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HE organization of the Committee of Seventy and its victory were not mere accidents; they were the logical result of the shocking exposures of municipal corruption. brought to the fierce light of truth by the Lexow Committee. But even the organization of the Lexow Committee was not an accident, but followed inevitably from the widespread and honest conviction among reputable citizens that the government of the city of New York had passed into the hands of the criminal and corrupt classes. Upon the character of city governments and upon their moral influences depends largely the fate of the entire nation, because of the increase in the number and the size of cities and the consequent preponderance of urban over rural population. Friendly critics have realized the danger to republican government inherent in the conditions prevailing in many of our municipal governments. These were the underlying facts that compelled the investigation of the city government by the Lexow Committee, and that led to the exposures which prompted the organization of the Committee of Seventy, followed by its splendid victory.
Perhaps most appreciative of these underlying facts and the abuses of city government in New York was Charles H. Parkhurst, D.D. Fortunately, educational work had been going on for some years among the people in regard to the needs of municipal government, and at the time of the organization of the Committee of Seventy, honest reformers were unanimous in the conviction that municipal government could be permanently reformed only by non-partisan devotion to questions of municipal interest. In the unsuccessful campaign of 1890, conducted by the People's Municipal League, emphasis was laid on this fact, and it was then declared, as the fundamental principle, that "municipal government is business, not politics." To strengthen this conviction, the City Reform Club, the City Club and the Good Government Clubs have labored earnestly, and it should be said to the credit of the Union League Club that, though organized on party lines and to promote the welfare of the Republican party, it boldly announced, as early as the Fall of 1893, its belief in the principle of non-partisan government for the city of New York. It is just to Mr. Charles S. Smith to record this fact, and to acknowledge that to his efforts this result was largely due.
The first endeavor to put into practical effect this idea of non-partisan administration of city government was made on the 1st of September, 1894, by the issue of a circular, inviting a select body of citizens, irrespective of party, to attend a meeting to be held at the Madison Square Garden on Thursday even. ing, the 6th of September, at 8 o'clock. In this circular it was stated:
"This meeting is called to consult as to the wisdom and practicability of "taking advantage of the present state of public feeling, to organize a citizens' "movement for the government of the city of New York, entirely outside of
party politics and solely in the interest of efficiency, economy and the public health, comfort and safety.
"It is believed that the people of the city are tired of the burden of inefficiency, extravagance and plunder, and understand that a city, like a well"ordered household, should be managed solely in the best interests of its "people, and to this end should be entirely divorced from party politics and "selfish personal ambition or gain."
This circular was signed by the following prominent and representative citizens: W. Bayard Cutting, George Macculloch Miller, Charles S. Smith, Julius J. Frank, George F. Baker, Woodbury Langdon, Charles Butler, Henry Rice, James Speyer, F. D. Tappen, G. G. Williams, J. Crosby Brown, W. L. Strong, John Sloane, C. Vanderbilt, Max J. Lissauer, Alfred S. Heidelbach, William H. Webb, John P. Townsend, J. Harsen Rhoades, William Ottman, Joseph Larocque, Morris K. Jesup, George W. Quintard, William Mertens, M. S. Fechheimer, William E. Dodge, G. Norrie, H. C. Fahnestock, James M. Constable, Hugh N. Camp, Gustav H. Schwab, H. Cillis and A. S. Frissell.
This call was sent to about 3,500 citizens, representative of the best citizenship in all walks of life. It should be noted that this circular and the labor of preparing it, and of obtaining the necessary signatures, devolved on a committee of three citizens, consisting of Mr. William E. Dodge, Mr. Hugh N. Camp and Mr. Gustav H. Schwab, who were unofficially asked by a number of gentlemen in the Chamber of Commerce, to take the initiative in the organization of the citizens for good government.
At the meeting of citizens held in pursuance of this call at the Madison Square Garden, Mr. Joseph Larocque presided, and Mr. John P. Faure acted as secretary. From this meeting resulted the address to the people of the city of New York, which was prepared by Mr. Schwab, Mr. Charles S. Smith, Mr. William E. Dodge and Mr. Carl Schurz. The address is as follows:
"TO THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, REGARDLESS OF PARTY: "Convincing proofs of corruption in important municipal departments of this city have been presented; inefficiency, ignorance and extravagance in public office are apparent, and business principles in the conduct of the affairs of this municipality are set aside and neglected for private gain and partisan advantage. The present government of this city is a standing menace to the continued commercial supremacy of the metropolis, and strongly concerns the welfare of every family in the whole country, for there is no hamlet in the land that the influence of New York City does not reach for good or evil.
"The time has come for a determined effort to bring about such a radical and lasting change in the administration of the city of New York as will insure the permanent removal of the abuses from which we suffer, and the management of the affairs of the city as a well-ordered household, solely in the best interests of its people.
"Municipal government should be entirely divorced from party politics and selfish personal ambition or gain. The economical, honest and businesslike management of municipal affairs has nothing to do with questions of National or State politics. We do not ask any citizen to give up his party on National or State issues, but to rise above partisanship to the broad plane of
citizenship, and to unite in an earnest demand for the nomination and election of candidates, whatever their National party affiliations, and to form a citizens' movement for the government of this city entirely outside of party politics, only in the interest of efficiency, economy and the public health, comfort and safety. "We pledge our active co-operation with all other organizations of this city, holding the same purposes and aims, recognizing that only through a combined and well-organized effort of all citizens who desire good government can that object be attained."
To give effect to the appeal to the voters, it was resolved also at the meeting to organize a Commitee of Seventy, and the appointment of the Committee was intrusted to the Chairman of the meeting, Mr. Joseph Larocque. The Committee of Seventy, as finally organized, consisted of the following representative citizens :—
ARCHIBALD, JAMES P.
COLLIS, CHARLES H. T.
FRANK, JULIUS J.
FRISSELL, A. S.
FULTON, T. A.
GALLAWAY, R. M.
GRINNELL, George Bird
HORNBLOWER, WILLIAM B.
JACOBI, DR. A.
JEROME, W. TRAVERS
JOHNSON, J. AUGUSTUS
KLEIN, ISAAC H.
McCOOK, ANSON G.
MILLER, GEORGE MACCULLOCH
MORGAN, J. PIERPONT
OAKLEY, HENRY A.
OLNEY, PETER B.
RIVES, G. L.
ROOME, W. HARRIS
SCHIEFFELIN, WILLIAM J.
SCHIFF, JACOB H.
SCHWAB, GUSTAV H.
SELIGMAN, E. R. A.
STEWART, JOHN A.
SMITH, CHARLES STEWART
WHEELER, EVERETT P.
The Chairman, Mr. Larocque, also appointed a Finance Committee, composed as follows:
The Finance Committee, of which Mr. J. Kennedy Tod was Chairman, labored faithfully, and from day to day added to its total receipts, finally making a popular appeal by circular to the citizens of New York, and meeting with the encouragement that the cause so well merited. The Chairman often mentioned the receipt of letters accompanying small contributions and deploring the inability of the writers to make larger contributions, full of intense feeling and ending with almost a solemn prayer for the success of the cause. Nothing gave greater encouragement than such responses accompanying contributions, whether large or small.
A practical application of the principles of the Committee of Seventy was made in the following resolution passed by the Executive Committee, on motion of Mr. John Claflin, which cannot be too highly commended :—
Resolved, That the Finance Committee be requested not to ask nor to accept contributions from any candidate nominated by the Committee of Seventy. The Committee of Seventy, in order better to do its work, organized an Executive Committee, which finally was composed as follows:
ARCHIBALD, JAMES P.
BEAMAN, CHARLES C.
BROWN, JOHN CROSBY
CALLANAN, L. J.
DELAFIELD, LEWIS L.
FAURE, JOHN P.
GALLAWAY, R. M.
HORNBLOWER, WILLIAM B.
JEROME, W. TRAVERS
SCHWAB, GUSTAV H.
STEWART, JOHN A.
TOWNSEND, JOHN P.
WHEELER, EVERETT P.
The Executive Committee elected Mr. Charles Stewart Smith its Chairman, and held almost daily sessions, the first meeting being on September 19th, and from that date until election there were more than thirty-five sessions.
Mr. William Travers Jerome was appointed as manager of the campaign by the Executive Committee, and unselfishly devoted his 'entire time for more than one month to the work of the campaign.
Sub-committees were appointed by the Executive Committee to carry on the detail work of the campaign.
It appointed a Platform Committee, constituted as follows:
The labors of the Platform Committee were ended by the adoption of a platform, which deserves especial attention because it embodies not only a direct attack on the criminal corruption of the Tammany government, but also a bold declaration in favor of positive municipal reform. The platform insists that municipal government should be entirely divorced from party politics. It denounces the dishonesty and extravagance of the existing government, but it adds to all this a demand from the citizens of New York for those public improvements that the citizens of all great European capitals enjoy. It merits publication in full:
"We reiterate the following principles, contained in the 'Address to the People of the city of New York,' heretofore issued :
"Municipal government should be entirely divorced from party politics and from selfish personal ambition or gain
"The economical, honest and business-like management of municipal affairs has nothing to do with questions of National or State politics.
"We do not ask any citizen to give up his party on National or State issues, but to rise above partisanship to the broad plane of citizenship, and to unite in an earnest demand for the nomination and election of fitting candidates, whatever their National party affiliations.
"The government of the city of New York, in the hands of its present administrators, is marked by corruption, inefficiency and extravagance; its municipal departments are not conducted in the interests of the city at large, but for private gain and partisan advantage.
"All classes of citizens, rich and poor alike, suffer under these conditions. This misgovernment endangers the health and morality of the community, and deprives its citizens of the protection of life and property to which they are entitled.
"The call goes to the citizens of New York to face the dangers that confront them, and resolutely to determine that these conditions shall cease, and that the affairs of the city shall henceforth be conducted as a well-ordered, efficient and economical household, in the interests of the health, comfort and safety of the people.
"We denounce as repugnant to the spirit and letter of our institutions any discriminations among citizens because of race or religious belief.
"We demand that the Public Service of this city be conducted upon a strictly non-partisan basis; that all subordinate appointments and promotions be based on Civil Service Examinations, and that all examinations, mental and physical, be placed under the control of the Civil Service Commission.
"We demand that the quality of the Public Schools be improved, their capacity enlarged, and proper playgrounds provided, so that every child within the ages required by law shall have admission to the Schools; the health of the children be protected, and that all such modern improvements be introduced as will make our Public Schools the equal of those in any other city in the world.
"We insist that the property already acquired by the city under the Small Parks Act shall be promptly devoted to the purposes of this acquisition, so that