A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from February 29, 2008
“The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy” (Al Smith)

New York Governor Al Smith (1873-1944) said in 1923: “If there are any ills that democracy is suffering from today, they can only be cured by more democracy.” The quote was part of a policy that gave more home-rule to New York City and less power to the state government at Albany.

The political quotation has been much-repeated over the years. Some have disputed the quotation, stating that if democracy is corrupt, then “more democracy” won’t be an improvement.

Wikipedia: Al Smith
Alfred Emanuel Smith, Jr., known in private and public life as Al Smith, (December 30, 1873 New York City - October 4, 1944 New York City) was elected Governor of New York four times, and was the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate in 1928. He was the first Roman Catholic and Irish-American to run for President as a major party nominee. He lost the election to Herbert Hoover. He then became president of the Empire State, Inc. and was instrumental in getting the Empire State Building built during the Great Depression.

4 February 1923, New York (NY) Times, pg. E1:

For Better or Worse, Governor
Favors Transfer of Super-
vision From Albany.


Declares for Municipal Control
of Public Utilities and Sub-
way Construction.


Executive Tells Board of Trade He
Wants City to Be Free From
State’s Interference.

Governor Smith declared that there was a growing feeling in the city against rule from Albany, and said that the Assembly, because of disproportionate Up-state representation, was “Republican by Constitution.” He said he had no quarrel with the doctrine that regulation of public utilities was a State function, based on the police power of the State, but asked what harm would be done by transferring the State’s agency to the elected representatives of a municipality.

“Let us have a chance to vote for men who are going to exercise that power,” he said. “Certainly there can’t be any harm in that. If there are any ills that democracy is suffering from today, they can only be cured by more democracy. The more you pull away, instead of going in, the worse it is going to get. We have a constant change of State policies with regard to these things—unnecessary. it is all right to argue about some constitutional principle and talk about some divine right or constitutional right. But you have got to reckon in this city with 6,000,000 people. You can’t let half a dozen men make the determination as to how their affairs are going to be run. You can’t get away with it. They won’t stand for it. So that you might as well face the situation just as it is.”

31 January 1932, New York (NY) Times, pg. XX2:
But former Governor Smith’s contribution to the trend should be added. “The cure for democracy,” he is quoted as saying, “is more democracy.”

2 July 1933, New York (NY) Times, “Self-Curing Democracy,” pg. E4:
However, MR. SMITH took refuge in a saying that is not so often heard today as it was a few years ago. “The cure for the defects of democracy,” he said, “is more democracy.”

19 May 1946, New York (NY) Times, “Democracy: Some Quotations for ‘I am an American Day,’” pg. SM5:
“All the ills of democracy can be cured by more democracy.”—Alfred E. Smith.

28 September 1975, New York (NY) Times, pg. 276:
(Book review of “A Presidential Nation” by Joseph A. Califano Jr.—ed.)
The author’s experience with recent Democratic party politics has apparently led him to reject Al Smith’s dictum that the only cure for democracy’s problems is more democracy.

Time magazine (November 10, 1975)
“The only cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy,” proclaimed New York’s Al Smith in a more confident era.

New York (NY) Times
THE 1992 CAMPAIGN: Candidates Records; White House Hopes to Trip Buchanan on His Paper Trail
Published: March 1, 1992
He (Patrick J. Buchanon—ed.) added: “ ‘The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy,’ said Al Smith. The Happy Warrior had it wrong. If the people are corrupt, the more democracy, the worse the government.”

Farmingdale (NY) Observer (March 3, 2006)
It’s Official: Suozzi Throws Hat in Gubernatorial Ring
Vows to Make New York ‘the Empire State Again’

By Carla Santella
But, said the county executive, “My fight is not with Democrats. My fight is with the leaders of both parties who have failed to address the important issues we face. In this effort, I will follow the lead of a great New York Democrat, Governor Al Smith, the original ‘Happy Warrior’ who reminded us that ‘all the ills of democracy can be cured by more democracy.’”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Military/Religion /Health • (1) Comments • Friday, February 29, 2008 • Permalink