Political Corruption and Economic Trouble Gilded Age
Political Challenges • Balance of Power • Government stayed almost perfectly balanced through the gilded age. • No one political party dominated the government (for the most part) • Stalemate made it difficult for laws and government changes to happen. • Presidential and legislature elections were very close making losers block legislation until they won again.
Presidents of the Gilded Age • Weak compared to presidents before • Most won by slim margins and many seemed to lack integrity • Rutherford B Hayes won because of a secret deal • Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote but won electoral college • Chester Arthur became president only after President James Garfield was assassinated • Upset his own party that they chose not to re-nominate him. • Grover Cleveland was one of the few that had a little success
Grover Cleveland • Served as mayor of buffalo New York, governor of New York, and then 22nd president. • Lost re-election to Benjamin Harrison • Won again 4 years later and also became 24th president • Known for serving with integrity in a time of known corruption.
Corruption • Grover Cleveland was an anomaly – most politicians were corrupt • Politics were driven by lobbyists and corrupt bargains • Big business would strike deals with candidates to get laws passed for them. • Some believed the senate was entirely controlled by the rich business owners.
Political Cartoons • Brought to light the problems plaguing the government. • Joseph Keppler • Showed the corruption in his most famous cartoon “the bosses of the senate” representing the trusts that controlled the senate.
Political Cartoons • Thomas Nast did a series that exposed the illegal activities of William Marcy “Boss” Tweed • Ran a political organization that used connections and group rule to dominate politics and lawmaking in New York City • Manipulated tax dollars and more • Was arrested and escaped jail, found in Spain, identified by one of Nast’s cartoons.
The Spoils System • Created corruption and struggles • Giving jobs based on party loyalty rather than qualification started to stagnate the government • Political parties get strength from the spoils system • Convinced people to vote for candidates with the option for a job.
Spoils system prompts Civil Service reform • Civil service • System that includes federal jobs in the executive branch. • In a working system jobs would be given based on qualifications • Spoils system prevented this – politicians thought they wouldn’t get support if they didn’t give these jobs to supporters. Led to an inefficient system. • Reform was difficult • Took the assassination of president Garfield to prompt a change • Shot by Charles Guiteau who believed that he had been robbed of a spoil system job.
Reforming the civil service • Chester A Arthur liked the spoils system but also noted the need to reform • Signed the Pendleton Civil Service Act in 1883 • Established a commision to write a service exam • People now got jobs depending on how they did on the exam • Reduced the power of the spoils system
Economic Challenges • Debates over how to monitor money and business in the united states also created trouble. • Movement to commit to the Gold Standard • Debate how to use tariffs to regulate production
Tariff Debate • Tariffs help to keep markets regulated and help American made products become cheaper • Debate over lower tariffs became major political issue in presidential elections. • Republicans wanted a high tariff to allow American manufacturers to make more and create more jobs • Democrats thought that high tariffs allowed price increases and prevented the sale of goods over seas • Particularly for farmers.
Money • First challenge was the inflation from production of paper money during the war • Greenbacks • Government moved away from greenbacks • At the same time congress passed the Coinage Act of 1873 • Moved to only make gold coins. • People worried that not using silver would hurt the economy • Others felt that using silver would undermine the economy • Others wanted to create inflation so prices would increase and so would their income.