, mostly white and Christian
The author is probably trying to convince people that something bad (shameful) is happening in cities
Can you trust this document? Steffens is probably wanting to improve society, but he will probably use
certain words to try to convince the reader to think a certain way
As you read think about this – are most people feeling upset and angry about the level of corruption in
American cities? Probably yes… and it also seems like a really widespread and common issue.
The document only reflects the viewpoint of middle-class muckraker reformers. There may have been
people who thought that the political machines worked really well. Corruption may not have been as
widespread as Steffens makes it seem.
The author tries to show how corruption can happen by a little bribe. He also says that it’s everyone’s
responsibility to reform government.
Document B: George Plunkitt
1. This excerpt is from a talk by George Plunkitt. He is talking about Grafts – corruption and bribes. He is
responding to the first document – Lincoln Steffens’s book.
Consider the following:
Does the document give you the whole picture? It only reflects the perspective of a political boss. He
will lose power if the reformers (like Steffens’s) have their way.
Why did the author choose the words they did? They are making fun of Steffens who seems uptight
and clueless.
He is trying to convince the readers by showing how corruption can be good and can even lead to
Write a dialogue between Steffens and Plunkitt in which Steffens tries to convince Plunkitt to run a more
honest government. Have the dialogue go back and forth a few times, using specific arguments on both sides.
Have Plunkitt argue back why he needs to run the government the way he is already doing.
You may complete this below in the white space (put your name on the top of this page then!) or you may do
this on lines paper or type this at home.