The Gilded Age/Populism

January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Social Science, Political Science
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The Gilded Age/Populism 1876-1901

Characteristics of the Gilded Age Unstable economic growth Frequent expansions and contractions of business activity Panics (1873/1893) Major struggle between business and labor Strikes become increasingly violent Union membership falls (4% by 1900) Laissez faire government policies (w/ notable exceptions) Extremely conservative national politics Elections tied to patronage/business Few prominent issues Strong party loyalty Growing desire for reform

Gilded Age Presidents Hayes (1876) Known as “His Fraudulency” Garfield (1880) Assassinated by Charles Guiteau in 1881 Arthur Known as “His Accidency” Cleveland (1884) Harrison (1888) Cleveland (1892) Known as the perpetual candidate (nominated 3x) McKinley (1896/1900) Assassinated in 1901 ending the era

Gilded Age Presidents Presidents during the period took very little action Distinct lack of major political issues Political parties based on regional, ethnic, & religious sentiment Approx: 16 Rep. states vs. 14 Dem. States Parties relied heavily on patronage/political machines to win elections Politics of Civil War still lingering Presidents during this era often ranked among the worst by historians

Civil Service Reform Attempt to combat patronage Split Republican party Stalwarts—opposed any reform Half breeds—favored reform, but continue system Mugwumps—favored reform Split leads to assassination of Garfield Guiteau had been refused a job by Garfield Arthur was a stalwart Leads to Pendleton Act (1883) Creates a merit based system for federal jobs (1/10 jobs) Reduces dramatically power of political machines Presidents forced to rely on business for support

Economic Policy Rising tariffs Generally high protective tariffs Supported by the Republican North East Cleveland briefly lowers tariffs, but raised again by McKinley Tariff Act 1890 (highest tariff ever at this point in history) Protective tariffs will cause financial trouble in Europe and then in the U.S. Regulation of business Passage of the Interstate Commerce Act (1887) & Sherman Antitrust Act (1890) Neither act accomplishes intended purpose Result of court decisions and Presidential action US v. E.C. Knight Co. (1895)

Economic Policy Hard vs. Soft Money Hard—Specie (Gold, Silver, etc. have known value) Soft—Paper Money (Value determined by confidence) Hard money is used to back soft money in order to keep the value of paper money stable Crime of 1873—the demonetization of silver Silver is no longer recognized as legal currency Can no longer be used to back paper money preventing the growth of the paper money supply Shortage of paper money increases the value of the money

Economic Policy People who like “cheap” money (oppose demonetization of silver, “silverites”) Debtors (more difficult to repay loans) Farmers (sell their crops for increasingly less money) Miners (produced silver) People who like “expensive” money (pro-gold or “gold bugs”) Banks (loans became increasingly valuable) Industrialists (their fortunes increased) Major Policy Shifts Bland Allison Act (1878)—required purchase of silver for coinage in specific amounts Sherman Silver Purchase Act—increased previous amounts for gov. purchase Repealed by Grover Cleveland (1893)

Farmers Organize Rising agrarian discontent in the late 19th century Primary cause: lack of railroad regulation Other factors: falling prices, increasing debt, & rising cost of machinery Major organizations The Grange Response to the Panic of 1873 Establish farming cooperatives Eventually organize politically Granger laws—regulated RR’s in many Western states Farmer’s Alliances Attempted to free farmers economically from Northeastern interests

Populism Organized political movement in the 1890’s Attempted to unite the agricultural South and West with Northern working class Never formed a majority coalition Attracted primarily small Mid Western farmers and rural middle class reformers Omaha Platform (1892) Gov. ownership of RR’s, telephones, and telegraphs Reform of national banking system Direct election of Senators Graduated income tax Free coinage of silver Panic of 1893 created support for Populist party Coxey’s Army

Election of 1896 Populist party merges with Democratic Party form “People’s Party” Populist William Jennings Bryan wins Dem. Nomination “Cross of Gold” Speech Party splits after nomination Populists hurt by business and issues of race Republican candidate McKinley easily defeats Bryan Decline of the Populists Increasing national prosperity helps farmers Loss of identity after merge with Democratic Party Attempt to draw in other groups causes many to feel alienated

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