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Title: Dissensions of Tammany

Creator: Walt Whitman [unsigned in original]

Date: April 1, 1842

Whitman Archive ID: per.00397

Source: New York Aurora 1 April 1842: [2]. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue. Original issue held at the Paterson Free Public Library, Paterson, NJ. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the journalism, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: This piece is unsigned. However, Whitman was the editor of the Aurora when this editorial was written, and Herbert Bergman identified him as its author in Walt Whitman, The Journalism. Volume I: 1834–1846 (New York: Peter Lang, 1998). The Whitman Archive editors agree that the style and content of the piece are consistent with other known Whitman writings of this period.

Contributors to digital file: Sean Courtney, Elijah Ekstedt, Jason Stacy, and Kevin McMullen

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Dissensions of Tammany.

From authentic sources we are assured that there will before long be a grand flare up in Tammany.1 We "shouldn't wonder" at all. The fanning of flames of discord, and the attempts of a moiety2 to rule or ruin, and the blind adherence of another moiety to a course which will evidently lead to overthrow—all these operate in such a manner as to make an open rupture inevitable.

For a long series of years, the democratic nominations have depended largely for their success upon the votes of adopted citizens. A large portion of this body is now in open rebellion. It has been induced to think itself of great importance—to consider its value as far higher than it really is. Caresses have been bestowed so liberally upon these people, and so much has from time to time been yielded to their whims—that they imagine nothing must be denied them. The democratic candidate for re-election to the mayoralty may expect no votes from the adopted citizens. Morris himself does not expect any. They are open and loud in their determination to go strong against him.3

The New Era cannot govern Tammany. Joined with the Catholic interest, and both together holding power over several hundred ballots—they can threaten her; but she has too much of her ancient spirit left to yield to fear. The most respectable and intelligent portion of the democrats are decided in their resolution to love Rome more than Cæsar.4

It is but a short while ago, that a project was formed by a number of the leading democrats of New York to establish a paper to supersede the Era. Whether the Era people promised amendment, or whether from pity to its certain dissolution, we know not; but the project was never carried through. At various times a number of other attempts have been made to furnish Tammany with a respectable newspaper. And though these attempts were abortive, they served to show, plainly enough, the dissatisfaction and contempt with which the party themselves look upon their accredited organ.

The democratic party is far from unfriendly to foreigners. While the federalists of former times, and "National Republicans" of a later date, have obstinately persisted in refusing to acknowledge the claims of adopted citizens to the elective franchise, Tammany has stood forth, their bold and eloquent champion 5 And this has been because democracy, in its true practice, acknowledges the greatest universality of rights, and all men's claims to the blessings of government.

But Tammany will never be ruled by a clique of ignorant demagogues and foreign priests. Let the dissevering of the old bond of union come as quick as it may, (and that it must come in a very few weeks, no one can doubt,) the democratic party cannot, will not yield their dignity as American citizens, their rights as freemen, and their love of country as republicans and patriots. Hughes and the New Era6 may embroil the party—but they will never be allowed to tyrannise over it.


1. Tammany Hall was the Democratic Party's center of power in New York City and its headquarters. Tammany controlled politics in New York City by means of bribery, political appointments, and securing the support of new immigrants who were welcomed into the Party. For further reading, see: Tyler Anbinder, "'We Will Dirk Every Mother's Son of You': Five Points and the Irish Conquest of New York Politics," Éire, Ireland: A Journal of Irish Studies 36, no. 1–2 (2001): 29–46. [back]

2. According to the American Dictionary of the English Language (1839), "moiety" are the two parts into which a thing is or can be divided. [back]

3. Robert Morris was elected mayor in 1841 and was reelected in 1842 and 1843. Morris was defeated in 1844 by the nativist American Republicans, and their candidate, James Harper. See: Historical Sketch of the Board of Supervisors of the County of New York with the Names of its Members, From its Creation to the Present Time (New York: L. S. Harrison, 1862), 24; and Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 632. [back]

4. "To love Rome more than Caesar" refers to Shakespeare's play, "Julius Caesar." The play is about the fall of Caesar and the war that ensues after Caesar's assassination. Brutus declares, "Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more." [back]

5. Whitman here classifies the Whigs with the old parties of elite control, the Federalists of Alexander Hamilton and the National Republicans of John Quincy Adams, distinguishing all three from the current Democrats. [back]

6. Bishop John Hughes (1797–1864), who played an important role in New York City politics during the 1800's, fought for the public financing of Catholic schools and used his influence over the Irish-Catholic community to pursue this end. For further reading, see: Martin L. Meenagh, "Archbishop John Hughes and the New York Schools Controversy of 1840–43," American Nineteenth Century History 5, no. 1 (2004): 35–62. [back]


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