Charles “Boss” Brayton


John Morales, Contributor

During the late 19th century, early 20th century, there was a Rhode Island Republican who went by the name of  “Boss” Brayton, formally known as Charles R. Brayton. During this period of time in American history, there was rampant political corruption, and Rhode Island was known as one of the most corrupt states in the nation. In 1902, a Democrat by the name of Lucius F.C. Garvin was elected by the people because they were sick of corruption. His goal was to stop the bribery in the government but when he began his first term office he realized he did not have power whatsoever. What Charles Brayton had done with the Republican-dominated General Assembly was passed an act known as the Brayton act of 1901 which stated that the power went to the state senate, and the governor could only appoint a personal secretary. This allowed the Republican-dominated Senate to pass acts that benefitted business interests and the interests of themselves. Charles Brayton also passed a ruling that stated if you wanted to vote for any party you had to own land, therefore this did not allow immigrants from other nations to vote because Republicans feared the immigrant vote.

            The way Charles Brayton was able to pass these acts was by buying votes. The way he garnered all these votes was by appealing to mostly those who lived in rural areas and to businesses. He played on the fact that those who lived in rural areas were afraid of the incoming immigrants from different countries populating the cities. Another demographic that Charles Brayton bought votes from, were the businesses however he did not buy votes from businesses by consulting owners he was the director of a multitude of corporations which allowed him to put more control into what political party the corporation would back with votes. Since Brayton received votes from those of rural areas and those of business it kept a balance of business and citizens, which made him unstoppable. He lived up to the name “Boss” with this power. This process of buying votes was considered immoral by some but Brayton did not hide the fact that he was buying votes for the party, in fact, he stated that if the Democrats were in the position of the Republicans they would take advantage as well. The reason why Brayton had the motive to buy votes and act immorally in the government, was due to the fact that looking for the benefit of businesses in the government was the norm of every Republican. 1906 lead to Brayton’s downfall where a Democratic candidate named James H. Higgins made a statement to the public telling them of how he is lobbying the government. This allowed Higgins to win in 1907 and his first order as new Governor was to rid of Brayton. He did and soon after in July of that year he resigned from the Executive Committee of the State Central Committee of the Republican Party.