From Stalemate to Crisis Chapter 19
The Tweed Ring • The corruption of Tammany Hall and the Tweed Ring was revealed in a series of political cartoons drawn by Thomas Nast (considered a “Muckraker”) • In 1871,Nast published 50 cartoons in Harper’s Weekly that sharply criticized Tweed and Tammany Hall.
Politics of the Gilded Age • In 1873, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner published a satirical novel, The Gilded Age, that examined the values of wealthy Americans and the nature of national politics after the Civil War. • They believed that politics was like the base material that hides beneath the glittering gold surface of a gilded object. • Corruption and greed lurked below the polite and prosperous luster of American society during the late 1800s • The era became known as the Gilded Age.
Electoral Stability • From end of Reconstruction until the late 1890s the electorate was divided almost evenly between the Republicans and the Democrats • 16 states were consistently Republican & 14 Democrat • Only 5 states were usually in doubt • In the 5 presidential election beginning in 1876, the average popular‐vote margin separating candidates was 1.5% • Republicans controlled the Senate& the Democrats controlled the House
Voter Turnout • National politics in the late 19th century included high voter turnout • 1860‐1900 = 78% of eligible voters • 2011 = 41% of eligible voters
Party Identification • Regional differences, religion, and ethnicity shaped party loyalty more than economic issues • Democratsincluded recent immigrants in northern cities & a strong base in the South • Republicansfavored measures limiting • Immigration & were popular among “old‐stock” Americans
Limited Federal Involvement • The Federal Government did little during this period • Exceptions included subsidies to railroads (fed land grants), intervention in labor disputes (Pullman strike in 1894) • It also administered a massive system of pensions to Civil War vets (some hoped to expand it into permanent old‐age pensions)
Stalwarts & Half-Breeds • The Presidency at this time tended to be custodial. He “took care of” rather than took charge. • The President distributed government patronage in the form of jobs for party supporters. • The Republican Party split into two factions: • Stalwartswere supporters of traditional machine politics and patronage (Roscoe Conkling) • The Half‐Breedssought reform (James Blaine) • In reality, both wanted a larger piece of patronage pie.
Rutherford B. Hayes(1877-1881) • Sought to create an effective and honest civil service system, but it attracted no support from either party. • He did not seek reelection • In 1880, the Republicans agree on a ticket that included a Stalwart and Half‐Breed • James Garfield (Half‐Breed) President • Chester A. Arthur (Stalwart) Vice President
Garfield is Assassinated • Garfield tried to defy Stalwarts in his appointments and showed support for civil service reform • On July 2, 1881, Garfield was assassinated by a frustrated office‐seeker
Pendleton Act • Chester A. Arthur (1881‐1884) had been a Stalwart, but sought to pursue an independent course upon taking office • In 1883 at Arthur’s urging, Congress passed the Pendleton Act, which required a competitive written examination system for some federal jobs.
Election of 1884 • The Republican candidate was Senator James Blaine of Maine • Liberal Republicans (mugwumps) left party to support an honest Democrat • The Democrats nominated Grover Cleveland, the reform governor of New York • The election was decided when Blaine failed to quickly repudiate the words of a Protestant minister who referred to the Democrats as the party of “rum, Romanism, and rebellion”
Grover Cleveland • Cleveland reflected the popular view that the federal government should play a limited role • He opposed protective tariffs, which he believed encouraged Congress to pass unnecessary legislation that would increase the federal government’s size and scope. • His efforts to reduce tariffs met significant Republican opposition, making the tariff a central issue in 1888 election.
Election of 1888 • Cleveland was defeated by Benjamin Harrison (1889‐1893) of Indiana in one of the closest elections in American history • It was the first election since the Civil War in which the Republicans and Democrats differed significantly on economic issues.
Sherman Anti-Trust Act • Although Harrison was passive, he had to face new issues. • In July 1890, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act, a largely symbolic measure forbidding “combinations in restraint of trade”. • It was only haphazardly enforced, until more enforcement mechanism were added after 1900.
The McKinley Tariff • Republicans also sought high protective tariffs to benefit American businesses embodied by the McKinley Tariff that was passed by Congress in October 1890. • This contributed to heavy Republican losses in the midyear elections.
Election of 1892 • Harrison and Cleveland undertook a rematch of the 1888 campaign& were joined this time with a third‐party candidate James B. Weaver of the People’s Party • Cleveland won a substantial victory. • Democrats obtained a majority in both houses of Congress for the first time since 1878. • Cleveland took few major initiatives focusing primarily on tariff reform. • The Senate weakened his original proposal, resulting in the compromise known as the Wilson‐Gorman tariff of 1894
Interstate Commerce Act • In 1886, the Supreme Court overruled a series of state laws regulating railroads, arguing that these new state laws were an unconstitutional effort to control interstate commerce. • In 1887, Congress responded with the Interstate Commerce Act, which prohibited rate discrimination in short and long hauls, required railroads to publish rate schedules, and declared that rail rates must be “reasonable and just”. • Loosely enforced for the next 20 yearsuntil Theodore Roosevelt urged Congress to pass legislation extending the federal government’s power to regulate railroad rates.
The Grange • Farmers were mostly individualistic, but began to exhibit a tendency to organize. • The first major effort was the organization by Oliver H. Kelley in 1867 of the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry. • In its early yearsit was a vehicle for social gatherings and education. • The Depression of 1873 caused many of its members to form marketing cooperatives to allow farmers to bypass middlemen and raise profits • In the 1870s, Grangers succeeded in controlling state legislation of many mid-western states. • The return of agricultural prosperity in late 1870s and overturning of Granger laws by the Supreme Court caused the organization to decline.
Farmers’ Alliances • By mid‐1870s, farmers in both South and Midwest were forming Farmers’ Alliances. • In 1880, the Southern Alliance had 4 million members • Concerned primarily with local problems, but somememberssought larger reforms that would replace competitive economy with cooperative system. • The alliances were notable for significant role of women • Mary Ellen Lease known for her admonition to farmers to “raise less corn and more hell!”
Birth of the People’s Party (Populists) • Alliance members competed successfully in the off‐year election • By 1892, the movement met in Omaha, Nebraska to nominate James B. Weaver as the candidate of the People’s Party for president of the U.S. • Weaver gained 8.5 percent of the popular vote, while nearly 1,500 Populist candidates won seats in state.
Populist Constituency • Populists sought to create a broad‐based political coalition, but their appeal was mainly to farmers. • Especially farmers who worked in areas threatened by the mechanization and agricultural consolidation • Many Populists were “culturally marginal”— out of the mainstream of American life • They generally failed in efforts to attract organized labor—less true in Rocky Mountains.
Free Silver • One of the main tenets of populism was demand for “free silver” • Urban workers in the east disliked expanding the currency fearing inflation and rising costs of living and put off by the Populists’ anti‐immigrant stance • In the South, the controversy over whether to allow blacks in the movementled to some southern conservatives attacking the movement for undermining white supremacy. • Interracial character faded and the possibility of widespread movement against elite ended.
Populist Platform • The Populist program was best expressed in Omaha • Platform of 1892 • Called for creation of “subtreasuries,” or warehouses, where farmers could store crops and use crops as collateral until prices rose • Populists wanted direct election of U.S. senators and regulation, and later, ownership of railroads, telephones, and telegraphs. • Also demanded government‐owned postal savings banks, a graduated income tax and currency inflation
Panic of 1893 • Worst depression in American history to that point that resulted from the collapse of the Philadelphia and Reading railroad. • It Triggered a stock market collapse, leading to failure of banks that they were heavily invested in the market • The panic showed how interdependent the American economy was. A failure in one area triggered failures in other areas. • Prosperity did not return until 1901
Coxey’s Army • The Depression led to protest movements most notably the march from Ohio to Washington led by Jacob Coxey • Advocated currency inflation and public works to stimulate the economy • Coxey’s Army only numbered about 500 and had little concrete impact on changing public policy • It did show the desperation that Americans felt
Silver Question • The Panic of 1893 precipitated a deep debate over the basis of currency of the U.S. • The Government had traditionally recognized both gold and silver as circulating mediums (bimetallism) • In 1873, the government stopped coining silver because the market value of silver was higher than the government 16:1 ratio (16 oz. of silver equaled 1 oz. of gold) • In 1870s, new discoveries of silver meant the market value fell below 16:1meaning holders of silver would benefit from coinage ratio • Silver‐mine owners and farmers seeking currency inflation sought to overturn the “Crime of 73”.
Currency Question • Cleveland believed the nation’s declining gold reserves were the result of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, which required the government to purchase silver and pay for it in gold. • In 1893, Congress repealed the act, which split the Democratic Party. • The currency issue came to be of great symbolic significance.
William McKinley • Populists paid little attention to silver issue, only embracing it as the party became more national. • In 1896, Republicans nominated William McKinley of Ohio as its presidential candidate. • They adopted a conservative platform that opposed free coinage of silver except by agreement with leading commercial nations of the world.
“A Cross of Gold” • Democrats appeared ready to adopt the gold standard until William Jennings Bryan’s famous “Cross of Gold” speech at the end of their convention. • Bryan was nominated as the youngest candidate ever by a major party while representing the interests of rural, Protestant, middle‐class Americans.
“A Cross of Gold” “If they (the Republicans) dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we will fight them to the uttermost. Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests, and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” - William Jennings Bryan
“Fusion” • The Democrat’s adoption of a free‐silver platform created a dilemma for Populists. • They feared losing their identity as a party if they undertook “fusion” with the major party. • However, the Populists nominated Bryan and Georgian Tom Watson as their candidates for President and Vice President.
Modern Campaigning • In 1896, business and financial communities rallied behind McKinleyfearing the consequences of a Democratic victory. • McKinley conducted a “front porch” campaign from his home in Canton, Ohio • Bryan took the country’s first campaign national traveling systematically to visit all sections of the country. • This helped to form the modern system of presidential politics. • Bryan antagonized many voters (urban immigrants who feared Bryan’s Protestant morality).
End of the People’s Party • A major result of election was collapse of the Populist Party. • The movement represented widespread protest against the excesses of industrialism—its failure meant that most Americans accepted industrial consolidation & sought to counterbalance rather than eliminate big business • Farmers abandoned efforts at reform& became part of interest‐group system that arose in early 20th century (Progressives)
Currency Act • McKinley presided over a period of domestic calm and stability • He focused on raising tariffs (Dingley Tariff of 1897 raised duties to highest point in American history) • The administration was more cautious with the silver issue • Republicans enacted the Currency or Gold Standard Act of 1900, which confirmed the nation’s commitment to the gold standard. • New debates over foreign affairs dominated attention.
Growth of Gold • Free‐silver failed, but raised important questions about the nature of the American economy. • The growth of money supply had not kept pace with economic progress • Only through the growth of gold available (new extraction techniques and discoveries) were Populist warnings of financial disaster avoided. • The nation’s commitment to gold standard remained until Great Depression in 1930s.