Politician George Washington Plunkitt Part 2: Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft

About politician George Washington Plunkitt and some of his plain talk style politics including this example on graft.

GEORGE WASHINGTON PLUNKITT (1842--1924). Politician.

Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft

"Everybody is talkin' these days about Tammany men growin' rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin' the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. There's all the difference in the world between the 2. Yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics. I have myself. I've made a big fortune out of the game, and I'm gettin' richer every day, but I've not gone in for dishonest graft--blackmailin' gamblers, saloonkeepers, disorderly people, etc.--and neither has any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics.

"There's an honest graft, and I'm an example of how it works.

"Just let me explain by examples. My party's in power in the city, and it's goin' to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I'm tipped off, say, that they're going to lay out a new park at a certain place.

"I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared for before.

"Ain't it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course it is. It's just like lookin' ahead in Wall Street or in the coffee or cotton market. It's honest graft, and I'm lookin' for it every day in the year. I will tell you frankly that I've got a good lot of it, too.

"For instance, the city is repavin' a street and have several hundred thousand old granite blocks to sell. I am on hand to buy, and I know just what they are worth.

"How? Never mind that. I had a sort of monopoly on this business for a while, but once a newspaper tried to do me. It got some outside men to come over from Brooklyn and New Jersey to bid against me.

"Was I done? Not much. I went to each of the men and said: 'How many of these 250,000 stones do you want?' One said 20,000 and another 15,000, and the other wanted 10,000. I said: 'All right, let me bid for the lot, and I'll give each of you all you want for nothing.'

"They agreed, of course. Then the auctioneer yelled: 'How much am I bid for these 250,000 fine pavin' stones?'

"'Two dollars and fifty cents,' says I.

"'Two dollars and fifty cents!' screamed the auctioneer. 'Oh, that's a joke! Give me a real bid.'

"He found the bid was real enough. My rivals stood silent. I got the lot for $2.50 and gave them their share. That's how the attempt to do Plunkitt ended, and that's how all such attempts end."

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