Control of the Gilded Age Essay Example

The Gilded Age was a period in American history between 1865 and 1900. During this time, people believed that America was flourishing through successful Steel, Railroad, and Oil industries. However, what occurred behind the scenes almost made America fall through as a nation. Fresh off the Civil War, people believed that they could sit back on their laurels and relax until another major issue was brought up again. From Andrew Johnson to Grover Cleveland, America was plagued with poor presidents who'd rather engulf in the fame and glory rather than lead the United States to success. This whole era can be summarized as an era of corruption, failure of leadership, and rebelling against authority.

The History of the transcontinental railroad all across the United States exemplifies the linkage between information markets and corruption during the Gilded Age. The process of developing this railroad further exemplifies the fact that political leaders deemed railroad construction was far greater than the wellbeing of their own citizens. As Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt all captained multi million dollar companies, their popularity increased to a point where large businesses dominated virtually all of politics. As depicted in the political cartoon "Bosses of the Senate" by J. Keppler (doc 3); very large men donning the names of large industries that were seemingly dominating the weak congress at the time. America was practically being run by these powerful, wealthy individuals. Head political leaders would take advantage of these times as they would hire close friends into politics instead of hiring highly qualified individuals who would take the time and try to make America a national power. As the Republican style of government was to focus on gaining money, they paid little to no attention to factory workers as there were no bills passed deciding how long the work day was, how much they made, or the conditions of the factory. So, these workers became infuriated. These factory workers decided to team up and in 1892, the Homestead Strike occured. Andrew Carnegie's factory had drawn a lot of hate from his workers due to the fact that workers were unable to move up in the company. "..They are now simply put at a machine or at one branch of the craft and no understanding exists that they shall be taught any other branch of the use of any other machine."(doc 5). Obviously, leaders of these factories didn't care enough to take into consideration any of these complaints and threatened to replace the worker with an unskilled immigrant. In result, poor people remained poor and the government was trying to gain as much money as possible and paid little regard to the people actually doing the work. These working conditions that people were faced with can simply be classified into one word. Atrocious. According to Dr. Timothy D. Stow, "Being shut up all day in the noise and high temperature of these mills. They became physically weak." (doc 6). Due to this major problem plagued throughout these factories, government action was imperative to be taken and the politics of the Gilded age kept piling one problem on one after the other.

Economic Issues of the Gilded Age

One of the main economic issues that was brought upon by the U.S was the tariff issue which was during the height of Grover Cleveland's presidency. By enforcing a tariff on society, their goal was to hopefully gain revenue for people who were in dire need of an income. Cleveland was a conservative and believed action did not need to be taken unless a very strong issue was brought to his attention. For many years, he knew about the dangers of running a tariff but chose to ignore them. Even during interviews he declined to respond to potential questions about tariffs. It all built up until one day it all collapsed and regret was the only thing on his mind. The main group that was affected by this issue was farmers. Due to a drought, many crops were destroyed and farmers were barely able to sustain a positive family life as crops had never been sold at a lower price. In order for action to be taken, "The Grange"was formed in hopes for farmers to create an image that the government should reach out and try to help these people as much as they could. However, due to the railroad system going right through their land, it was hard to negotiate prices to ship goods across the country. Ultimately, the Farmers Alliance was formed out of this movement. One of the main goals of this group was the subtreasury plan. This was a plan for the Government to create shelters so Farmers could store their crops so they can keep them away and sell them again when the price for them finally came up. The farmers were probably the biggest group of people that were affected by the economic struggles of the Gilded age and yet again, they seemed to glide past this issue like nothing had happened.

Another group that was made during the prime years of the Gilded age was the Populist party. Their main goal along with farmers, was to represent the good will of the common people. One of the Main leaders of it, William James Bryan, formed a plan to create this idea of free silver. This idea was to hopefully raise inflation so that farmers were able to gain more money by this one process. However, when the amount of silver started to diminish along with gold, the price fell dramatically. Many investors took out their shares in companies that associated with them and caused many companies to go bankrupt. Therefore, the Economic Depression of 1893 occured. This was by far the biggest task politics had to make a move on and their plan was to buy out all the silver in hopes to raise the price of it so things in the stock market could go back to normal. People lost their jobs, homes, and well being of their family and America suffered for many years to come.

When you take into consideration, "The politics of the Gilded Age failed to deal with critical social and economic issues of the times", This is a very true statement. Politics were so corrupt, that it seemed as if congress the the presidency were laid back jobs where you were overlooked in the United States. They failed to pass bills to improve the lives of the common man and were only interested in the affairs of large business men. America rode a path of leisure after the civil war and by being plagued with poor presidents for a close 30 year period, America almost failed as a nation.


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