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.

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Entry from September 03, 2016
“What’s the Constitution among friends?”

New York Democratic politician Tim Campbell (1840-1904) served in the New York State senate in 1884 and 1885, and then served in Congress in 1886. A popular anecdote was reported in The Washington Critic (Washington, DC) on June 19, 1886:

“The Hon Timothy J. Campbell immortalized himself as a Senator at Albany by the famous bon mot, ‘What’s a little thing like the Constitution between friends?’”

“What’s the Constitution among/between friends?”—an approximation of what Tim Campbell said in Albany probably in 1884, when Grover Cleveland was governor of New York (before becoming president in 1885)—has become a famous statement about politicians and their ethics. According to one account published in the New York (NY) Times after Campbell’s death in 1904, Campbell had said it to Cleveland in jest.


Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
CAMPBELL, Timothy John, (1840 - 1904)
CAMPBELL, Timothy John, a Representative from New York; born in County Cavan, Ireland, January 8, 1840; immigrated with his parents to the United States in 1845; attended the public schools of New York City; learned the printer’s trade; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1869 and commenced practice in New York City; member of the State assembly 1868-1873, 1875, and 1883; justice of the fifth district civil court in New York City 1875-1883; served in the State senate in 1884 and 1885; elected as a Democrat to the Forty-ninth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Samuel S. Cox; reelected to the Fiftieth Congress and served from November 3, 1885, to March 3, 1889; chairman, Committee on Expenditures on Public Buildings (Fiftieth Congress); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1888 to the Fifty-first Congress; elected to the Fifty-second and Fifty-third Congresses (March 4, 1891-March 3, 1895); unsuccessful candidate in 1894 for reelection to the Fifty-fourth Congress; resumed the practice of his profession in New York City where he died on April 7, 1904; interment in Calvary Cemetery, Long Island City, N.Y.

Chronicling America
19 June 1886, The Washington Critic (Washington, DC), “Gotham Gossip,” pg. 2, col. 2:
The Hon Timothy J. Campbell immortalized himself as a Senator at Albany by the famous bon mot, “What’s a little thing like the Constitution between friends?”

14 August 1886, Springfield (MA) Daily Republican, “Note and Comment,” pg. 1, col. 5:
When the president told Congressman Tim Campbell that he could not sign a bill which Tim had worked to get through Congress, on account of its unconstitutionality, the New York member replied that he reverenced the constitution, but he “didn’t think it ought to be allowed to come between friends.”

1 October 1886, Perry (IA) Daily Chief, “Tim Campbell on the Constitution,” pg. 3, col. 5:
A few days before the last session of congress terminated Tim waited upon the president to look after a bill in which he was particularly interested. He proceeded to explain the features of the bill in question to the president. The latter listened attentively to what he had to say and, when he had concluded, testified that he feared the bill was unconstitutional.

“Unconstitutional. governor?” inquired Tim in a tone of astonishment. “The constitution hasn’t anything to do with it. The constitution is a rand old document which every American citizen should respect. Thomas Jefferson had a right to be proud of that he was an author if it. Why, governor, the constitution should stand alongside of the declaration of independence in the memory and esteem of all good people in this land. But I’m d--d if it should be allowed to come between friends.”

27 January 1887, New York (NY) Times, “Shall Mike Be Dosboyed?” (sic), pg. 4, col. 4:
“What is a little thing like the Constitution among friends?”
(Spoken by Michael Cregan.—ed.)

20 June 1889, (Wilmington, DE), “The Rape of the Error Lists,” pg. 2, col. 1:
As that thorough Democrat of New York city, Tim Campbell, said a year or two ago, “What is a little thing like the constitution among friend.”

Google Books
19 October 1889, New York Medical Journal, pg. 434, col. 2:
Let us remember, however, that we live in a practical age among a very practical people, and we must not begin by proposing measures which can only be adopted if we accept the liberal ideas implied by the New York assemblyman when he asked, “ What is a little thing like the Constitution among friends?”

11 March 1891, The Sun, (New York, NY), “Harrison and Miller as Reformers of the Constitution,” pg. 6, col. 2:
The celebrated sentiment attributed by the Hon. THEODORE ROOSEVELT to the Hon. TIMOTHY J. CAMPBELL, “What is the Constitution among friends?” seems to be the theory of this Administration.

Chronicling America
15 March 1891, Pittsburg (PA) Dispatch, pg. 4, col. 3:
THE sentiment of the Hom. Tim Campbell, of New York, is widely quoted in the Eastern press: “What’s the Constitution among friends?” The idea may not have been reduced to definite language before; but the practice of the Pennsylvania Legislature has been built on that principle these many years.

Chronicling America
6 April 1891, Pittsburg (PA) Dispatch, “Pattison and Reapportionment,” pg. 4, col. 1:
There has been much ignoring the Constitution by the politicians and corporations of Pennsylvania, on the principal of the Hon. Tim Campbell’s question: “What’s the Constitution among friends?” but this is the first proposition we have seen for the abolition of the veto power by the edict of the party organs.

10 June 1894, The People (New York, NY), pg. 2, col. 3:
IMMORTAL TIM.
TIM CAMPBELL, the Democratic Congressman, does not enjoy the love and affection of many of his Republican and Democratic colleagues. He is not refined enough, and he is too blunt. Nevertheless, TIM’s name is bound to go thundering down the galleries of fame as the leading expounder of our Constitution, as she is understood and interpreted by our rulers, long after those who now turn up their noses to him will be buried in oblivion.

TIM’s immortality is assured by his beautiful maxim “What is the Constitution of the United States between friends?” From now on hardly a day is likely to pass bu will bring fresh proof of the soundness of this view.

15 March 1892, Illinois State Register (Springfield, IL), pg. 4, col. 1:
THE comments of the shyster republican papers of this state on the compulsory education law just now, are much in the spirit of the famous remark of Congressman TIM CAMPBELL, of New York: “Gentlemen, what is a little thing like the Constitution among friends?”

Google Books
2 July 1898, The Public (Chicago, IL),"The Hawaiian Question,” og. 6, col. 1:
“What is the constitution among friends?” asked a good-natured imperialist, who only put in jocular form a sentiment which imperialists in general freely express in dignified phrase.

8 April 1904, New York (NY) Times, “East Side’s Friend, Tim Campbell, Is Dead,” pg. 9, col. 5:
“Queer, isn’t it,” said one, “that this man who did so much good and died poor because of his charities will always be remembered by a joke of his that doesn’t put him in the right light, because the joke has been interpreted seriously. When Grover Cleveland was Governor of New York and ‘Tim’ was a State Senator a bill had been drafted for the payment of back pay due to the police and the police clerks. ‘Tim’ was for it, heart and soul. He called on Cleveland, urging the measure, but the Governor insisted that he could not stand for it, as it was retroactive and unconstitutional. The bill had been drawn up by Judge Koch. ‘Tim’ called the Governor’s attention to that, and remarked that the state had a Court of Appeals that could judge the constitutionality of the bill. Then he made himself immortal in a way he didn’t like by saying: ‘What’s the Constitution between good friends.’ Mr. Cleveland signed the bill. The story that this happened when Mr. Cleveland was president is not true.”

“Yes,” said another, “and it was ‘Tim’ who really nominated Cleveland. he was Governor then, and gave a dinner to the legislators at Albany, where ‘Tim’ proposed a toast to ‘Cleveland, the next President.’ This was recounted by the correspondents, it being the first mention of the man who was the next President. ‘Tim’s’ toast made Cleveland President.”

“Another thing that must not be forgotten,” said an old friend, “was that Tim was always loyal to his friends. he was the only politician who had known Tweed who had the courage to attend his funeral and ride with Tweed’s family to the grave.”

Google Books
Plunkitt of Tammany Hall
By William L. Riordon
New York, NY: McClure, Phillips & Company
1905
Pg. 23:
I know that the civil service humbug is stuck into the constitution, too, but, as Tim Campbell said: ‘ What’s the constitution among friends?”’

Google Books
Our Police Guardians
By John J. Hickey
New York, NY: Published by author
1925
Pg. 113:
And to quote another famous Tim, that said, “What the h--- is the constitution, among friends.”

God be with my dear old friend the late Congressman Tim Campbell, for if he was alive today they would never put over a prohibition bill upon us poor unfortunate American citizens.

Twitter
Frushman
‏@Frushman
@greeneyes0084 What’s the constitution among friends? No one is above the law has a very nice ring to it for us peons excepting the Clintons
4:26 AM - 3 Jul 2016

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Saturday, September 03, 2016 • Permalink