Boss Rule in the Gilded Age: Matt Quay of Pennsylvania

By James A. Kehl | Go to book overview

5
The Unofficial Government> 1884-1895

ON these ruins the Republicans had to rebuild, and Quay had prepared himself to be the design engineer. Schooled in the fundamentals of the political arts and capable of in-depth analysis of political variables, he contributed more than any other individual to the new model of the political machine that emerged in the late eighties and remained politically fashionable for more than a generation. Relatively isolated from the Republican debacle in 1884 and less of a political villain in his home state than Cameron, Quay was in a strategic position to take command, and he seized the opportunity.

As both Camerons had learned from their business ventures, an organization functions most efficiently under centralized leadership. Convinced of Quay's political savoir faire, and comforted by the knowledge that he did not possess the financial independence to stray far from their principles, they accepted without challenge his move to assume domination of Pennsylvania's Republican party. In time Quay developed his own source of funds, but the Cameron trust was well placed. He never prevented them from sharing fully in the spoils that his innovative techniques produced. This cooperative spirit may have been fostered by gratitude, but, given Quay's instincts for good politics, any other course would have been unthinkable. To brush the Camerons aside would have disrupted the party, and there was no need for that. There were enough spoils for all.


Boss Rule in Transition

In a preliminary review of the crisis, Quay assessed the characteristics -particularly the weaknesses -- of the obviously obsolete machine that

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