Eleven percent of all eligible New Yorkers voted on Tuesday, November 2, 1999. I was among them. I was also among a smaller minority. I was a candidate myself—for Richmond County district attorney on the Right to Life ticket. How did an Irish Catholic regular Democrat come to this?
Some claim that Mother’s Day was invented by Frank E. Hering, a district governor of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, who first called for Mother’s Day in a 1904 speech in Indianapolis on February 7, 1904. Others hold that Anna M. Jarvis, a wealthy Philadelphia spinster, thought it up. Yet if any man fathered Mother’s Day, he is the Hon. James Thomas “Cotton Tom” Heflin of Alabama, who as a
New York was mother of exiles long before Emma Lazarus bestowed that accolade on the Statue of Liberty. Some merely sought respite from the struggle. Giuseppe Garibaldi, between commanding the armies of the revolutionary Roman Republic in 1848 and the unification of Italy in 1860, spent a quiet year or so in Rosebank, Staten Island. Many Latin American revolutionaries also spent time in New York: the father of Cuban independence, Jose Martí, for instance, whose dashing features now adorn rum advertisements.
In the late spring of 1866, one might have met another Latin American exile—a lesser man but a more successful politician—limping up Broadway
He started as a fourteen-year-old corset-maker, and would be a sailor, tax collector, schoolteacher and Fleet Street hack. His parents’ generosity gave him eight years’ schooling; he made himself a political writer of force and eloquence comparable to Edmund Burke, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, and wrote three
In 1789, two years after Thomas Paine’s return to Europe with a prospectus for a 500-foot long single span bridge (like all his business schemes, it was a nonstarter), the King of France called the Estates-General into session for the first time in nearly 200 years to increase
Congress, as Mark Twain tells us, is our native criminal class. Most of us believe Congressmen can get away with murder. Few get away with it in the first degree. In 1859, the Hon. Daniel Edgar Sickles, Democrat of New York, did.
The Royal Governors of the Province of New York, the men who ruled here in the names of Britain’s kings and queens before the Revolutionary War, are forgotten. Place-names recall some. Fort Tryon Park bears the last royal governor’s name. Staten Island’s Dongan Hills commemorates Col. Thomas Dongan
Elections are dull because politicians are. They can’t help it: only safe, conventional men and women with bland, plausible personalities can raise the kind of money required to pay for television commercials and bulk mailings. Authentic old-fashioned elections—those orgies of repeating, ballot-box stuffing, and election day riots with their torch-lit parades and bonfires, their bunting and barbecues—have vanished from the land.
In Roscoe, William Kennedy continues working the vein prospected by two minor classics, William Riordan’s Plunkett of Tammany Hall and Edwin O’Brien’s The Last Hurrah. The seventh Kennedy novel set in the author’s hometown of Albany, New York, is elegantly crafted, often uproariously funny, and betrays both a profound understanding of human frailty born of original sin and the sure knowledge that man born of woman is doomed to sorrow.
His characters, of course, enjoy themselves as best they can, usually at each other’s expense. Thus, one of Roscoe’s numerous memorable minor characters, Mac, one of the cops who assassinated Legs Diamond
On November 7, 1876 Samuel Jones Tilden, Democrat, of New York, won the election to succeed Ulysses S. Grant as President of the United States. On March 5, 1877 a Republican from Ohio placed his hand on the Bible, looked the Chief Justice in the eye, and repeated, “I, Rutherford Birchard Hayes, do solemnly swear…” The elections of 1876 are unique: the only time when we know the result was fixed and the loser entered the White House.