Gilded Age Politics The Era of Lousy Presidents
The Election of Ulysses S. Grant a. Popular support for Grant 1. a good general makes a good president 2. popular war hero b. Grants' weaknesses 1. no political experience 2. culturally illiterate
The Election of Ulysses S. Grant c. The Election of 1868 1. Republican platform - continue military Reconstruction 2. Democratic platform (a) denounces Reconstruction (b) The "Ohio Idea" (the debate between eastern-merchant interests and western-agrarian interests survives the Civil War!) 3. The campaign of 1868 (a) "waving the bloody shirt" d. The results -- Grant wins 1. the importance of the enfranchised black vote: provides the margin of victory
The Era of Good Stealings: Graft and Corruption in Gilded Age Politics a. Corruption in Business and Government rampant in the post-War era 1. Financial corruption (a) "Jubilee" Jim Fisk & Jay Gould attempt to "corner" the gold market 2. In municipal government: The Tweed Ring (a) City "Boss" William Marcy Tweed (b) graft in NYC (c) The NYT, Thomas Nast, and Samuel Tilden bring him down 3. In the White House (a) Credit Mobilier Scandal (1867-68) (b) Whiskey Ring (1875) (c) Sec. of War Belknap Impeachment (1876)
The Liberal Republican Revolt and the Election 1872 a. The Liberal Republican Party forms 1. nominate Horace Greeley (an odd selection!) a) editor of the New York Tribune b) brilliant, but eccentric c) also endorsed by the Democratic Party d) calls for a bringing nation back together "across the bloody chasm"
The Liberal Republican Revolt and the Election 1872 b. The election of 1872: Grant v. Greeley 1. A mudslinging campaign (is there really any other kind?) 2. The legacy of the election a) Republicans respond to calls for reform with modest civil service reforms b) 1872 Amnesty Act - pardons all but about 500 former Confederate
Economic Woes under Grant a. The Panic of 1873 1. A result of over-expansion, over-investment a) begins with collapse of the Jay Cooke & Company Banking firm b) 15,000 business close c) rioting in NYC
Economic Woes under Grant b. The Argument for Inflation 1. Debtors hit by the depression call for inflation a) Greenbacks issued during the war ($450 million worth) b) by 1868, the Treasury was removing this money from circulation causing deflation (prices decrease as money becomes more scarce and more valuable) c) debtors seek inflation (more money in circulation makes money less valuable--"cheap money"--which drives up prices and makes it easier to pay fixed debts)
Gilded Age Politics (and you thought monetary policy was boring!) a. Political See-Saw 1. Close elections, frequent turnovers in House makeup a) majority party switched six times in 11 session between 1869-1891 b) divided government (H, S, and White House) c) discourages bold stands by politicians
Gilded Age Politics (and you thought monetary policy was boring!) b. Political Parties a) little difference between the Dems and the Reps on major issues: tariffs, currency, civil service reform… b) ferocious competition c) motivate their constituents at election time (voter turnout 80% from 1860s-90s)
Gilded Age Politics (and you thought monetary policy was boring!) c. Characteristics of the Parties 1. cultural & ideological differences a. Republicans = Puritan religious roots, native born, support gov't involvement in economy and society b. Democrats = numbers include Roman Catholics and Lutherans, less stern, opposed gov't attempts to impose a single moral standard on society.
Gilded Age Politics (and you thought monetary policy was boring!) 2. geographical centers of party loyalty a. Democrats: South (but not among freedmen), Northern industrial cities (immigrants and political machines) b. Republicans: Midwest, Northeast, and freedmen
Gilded Age Politics (and you thought monetary policy was boring!) 3. use of patronage and spoils a. use of spoils to gain support common b. Sen. Roscoe Conkling (R-NY) and the "Stalwarts" v. Rep. James G. Blaine (R-ME) and the Half-Breeds stalemate the GOP over the issue of civil service reform
The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes a) Turbulent years in office 1. The Election of 1876 hangs over his head a) Rutherfraud, Old 8-7, His Fraudulency b) allegations deeply offend his sense of honor 2. Labor disturbances a) Railroad strikes across the nation in 1877 b) troops suppress strikers
The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes 3. Anti-Chinese uproar on the West Coast • 75,000 Chinese laborers in California by 1880 Dennis Kearney in San Francisco b) 1879 Chinese Exclusion Act -- vetoed by Hayes (finally passed in 1882) c) Hayes' legacy left little to be desired
The Garfield Presidency a. 1880 Nomination 1. Hayes not in running, pledged to one-term 2. Stalwart v. Half-Breed factions compromise to select candidates: James A. Garfield for Pres, and Chester A. Arthur (a stalwart) for VP
The Garfield Presidency b. 1880 campaign 1. Republican platform: protective tariff and some civil service reform 2. Democratic platform: Winfield S. Hancock is candidate, runs against tariff and for civil service reform 3. both parties avoid big issues 4. close election--fewer than 40,000 votes elect Garfield
The Garfield Presidency c. The assassination of James Garfield 1. occurs during the beginning of a political showdown between the Half-Breeds and the Stalwarts in the White House 2. Charles J. Guiteau -- a deranged office seeker shoots Garfield in a Washington railroad station in 1881.
Chester A. Arthur in the White House a. Arthur and Civil Service Reform 1. Arthur seemed entirely unqualified; owed his career to the Conkling political machine in NY a) in reality, he was highly intelligent b) his job as collector for the Port of New York put him in charge of the largest federal office in the nation: 2/3 of all tariff revenues were collected there
Chester A. Arthur in the White House 2. Arthur surprises the Stalwarts by taking on Civil Service reform a) prosecutes post office frauds b) "For the vice-presidency, I was indebted to Mr. Conkling, but for the presidency of the United States I am indebted to the Almighty." c) public pressure encourages Republican action
Chester A. Arthur in the White House 3. The Pendleton Civil Service Act of 1883 a) Magna Carta of civil service reform b) establishes a merit system for classified federal jobs c) created the Civil Service Commission to administer tests d) prohibited "assessments" of how much a federal employee contributed to a political party b. The legacy of reform 1. Changes political parties a) politicians court contributions from business leaders and lobbyists
The Election of 1884 a. The Candidates 1. Republican: James G. Blaine a) tattooed with political villainies, e.g., the Mulligan Letters b) Mugwumps bolt the party and join the Democrats 2. Democrats: Grover Cleveland a) a reformer from NY b) rising star in NY politics c) "Grover the Good" label tainted by illegitimate son
The Election of 1884 b. The Election of 1884 1. little attention to the issues a) campaigning revolved around personalities, not issues b) "Burn, Burn, Burn this letter" v. "Ma! Ma! Where's my Pa?"
The Election of 1884 c. A margin of less than 30,000 elects Cleveland a) mugwumps shifted the tide b) Blaine's campaign failed to condemn a Republican clergyman's anti-Irish speech in NY: "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion" -- costs the GOP Irish votes in NY
The Cleveland Presidency a. Cleveland in office 1. First Democrat in White House since James Buchanan 2. Cleveland tended to be tactless and outspoken 3. Politically philosophy: laissez-faire (hands off) - "Though the people support the government, the government should not support the people." 4. Attempts to bridge divisions between N/S appoints 2 former Confederates to the cabinet
The Cleveland Presidency b. Troubling issues for Cleveland 1. Reform v. Rewards for Democrats a. mugwumps demand reforms (and he owes them) b. Democrats want the perks of regaining office c. Cleveland caves to Democratic demands: ousts 2/3 of all federal employees 2. Military pensions a. by 1880 much abuse of the military pensions for Union soldiers b. Cleveland personally vetoes hundreds of applications c. puts Cleveland in opposition with the politically powerful GAR 3. The Tariff question a. Civil War tariffs had been raised to bring in money b. by 1881, the annual surplus at the Treasury was $145 million dollars, mostly from tariff revenue
The Cleveland Presidency c. Cleveland takes on the Tariff 1. Many groups were committed to maintaining the Tariff: a) extra revenues used by Congress for "pork barrel" spending to please constituent groups b) industry and manufactures enjoy protection 2. Cleveland makes the Tariff an issue for the 1888 election by assailing it publicly
The Election of 1888 a. The Candidates 1. Democrats: reluctantly select Cleveland 2. Republicans: Benjamin Harrison a) grandson of William Henry Harrison b) "Little Ben" ; "Young Tippecanoe"
The Election of 1888 b. The issues and the campaign: 1. The Tariff -- 10 million pamphlets on the issue circulated by both parties 2. the Sir Lionel Sackville-West controversy a) Brit diplomat in Washington, who encouraged an English-born California man to vote for Cleveland, saying "a vote for Cleveland was a vote for England" b) The Republicans reprint the letter to sway the Irish electorate in NY 3. Tactics a) Republicans ally with big business (fighting for keeping the tariff) b) votes purchased in Indiana to corral "voting cattle" 4. Outcome a) Cleveland wins the popular vote but loses the Presidency
The Election of 1888 c. Assessing the Cleveland presidency 1. legislative landmarks a) Dawes Severalty Act (1887) - an attempt to "civilize" the Indians by dissolving many tribes as legal entities, removing tribal ownership of land, and establishing private landholding among Indians by granting 160 acres to each Indian head of household. b) The Interstate Commerce Act (1887) - an attempt curb unfair practices of railroads; requires all fares be published, made it illegal for RR's to give special "rebates" and cut-fares to manufacturers who used their lines, establishes the Interstate Commerce Commission to enforce this. c) returns about 81 million acres of public domain land in the west to federal control, after it had improperly been given to railroad companies.
The Election of 1888 d. Assessing the Gilded Age presidents 1. "The Forgettable Presidents" a) Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, and Harrison b) left either blanks or blots on the political record 2. Why such little vitality in politics? a) the industrial economy lures away talented men b) loss in political leadership was inversely related to the surge in economic growth