William Sulzer

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William Sulzer
William Sulzer, portrait taken by Chicago studio.jpg
39th Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1913 October 17, 1913
Lieutenant Martin H. Glynn
Preceded by John Alden Dix
Succeeded by Martin H. Glynn
Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives
from New York's 10th district
In office
March 4, 1903 December 31, 1912
Preceded by Edward Swann
Succeeded by Herman A. Metz
Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives
from New York's 11th district
In office
March 4, 1895 March 3, 1903
Preceded by Amos J. Cummings
Succeeded by William Randolph Hearst
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the New York County 10th district
In office
January 1, 1893 December 31, 1894
Preceded by William Sohmer
Succeeded by Jacob Kunzenman
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the New York County 14th district
In office
January 1, 1890 December 31, 1892
Preceded by Thomas J. Creamer
Succeeded by Daniel F. Martin
Personal details
Born(1863-03-18)March 18, 1863
Elizabeth, New Jersey
DiedNovember 6, 1941(1941-11-06) (aged 78)
New York City, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s)Clara Rodelheim (m. 1908)
ProfessionAttorney

William Sulzer (March 18, 1863 – November 6, 1941) was an American lawyer and politician, nicknamed Plain Bill Sulzer. He was the 39th Governor of New York and a long-serving congressman from the same state. He was the first and so far only New York governor to be impeached. He broke with his sponsors at Tammany Hall, and they produced convincing evidence that Sulzer had falsified his sworn statement of campaign expenditures. [1]

Tammany Hall Political organization

Tammany Hall, also known as the Society of St. Tammany, the Sons of St. Tammany, or the Columbian Order, was a New York City political organization founded in 1786 and incorporated on May 12, 1789, as the Tammany Society. It was the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in controlling New York City and New York State politics and helping immigrants, most notably the Irish, rise in American politics from the 1790s to the 1960s. It typically controlled Democratic Party nominations and political patronage in Manhattan from the mayoral victory of Fernando Wood in 1854 and used its patronage resources to build a loyal, well-rewarded core of district and precinct leaders; after 1850 the great majority were Irish Catholics.

Contents

Personal

William Sulzer was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on March 18, 1863, the son of Thomas Sulzer, who was German born, and Mary Cooney of Ireland. He was the second in a family of eight children, and his siblings included Charles August Sulzer, who pursued a successful political career in Alaska. He was reared on his family farm and attended the public schools of Elizabeth. At age 12 he left home and sailed as a cabin boy aboard a brig, the William H. Thompson. He returned to the family home a year later and became a clerk in a grocery store. [2]

Elizabeth, New Jersey City in Union County, New Jersey, U.S.

Elizabeth is both the largest city and the county seat of Union County, in New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 124,969, retaining its ranking as New Jersey's fourth most populous city, behind Paterson. The population increased by 4,401 (3.7%) from the 120,568 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 10,566 (+9.6%) from the 110,002 counted in the 1990 Census. For 2017, the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program calculated a population of 130,215, an increase of 4.2% from the 2010 enumeration, ranking the city the 212th-most-populous in the nation.

Charles August Sulzer Delegate to the United States House of Representatives from Alaska Territory

Charles August Sulzer was a delegate to the United States House of Representatives from the Territory of Alaska.

Alaska State of the United States of America

Alaska is a U.S. state in the northwest extremity of the United States West Coast, just across the Bering Strait from Asia. The Canadian province of British Columbia and territory of Yukon border the state to the east and southeast. Its most extreme western part is Attu Island, and it has a maritime border with Russia to the west across the Bering Strait. To the north are the Chukchi and Beaufort seas—southern parts of the Arctic Ocean. The Pacific Ocean lies to the south and southwest. It is the largest U.S. state by area and the seventh largest subnational division in the world. In addition, it is the 3rd least populous and the most sparsely populated of the 50 United States; nevertheless, it is by far the most populous territory located mostly north of the 60th parallel in North America: its population—estimated at 738,432 by the United States Census Bureau in 2015— is more than quadruple the combined populations of Northern Canada and Greenland. Approximately half of Alaska's residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area. Alaska's economy is dominated by the fishing, natural gas, and oil industries, resources which it has in abundance. Military bases and tourism are also a significant part of the economy.

Sulzer took night classes at Cooper Union before attending lectures at Columbia Law School and studying law with the New York City firm of Parish & Pendleton. He was admitted to the bar in 1884, and commenced practice in New York City. Even before beginning his law practice he was a member of Tammany Hall political machine serving as a popular stump speaker. [3] [2]

Cooper Union college in New York City

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, commonly known as Cooper Union or The Cooper Union and informally referred to, especially during the 19th century, as 'the Cooper Institute', is a private college at Cooper Square on the border of the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Inspired in 1830 when Peter Cooper learned about the government-supported École Polytechnique in France, Cooper Union was established in 1859. The school was built on a radical new model of American higher education based on founder Peter Cooper's fundamental belief that an education "equal to the best technology schools [then] established" should be accessible to those who qualify, independent of their race, religion, sex, wealth or social status, and should be "open and free to all".

Columbia Law School law school

Columbia Law School is a professional graduate school of Columbia University, a member of the Ivy League. It has always been ranked in the top five law schools in the United States by U.S. News and World Report. Columbia is especially well known for its strength in corporate law and its placement power in the nation's elite law firms.

Reading law is the method by which persons in common law countries, particularly the United States, entered the legal profession before the advent of law schools. This usage specifically refers to a means of entering the profession. Reading the law consists of an extended internship or apprenticeship under the tutelage or mentoring of an experienced lawyer. A small number of U.S. jurisdictions still permit this practice today.

He was married to Clara Rodelheim in 1908.

Career

Sulzer's career in politics began in 1884 when he worked for the Tammany Hall political machine on New York's East Side as a stump speaker for various Democratic campaigns including the presidential campaign of then-Governor Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland 22nd and 24th president of the United States

Stephen Grover Cleveland was an American politician and lawyer who was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, the only president in American history to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. He won the popular vote for three presidential elections—in 1884, 1888, and 1892—and was one of two Democrats to be elected president during the era of Republican political domination dating from 1861 to 1933.

Sulzer was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1890, 1891, 1892 (all three New York Co., 14th D.), 1893 and 1894 (both New York Co., 10th D.). His participation in the machine helped assure that he was appointed to the Committee on General Laws in his first term. [4] During his time in the Assembly he introduced bills seeking to abolish debtors' prisons, and to limit hours for workers. His popularity and loyalty to Tammany machine were such that in 1893, Tammany Boss Richard Croker selected Sulzer to be elected as Speaker of the New York State Assembly. The term was noted as being highly corrupt and highly partisan, as the Democratic machine dominated all committees, and with them the state budget. Sulzer himself declared during the term "[A]ll legislation came from Tammany Hall and was dictated by that great statesmen, Richard Croker." [5]

New York State Assembly lower house of the New York State Legislature

The New York State Assembly is the lower house of the New York State Legislature, the New York State Senate being the upper house. There are 150 seats in the Assembly, with each of the 150 Assembly districts having an average population of 128,652. Assembly members serve two-year terms without term limits.

113th New York State Legislature

The 113th New York State Legislature, consisting of the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly, met from January 7 to May 9, 1890, during the sixth year of David B. Hill's governorship, in Albany.

114th New York State Legislature

The 114th New York State Legislature, consisting of the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly, met from January 6 to April 30, 1891, during the seventh year of David B. Hill's governorship, in Albany.

During his time in the Assembly, Sulzer was a delegate to the 1892 Democratic National Convention, and returned as such to every national convention until 1912.

The 1892 Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago, Illinois, June 21–June 23, 1892 and nominated former President Grover Cleveland, who had been the party's standard-bearer in 1884 and 1888. This marked the last time a former president was renominated by a major party. Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois was nominated for Vice President. The ticket was victorious in the general election, defeating the Republican nominees, President Benjamin Harrison and his running-mate Whitelaw Reid.

United States Congressman

Sulzer somewhere around the turn of the 20th century. William Sulzer NY.jpg
Sulzer somewhere around the turn of the 20th century.
Pennsylvania Governor Tener (center) with Governors Dix and Sulzer of New York in 1912. John Tener Governor.jpg
Pennsylvania Governor Tener (center) with Governors Dix and Sulzer of New York in 1912.

Sulzer was elected to the 54th United States Congress in 1894, and served as a U.S. Representative in the eight succeeding Congresses, from March 4, 1895, to December 31, 1912, representing the 10th Congressional District.

In Congress he was a Populist, known for his oratory. Declaring himself to be a "friend to all humanity and a champion of liberty", he supported the Cuban rebels during their War of Independence, and during the Second Boer War introduced a resolution supporting the Boer Republics and banning the sale of military supplies and munitions to the British Empire. Repeatedly he called for resolutions condemning Czarist Russia over the issue of pogroms. In the Sixty-second United States Congress he chaired the Committee on Foreign Affairs, from which he proposed a resolution praising the Revolution of 1911. He also opposed United States intervention in the Mexican Revolution, and proposed a unanimously supported bill to annul the Treaty of 1832 with Russia due to a Russian refusal to recognize the passports of Jewish-Americans. [7]

Sulzer during his time in Congress supported numerous Progressive goals in terms of popular democracy and efficiency. He was a supporter of the creation of the United States Department of Labor, the direct election of senators --- for which he proposed a resolution in support of --- and the eight-hour day. In the Election of 1896 he supported the nomination of and campaigned for William Jennings Bryan. [8]

In 1896, for the first time he announced his candidacy for the governorship but was rejected by Tammany and the Democratic Party at large. In 1898 Richard Croker openly opposed his attempt for the Democratic nomination. [9] For the next six elections Sulzer was continually rejected for the Democratic nomination for governor, losing to Tammany supported politicians such as William Randolph Hearst, and John Alden Dix.

In 1912 though, the split between the Republicans and the Progressives meant that the Democratic nomination was likely to win. This in turn prompted a fight in the Democrats, as reformers disappointed in Governor Dix's support for Tammany moved to oust him from contention. The Empire State Democracy Party was even founded by reformers such as State Senator Franklin D. Roosevelt to run against Dix or any other clear Tammany candidate. In this crisis Sulzer found himself selected as a compromise candidate, acceptable to reform-minded and Tammany Democrats. The party united, Sulzer went on to defeat Republican Job E. Hedges and Progressive Oscar S. Straus.

He resigned from Congress effective December 31, 1912, having been elected Governor of New York in November 1912 for the term beginning on January 1, 1913.

Governor of New York

Sulzer was elected with the support of William Jennings Bryan, William Randolph Hearst and Woodrow Wilson, as well as the reform and Tammany factions of the state Democratic Party. Upon taking office Sulzer and Croker's successor "Silent Charlie" Murphy began to turn against each other as Sulzer claimed control of the state Democratic Party, rather than staying loyal to Tammany.

Attempts at reform

On taking office as governor, Sulzer in an initial move announced the renaming of the Executive Mansion "The People's House". [10] The populist rhetoric of this move was followed by a campaign to "let the people rule", through a series of reforms, including a move to promote open primaries for party nominations, and investigations into corruption in the legislature and executive branches of state government. At the same time Sulzer refused to follow Tammany decisions for state appointments. These moves would damage the power of Tammany and other machines, Democratic and Republican throughout the state, and empower Sulzer. The campaign for direct primaries would win him the support of Theodore Roosevelt and his Progressives, but also moved Tammany to stand firmly against him. [11]

Critics claimed that Sulzer was using the direct primary issue to build his own machine or to co-opt Tammany and assume control of it from Murphy, based on his populist appeal. Meanwhile, Sulzer and his supporters countered that the effort was necessary to promote fair government. [12]

By the end of April investigations against previously appointed Tammany officials had further developed the party split. And then on the 26th as the Open Primaries Bill moved to a vote Sulzer declared "If any Democrat in this State is against the Democratic State platform, that man is no true Democrat, and as the Democratic Governor of the State I shall do everything in my power to drive that recreant Democrat out of the Democratic Party." [13] In spite of the threat, both Machine and Independent Democrats voted against the bill overwhelmingly. The Machine delegates, led by Speaker Al Smith followed the orders of Murphy, while the Independent Democrats, mostly from rural, Upstate New York opposed the bill fearing that Open primaries would silence their influence and power against the weight of the urban vote.

Sulzer's refusal to work with Tammany on appointments was a major threat to the organization, which had since its foundation been dependent on Civil Service work to develop its power. One of the appointments that Sulzer refused to make was that of James E. Gaffney, owner of the 1914 "Miracle" Braves, to State Commissioner of Highways. [14]

Even after the defeat of the vote, Sulzer vowed to continue his fight with Murphy and the other bosses, and that there would be no Compromise. In response, the Tammany-allied State Comptroller William Sohmer moved to freeze payrolls for state highway and prison projects, and the State Senate under the leadership of another Tammany officer Robert F. Wagner refused to approve the Governor's appointments to the New York Public Service Commission.

Impeachment

As the conflict between Sulzer and Tammany moved on, accusations arose against the Governor, claiming that he committed perjury in an 1890 lawsuit, that he had been involved in fraudulent companies in Cuba while a Congressman, and that he was sued by a Philadelphia woman, who swore that he had broken a 1903 promise to marry her. He rejected all these claims and characterized the breach of promise lawsuit as a "frame-up". [15]

In May 1913, a Joint Committee was established by the state legislature to investigate the financial conduct of state institutions, with Senator James J. Frawley, a loyal Tammany Hall Democrat, appointed its Chairman. That summer the committee, using Tammany-provided information, accused Sulzer of having diverted campaign contributions to purchase stocks for himself and to have lied under oath in regards to it. Sulzer, his supporters and many historians later affirmed that the impeachment charges were made under instructions from Murphy, to remove him as an obstacle to Tammany Hall's influence in state politics. Sulzer's questioned the constitutionality of the committee. But as evidence was raised over his use of campaign funds, he began to lose the support of the national Democratic Party, including Theodore Roosevelt and William Randolph Hearst.

On August 11, 1913 the findings of the Frawley committee were announced to the state legislature, and moves began towards impeachment, managed by Tammany Hall's legislative leaders. The only support Sulzer had was in the Progressive legislators, who were too few to slow the process down. [16] Over the next two days the Governor opposed the secession at every term but was powerless to stop it, as Al Smith and Robert F. Wagner, Sr. maintained control of their respective houses.

In a last-minute attempt to prevent impeachment, the Governor's wife admitted to having been responsible for the theft of campaign funds, while the minority in the state Assembly allied to the Governor attempted to postpone proceedings based on the new evidence, but were unsuccessful and the decision came to a vote. [17]

On August 13, 1913, the New York Assembly voted to impeach Governor Sulzer, by a vote of 79 to 45. Sulzer was served with a summons to appear before the Court for the Trial of Impeachments, and Lieutenant Governor Martin H. Glynn was empowered to act in his place pending the outcome of the trial. However, Sulzer maintained that the proceedings against him were unconstitutional and refused to hand over his powers and duties. [18] Lt. Gov. Glynn, began signing documents as "Acting Governor" beginning on August 21, despite Sulzer's actions [19]

The trial of Sulzer before the Impeachment Court began in Albany on September 18. Sulzer had called upon Louis Marshall to head his defense team and Marshall agreed, telling his wife that he was not enthusiastic about the outcome. [20] The trial did not go well; Sulzer didn't even testify in his own defense. The court convicted Sulzer on three of the Articles of Impeachment on the afternoon of October 16, finding him guilty of filing a false report with the Secretary of State concerning his campaign contributions, committing perjury, and advising another person to commit perjury before an Assembly committee. [21] The following day, the court voted on a resolution to remove Sulzer from office. On October 17, 1913, Sulzer was removed by the same margin, a vote of 43–12, and Lt. Gov. Glynn succeeded to the governorship. [22]

According to the 1914 book, The Boss or the Governor, by Samuel Bell Thomas, a crowd of 10,000 gathered outside the Executive Mansion on the night Governor Sulzer left Albany, leading to an exchange as follows:

Mr. Sulzer: "My friends, this is a stormy night. It is certainly very good of you to come here to bid Mrs. Sulzer and me good-bye."
A voice from the crowd: "You will come back, Bill, next year."
Mr. Sulzer: "You know why we are going away."
A voice: "Because you were too honest."
Mr. Sulzer: "I impeach the criminal conspirators, these looters and grafters, for stealing the taxpayers' money. That is what I never did."
From the crowd: Cheers.
Mr. Sulzer: "Yes my friends, I know that the court of public opinion before long will reverse the judgement of Murphy's 'court of infamy.'"
From the crowd: Cheers.
Mr. Sulzer: "Posterity will do me justice. Time sets all things right. I shall be patient."
From the crowd: Cheers.

Some in Albany maintained that he was impeached unfairly, as he had been the first person ever to have been impeached for acts committed before taking office. There have been several pieces of legislation introduced in the New York State Assembly and Senate to have his political record repaired. None have been successful to date.

Later life and political career

William Sulzer in The Broad Ax newspaper December 23, 1922 SulzerTheBroadAx.PNG
William Sulzer in The Broad Ax newspaper December 23, 1922

Sulzer was able to recover somewhat politically. Just a few weeks after the impeachment, he was elected on the Progressive ticket to the New York State Assembly, and was a member of the 137th New York State Legislature (New York Co., 6th D.) in 1914.

For the New York state election, 1914, he organized the American Party as a spoiler, to defeat Martin H. Glynn, his former lieutenant governor who had succeeded him as governor, and was running for re-election. Sulzer also attempted to gain the Progressive Party nomination for governor, but was defeated in the primary, partly due to the intervention of Theodore Roosevelt who in a letter to all members of the party declared "the trouble with Sulzer is that he does not tell the truth." [24] However, Sulzer found support in the Prohibition Party which, on the basis of a speech he gave denouncing rum, nominated him for governor in 1914. [25] He came in third, behind Republican Charles S. Whitman, who was elected governor, and Glynn, who was unseated. Sulzer thus claimed that the result was a moral victory, as the Democrats who had impeached him had were swept out of power.

In the Election of 1916 Sulzer was the Presidential nominee of the American Party. [26]

Leaving politics, he engaged in the practice of law in New York City. He wrote and spoke in support of the Bahá'í Faith from the 1920s occasionally after having met `Abdu'l-Bahá during his visit including the United States in 1912. [27] He died in New York November 6, 1941, aged 78. He was buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, New Jersey.

The Great McGinty , Preston Sturges' 1940 film, was based in part on William Sulzer's story, per film historian Kevin Brownlow.[ citation needed ]

Bitten by the Tiger: The True Story of Impeachment, the Governor & Tammany Hall a 2013 book written by Jack O'Donnell and published by Chapel Hill Press, goes in depth about William Sulzer's political rise, achievements and his impeachment. [28]

Sources

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References

  1. MCNAMARA, JOSEPH (August 14, 2017). "Here's why William Sulzer was the first — and still only — NY governor to be impeached". New York Daily News .
  2. 1 2 "William Sulzer, Ex-Governor, 78," The New York Times, November 7, 1941
  3. Jacob Alexis Fredman The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer (1939), p. 16
  4. Matthew L. Lifflander The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer: A Story of American Politics (2012) p. 7
  5. Fredman The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer p. 21
  6. "Dix, John A. Governor of New York, 1910–1912. With His Successor, Sulzer, and Governor Tener of Pennsylvania". Hdl.loc.gov. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  7. Fredman The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer p. 27
  8. Lifflander The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer: A story of American Politics p. 18
  9. Fredman The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer p. 24
  10. Fredman The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer p. 40
  11. Jay W. Forrest and James Malcolm Tammany's Treason: Impeachment of Governor Sulzer; the complete story written from behind the scenes, showing how Tammany plays the game, how men are bought, sold and delivered (1913) Pg 22
  12. Forrest, Malcom Tammany's Treason p. 46
  13. Fredman The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer p. 111
  14. "Sulzer Gives Graft Clues – Quotes Senator O'Gorman as Saying Gaffney Couldn't "Blackjack" His Client" (PDF). The New York Times. January 22, 1914. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  15. Lifflander The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer: A story of American Politics p. 132
  16. Fredman The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer p. 131
  17. Fredman The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer p. 161
  18. "Sulzer Impeached by Assembly but Refuses to Surrender Office", Syracuse Herald , August 13, 1913, p. 1.
  19. "Sulzer and Glynn Keep on Playing a Waiting Game", Syracuse Herald , August 21, 1913, p. 1.
  20. Alpert, Herbert. Louis Marshall: 1856–1929. p. 36–37, 2008. ISBN   978-0-595-48230-6.
  21. "Report Says Court Will Convict Governor on Three of Articles", Syracuse Herald , October 16, 1913, p. 1.
  22. "High Court Removes Sulzer from Office by a Vote of 43 to 12", Syracuse Herald , October 17, 1913, p. 1.
  23. Taylor, Julius F. (December 23, 1922). "The Broad Ax" (14). Retrieved June 17, 2015.
  24. Fredman The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer p. 266
  25. Fredman The Impeachment of Governor William Sulzer p. 266–68
  26. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1916/07/23/104237594.pdf
  27. Menon, Jonathan (April 27, 2012). "At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue". 239 Days in America – a Social Media Documentary. Retrieved June 19, 2014. Note Sulzer would share a stage with `Abdu'l-Bahá, "Persia Confab plans complete". The Washington Herald. Washington, D.C. April 7, 1912. p. 7. Retrieved June 19, 2014. and go on to write expansively of the Baha'i Faith as he understood it:
    • Sulzer, William (February 14, 1920). "What is Bahaism?". The Broad Ax. Salt Lake City, Utah. p. 2. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
    • "William Sulzer will speak…". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, New York. February 20, 1932. p. 13. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  28. "About the Book". Bitten by the Tiger: The True Story of Impeachment, the Governor & Tammany Hall. Retrieved September 23, 2014.

Further reading

Commons-logo.svg Media related to William Sulzer at Wikimedia Commons

New York Assembly
Preceded by
Thomas J. Creamer
New York State Assembly
New York County, 14th District

1890–1892
Succeeded by
Daniel F. Martin
Preceded by
William Sohmer
New York State Assembly
New York County, 10th District

1893–1894
Succeeded by
Jacob Kunzenman
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert P. Bush
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
1893
Succeeded by
George R. Malby
Preceded by
George R. Malby
Minority Leader in the New York State Assembly
1894
Succeeded by
Samuel J. Foley
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Amos J. Cummings
Member of the  U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 11th congressional district

1895–1903
Succeeded by
William Randolph Hearst
Preceded by
Edward Swann
Member of the  U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 10th congressional district

1903–1912
Succeeded by
Herman A. Metz
Political offices
Preceded by
John Alden Dix
Governor of New York
1913
Succeeded by
Martin H. Glynn
New York Assembly
Preceded by
Jacob Silverstein
New York State Assembly
New York County, 6th District

1914
Succeeded by
Nathan D. Perlman