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Gilded Age Politics 1877-1900

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					Gilded Age Politics 1877-1900 Where does the “Gilded Age” expression come from?  Title of an 1873 Mark Twain book  Title referred to the “superficial glitter” of the new wealth that developed in the late 1800s  Era of political corruption and stalemate where government did little to address the problems associated with industrialization and urbanization Why didn’t government do more to reform the social problems that developed from urbanization and industrialization in the Gilded Age?  Belief in limited government  Laissez-faire economics and social Darwinism  Narrow interpretation of government’s regulatory power by federal courts limited the regulatory laws Congress did pass (Sherman Anti-trust Act) How did the two national political parties prevent social and economic reforms between 1876 and 1892?  Closeness of elections in the late 19th century led parties to avoid controversial issues that might alienate voters  Divided government: Congress and the Presidency were controlled by different political parties (except for 1889-1991 when Republicans controlled both)  Democrats won two presidential elections in the electoral college (four by popular vote)  Issue-free campaigns focused on party loyalty, regional ties, religious ties, and ethnic ties  Republicans o Supported an economic program including high protective tariffs for business o Core Republican votes came from business men and middle class protestants in the north and west o Continued to “wave the bloody shirt” o Attracted African American votes  Democrats o Continued to support state’s rights and limited federal government o Solid South: after 1877 Democrats won every election in the former confederacy until the mid 20th century o In the north Democrats received support from city political machines and the immigrant vote o Often Catholic, Lutheran, and Jewish o Typically opposed protestant temperance and prohibition movements How was patronage a part of Gilded Age politics?  Politics focused on winning and holding office, not on issues or legislation  One way to win and hold office was to reward party loyalty with government jobs  Stalwarts, Half-breeds, and Mugwumps o Stalwarts and half-breeds were two factions of the Republican Party that competed for patronage positions o Senator Roscoe Conkling became a powerful Republican leader by determining who would receive lucrative jobs in the NY Customs House o Conkling and supporters were called “Stalwarts” o James G Blaine led the Half-breeds o Republicans who did not take part in patronage politics or opposed patronage were called Mugwumps How did political party “machines” corrupt local politics during the Gilded Age?  Political Machines: tightly organized groups of politicians that controlled the political parties in urban areas often in ethnic neighborhoods  Machines were headed by a “boss”  Party machines provided services to business, immigrants, and the poor in exchange for votes on election day  Party machines provided a form of social welfare for urban dwellers o Jobs and apartments for new immigrants o Food for poor families during hard times o Immigrants were expected to repay the party with votes  Political power for party machines led to corruption o Machines stole millions from taxpayers in graft and fraud  The best example of Gilded Age machine politics and corruption was Boss Marcy Tweed of the Tammany Hall machine (Tweed Ring) in NY city o Pocketed 65% of NYC building funds in the 1860s What do you need to know about Gilded Age Presidents?  Rutherford B Hayes o Republican President from 1877-1880 o His 1876 election ended Reconstruction with the Compromise of 1877 o Attempted to reestablish honest government after Grant o Temperance supporter, his wife “lemonade Lucy” banned liquor in the White House o Vetoed efforts to restrict Chinese immigration

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James Garfield o In 1880 Republicans nominated James Garfield (a half-breed) for president and Chester A Arthur (a stalwart) for VP o Garfield and Arthur defeated the Democratic nominee Winfield S Hancock o Garfield’s appointment of most patronage jobs to half-breeds angered Conkling and the stalwarts o Garfield was assassinated by a deranged stalwart office seeker in 1881 Chester A Arthur o Became president when Garfield died o Stalwarts expected continued patronage support from Arthur but were disappointed when Arthur supported civil service reform o Signed the Pendleton Act into law  Garfield’s assassination fueled reform of the patronage system  George Pendleton of Ohio (Garfield’s home state) proposed a civil service reform bill  The Pendleton Act set up examinations and standards of merit in order to reward federal jobs to the most qualified candidates  The act also prohibited political candidates from soliciting contributions from government workers o Arthur did not receive the Republican nomination in 1884

What do you need to know about the election of 1884?  Republicans nominated James G Blaine  Democrats nominated Grover Cleveland o Former mayor of Buffalo NY o Former NY Governor  Many reform-minded “mugwump” Republicans voted for Cleveland rather than the half-breed Blaine  One of the dirtiest campaigns in history o Republicans made a big issue of Cleveland’s fathering of an illegitimate child o Republicans labeled Democrats the party of “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion”  Cleveland became the first Democrat elected president since before the Civil War (Buchanan in 1856)  Cleveland believed in Jefferson style limited government How was the money supply a political issue in Gilded Age politics?  Debtors, farmers, and people starting businesses wanted more money in circulation (inflation) enabling them to: o Borrow money at lower interest rates o Pay off loans more easily with inflated dollars o Liked the easy money created by Civil War Greenbacks and silver money o Most easy money or soft money supporters blamed the gold standard for restricting the money supply o Campaigned for the printing of more paper money and the unlimited minting of silver coins  Bankers, creditors, investors, and established businesses wanted hard money (deflation) o Currency backed by gold stored in government vaults o Dollars backed by gold held value against inflation o Believed that as the population grew a limited number of dollars backed by gold would gain in value  Congress passed the Specie Resumption Act withdrew the greenbacks issued during the Civil War from circulation in 1875  Greenback Party o Formed by supporters of paper money and inflation o Greenback candidates received 1 million votes and won 14 seats in the congressional elections of 1878 o The party died out when the economy turned down  Demands for silver money o Congress stopped coining silver money in the 1873 (the Crime of 1873) o Silver strikes in Nevada and other mining territories revived demands for silver money to expand the money supply o The Bland-Allison Act: passed over Hayes’ veto in 1878  Allowed silver coinage between $2 million and $4 million in silver each month at a silver to gold ration of 16 to 1  Was not enough to satisfy easy money/soft money supporters who wanted unlimited coinage of silver How was the tariff a major issue of the Gilded Age?  During the Civil War Congress enacted a high tariff on foreign goods to protect US industry and fund the Union war effort  Southerners and westerners objected to the tariffs after the war because it raised prices  Other nations began to retaliate against American tariffs by placing tariffs of their own on American farm products  Tariffs on American farm goods created surpluses of corn and wheat resulting in lower farm prices and profits  Framers began to see industry growing at the expense of farmers

Agrarian Discontent 1865-1900 What was the National Grange Movement?  The National Grange of Patrons of Husbandry  Organized by Oliver H. Kelly in 1868 to work for and protect farmers  Most of its strength was located in the Midwest, but by 1873 there were granges in almost every state, including the South and the Pacific Coast  Grangers formed Cooperatives: o Businesses owned and run by farmers to eliminate the cost charged by middlemen o Cooperatives pooled the resources of groups of farmers to purchase needed farm goods in bulk, directly from the manufacturer  By the 1870s the Grange developed in to a lobbying organization that lobbied state legislatures to pass laws benefiting farmers (Granger Laws) o Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin each passed laws regulating the rates charged by railroads and grain elevators  Munn vs. Illinois: o The Supreme Court upheld the right of states to regulate businesses of a public nature  Wabash vs. Illinois: o Prohibited states from regulating railroads that crossed state lines o Allowed railroads to get around Munn vs. Illinois by raising their interstate (long-haul) rates  The Interstate Commerce Act of 1886: o Congress began regulating railroad rates o Required railroad rates to be “reasonable and just” o Established the first federal regulatory commission, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) o Actually helped railroads more than it hurt farmers  The ICC lost most of its federal court cases against railroads  The Grange began to die off after 1875 when the economy improved What was the Farmer’s Alliance?  When crop prices began to fall again in the 1880s farmers formed alliances  Farmer’s Alliances were very similar to the Grange Movement o Educated farmers on the latest scientific methods o Organized farmers to gain economic power o Lobbied the state and federal governments  Separate alliances formed in different states and regions  The National Alliance o Differed from the Grange by forming and independent political organization on the national level just short of a political party o In 1890 the national Alliance held met in Ocala, Florida to address the problems facing farmers o The meeting criticized both political parties and drafted their own platform o Ocala Platform:  Direct election of Senators  Lower tariffs  Graduated income tax  Banking system regulated by the federal government  Easy money from greenbacks and silver money  Federal storage for farmer’s crops What do you need to know about the election of 1888?  Democrats nominated president Cleveland for a second term o Campaigned for a lower tariff  Republicans nominated Benjamin Harrison o Argued that a lower tariff would hurt American business o Platform appealed to big business and labor  Cleveland won the popular vote  Harrison swept the northern states and won the electoral college What was the “Billion Dollar Congress?”  Republicans controlled congress and the presidency for two years 1888-1890  Lack of gridlock led to an extremely active Congress  Passed the first billion dollar budget in US History o The McKinley Tariff (1890) raised the tax of foreign products to a peacetime high of over 48% o Increased monthly pensions to Civil War veterans, widows, and children o The Sherman Antitrust Act o The Sherman Silver Purchase Act (1890) increased the coinage of silver (not enough to satisfy farmers and miners) o The House passed a bill to protect African American voting rights that was defeated by the Senate Who were the Populists?

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A national third party called the People’s or Populist Party Represented farm interests Built on foundations of the Grange and Farmer’s Alliances Populists met in Omaha, Nebraska in 1892 to draft a platform and nominate candidates for President and VP Omaha Platform o Political Goals: return control of government to the people  Direct election of Senators  The ability of the people to enact laws through initiatives and referendums  Secret ballot  Term limits for presidents o Economic Goals: take economic power from bankers and big-business  Free-silver: unlimited silver coinage to increase the money supply  Graduated income tax  Public ownership of railroads, telegraph, and telephone systems  Loans and federal warehouses for farmers  An eight hour work day for industrial workers

How was the populist movement different from previous political movements?  Advocated a severe switch from laissez-faire capitalism to something nearly socialist  Attempted to form a political alliance between industrial workers and farmers  Attempted to form a political alliance between poor farmers of both races that would appeal to their common economic problems How did populists impact the election of 1892?  Populists nominated James Weaver of Iowa for President o Won more than one million votes o Won 22 electoral votes o Most Populist support was in the Midwest o Lost badly in the south o Failed to attract urban workers in the north  Republicans nominated President Harrison  Democrats nominated former President Grover Cleveland  Cleveland became the only president elected to two non-consecutive terms o Elected in 1884 o Lost in 1888 o Elected again in 1892 Why did Cleveland have a hard time in his second (non-consecutive) term?  Panic of 1893 o Stock market crash due to over speculation o Railroad bankruptcy from overbuilding o 20% unemployment  Cleveland did the hands off, laissez-faire, conservative thing  Supported the gold standard by repealing the Sherman Silver purchase Act of 1890 How did Democrats adopt populist ideas in the election of 1896?  Democrats were divided o Pro-silver supporters of William Jennings Bryan (36 years old) of Nebraska o Gold Standard Cleveland supporters o William Jennings Bryan’s “cross of gold” speech  “You shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold.”  Got Bryan the Democratic nomination for President o Bryan’s Democratic platform favored unlimited coinage of silver (borrowed from the populist platform)  Populists, having lost their key issue, also nominated Bryan for President  The conservative “Gold Bug” Democrats put together a separate ticket with Cleveland as their nominee  Republicans nominated William McKinley of Ohio o Pro-industry and pro-protective tariff o Blamed Democrats for the panic of 1893 o Pro-gold standard: warned against “sliver lunacy”  Mark Hanna o Wealthy business man o Financial power behind the McKinley campaign o Raised millions of dollars from Republican business leaders o Used the money to sell McKinley to the mass media (newspapers, magazines)  McKinley beat Bryan in the popular vote (7.1 million to 6.5 million) and the electoral vote (271 to 176)

What was the significance of the election of 1896?  Beginning of high-expense mass media campaigns  Republican transition o Beginning of Republican dominance of the presidency (7 of the next 9 elections) and Congress (17 out of the next 20 sessions) o Republicans switched from being the party of “free soil, free labor, and free men” to the party of business, and industry  The end of the Populist Party as a national party  Transition to modern industrial/urban values over the rural ideals of Jefferson and Jackson o Shift in power to big business, conservative economics, and a moderate middle class


				
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