Tammany Hall: History’s Most Notorious Political Machine
By | May 17, 2019
Nowadays, there are sometimes accusations of corruption in American politics, either real or supposed. Either way, it does well to recall one of the most famous cases of political corruption: New York City’s Tammany Hall. This political machine, which operated in the 19th and 20th centuries, was the most potent of its ilk and serves as a warning to future generations about the need to carefully check rampant power.
The Tammany Society was officially founded in New York City on May 12, 1789. The organization was named after Tamanend, a Native American sachem, or chief who died in the early 18th century. He led a tribe of the Lenapes in southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware and was a pacifist by nature. Tamanend had sold 300 square miles of territory to William Penn for a pittance.
One historian noted, “In retrospect, it hardly seems fitting that a political body known for wholesale public thievery should have been named after a man who was so easily taken.” To popular imagination, Tamanend was known as a pacifist and benevolent. He became a talisman for the young nation for his commitment toward peace. He was popularly called Saint Tamanend or Tammany.