The Role Of Political Machines In The Early 19th Century

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Political machines were a very corrupt but necessary group during the 19th century into the early 20th. They were a local political party organization that made it possible to get a large number of voters out to get their candidate elected. Political machines were appealing to immigrants and other poor people living in the cities as much as they were important to the politician they got elected.
There were 3 components to the political machines: the county committee, the ward or precinct leaders and the party loyalists. The county committee members were those that held the top offices in the county political party. People like Thomas J Pendergast from Kansas City, James Michael Curley in Boston and Richard J Daley from Chicago. At this level they controlled the party’s nominations, the money and the votes. Much of their power came from the people that they got elected that owed them favors for the votes.
The ward and precincts were where most of the action took place. A precinct is the smallest district for electoral votes and a ward is how a city is divided. There were committeemen and captains at this level. People working at this level very often were given government jobs for the work they did for the party.
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Part of the reason was the beginning of the progressive era. With the start of civil service merit to get government jobs the ability to reward a worker with a good job went away and with that the power of the political machine did too. Without the jobs to give, the workers went away. With the progressive era came the beginning of social services and welfare so no longer were the political machines necessary to provide for the residents in their ward. Another reason is that primary elections were beginning to put a damper on the ability of the political machine to appoint the nominee they wanted to run for
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