The Gilded Age

  • Gilded: covered with gold; having a glittering surface but little value in core

  • Big cooperations raised question to democracy and political freedom

  • Many elected members held stock of companies that received public aids

  • Credit Mobilier
    • most notorious example of corruption.

    • A company formed by Union Railroad stockholders to oversee the government-assisted constructions

  • Almost all Republican candidates were veterans.

  • Pension for Union soldiers consumed 40% of the federal budget

  • Parties were closely divided

  • Elections were healthy in the gilded age
    • Elections were closely contested

    • 80% of eligible voters voted

  • Federal workforce was small

  • Republican supported high tariff, withdrawing greenbacks, reducing federal spending and repay the national debt

  • 1879 the US returned to gold standard

  • Civil Service Act of 1883
    • Federal employees determined by competitive examinations instead of political influence

    • Unintended result of increasing politicians’ dependence on business donations.

  • ICC
    • Charged to ensure the railroad rates to be reasonable

    • No real power other than suing

  • Sherman Antitrust Act
    • Banned all practices that restrained free trade

  • State governments expanded responsibilities in public welfare

  • Railroads charged high prices for non-railroad controlled merchants

  • Labor movement demanded law for eight hours labor, proved hard to enforce

  • Discussion of politics expanded

  • Many viewed the concentration of wealth inevitable

  • Waged factory workers were on the edge of poverty

  • Social Darwinism
    • Governments must not uplift those at the bottom

    • The poor were responsible for their own fate

  • Free labor meant free contracts

  • Regulation of enterprises were viewed an insult to free labor

  • The Constitution allowed the government to regulate commerce but not manufacturing

  • Lochner v. New York
    • Supreme court outlawed the maximum of 60 hours of labor per week for bakers

  • Political debates were divided along class lines in the late 19th century

  • The Great Railroad Strike
    • Militia tried to force them back to work, killed 20 people

    • Workers burned railroad yard and million dollars properties

    • Put down by federal troops

  • Troops were stationed in cities in the event of labor difficulties

  • Knights of Labors
    • Organized skilled and unskilled laborers

    • Excluded Asians

  • More than 150 Utopian and cataclysmic novels appeared

  • Progress and Poverty by Henry George
    • Proposed singe tax

  • The Cooperative Commonwealth by Laurence Gronlund
    • Popularized socialism

    • Made socialism seemed more acceptable than Karl Marx

  • Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
    • Promoted socialist ideas while ignoring its name

  • Christian Lobby
    • Powerful Christian Organizations tried to Christianize the government and outlawing sinful behaviors

    • Mann Act of 1910 banned transportation of women across state lines for immoral purposes

    • Bible Belt: political actions revolved around the Bible

  • Social Gospel
    • Freedom required equalization in wealth and power

    • Tried to alleviate poverty and child labor

  • May Day: March for 8 hours

  • Haymarket Affair
    • Three protesters were killed by the police in May 3, 1886

    • Police open fired after someone throwing a bomb and killed some bystanders and other polices

    • 8 people were arrested and died for crimes they did not commit

  • Henry George finished second in 1886 election for New York City’s mayor.