Bitten by the Tiger

The True Story of Impeachment, the Governor and Tammany Hall

Jack O’Donnell reveals the truth behind the impeachment of New York State Governor William Sulzer in his book Bitten By The Tiger: The True Story of Impeachment, the Governor, & Tammany Hall. 

Sulzer’s story is one of great achievement and a most spectacular fall. A tale of money, lies, power, and treachery, the story of William Sulzer is also a lesson from New York’s political past.

This is a story of great betrayal: Sulzer’s election victories came from Tammany Hall . . . and his impeachment was engineered by that same Tammany Hall, personally orchestrated by the man who made him governor, boss Charlie Murphy.

Obscured by history, William Sulzer’s accomplishments and rise to power were lost after his tragic fall. Bitten By The Tiger helps correct the historical record while also offering interesting lessons for politicians today.

In addition to the astonishing story of Sulzer’s rise and fall, his career in elected office alone merits having his story told.

  • A nine-term member of Congress, Sulzer authored 25 major bills that would become law. Some were major efforts including the creation of the United States Department of Labor, the revival of the merchant marine, and a corporations law that would play a major part in Theodore Roosevelt’s vaunted “trust busting.” Other legislation was significant in terms of social welfare including pensions for the widows and orphans of civil war soldiers, safety requirements for commercial passenger ships, and making federal aid to railroads contingent on safety improvements while other efforts were merely symbolic including raising the battleship Maine and lighting the torch on the Statute of Liberty.
  • As an Assemblyman, Sulzer introduced and passed legislation abolishing “sweat shops,” ended imprisonment for debt, abolished corporal punishment in prisons, and provided for the punishment of corrupt election practices.  Sulzer also authored a “Freedom of Worship” law that allowed anyone in state institutions to worship according to their conscience” and a Saturday “half-holiday” act that gave workers time off.
  • Sulzer was involved in opening parks and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the public, a prevailing wage regulation, the first State forest park, the completion of the state Capitol, the enlargement of the state canals including the Erie Canal, and creating the New York City Public Library.

Timed to coincide with the centennial of his election, this book also examines the unique events that allowed history to remember Sulzer as the “wronged reformer” and kept the true story hidden for 100 years.

Sulzer’s impeachment and removal from office was one of the biggest stories of 1913; the chief characters in the drama were larger than life.  Countless pages have been written about them—Al Smith, William Randolph Hearst, Robert Wagner—but almost nothing about Sulzer himself.

This carefully-researched book tells the real story of Tammany Hall and William Sulzer.  It examines the Tammany Lieutenants—Al Smith and Robert Wagner—who engineered the impeachment but went on to be some of the greatest reformers of the 20th Century (Al Smith and Robert Wagner).

For the first time in almost 75 years, this book takes a dispassionate and objective view of those events, using transcript of the impeachment trial and other first person and original sources to examine the evidence and offer readers the truth.

The author’s career as a political insider, staffer on several statewide campaigns in New York, work in state and federal government, and now as a lobbyist, professor and lawyer gives the reader a unique insight into a remarkable time in history.

This is William Sulzer’s story.  It is also Al Smith’s story and William Randolph Hearst’s story and Charlie Murphy’s story.  More importantly it is the story of how government works and a story about for whom government works.  This is New York’s story.  This is our story.  It deserves to be told.

Copies of the book are available for purchase here.

Impeaching the New York Governor – Then and Now

What’s next for Governor Cuomo? The last Governor to be impeached was more than 100 years ago. Our Jack O’Donnell quite literally wrote the book on the procedure and Governor Sulzer’s downfall in 1913 (read Bitten by the Tiger) Jack shared his political expertise on...