In the late 19th century, the British observer James Bryce pronounced city government "the one conspicuous failure of the United States." In this book, Jon Teaford sets out to refute this statement, arguing that city government in fact successfully met the challenges posed by growth and an increasingly diversifying population. To prove this, he examines the various aspects of city government - the municipal legislatures, the executive offices, the state governments, and the relationship between the public and private sectors - and compares them to their contemporary counterparts in western and central Europe. As Teaford demonstrates, the various social groups involved in municipal government each had a different view of what city government should do, and that each group played a role within city government. The executive branch and commissions belonged to members of the upper middle class, with native Protestant businessmen or professionals occupying the mayor's office. The municipal legislature - the board of alderman or the city council - was composed of small retailers, many of whom were recent immigrants. Each group received a share of power (though the middle class typically received more than the poorer, less empowered members of the populace) and was able to accomplish most of their basic agendas, especially within the flexible structure of state legislative control. As a system of compromise, though, it failed to completely satisfy any one group, which led to much criticism of municipal government as a whole. While Teaford's interpretation of Bryce's statement is open to question, the work that he based on it has since defined our understanding of local government in Gilded Age America. Though dry reading, this book rewards reading for anyone seeking to understand the questions of municipal government at that time, as well as how immigrants gained a voice in their communities - issues that very similar to the ones we face today.
History, Americas, United-States,