"The Boston Mahatma"
John William Tuohy
Martin Lomasney was born in Boston on March 3, 1859, the son of Irish parents. He got through several years of grammar school before leaving work as a shoe shiner and errand runner. While still a child, he entered politics and for fifty years was one of the most powerful political leaders Boston has ever had.
His first taste of politics came during the Tildon-Hayes campaign in 1875 as a worker for the Democrat leader Michael Wells. When Wells died a few years later, Lomasney already had the nucleus of his political machine place, organized as the Hendicks Club (est. 1885)
The Club was named after his stalwart friend, Thomas A Hendricks (Vice President under Cleveland). Hiss rise to the status political master was rapid. There w ere set backs of course.
At noon, in March of 1894, he was shot while serving as an Alderman by James H. Duncan. . Duncan fired five shots from a revolver, one of which struck Martin in the leg. The other four shots fortunately went astray, though one shot went through the clothing of Councilman Boyle, it caused no injury.
Duncan was an oil finisher by trade who owned the house in which he lived in Billerica Street. On 24 January he had been ordered by the Board of Health to vacate the premises. He believed that Martin was responsible for the order. In a conversation with a Policeman after the shooting, when asked why he had shot the Alderman, Duncan said: "I had good reason for doing it. If you knew as much as I do, you would have done it yourself. He is a villain and anything but a friend of the employed."
Lomasney served in the State Senate (1895) and for four terms in the State Legislature (1899 and 1907). However, he never cared much for the duties of office and was happier managing the campaigns of his friends.However, it became his custom to accept the post on the Legislature each third term and to fill the intervening terms with younger men under his patronage.
In most pre-election conferences Lomasney held the balance of power and it was his habit to remain non-committal until the last possible moment. Even his own counsel were kept guessing as to who was his man for Congress, Mayor, Governor or whatever other post was to be filled. Usually he would then appear, “almost like a god” out of the electionary machinery, and announce his will and nominee.
He always denied that he was a boss. "A boss gives orders. I don't. When I want something done I ask for it. Just before the election we send out suggestions to the voters. We don't tell 'em how to vote. We just suggest."
It Lomasney who gave rise to Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, who, although an avowed political enemy, was a close personal friend. During rallies, Martin would rip loose his collar and tie and deliver a roaring demand for a solid vote for his candidate followed by his love of Ireland.
In the brutal 1918 elections Lomasney fought against another Irish pol, man named Kane, who was instrumental in getting Martin's cousin's father-in-law, John F Fitzgerald (or Honey Fritz as he was known), removed from his seat in Congress in 1919, on charges of election frauds.
Peter Tague, Kane's candidate, had been defeated by 238 votes in 1918 by Honey Fritz. Tague had run on stickers in the election after Fitzgerald had defeated him in the primary by only fifty votes.
Kane and Tague convinced a congressional investigating committee that along with using mattress voters, Martin Lomasney had seen to it that Tague's stickers were not gummed. The unsticky stickers fell off the ballots in the ballot box leaving Tague's ballots blank and void.
After working for Fitzgerald's grandson in 1946, Kane said proudly: "I kept the grandfather out of the House of Representatives and I put the grandson in."
During the election of 1925, he replied to a charge of corruption with "They've said a lot of things about me, but remember, they've never proved anything".
Lomasney was never able to get along with Mayor James M Curley, and the two were openly antagonistic for many years. On June 13,1922, Lomasney set in to motion an investigation, passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 121 to 66, to have Attorney-General J Weston open an investigation into the first administration of Mayor Curley.
Lomasney alleged contained evidence of graft and maladministration by Curley (a charge that dogged him for years) however the investigation died off. Lomasney made constant threats to leave the Democratic party, but never did and it was probably just another of his ploys.
His final political campaign was in the autumn of 1932 during which he suffered a general physical breakdown. The second attack of pneumonia proved fatal and on August 12, 1933 he died at the Hotel Bellevue aged 73. He had never married.