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• Rise of monopolies had put
  workers under a great deal of
  pressure and forced them to form
  unions to protect themselves
   – Creating conditions of an on-
     going and often violent battle
     between big business and
• Growth of monopolies also had
  negative impact on politics
   – Power and prestige of
     presidency declined
   – Local, state, and national
     political institutions became
   – Main reason for all of this was
     rise of political “machines”
             PUBLIC SERVICES
• Primary purpose of machines
  was to serve needs of new
  business corporations
• As cities grew in the north,
  demand for municipal services
   – Public transportation,
     garbage collection, gas,
     water, and electricity
• City governments did not
  provide these services
   – Gave private companies a
     local monopoly (or
     franchise) to provide them
   – Possession of a franchise
     was lucrative because rates
     and services were
     unregulated, allowing owner
     to charge whatever he
• Because franchises were literally a
  license to print money,
  competition between corporations
  to obtain them was intense
   – Big city politicians exploited
     this competition to sell
     franchises under the table to
     whichever corporation offered
     them the best deal in terms of
     bribes and kickbacks
• And once they got their hands
  dirty with this, they moved on to
  other forms of corruption
   – Taking bribes and kickbacks
     from construction contractors,
     illegal land speculation, using
     police to extort money from
     illegal businesses, taking bribes
     from criminals to get favorable
     court decisions, etc.
• Political machines were
  organized by urban
  politicians to make
  money by exploiting
  their governmental
  power in illegal ways
   – Some machines were
     Republican, some
     were Democratic
   – Existed in every
     American city by the
     late 19th century
    Everyone knew machines were
   – But the rested on a solid base
     because they simultaneously
     served the needs of big business
     and acted as protectors of the
• To continue their corrupt activities,
  machines had to win elections and to
  win elections they had to court the
  votes of the working poor
   – Provided poor with jobs, giving
     them financial aid in hard times,
     helping them when they got in
     trouble with the law, etc.
   – In return poor gave their votes
• Despite blatant corruption, machines
  enjoyed massive public support
  because they always took care of the
  people who voted for them
• Machines eventually expanded
  their scope to include state
   – And from this state power base
     they expanded their influence
     into the U.S. Congress
• By 1890, it was common for state
  machine bosses to become U.S.
   – Marc Hanna of Ohio
   – Reinforced power of Congress
     over the president because men
     like Hanna held real power and
     even owned presidents
          SITUATION IN 1896
• Until 1896, political machines, operating through
  their urban power bases and control of state
  government, ran Congress and Congress, not the
  president, ran the U.S.
   – This situation was great for large corporations
     who gave money to these machines
      • Because they worked for you
   – But it you belonged to a group that didn’t have the
     resources or organization to influence the
     machines, you were left out in the cold
      • If you were a farmer, for example
• 1890 had been a worse year than
  usual for farmers
   – They blamed Eastern
     politicians and financial
     interests for their problems
     and launched the Populist
     movement to remedy their
• In early 1890s, several farmers’
  organizations from the South
  and West formed their own
  political party and nominated
  James Weaver as their
  presidential candidate in 1892
   – Weaver lost big but he did
     draw off enough votes from
     the Republicans to allow the
     Democrat Grover Cleveland to
     win the White House
             MONEY QUESTION
• Businessmen believed that all
  paper money in circulation had to
  have bullion (preferably gold) to
  back it up
   – For every dollar in circulation,
     there had to be a dollar’s worth
     of gold in Fort Knox
• Debt-ridden farmers argued that
  “gold standard” limited the supply
  of money, made credit tight and
  interest rates high
   – Wanted supply of money
     expanded by adopting a joint
     gold/silver standard
   – Since silver was more plentiful
     than gold, this would increase
     amount of paper money in
     circulation, make credit easier,
     and reduce interest rates
• Congress adopted joint gold/silver
  standard with adoption of the
  Sherman Silver Purchase Act of
   – But it didn’t work
   – Money supply did not increase
     significantly and farmers’
     situation did not improve
• Farmers argued that idea was still
  a good one and needed more time
  to work
• Businessmen argued that
  Sherman Act was a failure, that it
  hurt the economy, and demanded
  a return to a pure gold standard
             EMOTIONAL ISSUE
• Debate about gold and
  silver was very emotional
• Farmers saw the
  maintenance of a
  gold/silver standard as not
  only essential for their
  long-term survival but also
  symbolic of a bigger issue
   – The issue of who would
     ultimately control the
     American economy
      • Agricultural interests
        of Eastern industrial
        or financial interests
  • Two months after Cleveland’s
    election, the U.S. was hit by the worst
    depression in its history up until that
     – Panic of 1893
     – Railroads went bankrupt, 16,000
       businesses folded, over 100 banks
       failed, and unemployment rose as
       high as 20% in northern cities
  • Cleveland was convinced Sherman
    Silver Purchase Act had caused the
    crisis and got Congress to repeal it
     – Wall Street rejoiced
     – But farmers screamed they had
       been betrayed
  • To make matters worse, repeal of the
    act did not improve the economic
• Farmers had learned in
  1892 that an independent
  third party would not
   – So they organized to
     take control of
     Cleveland’s own party,
     the Democrats
• Struggle between Populist
  pro-silver advocates and
  Cleveland pro-gold
  advocates continued all
  the way into the
  Democratic Presidential
  Convention in the summer
  of 1896
• Pro-silver Populists gained
  upper hand at Democratic
   – Blocked Cleveland’s attempt
     to be renominated
   – Instead nominated William
     Jennings Bryan
      • 36 years old
      • From Nebraska
• Nomination acceptance speech
  summed up the Populist position
  well and remained one of the
  most famous speeches in
  American politics
• We have petitioned and our petitions have been scorned;
  We have entreated and our entreaties have been
  We have begged and they have mocked us;
  We beg no longer, we entreat no more, we petition no
  We defy them.
  You tell us that our great cities are in favor of the gold
  We reply that the great cities rest upon our farms;
  Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities
  will spring up again as if by magic;
  But destroy our farms and grass will grow in the streets of
  every city in the country.
  Having behind us the producing masses of the nation and
  the world, we will answer their demand for a gold standard
  by saying to them:
  You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this
  crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a
  cross of gold
             THE CANDIDATES
• Republicans nominated William
  J. McKinley of Ohio
   – Hand-picked by Marc Hanna
   – Endorsed the gold standard
• Election of 1896 represented
  clear-cut battle between
   – Pro-farmer, pro-silver Bryan
     against the pro-gold, pro-
     northern business , machine-
     backed McKinley
              1896 ELECTION
                       McKinley won

                            McKinley’s victory
                              triumph for the
                               industrial and
                            financial interests
  Bryan won the
                              of the East over
South and the West
                              the agricultural
 by a huge margin
                              interests of the
    but was an
                              West and South
absolute disaster in
 the more heavily
                         As a serious force in
 populated Upper
                          American politics,
 Midwest and East
                             Western and
                           Southern farmers
                           were essentially
                         dead—at least for the
                              time being
• One reason why McKinley
  lost is because ordinary
  city people had not
  supported him
   – Situation changed in
     years after 1896 as the
     continued spread of
     monopolies negatively
     affected the lives of the
     city people
       • Especially their
         position as
• Food processing companies did not provide
  healthy food at a fair price
   – And nothing could be done about it
     because corporations, with their wealth,
     power, and monopolistic control, could
     pretty well do as they wanted
• Gas and power companies raised rates
  whenever they were in the mood
• Public transportation companies provided
  poor service and made no attempt to
  improve it
• Development and improvement of
  technology made the situation worse
   – Dishonest meat packers used
     chemicals to make rotten meat
     look fresh
   – Dairy companies dyed lard yellow
     and sold it as butter and put
     arsenic in milk to give it a longer
     shelf life
   – Food companies packed dyed
     turnips in syrup and sold it as
     canned peaches
   – Drug companies often sold
     dangerous remedies made from
     alcohol, opium, or cocaine
• As abuses mounted after 1896, more and
  more city people began to demand that
  something be done to eliminate them
• Reform, the thorough overhaul of American
  social, economic, and political practices,
  became the increasingly obvious answer
• This growing demand for reform caused
  urban people to join with rural people in a
  nationwide movement to check corporate
  power, clean up politics, and protect the
• Played a major role in mobilizing public
  opinion in favor of reform
   – Group of editors, journalists and
     novelists who wrote for the multitude
     of new inexpensive magazines that
     appeared during the period
     Practitioners of investigative reporting
• Pioneered by Lincoln Steffens and Ida
  Tarbell, they probed and uncovered
  virtually every major abuse in the country
   – Political corruption by machines,
     illegal practices by corporations,
     unsafe drugs, crooked stock market
     deals, unsanitary and unsafe practices
     in the food industry, exploitation of
     child and female labor, racism, etc.
• Most of their reporting was accurate and
  appealed to the public because it
  confirmed their suspicions about big
  business and government
• Muckrakers seldom offered solutions
   – This work was done by a group of
     thinkers who analyzed problems the
     muckrakers uncovered and offered
     thoughtful remedies for them
• The New Republic magazine was a major
   – Argued that old individualistic
     solutions no longer worked
   – Rather than let private enterprise work
     things out by itself, government had to
     intervene, regulate the corporations,
     and guide the economy for the general
   – Represented beginning of modern
     American liberalism by pioneering the     Walter Lippman, founder
                                                of the New Republic
     belief that the government should
     abandon its former “hands off” policy
     and regulate private enterprise for the
     benefit of all Americans
• Wisconsin had been controlled
  by a Republican political
  machine for years
   – Served interests of large
     corporations in Milwaukee,
     Kenosha, and Racine
• Panic of 1893 severely jolted
  state economy
   – Unemployment rose to 33%
     in some areas
   – But at the same time most
     corporations avoided
     paying state taxes and local
     utilities kept raising their
• Many people in Wisconsin
  became angry as they
  compared their own plight with
  what big business was getting
  away with
• Young, ambitious
  Republican lawyer
   – Ran for governor in 1896
     on platform of
     championing the common
     man against arrogant big
     business and corrupt
     state government
      • Lost in primary to
        machine candidate
   – Ran again in 1898 and
   – Ran again in 1900
      • Won primary and
        general election
               “BATTLING BOB”
• 1900 victory followed by a tidal wave
  of legislation which made Wisconsin
  the pioneer in state government
   – Railroad Tax Law
       • Forced rail corporations to pay
         their fair share of state taxes
   – Creation of State Railroad
       • Forced railroads to justify rate
         increases before they would be
• Re-elected governor in 1902 and
  1904 and elected to U.S. Senate in
              WISCONSIN IDEA
• By the time LaFollette went to
  Washington, the Wisconsin state
  legislature was full of
  Progressives who carried on his
   – Public Utilities Commission
      • Protected consumers
        against price gouging by
        power companies
   – First state income tax in U.S.
      • Designed to make the rich
        bear a larger share of state
        tax burden
• Together, all these reforms
  became known as the Wisconsin
   – Soon other states adopted
     versions of this reform program
               CHANGE IN 1901
• National government
  remained unaffected by
  Wisconsin Idea until 1901
   – In that year President
     McKinley was
     assassinated in Buffalo,
     NY by a fanatical Polish-
     born anarchist
   – His vice-president,
     Theodore Roosevelt,
     became president
      • He would help the
        Movement penetrate
        national government
        • TR pursued a relatively
          conservative course during first
           – Because he saw himself as
             “president by accident” and not
             really elected by American
        • Re-elected by huge landslide in
           – Now moved dramatically to the
               • Partly in response to the
                 mood of the American people
                 and partly in response to his
                 own confidence that he was
                 no longer a “president by
• TR passed some important legislation
   – Hepburn Act (1906)
      • Set up Interstate Commerce
        Commission to regulate railroad rates
        at the national level
   – Meat Inspection Act of 1906
      • Passed in response to enormous
        public response to Upton Sinclair’s
        novel, The Jungle
          – Described filthy and dangerous
            conditions in meat-packing
            houses of Chicago
      • TR investigated Sinclair’s
        descriptions and found that things
        were actually worse
      • Passed bill that enforced sanitary
        conditions and practices in meat-
        packing plants and required the
        regular inspection of meat
• Law was an effort to
  remedy the use of
  unsafe chemicals in
  food products
• Also to eliminate the
  misrepresentation of
  food items
• It required the honest
  labeling of food and
  drug preparations and
  outlawed the use of
  dangerous chemicals
  and other forms of
• Recognized that natural resources
  of the U.S. were not infinite
   – They had to be conserved and
   – Convinced Congress to pass
     series of laws designed to
     conserve America’s natural
   – Created national park system
     which provided for scientific
     management of nation’s forests,
     rivers, and land and which
     prohibited predatory corporate
     interests from wasting natural
     resources for the sake of quick
• Created new commitment by
  government to protect the
  country’s natural resources
• TR did not run for re-election in 1907
   – Said he was tired
   – Went to Africa to hunt big game
   – Handpicked William Howard Taft to
     be Republican candidate
      • Huge, good-natured judge from
• Taft promised to continue TR’s
  progressive policies and did sponsor
  some progressive legislation as
   – But he proved to be a lackluster
     reformer compared to TR
   – Republican reformers (the
     “Insurgents”) became disenchanted
     with him and urged TR to come
     back and challenge Taft for
     Republican nomination in 1912
      • TR finally agreed to do so
• TR and Taft battled throughout
  summer of 1912 for delegates
   – In states which had open
     primaries, TR won
   – But machine bosses still picked
     delegates in many states and, in
     these cases, Taft usually came
     out on top
• At the Convention, Taft got the
  party’s nomination
   – Held in Chicago in July
   – TR and supporters walked out
     and formed their own third
     party, the Progressive Party
      • Nicknamed “Bull Moose
• Bull Moose Party held Convention
  in August and nominated TR as
  their presidential candidate
• Radical Platform
   – Vote for women
   – Government-funded retirement
   – Minimum wage
   – Right to recalled national
     elected officials
• Democrats nominated Woodrow
   – Former president of Princeton
     University and Progressive
     governor of New Jersey
              1912 ELECTION
 Wilson won by a narrow
         margin                      Wilson was the first
                                 Democrat elected president
                                  since Grover Cleveland in

    Real battle of
   campaign was
    between two           Public loved TR but
Progressives: TR and           many were
       Wilson              suspicious of the
                          radical nature of his
Taft was not really in
                          platform and turned
  the running at all
                               to the more
                            moderate Wilson
   • Wilson was a good leader and
     established a good Progressive record
      – Established a national income tax
      – Passed 17th Amendment
         • Provided for the direct election
           of Senators, instead of having
           them selected by state
   • Only defect in his record his attitude
     toward African-Americans
      – Wilson was born in the South, his
        party was strongly southern in
        composition, and many of his
        advisors were southern
         • Cut off political patronage that
           TR and Republicans had given to
           African-Americans and
           segregated black workers in
           federal departments
• Noted black educator and
• Argued that blacks should accept
  segregation and try to succeed in
  those occupations that were left
  open to them
   – Such as agriculture, mechanics,
     domestic service, and some
   – By doing this, blacks would
     show whites that they were
     capable and hard-working and
     thereby gradually win
                W.E.B. DUBOIS
• Gifted and well-known African-
  American author
• Argued that racism was such a
  powerful force within American
  society that whites would never, on
  their own, accept blacks as equal
• He instead urged African-
  Americans to fight racism and
  segregation whenever and
  wherever they appeared and
  thereby wear them down through
  persistent effort
• Also advocated the passage of
  laws with would outlaw
  segregationalist policies on the
  local level
   – Actions of Wilson administration
      undercut this strategy
                 1916 ELECTION
                    But there was more to
                     1916 election than
                      domestic issues
                    World War I had erupted
                   in Europe in August 1914
Wilson won re-         and enveloped the
  election in      continent in a destructive
1916—mainly                bloodbath
because of his
                     Most Americans wanted to steer clear
                     of this mess and Wilson had thus far
                      managed to do so. It was national
                     gratitude for this that put Wilson over
                                     the top
              SUMMARY (1)
• Between 1890 and 1917, more and more Americans
  moved to cities and became aware of how they were
  being deceived, exploited, and used by political
  machines and giant corporations
   – In their effort to protect themselves, they gave
     rise to the Progressive Movement
       • Movement came in both local and national
         versions but both were designed to answer the
         problems of a society where more and more
         people found themselves living in the
         vulnerable environment of the cities
               SUMMARY (2)
• All the goals of the Progressive Movement were not
   – Most legislation represented compromises
     between reformers and their conservative
• But in general, the Progressives made a great deal of
  headway in protecting consumers, in making state
  and national governments more responsive to the
  needs of the average citizen, and in limiting the most
  blatant abuses of large corporations
• None of these tasks were complete and the problem
  of racism actually got worse
   – But Progressives should be admired as the first
     people to seriously grappled with the new social
     environment created by our increasingly
     industrial and urban nation

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