The Political Mayor
O N January 8, 1857, a gloating Fernando Wood wrote James Buchanan: "There is no other general committee [than Wilson Small's] in this city and no body of men assuming to be so. We have one organization for the first time since 1848." Armed as the master of the city and encouraging the belief that he was a "personal friend of the President-elect," Wood was unaware that Henry Wikoff had discovered his deception, and never doubted that he was Buchanan's chief patronage agent.1
Wood's self-promotion signified a general intensification of political activity in the city among his Democratic antagonists. Hards and Softs -- men such as Sickles, Fowler, Purdy, Cochrane, Sweeny, Tweed, and Samuel J. Tilden, who were normally enemies -- coalesced behind their mutual hostility to Wood. Quite simply, the distinction between local Hards and Softs over differing versions of slavery extensionism was now meaningless. The result split Tammany in new directions. City politics became less issue-orientated and more personal, directed against the one-man ruler. The party would have few days of peace until it accepted Wood's will or laid him to rest.
The showdown between the Democracy's new alignments began when the anti-Woodites, now called the New York Hotel Committee, used the one variable Wood did not control, the Tammany Society, as a protective cover to launch their attack. Warning signs surfaced the previous November. By a twovote majority, the Council of Sachems had foiled Wood's attempt to name Small grand sachem, and started a systematic program of enrolling new brothers, none Woodites. In January, shortly after Wood formed Small's committee, seven out of twelve sachems, huddled around Isaac Fowler, swung their weight by authorizing an investigation of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the General Committee's construction and barred Small from holding meetings in the party's tabernacle, the Wigwam. Mobilizing further support, Fowler, Purdy, and Sweeny used Savage as a figurehead chairman and created a second