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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 17

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This is the grave of William Clark, copper capitalist and Gilded Age plutocrat.

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I have discussed Clark before. He was a miner turned capitalist in Montana who became one of Montana’s three Copper Kings. He’s remarkable not so much for that, but for being the personification of Gilded Age corruption. Clark really wanted to be a senator. Of course, in the 1890s, senators were chosen by state legislatures. So he did what any Gilded Age capitalist who wanted to be a senator would do. He bribed them. Supposedly, he later said, “I never bought a man who wasn’t for sale.” This was no doubt true. But he was so corrupt that even the Senate, where there was no shortage of open corruption, would not seat him. He became for Mark Twain, the single symbol of the corruption of the period. He later still returned to the Senate, this time not so openly buying people off. He served a term. All of this inspired the 17th Amendment, which some of the right oppose today, being totally fine with rich people subverting democracy and buying off state legislators to control the Senate. None of this affected his massive wealth of course, as the grave above demonstrates.

William Clark is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York

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