Date of Award

1989

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Burl Noggle

Abstract

Social prejudice and moral consideration did not form the basis of city politics and municipal reform in New Orleans during the Progressive Era. The Regular Democratic Organization, the so-called political machine and the civic reformers of New Orleans were more concerned with issues of expanding and centralized municipal authority, regulation of private and public corporations, completion and expansion of public services, "living wages" and decent working conditions for organized labor, equitable taxation and assessment rates for property holders, and city planning and development. Admittedly, the principal leadership of the municipal reform movement came from the "upper crust" of New Orleans society and its beliefs had a profound influence on the content of the municipal reform movement. It would be incorrect to assume that social prejudice, class distinctions, and moral considerations formed the basis of city politics. Though the "Regular Democrats" had supporters among the lower working classes of New Orleans, RDO contained men of all social classes, economic classifications, educational achievements, and political persuasion. The Regular Democratic Organization, too, was dedicated to municipal reform. As a rule, the RDO did not fear or object centralized municipal authority and, broadly speaking, its efforts championed home rule and preserved democratic institutions. At times, however, the commitment of the RDO to democratic institutions stymied efforts to establish an efficient, centralized municipal government. The civic reformers, on the other hand, advocated centralized municipal government only if they could control it. By and large, the social and commercial elite opposed public regulation of business and commerce, accusing the Regulars of "politicizing" private and public affairs. Unwilling to accept their declining political influence, the civic reformers demanded the restructuring of the municipal government and the realignment of political power in New Orleans. They demonstrated for the commission council form of government and other political reforms. They achieved only modest success, but managed to influence the structure and content of municipal affairs. And, contrary to conventional understanding, the civic reformers did nor desert politics with every electoral defeat. Rather, they organized and politicked through the numerous civic and commercial organizations they controlled, compelling the RDO to temporize its attempts to centralize authority and realign political power in New Orleans.

Pages

696

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