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Politics in the Gilded Age City Bosses, Political Machines, and Populism Politics in the Gilded Age City Bosses, Political Machines, and Populism.

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Presentation on theme: "Politics in the Gilded Age City Bosses, Political Machines, and Populism Politics in the Gilded Age City Bosses, Political Machines, and Populism."— Presentation transcript:

1 Politics in the Gilded Age City Bosses, Political Machines, and Populism Politics in the Gilded Age City Bosses, Political Machines, and Populism

2 Political Machines  Political machines controlled the activities of political parties in the city. Ward bosses, precinct captains, and the city boss worked to ensure that their candidates were elected and that city government worked to their advantage.

3 Role of the Political Boss  The “Boss” (typically the mayor) controlled jobs, business licenses, and influenced the court system. Precinct captains and ward bosses, often 1 st or 2 nd generation immigrants, helped new immigrants with jobs, housing, and naturalization in exchange for votes. Boss Tweed ran NYC

4 Municipal Graft and Scandal  Some political bosses were corrupt and their political machines practiced election fraud by using fake names and voting multiple times to ensure victory. Bribes were common and construction contracts often resulted in kick- backs. Because the police were hired by the boss, there was no close scrutiny.

5 The Tweed Ring Scandal  William M. Tweed, known as Boss Tweed, was head of Tammany Hall, NYC’s powerful Democratic political machine. Between 1869-1871, he led the Tweed Ring of corrupt politicians in defrauding the city. Convicted of 120 counts of fraud & extortion, he was sentenced to 12 years in jail, but released after one. Rearrested, he escaped to Spain.

6 Civil Service Replaces Patronage  Nationally, some politicians pushed for reform in the hiring system, which had been based on Patronage (giving jobs and favors to those who helped a candidate get elected). Reformers pushed for adoption of a merit system (hiring the most qualified for jobs). The Pendleton Civil Service Act of 1883 authorized a bipartisan commission to make appointments for federal jobs based on performance. Applicants for federal jobs are required to take a Civil Service Exam

7 The Plight of Farmers  In the late 19 th century, farmers struggled to survive. Between 1867 and 1887 the price of a bushel of wheat fell from two dollars to 68 cents, railroads conspired to keep transportation costs artificially high, and farmers were caught in a cycle of debt.


9 The Grange  Farmers demanded help from state and federal governments. When this relief did not come, Midwestern farmers banded together in 1867 to form the Grange. By 1875, the Grange had more than 800,000 members.

10 Education and Fellowship  The Grange offered farmers education and fellowship through biweekly social functions, at which farmers shared their grievances and discussed agricultural and political reforms.

11 Cooperative Action  To increase farm profits, Grangers negotiated deals with machinery companies and set up cooperatives and grain storage facilities. They also fought against railroad companies for hiking prices for short- distance shipment. The efforts of the Grange played a big role in the passage of the 1887 Interstate Commerce Act.


13 The Farmers’ Alliance  By 1880, the Grange had faded and was replaced by the more political Farmers’ Alliance. Beginning as a local group in Texas in the late 1870s, alliances spread throughout the South and Northwest, and by 1890, boasted a membership of 1.5 million nationwide.

14 The Populist Party  In 1892, Alliance members helped found the Populist Party, which drew support from urban laborers as well as farmers.

15 Proposed Economic Reforms  Populist economic reforms included:  An increase in the supply of money  A rise in crop prices  Lower taxes  A federal loan program  An 8-hour workday  Reduced immigration

16 Proposed Political Reforms  Populist political reforms included:  Direct election of senators  Single term presidencies

17 Populists Made Small Gains  In the 1892 Presidential election, the Populist party candidate won only 9% of the vote. However, in the West, the party elected five senators, three governors and 1,500 state legislators. The smallest specimen yet (Populist party candidate’s showing in the election)

18 Note: Democratic states are red and Republican states are blue.

19 Support for Populists Grew  The Panic of 1893 gave the Populist Party new life. Railroads went bankrupt, the stock market lost value, 15,000 businesses and 500 banks collapsed. Three million people lost their jobs – putting unemployment at 20%.

20 The Election of 1896  The 1896 presidential election, which pitted Republican William McKinley against Democrat William Jennings Bryan, was a crucial turning point in U.S. history. Many contemporaries considered it the most important political event since Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860. William McKinley 18961896

21 Silver or Gold?  The central issue of the campaign was which metal to use as the basis for the nation’s monetary system: bimetallism (gold and silver) or gold alone. The Republicans preferred gold and the Democrats favored free silver (bimetallism at a ratio of 16 units of silver to one of gold).


23 Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” Speech  The Democrats hoped that free silver would increase the supply of money and provide more credit to farmers and workers. But despite Bryan’s stirring words, “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold,” McKinley won the 1896 election.

24 Republican Dominance  Because the Populists had joined the Democrats in supporting William Jennings Bryan, they lost their ability to bring about constructive change. McKinley’s victory established Republican dominance in Washington for over a decade.

25 An Environment for Jim Crow  Bryan’s defeat was a loss for the West and the South, but the realignment of 1896 helped create favorable conditions for Jim Crow segregation and the disfranchisement of black voters in the South.


27 The End of Populism  With McKinley’s victory, Populism collapsed, burying the hopes of the farmer for a better life. The Populist Party was short-lived but left an important legacy:  A message that the downtrodden can organize and be heard  An agenda of reforms that would be enacted in the 20 th century.

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