No political scandal in American history has had a greater impact on America's political consciousness than the rise and fall of the "Tweed Ring" in New York City between 1866 and 1871. In an age ripe with scandal both public and private, the spectacular corruption charged to "Boss" Tweed and his associates-estimates of their extortion range from $20 million to $200 million-became an enduring symbol of the dark side of democratic politics.
The Tweed Ring contributed much more than cartoonist impressions; it helped to shape a powerful theory of political reform. It was in truth one of the formative events of progressivism, that multifaceted doctrine that has evolved into the modern American creed. In this sense, the Tweed Ring was to produce not only deep misgivings about the existing regime, but an insight into how it should be reformed.
Denis Tilden Lynch's biography of "Boss" Tweed was first published in 1927, in a time filled, like Tweed's, with sudden prosperity, daunting problems, and spectacular scandals. It is a straight-forward, workmanlike study, untroubled by the conceits of modern historical scholarship, and close enough to its subject's generation to have some of the immediacy of journalism. Of all the books published about the Tweed affair, Lynch's study is the only one that is a genuine biography, in which the man himself is the focus. For this reason it conveys something of the texture of daily life in New York in the nineteenth century, while bringing Tweed out from behind the shadows of Thomas Nast's leering cartoons, and presenting him, as much as is possible, as a man and not an icon. An interesting example of Americana, this volume will be of interest to historians of the period as well as those interested in American urban and political life.
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