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October 18th, 2010 Period 4/5 – US History William Marcy “Boss” Tweed William Tweed was born on April 3rd, 1823 in New York City. Tweed was an American politician and most famous for his leadership at Tammany Hall. He was a key figure in the Democratic political machine and had a huge impact on New York state and city. At one point, Tweed was third-largest landowner in New York City. He was also a director of the Erie Railway, the Tenth National Bank, and the New-York Printing Company, as well as proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel.

In William’s early life he studied to be a bookkeeper and worked as a brush maker, before joining the family business. In 1849, Tweed and some friends organized the Americus Fire Company No. 6, it was a volunteer fire company, also known as the “Big Six”. William Tweed was elected into the U. S House of Representatives in 1852. Tweed was elected to the New York State Senate in 1867. Financiers Jay Gould and Big Jim Fisk made Tweed a director of the Erie Railroad. In spite of Tweed’s successes he also made some mistakes in his life.

By 1869, Boss Tweed led a ring that controlled the government of New York City. He and his associates; Peter B. Sweeny, Richard B. Connolly, and Mayor A. Oakey Hall, conned the taxpayers for many millions of dollars. Albert Bigelow Paine once said “their methods were curiously simple and primitive. There were no skilful manipulations of figures, making detection difficult … Connolly, as Controller, had charge of the books, and declined to show them. With his fellows, he also ‘controlled’ the courts and most of the bar. ” Tweed’s downfall began in April 1871 when he refused to authorize the Orange Parade.

The New York Times were writing articles, supplied by Matthew J. O’Rourke and James O’Brien, about the Tweed Ring’s dishonesty to the press. There were also political cartoons being shown in papers, drawn by Thomas Nast. In 1871, opposing candidates were being elected, breaking the power of the ring. In October 1871, Tweed was arrested and held on $8 million bail. The efforts of political reformers, William H. Wickham and Samuel J. Tilden resulted in William’s 1873 trial and conviction. Tweed was sentenced to 12 years in prison which was later reduced to one year.

Then, he was re-arrested on civil charges and sued by New York State for $6 million. He was held in debtor’s prison until he could pay off the $3 million bail. He escaped from prison on December 4, 1875. He then fled to Spain and worked as a seaman on a Spanish ship. The U. S discovered where Tweed escaped to and arrested him as soon as he got to the Spain border. He was delivered to New York City authorities on November 23, 1876 and was returned to prison. William Tweed died in the Ludlow Street Jail on April 12, 1878 from severe pneumonia.

He was buried in the Brooklyn Green-Wood Cemetery. Boss Tweed had many contributions to society. He widened Broadway between 34th Street and 59th Street. He was also influential in the constructions of many buildings in Manhattan. Tweed fought for the New York State Legislature to donate to private charities of all religions. He personally contributed to many Catholic schools, orphanages, and hospitals. William also helped raise teacher’s salaries. William Marcy “Boss” Tweed had many positive and negative impacts on society.

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