A Study in Boss Politics: William Lorimer of Chicago

By Joel Arthur Tarr | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
The Federal Faction versus the State Fact 9 186,-l902

WHILE WILLIAM LORIMER'S POSITION as party boss and his alliances with traction and gas interests subjected him to severe attack from municipal reformers, these critics never posed a serious threat to his base of political power. The voters who elected him to Congress for seven terms looked to the positive benefits they received from Lorimer and his organization and rejected the criticisms as unimportant.

More threatening to Lorimer than the vocal but often powerless reformers were his factional party rivals, especially the politicians who had formed the McKinley organization in the 1896 nominating campaign. If McKinley had lost in 1896, his Illinois supporters would have had no rationale for their continued existence as a separate entity and no patronage to make such existence possible. But McKinley was elected, and his backers had to be rewarded. Two Republican organizations thus appeared in Illinois--the first tied to the state administration which had opposed McKinley's nomination and the second to the federal. On one side were Lorimer, Tanner, and their followers; on the other Charles G. Dawes and "original McKinley men" like William J. Calhoun, Charles U. Gordon, and General John C. McNulta. Eventually, the two U.S. senators from Illinois, Shelby M. Cullom and William E. Mason, also stood with the federal faction.

Structural factors partially accounted for this intra-party struggle. Because of the country's federal form of government and the absence of a strong national organization, political power rested with the state or local party. Major political parties represented little more than an amalgamation of state organizations that united every four years to

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