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Review: “The Shame of Minneapolis: The Rescue and Redemption of a City that was Sold Out”
The Shame of Minneapolis: The Rescue and Redemption of a City that was Sold Out
Throughout Lincoln Steffens’s “The Shame of Minneapolis: The Rescue and Redemption of a City that was Sold Out,” Steffens uses the city of Minneapolis Minnesota to raise awareness of political corruption in America so that a social “cure” can be enacted to end such corruption. Steffens uses his “political muckraking” to argue that political corruption has run rampant in American local governments, and can be corrected with proper awareness and willingness of the American people to do what is right in response. According to Ellen F. Fitzpatrick, Steffens chose examples for his case study which “exemplify deep flaws in the body politic and a kind of moral bankruptcy, that, in Steffens’s view, was infecting not just the cities but American democracy.”
Steffens uses Minneapolis’s corrupt City government to raise awareness of local municipal political corruption on a national level, using figures such as Mayor Ames and H.C. Clarke as models of a larger national pattern of political corruption and correction. In his overview of the bribery, felony charges, extortion, conspiracies, and thefts conducted within municipal Minneapolis government, Steffens shows that even in the midst of corrupt officials such as Mayor A.A. Ames, citizens such as H.C. Clarke can stand up to corruption and play an effective role in convicting, charging, and sentencing corrupt officials to sentences in return for the crimes they have committed. Politicians such as Percy Jones took a stand against such practices as gambling because of the crime and corruption that so often accompany them, whereas politicians such as Mayor Ames allowed gambling through an elaborate system of collecting bribes and fees.
Steffens painted a picture of the corruption in Minneapolis as the “ordinary conditions of city government in the United States,” in his attempt to rally support for the social and political movements combating political corruption at the turn of the twentieth century. Recognizing that in the corrupt political system of the early twentieth century, people are told what to do by deceitful political parties and organizations such as Tammany Hall, Steffens raises awareness of the need of Americans to reclaim their government from “deceitful politicians, crooked police, crafty swindlers, and petty thieves.” The American people could no longer trust their governments, which were filled with corrupt politicians, political organizations, and even thieving police rings such as the police of Minnesota who organized the theft of the Pabst brewery.
Steffens emphasizes the corruption of municipal governments through his case study of A.A. Ames. Using Ames as an example of national trends, Steffens emphasizes the fraud within the political party system as shown through Ames maintenance of power in a presidential election year because of his ties to the Republican Party. Through his overview of corrupt city government activities, Steffens brings to light his growing distrust of American political structures and increasing disgust with the “excesses of municipal administration.”
 Ellen F. Fitzpatrick, Muckraking: Three Landmark Articles. (New York: Bedford Press, 1994) 30