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The United States Grows
(1865-1900)

William "Boss" Tweed - Adventures in Justice



William "Boss" Tweed - Adventures in Justice
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.05

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    acquittal, big-bellied, ever-shifting, incontrovertible, larceny, near-acquittal, plainclothes, printing, satirical, kaleidoscope, fraudulent, divulge, corruption, dropout, facet, farce
     content words:    New York, Democratic Party, New York City, New York Times, Boss Tweed, Thomas Nast, Tweed Ring, Us Prey, In December, Samuel J.


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William "Boss" Tweed - Adventures in Justice
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     Have you ever dreamed of having your own private moneymaking machine? That's what William "Boss" Tweed considered the city of New York to be. Tweed, a school dropout known for his tendency to fight at the drop of a hat, rose to leadership in the Democratic Party and eventually dominated the whole spectrum of New York City finances.
 
2     Tweed and his cohorts raked in millions through fraudulent contracts and inflated charges or "kickbacks." When a new courthouse that was projected to cost $500,000 finished at $12.5 million over budget, a committee investigated. The investigative report cost $8,000 to print. In yet another facet of the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of swindles that continued to fatten the wallets of Tweed's gang, it turned out that the printing company was owned by Tweed. Meanwhile, New York City's debt increased by $81 million in less than three years.
 
3     Finally, the inevitable happened. A disgruntled member of his ring sold Tweed out to an investigative reporter. New York Times articles revealed the web of corruption with Tweed at its center. Though he tried to pay the Times to stop, the stories didn't upset Boss Tweed too much. When you have the police and judges in your pocket, why worry?
 
4     Then, Harper's Weekly began to publish satirical cartoons by Thomas Nast, featuring the “Tweed Ring.” In one cartoon, Tweed and gang, portrayed as big-bellied vultures, stood over a body labeled "New York." The caption read "Let Us Prey." Tweed did get upset about the cartoons. "Stop those pictures!" Tweed roared. "I don't care so much about the papers. My constituents can't read. But they can't help seeing them ... pictures!"
 
5     With details going public, how long could Boss Tweed continue to operate? In December of 1871, several of the Tweed Ring were arrested. Boss Tweed immediately posted $1 million bail and was released. In 1873, Tweed's trial began. By this time, most of Tweed's cronies had taken their money and run.

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The United States Grows
(1865-1900)

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