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The Easy Boss

October 27, 2016

Roscoe Conkling was the Republican boss of New York state until he resigned from the U.S. Senate in protest over President Garfield’s appointments.  He thought he would be sent back to the Senate by the New York legislature, but they deemed otherwise.  That was the end of Conkling’s political career, especially after Garfield’s assassination brought sympathy for civil service reform.

The junior Senator from New York also resigned with Conkling.  He also was not sent back to the Senate, at least not immediately.  He had served only from March 4 to May 16, 1881 and would not be missed.  In 1897 he was finally back in the Senate and would serve two full terms.  Meanwhile, he became known as the “Easy Boss.”  His name was Thomas Platt.

Platt was in the Senate when Theodore Roosevelt became a war hero in Cuba.  Although Platt was leery of Roosevelt’s position on reform, he reluctantly supported him for the office of Governor.  The Senator and the Governor would often have breakfast together on Sunday mornings, and according to one biographer, these breakfasts “disturbed Mr. Platt’s digestion.”  Theodore Roosevelt was not going to be controlled by any political boss, “easy” or not!

Some reformers criticized Roosevelt for meeting so frequently with Platt, but their concerns were unfounded.  Why else would Platt have found a way to get rid of Roosevelt in order to seek a more compliant Governor?  Vice-President Hobart had died during President McKinley’s first term.  When McKinley ran for re-election in 1900, he would need a new running mate, and Platt knew someone who was ideal for the job.


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