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The Politics of the Gilded Age. Themes of Gilded Age (1869-1889) n Politics: hard v. soft $, tariff, corruption, patronage & trusts n Industrialism: railroads,

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Presentation on theme: "The Politics of the Gilded Age. Themes of Gilded Age (1869-1889) n Politics: hard v. soft $, tariff, corruption, patronage & trusts n Industrialism: railroads,"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Politics of the Gilded Age

2 Themes of Gilded Age (1869-1889) n Politics: hard v. soft $, tariff, corruption, patronage & trusts n Industrialism: railroads, steel, oil, electricity, banking n Transformation: agrarian to urban n Urbanization: “new” immigrants n Unions & reform n Populism: farmers losing ground n “Last West”: farming, mining, cattle n By 1900, society gets more stratified

3 "What is the chief end of man?-- to get rich. In what way?-- dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must." -- Mark Twain 1871

4 The Election of 1868 n Republicans - nominate Ulysses S. Grant –promises continued Military Reconstruction –Campaigned by waving the "Bloody Shirt" - vote how you shot

5 Waving the bloody shirt

6 Ulysses S. Grant

7 n Democrats - nominate Horatio Seymour –"Ohio Idea“ »Policy of Repudiation - redemption of Bonds at highest possible level –Seymour backs Eastern banker’s gold plan instead

8 n 500,000 Freedmen vote for Grant n Grant wins by 300,000 votes

9 Grant Administration n Called the "Era of Good Stealings" n Democrats locked out of political trough

10 n Business & political "machines" gain spoils n Period of graft, corruption, & scandal

11 The Scandals

12 Black Friday – September 24, 1869 n "Jubilee Jim" Fisk (the Brass) & Jay Gould (the Brains) –Corner the gold market after promise from Grant to keep Treasury from selling gold reserves

13 n Panic buying drives up prices n Treasury releases reserves n Prices plummet n Many are bankrupt n Grant exonerated of any wrong-doing

14 Tweed Ring Scandals n "Boss" William Marcy Tweed of Tammany Hall in NYC

15 n Used bribery, graft, & fraudulent elections to extort profits from political position

16 n NY Times published reports of scandals n Cartoonist Thomas Nast attacked Tweed Boss Tweed




20 n Samuel J. Tilden prosecuted Tweed on corruption charges n Boss Tweed dies in jail

21 The Tammany Tiger Loose - What are you going to do about it?

22 Credit Mobilier Scandal n Union Pacific RR insiders formed construction company n Made exorbitant profits by hiring & overcharging themselves (348% dividends in 1 year!)

23 n Used bribery & kickbacks to Congress n 1872 Congressional investigation led to censuring of 2 members & the VP

24 Whiskey Ring Scandal n Whiskey producers cheated gov't out of millions of dollars in excise taxes n Paid kickbacks to controllers & tax collectors

25 n Grant: “Let no guilty man escape.” n Grant’s personal secretary is involved n Persuaded jury not to convict

26 Military Ring Scandal n Secretary of War Belknap involved selling the privilege of disbursing shoddy goods to Indians –Made $24,000 profit

27 n Grant accepts Belknap’s resignation "with regret“ the same day that the House impeached him n Scandals lead to calls for civil service reforms

28 Election of 1872 n Liberal Republican "Revolt" n Republican party splits over "Anti-Grantism"

29 n Liberal Republican Party Formed –“Turn the Rascals Out.” –Led to nomination of Horace Greeley, liberal editor of NY Tribune –Democrats endorsed Greeley as well

30 n Republican Party re- nominated Grant n Grant wins 286 - 66 electoral votes after much mudslinging

31 n Election leads to minor civil service reforms & a general amnesty for most southerners n Grant’s 2 nd term marred by economic crisis

32 Panic of 1873 n Causes: –Overproduction of railroads, mines, factories, & farm products –Risky loans unpaid –Depreciation of Greenbacks

33 n Collapse leads to 15,000 businesses failing n Currency controversy heats up into major issue

34 Currency Controversy n “Contraction” –Process of removing paper "Greenbacks" from circulation leads to controversy

35 n Hard Money –Creditors –Less currency –Deflation –Gold currency –Bankers n Soft Money –Debtors –More currency –Inflation –Silver currency –Farmers

36 n 1870: Supreme Court ruled the Civil War Tender Act unconstitutional –Set stage to continue withdrawing inflated Civil War paper money

37 n Grant adds two seats to Supreme Court (to 9 Justices) who vote to repeal earlier decision & keep Greenbacks in circulation

38 n 1874: Grant persuaded by Hard Money people to veto a bill to expand the money supply

39 n 1875: Specie Resumption Act –Pledges government to withdraw more Greenbacks & to buy all Greenbacks back for gold by "Redemption Day" in 1879

40 Silver Issue n Controversy over gold coins vs. silver coins n Early 1870's: Treasury sets rate of exchange for silver at 1/16 the price of gold

41 n This is below "market" value n Miners slow down extraction & sale of silver

42 "Crime of ‘73" n Treasury stops coinage of silver dollars n New silver deposits found & price of silver drops n Call for new silver minting & return to “Dollar of Our Daddies"

43 Grant’s Monetary Policy: n Contraction & a “Hard- money” policy n Decreases the money supply n Brings inflation under control

44 n Increases the government’s credit rating level n Worsens the depression begun with the Panic of 1873 n Brings Greenbacks back to face value

45 Results: n Democratic House is elected in 1874 n Greenback Labor Party formed in 1878 –14 members of Congress

46 n Bland-Allison Act (1878) –Instructed Treasury to buy & mint $2-4 million a month of silver as compromise n End of depression = end of controversy

47 Politics in the Gilded Age

48 Paradox of Politics n Era of “Forgettable Presidents” n Congress & business more influential n Major parties agreed on most major issues, yet highly competitive political era

49 n 80% voter turnout & straight party ticket voting n Patronage & bribery dominated politics n 2 major parties:

50 Republicans n Protestant / Puritanism n Personal Morality n Business support n Northeast / Midwest n Freedmen / GAR

51 Democrats n Catholic / Lutheran n Tolerance of differences n Resisted gov't control of morals n Old South n Industrial cities / Labor

52 Two-Party Stalemate

53 Intense Voter Loyalty

54 Republican Party Factions

55 Stalwarts n "Lord Roscoe" Conkling n Senator from New York n Embraced spoils system –Jobs for votes

56 Half-Breeds n James G. Blaine n Congressman from Maine n Lip-service to reform

57 Mugwumps n Thomas Nast –Cartoonist who embodiedideals n Young liberal reformers n Anti-corruption n Help freedmen

58 Conflicts within Republican Party led to deadlock

59 Election of 1876 n Grant considers 3 rd Term –“Reminded" by Congressional Resolution of the tradition of 2 terms

60 Puck Wants a Strong Man at the Head of Government-- But Not This Kind

61 The Political ‘Army of Salvation’

62 n Republican Stalwarts & Half-breeds reach compromise, nominate Rutherford B. Hayes –"The Great Unknown“ –Former Governor of Ohio

63 n Democrats nominate Samuel J. Tilden –"Whispering Sammy“ –NY attorney who bagged Tweed –Campaigns against Republican Scandals & for Civil Service Reform

64 Hayes vs. Tilden

65 n Tilden wins 184 out of 185 needed electoral votes n 20 electoral votes in contest, four southern states send dual sets of elector votes

66 1876 Presidential Election

67 n Constitution states that the President of the Senate should open the votes in the presence of the House and Senate - no mention of who counts

68 The Political Crisis of 1877 “Corrupt Bargain” Part II?

69 n President of the Senate (Vice President) = Republican n Speaker of the House = Democrat

70 A Political Crisis: The “Compromise” of 1877

71 Compromise of 1877 n Passage of Electoral Act of 1877 –Set up electoral commission 15 men - 5 each from House, Senate, & Supreme Court

72 –Republicans outnumber Democrats 8-7 n The Compromise: –Republican Hayes is President

73 –South to lose the last remaining Federal Troops »Reconstruction ends at expense of southern blacks –Southern RR route

74 Hayes Prevails

75 Alas, the Woes of Childhood… Sammy Tilden—Boo-Hoo! Ruthy Hayes’s got my Presidency, and he won’t give it to me!

76 Hayes Presidency (1877 - 1881) n “His Fraudulency” & “Lemonade Lucy” n Economic & Labor problems –Railroad strikes put down

77 6 n Immigrant problems –Anti-Chinese Kearneyites in California –Hayes vetoed Anti- Chinese immigration law –Bill passes in 1882 during Arthur Administration

78 Election of 1880 n Republicans –Standoff between Stalwarts & Half-Breeds leads to "Dark Horse" candidate

79 n James A. Garfield gets nomination –Chester A. Arthur (Stalwart) as VP n Democrats nominate Winfield S. Hancock –Civil War General wounded at Gettysburg

80 n Campaign about character not issues n Garfield wins 214 to 155 in electoral vote –By 39,000 votes

81 Election of 1880

82 n Stalwarts & Half-Breeds fight over spoils n Half-Breed Blaine becomes Secretary of State & sought to shut out the Stalwarts

83 n June 1881: Stalwart office seeker Charles Guiteau assassinates President Garfield who dies that September

84 Garfield Assassinated “I am a Stalwart. Arthur is now President of the US”

85 n Chester A. Arthur becomes President n Nation shocked by "an office - or your life!"

86 President Chester A. Arthur

87 Arthur Presidency (1881-1885) n President Arthur takes up cause of civil service reform n Conklingites seek offices & favors - get cold shoulder from Arthur

88 n Pendleton Act of 1883 –Prohibited financial assessments on office holders –Established merit system based on aptitude –Set up Civil Service Commission & created classified positions

89 n Problem: –Politicians turn to Big Business to make up for campaign funds

90 Election of 1884 n Repulicans nominate James G. Blaine –Half-Breed –Tainted by scandal »"Mulligan Letters" proving his corruption ("Burn this letter.“)

91 n Scandal caused some Republicans to jump ship –Called Mugwumps = "holier than thou"

92 n Democrats nominate Grover Cleveland –"Grover the Good“ –Said to be clean n Republicans discovered he had fathered an illegitimate son

93 n Election is all about character, not about issues –D= "Burn, burn, burn this letter" –R= "Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?” –R= "Rum, Romanism, Rebellion"

94 Ma, Ma…where’s my pa? He’s going to the White House, ha… ha… ha…! A Dirty Campaign

95 Blaine vs. Cleveland

96 n Cleveland wins 219-182 –First Democrat in White House since Buchanan

97 Cleveland Presidency (1885 - 1889) n Cleveland is unbending supporter of laissez- faire –Gov't out of free market n Weak reformer

98 n Fired Republicans & hired Democrats - 2/3 of Federal employees n Fought against pensions for dubious veterans

99 n Fought to reduce tariffs & reduce gov't surplus n Sought to reduce monopolies

100 Bravo, Señor Clevelando!

101 Election of 1888 n Democrats renominate Cleveland despite his insistence of making Tariff an issue

102 n Republicans nominate Benjamin Harrison –Grandson of "Tippacanoe" William Henry Harrison

103 n British Minister Sir Lionel Sackville-West writes that a vote for Cleveland is a vote for England & free trade

104 n Republicans put fear of low tariffs on Big Business - raise major war chest n Cleveland won popular vote but lost election 233-168

105 President Benjamin Harrison

106 n March 1889: Harrison, the “White House Ice Chest,” assumes the presidency n Republicans eagerly snapped up Federal offices & prepared to pass legislation to maintain the high protective tariffs

107 n Makes “Half-breed” James G. Blaine (the Plumed Knight) Secretary of State again n Young New Yorker Theodore Roosevelt placed on the Civil Service Commission

108 “Billion Dollar” Congress n Republicans have only 3 more votes than the 163 needed for a quorum n Democrats were able to block a quorum by failing to answer roll call

109 Tsar Reed n New Republican Speaker of the House Thomas B. Reed changed the House rules & counted heads to establish a quorum

110 n 1 st “Billion Dollar” Congress then began to pass legislation –1 st to pass over a billion dollars in peacetime

111 “Billion Dollar” Legislation

112 Pension Act of 1890 n Substantially increases the number eligible for Civil War pensions n Continued the need for tariffs by reducing the federal surplus

113 Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890) n Forbade combinations in restraint of trade n Loopholes used by corporations since could not be enforced

114 n More new trusts created in first year n Used by courts to curb labor organizations

115 Sherman Silver Purchase Act (1890) n Eastern "gold bugs" agreed to double the amount of silver purchased in exchange for western support of increased tariffs

116 n Silver certificates could be redeemed for silver or gold

117 McKinley Tariff Bill (1890) n Raised tariff rates to highest peacetime level ever –Averaged 48.4% on dutiable goods

118 n Raised tariffs on agriculture goods that did not need protection n Farmers were hurt by higher prices for goods

119 Congressional Election of 1890 n Discontent with “Bill” McKinley & his tariff leads to the election of a Democratic Congress in 1890

120 n 9 members of the militant Farmers Alliance were elected to Congress

121 Election of 1892 n Democrats run ex- president Grover Cleveland against Republican incumbent Harrison & Populist James B. Weaver James B. Weaver

122 n Republicans call for continued high tariffs which are again the major issue

123 The People’s Party n Populists rooted in the Granges, Farmers Alliances, & Labor movement

124 Price Indexes for Consumer & Farm Products: 1865-1913


126 n Campaigned on a platform of "free silver," graduated income tax, gov’t ownership of telephone, telegraph, & railroads

127 n Also called for direct election of Senators, a single 4-year term of office for the President, & use of the referendum & initiative n Also backed labor’s demands for shorter hours & immigration restrictions

128 Homestead Strike n Summer of 1892: wave of labor strikes swept the country n At Carnegie’s Homestead Steel plant, 300 armed Pinkerton detectives used to try & crush a strike

129 Homestead Strike

130 n Steelworkers fought back & federal troops were eventually used to end the strike n Homestead Strike showed seriousness of labor unrest & disproved that tariff protection led to higher wages n Lost Republican votes

131 Jim Crow South n Populists, led by Tom Watson of Georgia, appealed to southern Blacks to abandon the Republicans & vote for the Populists

132 n Southern “Bourbon” leaders played on racial fears to woo poor whites back to the Democratic Party

133 n Fear of Black political power led to the final passage of Jim Crow voting restrictions n Southern Populists soon became increasingly racist in their rhetoric

134 n Populists one of the few third parties to win electoral votes –Weaver got over 1 million popular & 22 electoral votes in 1892

135 Election of 1892

136 Cleveland Wins Again

137 n Grover Cleveland took office in 1893 as the only president to ever be reelected after being defeated n Cleveland comes back more conservative & a little heavier

138 The Panic of 1893 n Depression begins in 1893 that will last for about 4 years n It is the first major depression of the modern industrial age

139 n Caused by overbuilding, over speculation, labor disorders, & agricultural depression n Silver issue led to poor credit for US n Banks failed, businesses failed, thousands out of work

140 n Charities set up soup kitchens for the thousands of hoboes living in the streets

141 n Federal government followed laissez-faire policy & did nothing

142 Gold Panic n Gold reserves fall below the $100 million n “Endless chain” had gov’t paying more for silver purchases than it received in gold

143 n Cleveland calls a special session of Congress seeking to repeal the Silver Purchase Act n In the middle of the crisis, Cleveland has to secretly have a tumor removed from his mouth

144 Congressional Opposition n William Jennings Bryan –Nebraska Democrat who led opposition –Great oratory made him famous throughout country

145 n Cleveland able to use the power of his office to get the law repealed, but alienated the silverites in the Democratic Party

146 n 1894: gold reserves dropped to $41 million dollars & the country is in danger of going off the gold standard n Cleveland is forced to sell bonds to raise gold reserves

147 n The “endless chain” redemption continued to cause the treasury reserves to drop n Depression deepened

148 Wilson Gorman Tariff Act (1894) n Democrats passed a new tariff that created a modest reduction in tariffs & a 2% income tax on incomes over $4,000

149 n Bill ultimately watered down by amendment & passed without the signature of an outraged Cleveland

150 n Supreme Court will declare the income tax unconstitutional in 1895 –16 th Amendment will allow for an income tax in 1913

151 1894 Congressional Election n Republicans win the congressional election of 1894 in a landslide & begin to boast that they will win the White House in ‘96

152 Morgan Steps In n 1895: deepening gold crisis led Cleveland to seek loans from Wall Street bankers

153 n J.P. Morgan loans $65 million to federal government & confidence is restored n Banks will earn $7 million in interest

154 n Populists are enraged by the defeat of income tax & Cleveland’s sellout to “Jupiter” Morgan

155 n Coin’s Financial School becomes the bible of free-silverites n Silver becomes the issue of the Populists in 1896


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