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The Case For Tammany Hall Being On The Right Side Of History

Historian Terry Golway has written a colorful history of Tammany Hall, which takes a more sympathetic view of the organization than many historians. He says the Tammany machine, while often corrupt, gave impoverished immigrants critically needed social services and a road to assimilation. According to Golway, Tammany was responsible for progressive state legislation that foreshadowed the New Deal. He writes that some of Tammany’s harshest critics, including cartoonist Thomas Nast, openly exhibited a raw anti-Irish and anti-Catholic prejudice.

Machine Made

In this interview, Golway tellsĀ Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies, “What I’m trying to do in this book is present this other side of Tammany Hall. … Every history of Tammany Hall is told as a true-crime novel, and what I’m trying to suggest is that there’s this other side. I’m arguing, yes, the benefits that Tammany Hall brought to New York and to the United States [do] outweigh the corruption with which it is associated. I’m simply trying to complicate that story… Tammany Hall was there for the poor immigrant who was otherwise friendless in New York.”

Golway is the director of the Kean University Center for History, Politics and Policy. His book is calledĀ Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics.

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