Gilded Age Politics
The "Politics of Equilibrium"
High Voter Participation— Why? (1) People believed that the issues were important (2) People believed that their votes counted (3) Politics = Entertainment Gilded Age Politics
3. Well-Defined Voting Blocs DemocraticBloc RepublicanBloc • White southerners(preservation ofwhite supremacy) • Catholics • Recent immigrants(esp. Jews) • Urban working poor (pro-labor) • Most farmers • Northern whites(pro-business) • African Americans • Northern Protestants • Old WASPs (supportfor anti-immigrant laws) • Most of the middleclass
4. Very Laissez Faire Federal Govt. • From 1870-1900 Govt. did verylittle domestically. • Main duties of the federal govt.: • Deliver the mail. • Maintain a national military. • Collect taxes & tariffs. • Conduct a foreign policy. • Exception administer the annual Civil War veterans’ pension.
5. The Presidency as a Symbolic Office • Party bosses ruled. • Presidents should avoid offending anyfactions within theirown party. • The President justdoled out federal jobs. • 1865 53,000 people worked for the federal govt. • 1890 166,000 “ “ “ “ “ “ Senator Roscoe Conkling
1880 Presidential Election: Republicans Half Breeds Stalwarts Sen. James G. Blaine Sen. Roscoe Conkling (Maine) (New York) compromise James A. Garfield Chester A. Arthur (VP)
1881: Garfield Assassinated! Charles Guiteau:I Am a Stalwart, and Arthur is President now!
Pendleton Act (1883) • Civil Service Act. • The “Magna Carta” of civil service reform. • 1883 14,000 out of117,000 federal govt.jobs became civilservice exam positions. • 1900 100,000 out of 200,000 civil service federal govt. jobs.
The Underwood Tariff (1913) Income Taxes (XVI Amendment 1913) Currency debtors vs. creditors Gilded Age Politics
Gilded Age Politics • Legal Tender—US can require creditors to accept its paper money as payment for debt. • Greenbacks • $450,000,000
Republican “Mugwumps” • Reformers who wouldn’t re-nominateChester A. Arthur. • Reform to them create a disinterested, impartial govt. run by an educated elite like themselves. • Social Darwinists. • Laissez faire government to them: • Favoritism & the spoils system seen as govt. intervention in society. • Their target was political corruption, not social or economic reform!
TheMugwumps Men may come and men may go, but the work of reform shall go on forever. • Will support Cleveland in the1884 election.
1884 Presidential Election Grover Cleveland James Blaine* (DEM) (REP)
A Dirty Campaign Ma, Ma…where’s my pa?He’s going to the White House, ha… ha… ha…!
Cleveland’s First Term • The “Veto Governor” from New York. • First Democratic elected since 1856. • A public office is a public trust! • His laissez-faire presidency: • Opposed bills to assist the poor aswell as the rich. • Vetoed over 200 special pension billsfor Civil War veterans!
The Tariff Issue • After the Civil War, Congress raisedtariffs to protect new US industries. • Big business wanted to continue this;consumers did not. • 1885 tariffs earned the US $100 mil. in surplus! • Mugwumps opposed it WHY??? • President Cleveland’s view on tariffs???? • Tariffs became a major issue in the 1888presidential election.
1888 Presidential Election Grover Cleveland Benjamin Harrison(DEM) *(REP)
Changing Public Opinion • Americans wanted the federal govt. to dealwith growing soc. & eco. problems & to curbthe power of the trusts: • Interstate Commerce Act – 1887 • Sherman Antitrust Act – 1890 • McKinley Tariff – 1890 • Based on the theory that prosperityflowed directly from protectionism. • Increased already high rates another 4%! • Rep. Party suffered big losses in 1890 (evenMcKinley lost his House seat!).
1892 Presidential Election Grover Cleveland Benjamin Harrison again! * (DEM) (REP)
Cleveland Loses Support Fast! • The only President to serve two non-consecutive terms. • Blamed for the 1893 Panic. • Defended the gold standard. • Used federal troops in the 1894Pullman strike. • Refused to sign the Wilson-GormanTariff of 1894. • Repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act.
The Vanderbilt Chateau While the rich wore diamonds, many wore rags. In 1890, 11 million of the nation's 12 million families earned less than $1200 per year; of this group, the average annual income was $380, well below the poverty line.
The Metropolitan Opera House In New York, the opera, the theatre, and lavish parties consumed the ruling class' leisure hours. Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish once threw a dinner party to honor her dog who arrived sporting a $15,000 diamond collar.
For immediate relief, the urban poor often turned to political machines. During the first years of the Gilded Age, Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall provided more services to the poor than any city government before it, although far more money went into Tweed's own pocket.
The Carnegie mansion The frustrations of Gilded Age workers transformed the labor movement into a vigorous, if often violent, force. Workers saw men like Andrew Carnegie getting fabulously rich, and raged at being left behind. Andrew Carnegie's private study
They saw John D. Rockefeller as one of the wealthy controlling the country
Corruption extended to the highest levels of government. During Ulysses S. Grant's presidency, the president and his cabinet were implicated in the Credit Mobilier, the Gold Conspiracy, the Whiskey Ring, and the notorious Salary Grab.
With their own labor the only available bargaining chip, workers frequently went on strike. The 1880's witnessed almost ten thousand strikes and lockouts; close to 700,000 workers struck in 1886 alone.
The results were often explosive-none more than the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. When the B&O Railroad cut wages, workers staged spontaneous strikes, which spread nationwide.
When George Pullman slashed wages and hiked rents in his company town, a national strike and boycott was called on all railways carrying Pullman cars. Railroad traffic ground to a halt as 260,000 workers struck, and battles with state and federal troops broke out in 26 states. The strike ultimately failed, its leaders imprisoned and many strikers blacklisted.
Meanwhile, the wealthy factory and business owners enjoyed their luxury “cottages” for the few weeks of summer in Newport
The doctrine of Social Darwinism didn’t increase the sympathy of people with wealth for the less fortunate.
Herbert Spencer coined the phrase “survival of the fittest”. To Spencer, human society should be modeled on nature. Humans should never interfere with the selection of the fittest humans for survival to the next generation.
New York Foundling Hospital, 1899–1900 Handouts to the poor, state schooling, and systematized health care were considered dangerous by Spencer, they could only help the weak survive, thereby damaging the “purity” of the rest of the human race.
Misconception: “Evolution supports the idea that ‘might makes right’ and rationalizes the oppression of some people by others.” Although Darwinists might disagree