Political paralysis of the gilded age
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Political Paralysis of the Gilded Age. AP Chapter 23. What were the patterns of party strength?. Elections were close Voter participation very high – 80 to 95% Family tradition, ethnic ties, religious affiliation often determined how one voted. Differences Between the Two Parties. Democrats

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Political paralysis of the gilded age

Political Paralysis of theGilded Age

AP Chapter 23

What were the patterns of party strength

What were the patterns of party strength?

  • Elections were close

  • Voter participation very high – 80 to 95%

  • Family tradition, ethnic ties, religious affiliation often determined how one voted

Differences between the two parties

Differences Between the Two Parties


  • Immigrant Lutherans & Roman Catholics

  • Southerners

  • Northern Industrial Cities

  • Big “political machine” politics

  • More indulgent to moral weakness; smaller role for government in moral issues


  • Puritan heritage

  • Midwestern

  • Rural & small towns of the northeast

  • Freedmen

  • Union Army veterans

  • Favored a strong gov’t role to enforce strict codes of personal morality AND economics

What were the issues

What were the issues?

  • Tariff

  • Nature of the nation’s money supply

  • Pensions awarded to Civil War veterans

  • “waving the bloody shirt”

  • Lackluster presidents

Money supply and the economy

Money Supply and the Economy

Inflation: rising prices that result from demand exceeding supply


  • Increased need or desire for specific products or services (ex: oil, health care)

  • Increasing money supply. More currency available means that more money will be chasing those goods/services available.

Deflation: dropping prices that result from supply exceeding demand


  • Decreased need or desire for specific products or services (ex. building materials)

  • Limited money supply. Less currency available chasing goods/services mean there are fewer people able to buy.

  • People are holding their money because they’re scared to spend.

Money supply and the economy1

Money Supply and the Economy




People lending money; People who have large amounts of currency (bankers especially)

Already established businesses


People living on a fixed amount of money

Gold (And perhaps silver?)

? Industrial workers? (Since business owners would possibly be less likely to cut wages.)


Assets (land, machinery); raw materials


  • People who owe money

  • Commodity producers: sellers of raw materials and agricultural products (esp. farmers)

  • People whose incomes can hopefully continue to rise

  • Silver (?) and paper money not backed by precious metal


  • Savings

  • ? Industrial workers? (Always a struggle to get business owners to increase wages, esp. at times of uncertainty with increasing inflationary costs.)

Greenbacks and silver

Greenbacks and Silver

  • U.S. needed a money supply adequate for a growing and diverse economy

  • Gold and silver – trustworthy

  • Bankers and creditors wanted gold

  • Farmers and debtors wanted an expanded money supply backed by silver & even greenbacks along with gold

Depression of 1873

Depression of 1873

  • Biggest up to that point in time – some call it the first major economic depression in U.S. history

  • Result of rapid economic expansion after the Civil War

  • Boom – bust

  • Overextended economy + risky loans

  • The Crime of ’73 – de-monitized silver

  • Millions out of work

Resumption act of 1875

Resumption Act of 1875

  • Debtors and farmers sought the reissue of greenbacks

  • “soft money” vs. “hard money”

  • “hard money” won – redemption of all paper money in gold beginning 1879

  • Contraction – decrease in nation’s money supply – stabilized greenbacks

  • “soft money” began demanding free coinage of silver

Bland allison act 1878

Bland – Allison Act - 1878

  • The U.S. Treasury purchase between $2 and $4 million in silver each month from the western mines

  • The silver was to be purchased at market rates, not at a pre-determined ratio of 16 to 1

  • The metal was to be minted into silver dollars as legal tender

  • Government purchased a minimal amt. of silver – little effect

Sherman silver purchase act of 1890

Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890

  • Gov’t required to 4.5 million ounces of silver each month

  • Issue (a.k.a. paper money) was redeemable in gold and silver

  • Surplus of silver – drove down value

  • People preferred to redeem issue for gold and not silver  drain on gold reserves

  • Panic of 1893

Election of 1868

Election of 1868

  • Republican

  • “Bloody Shirt” campaign

  • Inexperienced in politics

  • Inept in choosing assistants

  • Deferred to Congress

Era of good stealings

Era of Good Stealings

  • Corruption – Railroads, Stock-market, judges and legislators for hire

  • Political machines and bosses – Tweed Ring of NYC cheated the city of $200 million

  • Scandals in the presidency

The spoils system

The Spoils System

  • Since the Jacksonian era

  • A system of rewarding contributors & political supporters with government jobs.

  • Government jobs were used to support politicians & the political parties to maintain party loyalty

  • Unqualified and incompetent often received jobs

  • Office holders had to contribute to future campaigns

  • Battle for reform in the GOP – Stalwarts vs. Half-breeds

Grant scandals

Grant Scandals

  • Whiskey Ring – Grant’s private secretary took bribes not to collect taxes from distillers

  • Credit Mobilier - VP received stock not to investigate fraud by a RR construction company

  • Sec. of War accepted bribes from agents on Indian reservations

The fisk gould scheme

The Fisk – Gould Scheme

  • Jim Fisk and Jay Gould – wealthy businessmen

  • Attempted to corner the gold market

  • Bribed government officials to stop selling gold in order to drive up the price

  • Sept. 24, 1869 – began to bid up the price of gold

  • When Grant suspected a scam, he ordered the treasury to release more gold

  • Gold prices crashed

The election of 1876 the end of reconstruction

The Election of 1876 – The End of Reconstruction

  • Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel Tilden

  • Tilden (D) won 184 votes out of the needed 185 to win the Electoral College

  • Votes in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida in dispute ( 2 sets of results)

  • Commission of 15 (8 republicans and 7 democrats) counted the disputed votes

Compromise of 1877

Compromise of 1877

  • Hayes (R) would get the votes and become president

  • Federal troop withdrawn from Louisiana and S. Carolina – ending Reconstruction

  • Bill to subsidize the Texas Pacific Rail - line

The great rr strike of 1877

The Great RR Strike of 1877

  • Wild-cat strike – 1st national strike

  • Baltimore and Ohio RR

  • 10% wage cut

  • Double headers

  • Spread from the East to Mid-west

  • 2/3 RR idle – property burned

  • Hayes called in federal troops – 100 dead

Tweed ring nyc

Tweed Ring - NYC

  • Tammany Hall – NYC democratic headquarters

  • Political machine politics

  • Graft, bribery, fraudulent elections

  • Bilked the city of almost $200 million

  • Brought down by Thomas Nast

Election of 1872

Election of 1872

  • Liberal Republicans – fed up with corruption and graft – nominated Horace Greeley

  • Democrats – nominated Greeley

  • Republicans – Grant

  • Mud-spattered campaign

Who voted republican during the gilded age

Who voted Republican during the Gilded Age?

  • Region?

  • Religion?

  • Blue laws?

  • Tariffs?

  • Money issues?

  • Union pensions?

Who voted democratic during the gilded age

Who voted Democratic during the Gilded Age?

  • Region?

  • Religion?

  • Blue laws?

  • Tariffs?

  • Money issues?

  • Union pensions?

The election of 1880 and the patronage issue

The Election of 1880 and the Patronage Issue

  • Republican convention split between Half-Breeds and Stalwarts

  • James A. Garfield – Half-Breed nominated for president

  • Chester Arthur – Stalwart – VP nominee

  • Garfield beat Winfield Hancock by 40,000 out of 9.2 million votes

  • 1881 Garfield assassinated by Charles Guiteau – a stalwart

  • Arthur became president

Pendleton act

Pendleton Act

  • Created an independent civil service staff that is outside of party politics. Government jobs based on ability and qualifications.

  • Civil Service Commission to classify government jobs and administer an examination – established standards of merit

  • Gov’t employees could not be forced to contribute to political campaigns and could not be fired for political reasons

  • Difficult to fire or demote government employees without a lot of proof and a long procedure.

Consequences of the pendleton act

Consequences of the Pendleton Act?

  • Stopped the most blatant abuses

  • Politicians forced to look elsewhere for money

  • Turned to businesses and lobbyists

Election of 1884

Election of 1884

  • Republican candidate – James G. Blaine of Maine – not know for his honesty

  • Mugwumps – Republicans who refused to support Blaine

  • Democrats – Grover Cleveland – had a reputation for integrity

  • Mud – slinging again – Democrats labeled the party of “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion”

Grover cleveland

Grover Cleveland

  • 1st democratic president since Civil War

  • “public office is a public trust”

President cleveland

President Cleveland

  • Laissez – faire  business happy

  • Expanded the merit system – but also appointed many democrats to positions

  • Surplus - $145 million/year

  • Issue  military pensions – vetoed special pension bills for Civil War vets

  • Fought for lower tariffs

  • Compelled return of 80 million acres of public land held illegally by lumber and railroad companies

Election of 1888

Election of 1888

  • Democrats  Cleveland

  • Republicans  Benjamin Harrison

  • Harrison supported high tariffs and so the industrialists supported him

  • Cleveland won popular vote – Harrison won the electoral vote

The first billion dollar congress

The First Billion Dollar Congress

  • Harrison did not assert presidential authority – deferred to party leaders

  • Congress –

    • Raised tariffs and reduced imports, thus reducing federal revenues (McKinley Tariff)

    • Voted “pork barrel” public expenditures

    • Authorized generous pensions previously vetoed by Cleveland

    • Wiped out surplus

There s trouble down on the farm

There’s Trouble Down on the Farm!

  • Harsh conditions – drought and harsh winters – 1886-87

  • Railroad abuses

  • Falling agriculture prices

  • Tight money

  • McKinley Tariff

  • Voted for Democrats in 1890

  • Formed Farmers’ Alliances and the Grange

1892 a year of discontent

1892 – A year of discontent

  • Homestead Strike

    • Strike against A. Carnegie’s Homestead steel plant

    • 300 armed Pinkerton’s called in

    • Ten people killed

    • Federal troops called in to break strike

  • Strike at Coeur d’Alene silver mine broken by state and federal troops

Populist omaha platform

Populist (Omaha) Platform

  • Inflation – free coinage of silver

  • Graduated income tax

  • Government ownership of the railroads, telegraph, and telephone

  • Direct election of U.S. senators

  • One-term limit on the presidency

  • Initiative and referendum

  • 8 hour day

  • Immigration restriction

Election of 1892

Election of 1892

  • Populists nominated General James B. Weaver

    • 22 electoral votes

    • Cut into republican strength in Midwest

  • Republicans – Harrison

  • Democrats – Cleveland (winner)

Panic of 1893

Panic of 1893

  • Economic collapse of the railroads

    • Overbuilding and over-speculation

  • Depletion of gold reserves

  • Government debt – veterans benefits and high tariff

  • Stock prices dropped

Depression 1893 1897

Depression 1893-1897

  • 200 railroads failed

  • 20-25 percent unemployment

  • Recent immigrants faced disaster

  • Harsh winters 1893-4

  • Farm prices down 20%

  • More people joined the Populist Movement

  • Jacob Coxey went to see the President

What about the gold standard

What about the gold standard?

  • Defended by Cleveland

  • Gold reserve fell below $100 million

  • Repeal of Sherman Silver Purchase Act

  • Gold reserve sank to $40 million

  • Floated 2 Treasury bond issues of over $100 million

  • Turned to J.P. Morgan for help

What did morgan do

What did Morgan do?

  • Banker and head of a Wall Street syndicate

  • Agreed to lend gov’t $65 million in gold

  • Charged $7 million fee

  • Saved the gold standard and restore confidence in nation’s finances



  • People resented cooperation with Morgan

  • Resented preservation of gold standard

  • Wilson – Gorman Tariff passed

    • Lower but not enough

    • Income tax – but declared unconstitutional

  • Coxey’s Army ignored

  • Used troops and an injunction against the Pullman Strike

Congressional election of 1894

Congressional Election of 1894

  • Democrats suffered heavy losses

  • Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives

  • Populists increased their base

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