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"The Short-Hairs" And "The Swallow-Tails"
by [?]

There is a story afloat that Mr. John Morrissey made his appearance, one day during the past week, in Madison Square, in full evening dress, including white gloves and cravat, and bearing a French dictionary under his arm, and that, being questioned by his friends as to the object of this display, he replied that he was going to see Major Wickham and ask him for an office in the only costume in which such an application would have a chance of success. In other words, he was acting what over in Brooklyn would be called “an allegory,” and which was intended to expose in a severe and telling way the Mayor’s gross partiality, in the use of his patronage, for the well-dressed and well-educated members of society–a partiality which Mr. Morrissey and his party consider not only unfair but ridiculous. This demonstration, too, was one of the few indications which have as yet met the public eye of a very real division of the Democratic party in this city into two sets of politicians, known familiarly as “Short-Hairs” and “Swallow-Tails”–the former comprising the rank and file of the voters and the latter “the property-owners and substantial men,” who are endeavoring to make Tammany an instrument of reform and to manage the city in the interest of the taxpayers. Mayor Wickham belongs, it is said, to the latter class, and has given, it seems, in the eyes of the former, some proofs of a desire to reserve responsible offices for persons of some pretensions to gentility, and exhibited some disfavor for the selections of the “workers” in the various wards.

But we do not undertake to describe with accuracy the origin or nature of the split; all we know is that the Short-Hairs are disgusted, and that their hostility to the Swallow-Tails is very bitter, and that when Mr. Morrissey proclaimed, in the manner we have described, that a man needed to wear evening dress and to know French in order to get a place, he gave feeble expression to the rage of the masses. They have, too, concocted an arrangement which embodies their idea of a well-administered government, and which consists in compelling the departments to spend in wages in each district at least $1.50 for each Democratic vote cast, and to apportion the appropriations with strict reference to this rule, the money, of course, to go to the nominees of Democratic politicians. The plan departs from that of the French national workshops in that it discriminates between laborers, but in other respects it has all the characteristics of well-developed Communism. The way to meet it, according to our venerable contemporary, the Evening Post, is to have the taxpayers point out to the voters who are to receive the money that they (the taxpayers) cannot well spare it, that they need it for their own use, and that this mode of administering corporate funds is condemned by all the leading writers on government. The Swallow-Tails know so well, however, with what howls of mingled mirth and indignation the Short-Hairs would receive such suggestions that they never make them, but content themselves with confining the distribution of the money to the members of their own division quietly and unostentatiously, as far as lies in their power, which, we candidly confess, we do not think is very far.

It would be doing the Short-Hairs injustice, however, if we allowed the reader to remain under the impression that the unwillingness to have the Swallow-Tails monopolize or even have a share of the office was peculiar to them, or that John Morrissey’s protest would be unintelligible anywhere out of New York. On the contrary, when he started out with his French dictionary he was giving expression to a feeling which is to be found in greater or less intensity in every State in the Union. The great division of politicians into Short-Hairs and Swallow-Tails is not confined to this city. It is found in every city in the country in which there is much diversity of condition among the inhabitants. Nor did Morrissey mean simply to protest against training as a qualification for the work of administration, as the Tribune assumed in a sharp and incisive lecture which it read him the other day. We doubt if any pugilist in his secret heart despises training. He knows how much depends on it, and as he is not apt to possess much discriminating power, he is not likely to mark off any particular class of work as not needing it. What the Short-Hairs dislike in the Swallow-Tails is the feeling of personal superiority which they imagine them to entertain, and which they think finds a certain expression in careful dressing and in the possession of certain accomplishments. In fact, the Swallow-Tails whom the New York rough detests and would like to keep out of public life, belong to the class known in Massachusetts as the “White-cravat-and-daily-bath gentlemen,” and which is there just as unpopular as here, and has even greater difficulty in getting office there than here.