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Some Things Never Change

Interesting excerpt from Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States:

While it was the rich who ruled Boston, there were political jobs available for the moderately well-off, as "cullers of staves," "measurer of Coal Baskets," "Fence Viewer."

In Maryland (there was) a class of small planters who were not "the beneficiary" of the planting society as the rich were, but who had the distinction of being called planters, and who were "respectable citizens with community obligations to act as overseers of roads, appraisers of estates and similar duties."

It helped the alliance to accept the middle class socially in a "round of activities that included local politics...dances, horseracing, and cockfights, occasionally punctuated with drinking brawls..."

In other words, patronage jobs, honorary titles, "bread and circus." But bear in mind that this is Colonial America of the mid 18th Century, not Chicago of the 20th Century. Clearly, while the art of Machine Politics may have been perfected here, they were by no means invented here. I wonder if City Hall has any plum Fence Viewer jobs available.

February 18, 2004 in Books | Permalink

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