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Chapter 21. Politics: Local, State, and National. Okay. So now we look at politics in America during the late 1800’s. What did the political parties stand for?.

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Chapter 21

Politics: Local, State, and National


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Okay. So now we look at politics in America during the late 1800’s.

What did the political parties stand for?


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Who knows? Neither party really took any stands on the issues because they wanted to attract as many voters as possible. And the way to do that is to appeal to everyone! There was a precarious balance of power to consider!


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Another reason they didn’t take sides on issues is because they really didn’t know how to fix the problems!



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Politicians didn’t address big national issues during elections – it was the local issues that mattered to the voters


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You could make some broad generalizations: elections – it was the local issues that mattered to the voters

Northerners were Republicans and Southerners were Democrats.

Catholics voted Democrat while Protestants voted Republican.

German-Americans voted Democrat while Scandinavians voted Republican.

Off course there were exceptions and these generalizations are contradictory!

Confused? Good, you should be!

No one really knows why people voted the way they did – they all had their reasons


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City government was influenced by the religious and ethnic character of its citizens.

Complicate that with fast urban life, city growth, influx of immigrants, and normal city problems such as sanitation, public transportation, utility systems, crime, pollution, and so on and so forth…

Mein Gott! You can see how complex it could be!


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Middle class people were now moving to the suburbs – the educated class that should have provided city leadership!

In their place there arose another type of politician – the Ward Boss* and the City Boss

These Bosses were backed by political machines that ran the city

* A ward is a borough, district, or section of a city


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How did these schmucks get into power? educated class that

Immigrants were from the peasantry and had no experience with representative government

Life in the slums was difficult and they listened to the promises of these city bosses

Most of these bosses were Irish- they were able to manipulate the citizens and keep them voting! For them!


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Let’s take a look at a typical Ward Boss and see how he was able to stay in power so long despite his corruption

Thank you very much


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So, Ward Boss, how did you get the people to keep you in power?

I found them jobs…I gave out food in bad times…I could “fix” it if anyone got into trouble…I gave new shoes to poor kids…


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You sound like a saint but were you not also corrupt? power?

A fellow has to make a living. Do you expect me to sing for it?


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Some city bosses didn’t even help their voters- they made money through kick-backs, bribes, and other schemes

Boss Tweed was of this ilk

Although many were popular with the voters, seen as Robin Hoods, they were nothing more than crooks

But what were the poor to do? The middle class didn’t careabout them


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In fact, many “honorable” citizens shared in the corruption.

Owners of tenements were only interested in crowding as many people as they could into their buildings.

Most honest citizens were repelled by city government but not so much as to do something about it.

Politics was something “gentlemen” did not engage in.


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As for national elections, with the Democrats invincible in the South and Republicans dominating the North and West, contests were decided by just a few populous states: NY, OH, IN, and IL

Of the 18 Democrats and Republicans nominated for president between 1868 and 1900, only 3 were NOT from these states and all 3 lost!

Partisanship was intense in these states!


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What were these presidential campaigns like? the South and Republicans dominating the North and West, contests were decided by just a few populous states: NY, OH, IN, and IL

Large sums were spent on bands, decorations, and spellbinding speakers who could emotionally sway the audiences.

But political morality was abysmal. Mudslinging and character assassination was typical fare, as was lying and bribery.

Lowlifes were paid in drink for their votes. The dead were listed on voter rolls and “voted.”


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Unfortunately, our presidents had as much interest in the issues as the other politicians.

Uh oh, sounds like its time for a frickin’ assignment!


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  • Starting on page 555 in your textbooks, I would like you to…

  • Create a snapshot biography and rate the following presidents: Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison, and Cleveland again.

  • What did they do that was good? Or bad? Were they as bad as the other politicians or am I being unfair?

  • Be judgmental! Take a stand! What do you think about them?


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Crops and Complaints to…

  • The poor state of American politics may have been due to the apathy of the middle-class

  • The US was growing, there were no foreign enemies, and the problems of poor immigrants could be ignored

  • One group of Americans were experiencing increased suffering: farmers


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Crops and Complaints to…

  • Farmers experienced boom times from the Civil War into the 1880’s

  • Disaster struck in the 1890’s –

    • Drought and poor harvests

    • Increased competition from Canada, Russia, Australia, and Argentina = falling prices

    • Tariffs on manufactured goods

    • Middlemen gobbling up profits

    • Shortage of credit

    • National economic depression


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The Populist Movement to…

  • Problems in agriculture triggered new outburst of farm radicalism – the Alliance Movement

  • Alliances were organizations of farmer’s clubs

  • First club was the Knights of Reliance founded in Lampasas County in 1877

  • The club expanded rapidly to incorporate most of the cotton states


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The Populist Movement to…

  • Alliances advocated cooperation

  • Co-ops bought supplies in bulk and sold to farmers at fair prices

  • Failed attempts to secure money to market crops collectively caused many to question the American financial/money system

  • Farmers became economic and social radicals


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The Populist Movement to…

  • Alliances differed but all agreed crop prices too low, transportation costs too high, and the nation’s financial system screwed up

  • All wanted political action

  • Sectionalism kept Northern and Southern alliances from uniting


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The Populist Movement to…

  • Farm groups entered politics in 1890 elections with righteous fervor

  • Several Southern state legislatures and governorships won by Alliance-sponsored candidates

  • Alliance gains were made in KS, NE, MN, and SD


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The Populist Movement to…

  • Reluctance of Democrats and Republicans to make concessions caused Alliance to create a third party

  • The Alliance broke the sectional barrier by uniting Southern and Western farmers

  • The Alliance and the Knights of Labor along with other reformers created the Populist Party in St. Louis in 1892


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The Populist Movement to…

  • The Populists nominated General James Weaver of Iowa – his running mate was a one-legged Confederate veteran

  • The Populist platform called for a graduated income tax and national ownership of railroads and telephone/telegraph systems

  • It also wanted a plan whereby farmers could keep crops off the market in times of low prices – with government backed loans using thos e crops as security


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The Populist Movement to…

  • The Populists also called for unlimited silver coinage and an increase in the money supply

  • They wanted initiative and referendum procedures to make government more sensitive to public opinion

  • They wanted the election of senators by popular vote

  • For their union comrades, they asked for the 8-hour workday and an end to undesirable immigration


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Silver to…

  • The issue of gold versus silver was superficial – the real problem was deflation

  • US traditionally bimetallic

  • Gold discoveries brought down value of gold in relation to silver

  • $1 silver coin worth $1.03 melted down

  • Silver taken out of circulation until silver finds of 1870’s depressed prices


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Silver to…

  • The Coinage Act of 1873 had demonetized silver – called the “Crime of ’73” by those favoring minting silver coins

  • Compromises were made that forced the government to buy more and more silver

  • The declining worth of silver caused miners and debtors to grumble

Gold versus Silver


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Depression of 1893 to…

  • Worldwide depression struck with collapse of British bank, Baring Brothers

  • Millions of Americans became unemployed in the winter of 1893-1894

  • Cleveland believed depression caused in part by silver – repealed the acts requiring government purchases of silver

  • Policy split the Democratic Party


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Depression of 1893 to…

  • The depression was exacerbated by armies of unemployed marching on Washington demanding relief

  • Led by Jacob Coxey

  • Coxey wanted the government to undertake a program of public works and give communities money to make jobs building roads

Coxey’s Army


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Depression of 1893 to…

  • Coxey and other leaders were arrested and his followers dispersed by club-wielding police

  • Troops used to crush the Pullman strike

  • Eugene V. Debs was denied habeas corpus

  • These incidents led many to believe the government did not care about the little guy

Eugene V. Debs


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Depression of 1893 to…

  • US gold reserves dwindled as people and foreign investors exchanged greenbacks for gold

  • J.P. Morgan turned the tide by underwriting a bond issue with half the gold coming from Europe

  • Public was infuriated that the US government had to be bailed out by a private banker

J. P. Morgan


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Depression of 1893 to…

  • The upcoming 1896 election revived Populist calls for unlimited coinage of silver

  • The Democrats backed silver – the Republicans backed gold

  • William Jennings Bryan – “Cross of Gold” speech

  • Democrats adopted bimetallism (ratio 16-1)

  • Bryan was nominated by Democrats and the Populists though Populists nominated separate VP


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Election of 1896 to…

  • Republicans nominated William McKinley

  • Republicans from silver-mining states gave support to Bryan

  • Democratic newspapers supported McKinley

  • Bryan traveled across the US and gave over 600 speeches

  • McKinley’s campaign was organized by Marcus Hanna – first real modern campaign based on large fund

William McKinley


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Election of 1896 to…

  • McKinley – “Front Porch” campaign

  • McKinley won the election

  • The gold-silver issue faded after more gold finds and disappeared altogether when currency and metal were de-linked

  • McKinley saw issues on national scale and moved the US into the modern age


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Quiz to…


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6. Garfield’s major weakness was because…

7. A Republican group led by Senator Conkling was called the

8. Political campaigns were characterized by

9. Charles Guiteau assassinated President


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10. Before he became president, Chester Arthur worked as because…

11. The Pendleton Act reformed the

12. The “dirty” presidential election of 1884 was won by

13. Harrison was notable for waving the

14. The poor performance of politics was due to the indifference of

15. The Populist Movement emerged from the


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16. What issue dominated the elections of 1892 and 1896? because…

17. The Coinage Act of 1873 was called the

18. Who led an army of unemployed on Washington D.C.?

19. His Cross of gold speech won him the Democratic nomination

20. Bryan discarded campaign tradition by


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