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“Boss” ____________________ CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE, “POLITICAL PARALYSIS IN THE GILDED AGE: 1869-1896” “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.” – Tom Peters MAIN QUESTION FOR CHAPTER: Is it fair to call the era from 1869 to 1896 the “Gilded Age”? Word or phrase Meaning in context gild (506) cover with gold, providing a falsely attractive appearance peccadilloes (506) slight offenses partisan (511) someone who supports the position of another or strong support of a political party lien (513) legal claim on someone’s property until a debt is paid burgeoning (516) blossoming; expanding rapidly plurality (519) the largest group laissez-faire (520) doctrine supporting minimal government intervention in the economy disenfranchise (525) to deprive of a legal right, privilege, or immunity, typically the right to vote plutocracy (529) government by the wealthy Most Relevant Identification Summary Theme(s) 1. The “Ohio Idea” was thought up by poor Midwestern delegates. It called for war bonds to be repaid in greenbacks, or paper money, which would thus keep more money in circulation and keep interest rates lower. This contradicted the wealthy easterners who wished to have them redeemed in gold. It was like one of the many economic symptoms that the disease of the Civil War had caused (NK). 2. Republicans raised enthusiasm for Grant by “waving the bloody shirt,” which meant they revived gory memories of the Civil War. This helped gain support especially among the war’s veterans. This was like John Kerry gaining support by repeatedly expressing the fact that he received several Purple Heart awards in Vietnam (NK). 3. Boss Tweed was the leader of the Tweed Ring in New York City. He employed bribery, graft and fraudulent elections to scam the city for as much as $200 million. Working citizens were cowed into silence and protestors found their tax assessments raised. Boss Tweed was like a bully on the playground, taking people’s money and doing whatever he wanted (NK). 4. Thomas Nast was a cartoonist who attacked “Boss” Tweed. Tweed became upset because everyone, even illiterate people, could understand the pictures. He was like CNN because he spread news in innovative ways, reaching a broader audience (CC). 5. In the Crédit Mobilier scandal, Union Pacific Railroad workers created the Crédit Mobilier construction company and hired themselves to build the railroads at inflated prices. In order to keep Congress quiet, they distributed shares of its stock to key congressmen. It was like a deep wound to government, not only was it ugly on the economic surface, it cut deep into the political controversy (NK). 6. In 1874-1875, the sprawling Whiskey Ring robbed the Treasury of millions in excise tax revenues. At first determined to punish the guilty, when his own private secretary turned up among the culprits he volunteered a written statement to the jury to help exonerate him. This was like the ultimate form of hypocrisy; claiming something is wrong and unjust until you realize you were involved (NK). 7. Horace Greeley was the fearless editor of the New York Tribune who was nominated for the presidency by the newly formed Liberal Republican party. He was dogmatic, emotional, petulant and notoriously unsound in political judgment. He was like a young sports captain, full of potential and energy, but just not cut out for the job (NK). 8. “Hard money” advocates won a victory when they got the Resumption Act of 1875 passed. This act called for the withdrawal of all greenbacks from circulation and redemption of all paper money in gold at face value, beginning in 1879. This was like a recall on a faulty product in hopes to fix the situation and keep things from getting worse (NK). 9. Due to the government-imposed low value of silver (1/16 that of gold), silver miners stopped offering their product to the federal mints. With no silver flowing, Congress dropped the coinage of the silver dollar in 1873 and embraced the “gold standard.” Later in the 1870s, however, new silver discoveries shot production up and forced silver prices down, killing hopes of widespread inflation. Silver-mining westerners joined debtors in calling this the “Crime of ’73.” This is like when I bought a rare baseball card, only to have the item devalued when someone discovered a whole stockpile of them in his attic (PDeR). 10. The GAR, Grand Army of the Republic, was a politically potent fraternal organization of Union Civil War veterans. This group provided an important bloc of Republican ballots. It was like a fan club for a music group, dedicated to helping the cause (NK). 11. A “Stalwart” faction was led by Roscoe Conkling that employed the process of trading civil-service jobs for votes. Those that were against the faction were called Half- Breeds, led by James G. Blaine (Maine). The conflicts over civil-service reform led the Republican Party into a deadlock. These groups were like feuding important families that prevented their town from progressing (MK). 12. The Compromise of 1877 resolved the election deadlock as the Electoral Count Act was passed. Democrats agreed to give Hayes the presidency provided that the remaining federal troops would be withdrawn, and the Republicans appeased them with a subsidy of a southern transcontinental line. This compromise was like taping a broken vase together, only providing temporary relief for a political struggle that continued long after (MK). 13. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 promised to guarantee equal accommodations in public places and prohibited racial discrimination in jury selection, but was later ruled largely unconstitutional. This was like the law for wearing your seatbelt: it was put into place legally but many people still ignore it (MK). 14. The Civil Rights Cases in 1883 pronounced much of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional, declaring that only government, not individual violations of civil rights were prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment. This was like an overruling of an objection (the Civil Rights Act), making it nullified, but not after it had been heard by the courtroom (MK). 15. The “Redeemers” were Democrats that resumed political power in the South, and excised it ruthlessly. Because of them, many blacks faced unemployment, eviction, and physical harm. They were similar to Jim Crow because they prohibited blacks from enjoying their freedom and forced them into unfavorable jobs and positions (MK). 16. Through the “crop-lien” system, storekeepers provided sharecroppers with credit for food and supplies while taking a portion of their harvests, as a “lien” (to help pay back some of the debt). Unfortunately, the creditors manipulated the system so that the sharecroppers were in perpetual debt. It was like Charlie and the MBTA. Once on the T, he never had enough money to get off (PDeR). 17. The Jim Crow laws were legal codes of segregation that set literacy requirements, voter registration laws, and poll taxes. They made it extremely difficult if not impossible for blacks to vote, even though the 15th Amendment legally allowed them to. This is like the rule that immigrants are not allowed to vote the United States until they are citizens (MK). 18. In the Plessy v. Ferguson case (1896), the Supreme Court validated the South’s segregationalist social order. It ruled that “separate but equal” facilities were constitutional under the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was like a divorce in which one kid goes with the mom and the other goes with the dad. Both kids are supposed to get equal treatment, but in reality the dad is nicer than the dad toward the kids (KH). 19. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred the Chinese from the United States for six decades. Many Chinese in America were bachelors, and anti-Chinese sentiments developed, particularly in California, which had a larger Asian population. This forced the Chinese to form small, hardworking communities. This is similar to the negative feelings toward all Japanese in America following the bombing of Pearl Harbor (MK). 20. The Pendleton Act of 1883 was the “Magna Carta” of civil-service reform that followed Garfield’s murder. It made compulsory campaign contributions from federal employees illegal and established the Civil Service Commission to make appointments for federal jobs on the basis of examinations. It drove money-seeking politicians to join huge corporations. It was similar to when a teacher decides to start enforcing rules more strictly- it cuts down on the worst rule breaking, but the students find new ways to continue to do what they want (Naomi). 21. Mugwumps were reform-minded Republicans who didn’t want James Blaine as their presidential candidate in 1884 because of his dishonest behavior, which included the fishy “Mulligan letters.” They bolted to the Democrats, receiving their nickname of Indian derivation that suggested that they were “sanctimonious” or “holier-than-thou.” They were like tattletales because they, too, were mocked for running to another group when their friends did something bad (Naomi). 22. Passed by the “billion-dollar Congress,” the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890 boosted tariff levels to their highest peacetime level ever at an average of 48.4 percent. The act protected Republican industrialists from foreign competition, while forcing debt-burdened farmers to buy high-priced American goods. The tariff was like a wall, enclosing the debtors in a financially unsound position (PDeR). 23. Formed in 1892, the Populist party was the “people’s party.” It wanted a one-term limit on the presidency, direct election of senators, government-owned railroads, telegraphs, and telephones, and inflation. They were like jumbo shrimp; while they were the people’s party, they wanted more federal control, which is oxymoronic (AD). 24. At Carnegie’s Homestead steel plant in 1892, company officials had to call in 300 armed Pinkerton detectives to crush a strike by steelworkers angry over their pay cuts. The strikers fought back and eventually troops were summoned, breaking the strike and the union. This incident raised the prospect that the Populist party might be able to weld together a coalition of workers and farmers to challenge the capitalist order. It was like a professional football team playing a high school one- one of the sides has a very unfair advantage and uses it to crush the other side (Naomi). 25. The Farmers’ National Alliance was a militant organization of farmers in the great agricultural belts of the West and South, and included black farmers. For a time it promised to overcome race issues as they strove for common economic goals. The group was the root of the new Populist party. It was like the Iroquois Confederation because different groups tried to overcome their past struggles so they could get benefits and protect each other (Naomi). 26. The “grandfather clause” exempted southerners from voting requirements such as literacy tests and poll taxes if their forebear had voted in 1860. Since black slaves had not voted at all at this time, it exempted only whites and also prevented large numbers of blacks from voting. It was like one of those unfair club rules that kids make- its sole purpose is excluding kids they don’t like from their tree house (Naomi). 27. Thomas Edward Watson was a Populist leader who began his career promoting interracial political cooperation, but eventually succumbed to racism. He was like a bruised apple because he started off good but got knocked around so much by the bad apples (racists) that he turned bad as well (Naomi). 28. William Jennings Bryan was a Democratic congressman and later a presidential candidate who championed the cause of free silver with his famous “Cross of Gold” speech in 1896. Cleveland alienated Bryan and other Democratic silver advocates when he broke the silver filibuster in the Senate. He was like a typical Model UN delegate who, though longwinded and passionate, rarely got what he wanted. (PDeR). 29. The Democrats had pledged to lower tariffs, but by the time the Wilson-Gorman Tariff of 1894 made it through Congress, it was so loaded with special-interest protection that it hardly made a difference in the McKinley Tariff rates. Cleveland allowed the bill, but the Supreme Court, much to the dismay of the Populists, struck down the income tax provision of the tariff. It was like saving pennies, because it seems like a good idea at first, but eventually you realize that the money hardly helps pay your bills (Naomi). 30. The Gilded Age presidents- Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, and Cleveland- are often referred to as the “forgettable presidents” because of their bland personalities and their blanks or blots on the America’s political record. They were like the producers of a movie because they worked hard and had a powerful position in the movie, but no one remembers them when they watch the movie (Naomi). Other Questions to Consider A. To what extent might we compare the election of 1824 and the election of 1876? The election of 1876 and 2000? B. What would a Chinese immigrant or an African American say about America in this era? C. What would a farmer or an urban laborer say about America in this era? D. Why is it significant that historians often call Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Harrison, and Cleveland the “forgettable presidents”? FOOD FOR THOUGHT! Is it appropriate to call the era from 1869 to 1896 the Gilded Age? What else might we call this era?
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