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CH. 15-3 POLITICS IN THE GILDED AGE - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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AMERICAN HISTORY. CH. 15-3 POLITICS IN THE GILDED AGE. POLITICAL MACHINES. Before the Civil War, most cities were small and easily managed by part-time politicians Late 1800s – part-time politicians were losing control of their cities

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American history



Political machines

  • Before the Civil War, most cities were small and easily managed by part-time politicians

  • Late 1800s – part-time politicians were losing control of their cities

  • POLITICAL MACHINE—an informal group of professional politicians who controlled local government

  • They supplied coal in the winter and provided turkeys for holiday dinners

  • They helped immigrants become naturalized citizens

  • In return for this help, politicians expected the people they assisted would vote for them and rally broader community support.

  • James Pendergast—popular Kansas City, MO politician

  • He gained loyalty of local immigrants by giving money to those in need

  • He ran for ALDERMAN (city council) and soon controlled Kansas City politics

  • Stephen Powers and James B. Wells, Jr. set up a machine in Cameron County, TX in the 1870s

  • In exchange for votes, they helped Mexican Americans with costs of weddings, funerals, and living expenses

  • Immigrants also became part of the political machine those in need

  • Irish Americans rose through the ranks of the Boston political machine

  • Two second-generation Irish immigrants even became mayor: John F. Fitzgerald (JFK’s grandfather) & James Michael Curley

  • CORRUPTION those in need

  • Political machines used illegal tactics to maintain control

  • Machine bosses bought votes with jobs and favors

  • Election fraud

  • People were hired to vote, change their appearance (different clothes or haircut, etc.) and then they would vote again

  • Tweed controlled elections, corrupt judges, and big business in the city

  • His power was unbreakable until 1871

  • A new bookkeeper gave information to the NY Times newspaper proving how much Tweed had stolen

  • A cartoonist, Thomas Nast, published artwork about Tweed in Harper’s Weekly magazine. Tweed demanded the cartoons be stopped.

Federal corruption
FEDERAL CORRUPTION to 12 years in jail

  • The dominant image of government in the late 1800s was a smoke-filled back room


  • 1869—Ulysses S. Grant becomes President

  • Several scandals during his administration

  • 1860s—The Credit Mobilier scandal

  • Union Pacific railroad set up a construction company called Credit Mobilier to build part of the transcontinental railroad

  • Credit Mobilier charged taxpayers $23 million more than it actually cost

  • The extra money went into bank accounts of Union Pacific and Credit Mobilier

  • 1872—NY Sun revealed that Credit Mobilier had given stock to members of Congress and even Vice President Schuyler Colfax

  • 1875—A new treasury secretary revealed a conspiracy to divert tax collections into private hands

  • The Whiskey Ring, a group that included Grant’s private secretary, whiskey distributors, and distillers, and government officials, stole millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money

  • Whiskey producers paid bribes to government officials

  • 1880—Hayes decides not run for a 2 political parties or campaignsnd term. Republicans compromise on James A. Garfield


  • Garfield wins election but angers Stalwarts

  • He did not give Conkling a cabinet appointment

  • July 1881—Garfield is shot at a Washington, DC train station

  • The President died in September 1881 political parties or campaigns

  • The assassin was Charles Guiteau—an unstable character who had been denied a government job

  • Guiteau thought he was helping the Stalwarts by killing Garfield but the opposite happened

  • Chester A. Arthur becomes President

  • Arthur supported the Stalwarts initially but now turned against the spoils system

  • President Arthur (R) operated independently of the Republican Party

  • 1883—Pendleton Civil Service Act – Promotions must be based on merit, not political connections

  • Only applied to 10% of the federal workforce

  • Important first step

  • To Be Continued…

The populist movement

  • Calls for reform started coming from farmers


  • Late 1800s – crop prices falling

  • Farmers had borrowed large sums of money for equipment

  • 24 acres of cotton in 1894 was worth LESS than 9 acres of cotton in 1873

  • Farmers had increased trouble paying their debts Republican Party

  • Railroads charged enormous fees to transport crops to market

  • Smallest farmers had to pay the highest rates

  • Everybody making money at the farmer’s expense: farm equipment seller, banks, railroads

  • Farmers that worked every day were nearly penniless

  • THE NATIONAL GRANGE Republican Party

  • Farmers decided to organize themselves

  • Groups provided emergency aid and other assistance

  • Local groups combined to form national organizations

  • First major group—Order of Patrons of Husbandry (aka National Grange)

  • Founded by Oliver Hudson Kelley in 1867 Republican Party

  • Farmers after the Civil War were downtrodden and needed to be supported

  • The Grange tried to unite farmers and eliminate regional rivalries

  • Within a few years, membership exploded

  • Farmers realized they had to fight railroads, grain elevators

  • Late 1870s—Grange succeeded in persuading state legislatures in IL, IA, MN, WI to regulate railroads and grain elevators

  • Businesses opposed regulation because it hurt their profits

  • 1877—Munn v. Illinois – Supreme Court decided state legislatures had the right to regulate businesses that involved the public interest

  • 1886—Wabash v. Illinois—Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had the power to regulate railroad traffic moving across state boundaries

  • Interstate Commerce Act of 1887—first time for federal regulation of any industry

  • ICA wanted to make rates fair for all customers

  • Large shippers were no longer given favorable rates

  • THE ALLIANCE MOVEMENT long hauls along the same rail line

  • Other farmers formed organizations in TX and NY

  • These groups combine to form the Farmers’ Alliance

  • Helped farmers with practical needs—buying equipment or marketing farm products

  • THE MONEY SUPPLY ISSUE long hauls along the same rail line

  • Farmers’ Alliance wanted the money supply to increase (have the government print more money)

  • More money in circulation would inflate prices

  • 1873—Congress adopts the gold standard

  • No more money than there was gold in the treasury

  • Populist Party supported National Grange and Alliance seats and 4 governorships

  • Party platform called for an income tax, bank regulation, government ownership of railroad and telegraph companies, and the free (unlimited) coinage of silver

  • Election of 1892—James Weaver (Pop.) & Benjamin Harrison (R-I) & Grover Cleveland (D)

  • Cleveland won the election seats and 4 governorships

  • Populists won several seats in Congress as well as several state offices

  • THE PANIC OF 1893

  • May 1893—leading railroad fails

  • Investor pulled out of the stock market

  • Thousands of businesses collapsed seats and 4 governorships

  • End of 1893—3 million people were unemployed

  • Strikes and protests swept across the country

  • One reason for panic was the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890

  • Law required government to pay for silver purchases with paper money redeemable in gold or silver

  • This put a huge strain on the gold reserves seats and 4 governorships

  • Congress repealed the act and the USA remained on the gold standard


  • Democrats didn’t want Grover Cleveland to run again because he was unpopular after the Panic of 1893

  • William McKinley (R-OH) vs. William Jennings Bryan (D-NE)

  • Bryan supported the free (unlimited) coinage of silver seats and 4 governorships

  • Because the democrats supported free silver, the Populists also supported the democrats

  • Business leader contributed millions of dollars to Republican McKinley’s campaign

  • McKinley won the election

  • Free silver by itself was not important enough to help win a national campaign

  • The Election of 1896 was the high point for the Populist Party, which soon faded away

  • Populist reforms would be enacted by the government over time

  • Many politicians suggest that they support ordinary people, not special interests