Thomas C. Platt

Thomas Collier Platt (July 15, 1833 – March 6, 1910) was a two-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1873–1877) and a three-term U.S. Senator from New York in the years 1881 and 1897–1909. He is best known as the "political boss" of the Republican Party in New York State in the late 19th century and early 20th century.[1] Upon his death, the New York Times stated that "no man ever exercised less influence in the Senate or the House of Representatives than he," but "no man ever exercised more power as a political leader."[2] He considered himself the "political godfather" of many Republican governors of the state, including Theodore Roosevelt.[3]

Platt played a key role in the creation of the City of Greater New York, which incorporated together the boroughs of New York (Manhattan), Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Richmond (Staten Island) and Bronx counties.

Thomas C. Platt
Thomas C. Platt cph.3f06256
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 27th district
In office
March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1875
Preceded byHorace B. Smith
Succeeded byElbridge G. Lapham
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 28th district
In office
March 4, 1875 – March 3, 1877
Preceded byHorace B. Smith
Succeeded byJeremiah W. Dwight
United States Senator
from New York
In office
March 4, 1881 – May 16, 1881
Preceded byFrancis Kernan
Succeeded byWarner Miller
United States Senator
from New York
In office
March 4, 1897 – March 3, 1909
Preceded byDavid B. Hill
Succeeded byElihu Root
Personal details
Born
Thomas Collier Platt

July 15, 1833
Owego, New York
DiedMarch 6, 1910 (aged 76)
New York City, New York
Political partyRepublican

Biography

Early years

Thomas C. Platt - Brady-Handy
Thomas C. Platt

Platt was born to William Platt, a lawyer, and Lesbia Hinchman, in Owego, Tioga County, New York on July 15, 1833.[4] State Senator Nehemiah Platt (1797–1851) was William Platt's brother.

William Platt, a successful attorney and strict Presbyterian, encouraged his son to enter the ministry. Accordingly, the young Platt was prepared for college at the Owego Academy and attended Yale College (1850–1852), where he studied theology, but failed to earn a degree owing to ill health which forced his withdrawal.[5]

After leaving Yale in 1852, he entered into a variety of employments. He started out as a druggist (a business in which he was engaged for two decades), was briefly an editor of a small newspaper, served as President of the Tioga National Bank, and was interested in the lumbering business in Michigan. He also acted as President of the Southern Central and other railways.

In 1852, he married his cousin[5] Ellen Lucy Barstow, with whom he had three sons: Edward T. Platt, Frank H. Platt, and Henry B. Platt.[6]

Platt became Secretary and a director of the United States Express Co. in 1879 and was elected President of the company in 1880. He was a member and President of the Board of Quarantine Commissioners of New York from 1880 to 1888. He was President of the Tennessee Coal & Iron Company for several years.

Political career

Platt's political involvement began at the Republican Party's inception; he made his first appearance in politics in 1856, in the presidential campaign of the party's first presidential candidate, John C. Fremont.[2] Running as a Republican, he was elected clerk of Tioga County, serving from 1859 to 1861. He was elected as a Republican to the Forty-third United States Congress and the Forty-fourth United States Congress, serving from March 4, 1873 to March 3, 1877. His influence on statewide politics began on his return from Congress in 1877, when he aligned with the "Stalwart" faction led by U.S. Senator Roscoe Conkling at the party's state convention, and against the "Half-Breed" faction loyal to President Rutherford B. Hayes.[2]

In January 1881 he was elected with the support of the Stalwart faction to represent New York in the United States Senate. He became a member of the Forty-seventh Congress and the chairman of the Committee on Enrolled Bills. However, he only served from March 4 to May 16, 1881, when he and Conkling resigned because of a disagreement with President James Garfield over federal appointments in New York. (Platt resigned at Conkling's insistence, earning him the nickname of "Me Too" Platt.) The immediate occasion of their resignation was Garfield's appointment of Half-Breed faction leader William H. Robertson as Collector of the Port of New York. Soon thereafter, however, Garfield's assassination by Charles J. Guiteau, a self-proclaimed Stalwart who claimed friendships with Platt and Conkling, was the finishing blow for their faction.[2] Platt and Conkling ran in the special election to fill the vacancies created by their own resignations, and lost.[2] Eschewing elective office, Platt then devoted his attention to mending fences and rebuilding the machine, which he then ran after 1887 as an "easy boss."[2]

Sixteen years after Platt's resignation, he was elected to the U.S. Senate a second time. He was elected a U.S. Senator from New York in January 1897, and was re-elected in January 1903. This time, he served from March 4, 1897, to March 3, 1909. He was Chairman of the Committee on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard (in the 55th Congress). He was on the Committee on Printing (in the 56th through 60th Congresses), the Committee on Cuban Relations (in the 59th Congress) and the Committee on Interoceanic Canals (in the 59th Congress). He also served on the Republican National Committee.

On January 21, 1897, Platt's photograph appeared in the New York Tribune as "the first halftone reproduction to appear in a mass circulation daily paper," according to Time-Life's Photojournalism.

In order to increase his power as a political boss, Platt steered passage of the Greater New York bill in 1898. The bill incorporated the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island into the city, thereby creating New York City as it exists today.

Platt reluctantly supported Theodore Roosevelt's candidacy for Governor of New York in 1898, in the immediate aftermath of Roosevelt's fame leading the Rough-Riders in the Spanish–American War earlier that year. Once elected, Governor Roosevelt was independently minded, and crusaded against machines and corruption. In response, Platt sought a way to "shelve" Roosevelt so that a more compliant Governor could be installed in his place.[2] President William McKinley's original vice president had died in office, leaving a place on the ticket to fill before the 1900 election. At the 1900 Republican National Convention, Platt and President McKinley's political ally Mark Hanna proposed to get Roosevelt out of Platt's way in New York by nominating him for vice president.[2] Roosevelt was chosen by acclamation, played a major part in McKinley winning re-election, and became president in September 1901 after McKinley was assassinated in office.

Platt's control over the Republican Party in New York State effectively ended in 1902. Benjamin Barker Odell Jr., Roosevelt's successor as governor, had not only acted independently of Platt, but by 1902 insisted on taking over from Platt as leader of the party. After Platt tried, and failed, to block Odell's renomination as governor and Odell was re-elected, the era of a separate "boss" was over.[2]

Platt was a member of the New York Society of Colonial Wars.

Later years, death, and legacy

Two years after his first wife died in 1901, he married Lillian Janeway, whom the New York Times described as "young enough in appearance to pass for his daughter."[7] Their legal separation was announced in 1906, with Platt agreeing to pay his estranged wife $75,000 in exchange for her dropping all financial claims upon him and dismissing a suit for divorce which had been previously filed.[5]

During his final years Platt suffered from a palsy of his legs which confined him to a wheelchair for a majority of the time.[5] He was stricken by what was diagnosed as an acute attack of Bright's disease on May 28, 1909, a case so severe that his doctor publicly predicted his patient's eminent demise.[5] Platt recovered, however, convalescing until late in January 1910, when he was deemed well enough to return home to his Manhattan apartment.[5]

Seemingly restored to heath, Platt was suddenly stricken by a second attack of kidney disease at about 1 pm in the afternoon of March 6, 1910.[5] His personal physician was called, but it was immediately deemed apparent that there would be no recovery in this second life-threatening incident.[5] Platt died in his own bed at about 4 pm on that same day.[5]

On March 7, Republican Governor Charles Evans Hughes ordered flags of state buildings to be flown at half-staff in commemoration of the death of the former United States Senator, an action setting a precedent in New York of state government honoring such a former federal elected official in that manner.[8]

Platt's body was interred in Evergreen Cemetery, Owego, N.Y. At the time of his death he remained married to Lillian, but she received nothing in his will.[6]

His namesake great grandson was the lawyer and judge Thomas Collier Platt Jr.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Samuel P. Orth, The Boss and the Machine, 124 (1919).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Progress and Fall of Platt, Easy Boss," New York Times, 1910-06-07 at p. 2.
  3. ^ Thomas C. Platt, "The Autobiography of Thomas Collier Platt" (1910).
  4. ^ "Platt, Thomas Collier." Grolier Encyclopedia of Knowledge, volume 15, copyright 1991. Grolier Inc., ISBN 0-7172-5300-7
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Thomas C. Platt Dead at 77," New York Call, vol. 3, no. 66 (March 7, 1910), pg. 1.
  6. ^ a b "All Platt's Estate Goes to his Sons," New York Times, 1910-03-26 at p. 9
  7. ^ "Platts Have Separated; Formally Announce It," New York Times, 1906-11-15 at p. 1.
  8. ^ "Governor Hughes Praises Platt," New York Call, vol. 3, no. 67 (March 8, 1910), p. 3.

Bibliography

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Horace B. Smith
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 27th congressional district

1873–1875
Succeeded by
Elbridge G. Lapham
Preceded by
Horace B. Smith
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 28th congressional district

1875–1877
Succeeded by
Jeremiah W. Dwight
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Francis Kernan
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New York
1881
Served alongside: Roscoe Conkling
Succeeded by
Warner Miller
Preceded by
David B. Hill
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from New York
1897–1909
Served alongside: Edward Murphy, Jr., Chauncey M. Depew
Succeeded by
Elihu Root
1875 United States Senate election in New York

The 1875 United States Senate election in New York was held on January 19 and 20, 1875, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator (Class 1) to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.

1880 and 1881 United States Senate elections

The United States Senate elections of 1880 and 1881 were elections that conicided with the presidential election of 1880, and had the Democratic Party lose five seats in the United States Senate. The newly elected Readjuster senator caucused with the Republicans, and the Republican Vice President's tie-breaking vote gave the Republicans the slightest majority. All of that changed September 19, 1881 when the Vice President ascended to the Presidency and the Senate became evenly-divided.

As these elections were prior to ratification of the seventeenth amendment, Senators were chosen by State legislatures.

1881 United States Senate election in New York

The 1881 United States Senate election in New York was held on January 18, 1881, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator (Class 1) to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.

1881 United States Senate special elections in New York

The 1881 United States Senate special election in New York was held from May 31 to July 22, 1881, by the New York State Legislature to elect two U.S. Senators (Class 1 and Class 3) to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.

1887 United States Senate election in New York

The 1887 United States Senate election in New York was held from January 18 to 20, 1887, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator (Class 1) to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.

1897 United States Senate election in New York

The 1897 United States Senate election in New York was held on January 19, 1897, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator (Class 3) to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.

1899 United States Senate election in New York

The 1899 United States Senate election in New York was held on January 17, 1899, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator (Class 1) to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.

1902 and 1903 United States Senate elections

The United States Senate elections of 1902 and 1903 were elections which had the Democratic Party gain three seats in the United States Senate, but the Republicans kept their strong majority.

As these elections were prior to ratification of the seventeenth amendment, Senators were chosen by State legislatures.

1903 United States Senate election in New York

The 1903 United States Senate election in New York was held on January 20, 1903, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator (Class 3) to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.

Benjamin Odell (politician)

Benjamin Barker Odell Jr. (January 14, 1854 – May 9, 1926) was an American businessman and politician who served as the 34th Governor of New York from 1901 to 1904.

David B. Hill

David Bennett Hill (August 29, 1843 – October 20, 1910) was an American politician from New York who was the 29th Governor of New York from 1885 to 1891. He also represented New York in the United States Senate from 1892 to 1897.

Francis Kernan

Francis Kernan (January 14, 1816 – September 7, 1892) was an American lawyer and politician. A resident of New York, he was active in politics as a Democrat, and served in several elected offices, including member of the New York State Assembly, member of the United States House of Representatives, and United States Senator from 1875 to 1881.

Harold Foote Gosnell

Harold Foote Gosnell (December 24, 1896 – January 9, 1997) was an American political scientist and author, known for his research and writings on American politics, elections, and political parties.

Gosnell attended the University of Rochester, graduating summa cum laude in 1918. He went on to the University of Chicago, where in 1922 he received his doctorate. He became a professor at Chicago and taught there until 1941. During World War II, he went to Washington DC, as a budget analyst and later as an operations officer for the United States Department of State, while he continued to study and write on politics. He served in the federal government until 1960, and was on the faculty at American University. From 1962 to 1972, he was a professor of political science at Howard University.A student of political scientist Charles Edward Merriam, Gosnell published work in the 1920s that pioneered new approaches using psychology to examine voting and political behavior. His dissertation on New York politics, Thomas C. Platt ("Boss" Platt) and Theodore Roosevelt was published, and then Non-voting, Causes and Methods of Control (1924, with Merriam) and Getting out the Vote: An Experiment in the Stimulation of Voting (1927). In 1936, Gosnell won the first Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Negro Politicians: Rise of Negro Politics in Chicago. In the 1930s, he also wrote about machine politics in Chicago, and then in the 1960s revised his work in this area. During the Cold War, Gosnell studied the Soviet Union.Each year in honor of Gosnell's work, the Society for Political Methodology awards the Gosnell Prize for Excellence in Political Methodology. The prize is given to the author(s) of the best work in political methodology, which has been presented at the political science conferences during the preceding year.

John D. Lawson (politician)

John Daniel Lawson (February 18, 1816 – January 24, 1896) was a U.S. Representative from New York.

Born in Montgomery, New York, Lawson attended the public schools, moved to New York City and was employed as a clerk in a dry-goods store. He became a successful merchant, and was active in politics as a Republican. Lawson served as a delegate to every Republican state, county, and district convention for thirty years, as well as the national conventions from 1868 to 1892. In 1884 he succeeded Thomas C. Platt as New York's member of the Republican National Committee.

Lawson was elected as a Republican to the Forty-third Congress (March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1875). After his unsuccessful bid for reelection, he resumed his former business pursuits. He died in New York City on January 24, 1896, and was interred in Green-Wood Cemetery.

John G. Wallenmeier Jr.

John G. Wallenmeier (October 10, 1862 Buffalo, Erie County, New York – October 25, 1917 Tonawanda, Erie County, New York) was an American politician.

Stalwarts (politics)

The Stalwarts were a faction of the Republican Party that existed briefly in the United States during and after Reconstruction and the Gilded Age during the 1870s and 1880s. Led by U.S. Senator Roscoe Conkling—also known as "Lord Roscoe"—Stalwarts were sometimes called Conklingites. Other notable Stalwarts include Chester A. Arthur and Thomas C. Platt, who were in favor of Ulysses S. Grant, the eighteenth President of the United States (1869–1877), running for a third term. They were the "traditional" Republicans who opposed Rutherford B. Hayes's civil service reform. They were pitted against the "Half-Breeds" (moderates) for control of the Republican Party. The most prominent issue between Stalwarts and Half-Breeds was patronage. The Half-Breeds worked to get civil service reform, and finally created the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. This was signed by Arthur, who became President after the assassination of James A. Garfield, a Half-Breed. Stalwarts favored traditional machine politics.

Thomas Collier Platt Jr.

Thomas Collier Platt Jr. (May 29, 1925 – March 4, 2017) was a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Warner Miller

Warner Miller (August 12, 1838 – March 21, 1918) was a Representative and a United States Senator from New York.

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