This week in English I finished reading George Washington Plunkitt’s ‘autobiography.’ In the last few chapters, Plunkitt talked about how he gained his wealth, calling his method ‘honest grafting.’ In this essay I am going to talk about why I think he was so open about how he earned his money.
First, let me explain what honest grafting is. Honest grafting is when a politician jumps on any and every opportunity they find to make money. In Plunkitt’s case he would buy things and sell them at an increased price.
An example given in the book was about “when an old brick road was being rebuilt, and the old bricks were being auctioned off. Plunkitt told the other bidders that if they did not bid, he would give them a portion of the bricks. So he bought the bricks for about 2 dollars and gave the other bidders their allotted portions. He could then sell the rest of the bricks and make a profit.”[i]
I personally think that Plunkitt was open about his money for three reasons: publicity, to prove he was not a crook, and he wanted to brag.
As a politician, publicity is a big thing. If you portray yourself as a self-righteous person who is law abiding and caring, the people will love you and vote for you. Plunkitt did a very good job of doing this. In my last essay I mentioned how he was very connected to the people and was always helping them out. By showing everyone how he made his money not only would he be creating talk around his name, he was showing the people how easy it is to make as much money as him.
Plunkitt was a very rich man, and many thought that he used illegal and unethical means to acquire his wealth. By showing talking about his tactic to make money he showed the people and his enemies that he was an honest man. Earlier in the book he said that he thought “The politician who steals is worse than thieves. He’s a fool.”
I also think that by showing people how he made money gave him bragging rights. He explained and showed what he did and in a way, was subtly bragging about how much money he made because of how smart he was. Before Plunkitt ‘honest grafting’ was not a thing. In a way, he was considered the ‘creator’ of honest grafting. If you Google honest grafting Plunkitt’s Wikipedia page is the first result.
As you can see, Plunkitt was quite proud of his new tactic to gain money. Creating a brand new method of gaining money will definitely create a lot of talk around his name, as well as prove to his enemies that he was a law-abiding citizen. I also think that a small part of him wanted bragging rights at dinner parties.
[i] Hussain, Sofia. “Plunkitt and His Money.” 26 May 2021. Web. Retrieved 12 August 2021. https://sofiarpc.home.blog/2021/05/26/english-1-lesson-80-plunkitt-and-his-money/