Gilded Age: A thin but glittering layer of prosperity which covered the poverty and corruption of much of society.
Economy • Industry expansion helped some Americans prosper • Depression, low wages, and debt plagued the working class • Laissez faire Let it be Government should not interfere with business
Business and Politics • Most businesses liked laissez faire policies when they benefited them but… • Would accept high tariffs on imported goods • Would accept subsidies to encourage development of key industries
Republicans Favored by industrialists, bankers, and farmers. Nonexistent in the South. Wanted: Tight money supply backed by gold High tariffs Strict limits on immigration Enforcement of Blue Laws: Regulations that prohibited certain private activities (ex: drinking on Sunday) Democrats Favored by people who believed they were “less privileged” in American society. Included immigrants, laborers, southern planters Wanted: Increased money supply backed by silver Lower tariffs Higher farm prices Less government aid to business Fewer blue laws Political Parties
Tweedledum and TweedledeePeriod: 1880s During the 1870s and 1880s, the Democratic and Republican Parties were of almost exactly equal strength. In the elections between 1876 and 1892, no more than 3.1 percentage points separated the two parties. The two parties differed enormously in their principles, programs, and ethno-cultural composition. In the late 19th century, it was sometimes said that there wasn't a dime's difference between the two parties, that the difference between the two parties was the difference between tweedledum and tweedledee. This wasn't true. The Republican Party tended to emphasize national unity, economic modernization, and moral reform. Regarding the Democrats as the party of treason for opposing the Civil War, the Republicans ran Union veterans in eight of nine presidential elections between 1868 and 1900. The sole exception, James G. Blaine, lost in 1884. The party urged the faithful to "vote as you shot." They portrayed Democrats as "the old slave-owner and slave driver, the saloon-keeper, the ballot-box-stuffer, the Kuklux [Klan member], the criminal class of the great cities, the men who cannot read or write." The Republicans were committed to rapidly modernizing the economy through such measures as protective tariffs to assist industry and land grants to encourage railroad construction. The Republican Party was also committed to using the 14th Amendment to protect corporations' ability to operate free from excessive state regulation. The Democrats were split on this program of economic modernization. Grover Cleveland supported big business and the gold standard but in 1887 came out strongly against the tariff, which he viewed as a tax on consumers for the benefit of rich industrialists.
Spoils System • “To the victor goes the spoils” • Favored by politicians • System led to corruption and dishonesty for personal profit
Hayes and Civil Service • 1877 – Hayes wins (Compromise of 1877) • Appoints qualified political independents to his Cabinet and fires employees who were not needed • First reform of Civil Service Government’s non-elected workers
President Garfield • Elected after Hayes • Was assassinated by Guiteau, a loyal Republican, who expected to win a job through the spoils system from Garfield • Public outcry of corruption • VP Arthur became president after Garfield’s death. Passed the Pendleton Civil Service Act as a result of the assassination
Pendleton Civil Service Act • Ends the Spoils System • Act created a Civil Service Commission which classified government jobs and tested applicants fitness for them • Stated that federal employees could not be required to contribute to campaign funds and could not be fired to political reasons.