The paper discusses politics in the Gilded Age.
Include major politicalevents and issues, and the roles of the “bloody shirt,” corruption,patronage, and reform movements. The term Gilded Age was named for a Mark Twainbook. It meant covered with gold, and was applied to this period as a whole. This was a period of corruption in sordid politics. The Republicans andDemocrats didnt really have strong opposing beliefs during this period. TheRepublicans supported high tariffs and sound money.
The Democrats supportedlower tariffs and expanded currency. Both rural and urban classes supported eachparty. They worked with spoils and local issues. Both parties worked to pleaseeveryone, and to attract voters. Since both parties were so close in strength,it caused the elections to be fought harder.Order now
The Republicans used the waving ofthe bloody shirt tactic. This meant that they brought back the past in order toavoid the real issues. They portrayed the Democrats as rebel traitors. TheRepublicans were against alcohol. The Stalwarts were led by Senator Conklingfrom New York and were the hard core machine of elections.
Senator Blaine ledthe Half-Breeds from Maine, and they wanted to be in control of it all. Themugwumps were a group that turned Democrat because of the corruption of theRepublican presidential nominee, Senator Blaine. One president was Grant duringthis period. He was elected into office for his past war experience. He hadlittle knowledge of politics, and depended on his fellow politicians.
These men,in turn, involved in scandals to embezzle money from the government. One was theGreat Mobilier scandal; it dealt with the Union Pacific Railroad. TheConstruction Company hired themselves at inflated prices to build railroadlines, and distributed shares of stock to congressmen. A scandal duringGrants second term, was the Whisky Ring. This scandal was uncovered in St.
Louis, and consisted of selling whiskey without the excise tax. In return itdefrauded the government out of millions of dollars. Belknap was selling goodsand trading with the Indians for lower prices. During Grants administrationthe monetary issues were inflation, cheap money, and greenbacks.
The debtors,especially farmers, wanted cheap money. However, Grant vetoed the bill to printmore money, and supported withdrawing greenbacks from circulation. Hayes won thedisputed election. Four states submitted irregular returns. It was disputed ifthe Republican president of the Senate or the Democratic Speaker of the Houseshould count them.
It was decided that an electoral commission made up offifteen men. There were eight Republicans and seven Democrats, so theRepublicans won. The Democrats would only accept this with conditions, one ofwhich was to remove troops from the south. The next president was a political”unknown”.
His name was James Garfield. A disturbed politician shot him inthe back at a railroad. This demonstrated the corruption in the patronage systemand led to reform. In the next presidential election the Republicans nominatedJames Blaine and the Democrats supported Grover Cleveland. Both parties were thesame on issues and both agreed on tariff and corporate abuses, so it came downto personal issues. Cleveland won the election and was the first DemocraticPresident since before the Civil War.
His philosophy of government was almostentirely negative. He believed that the government should not support people. Hewanted to reform tariff, but congress postponed it. The Republicans describedClevelands tariff reform as a free trade policy that would ruin Americanindustries and put Americans out of work. The Republicans regain the White Housewith Benjamin Harrison.
The payoffs for industries were high tariffs. Thedownside was increased government spending. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act waspassed to help the silver minors and economy. During President Clevelandsreelection, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act drained the treasuries. Paper noteswere traded for gold, then reissued, and the process would be repeated.
Theworst depression of that century occurred during Clevelands second term. Cleveland tried to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, but it was too late. Gold was almost depleted, so he borrowed $62 million in gold from J. P. Morgan.
The Wilson-Gorman Act reduced tariff slightly, and had a provision that thePopulist favored. It was a 2% income tax on incomes over $4000 a year. In allCleveland was unable to deal with the economic crises in his second term. Therewas too much corruption during this period. Honest politicians and businessmenmight have prevented the depression.
The big businesses were really in charge.The quality of Presidents played a major role .