W OODS'S brutal defeat was a mixed blessing. Whatever the emotional and psychological costs, it did provide invaluable time for his burgeoning business ventures. Over the next three years, he seemed content as a real estate magnate. He immersed himself in consolidating his wealth, spent many hours with his wife refurbishing their home, and welcomed the birth of two more children. The Wood household, with three permanent servants, along with five active children and his aged mother,1 settled into a stable routine, far different from his parents' disruptive lives.
Wood furthered the impression that his political days were over by leaving the city on April 27, 1852, with Larkin as a traveling companion for a trip to San Francisco to investigate his holdings, some of which suffered through a rash of disastrous fires. Upon landing, Wood signed deeds, viewed his properties, and found a collection agent. By August, he was back home.2 In short, Wood appeared no different from a host of other failed mayoral nominees, a brief meteor who had burnt out after momentarily lighting the partisan sky.
By 1853, a major political reorganization gripped New York City politics. Both Democrats and Whigs crumbled under the weight of almost similar internal ambiguities involving slavery extension, temperance, class tension, civic reform, and nativism. The Whigs fell first over, many finding a home in the fledgling Know- Nothing party, whose membership was secret. Tammany was in shambles. President Franklin Pierce wielded patronage aimed at making the Democracy a moderate, national force by isolating extremists on the right and left. He failed in New York. The Hards, interpreting Pierce's program as an insult, revived their General Committee. It was chaired by Thomas J. Barr and guided by his nephew, Peter B. Sweeny, and promising Congressman William M. Tweed. They then formed a permanent state party under former Senator Daniel S. Dickinson of Binghamton. In reaction, the Softs organized a second General Committee, run by Lorenzo Shepard and Congressman John Cochrane, which created a second