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National Politics in the Gilded Age


The Republicans chose Benjamin Harrison of Indiana. ... William McKinley won by the biggest margin since 1872. ... ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: National Politics in the Gilded Age

National Politics in the Gilded Age
The Gilded Age
  • The term "Gilded Age coined by Mark Twain and
    Charles Dudley in their 1873 novel The Gilded
    Age A Tale of Today.
  • It refers to the decades between the end of
    reconstruction and the turn of the century (about
    1877 to 1900).
  • The three main themes
  • lassiez-faire versus government expansion
  • economic and political corruption
  • formation of modern political and economic norms

Gilded Age Timeline
  • 1868 Congress enacts an 8-hour workday for
    workers employed by the government.
  • 1869 The transcontinental railroad is completed.
  • 1870 Rockefeller forms Standard Oil of Ohio
  • 1873 The Financial Panic of 1873 begins. 5,183
    business fail.
  • 1876 Bell patents the telephone.
  • 1877 Edison invents the phonograph.
  • 1879 Edison invents the light bulb
  • 1894 The American Railway Unions strike and
    boycott of Pullman cars end in violence.
  • 1886 The Haymarket riot occurs in Chicago
    following a demonstration of over 300,000 workers
    for 8 hour work days.
  • American Federation of Labor Founded.
  • 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act is passed and
    promptly ignored.
  • 1892 The Homestead Strike at one of Andrew
    Carnegies steel works ends in violence.

The Election of 1880
  • After 18 years in Congress, James Garfield became
    the dark horse Republican nominee for President .
  • His running mate was Chester Arthur.
  • The race between Garfield and the Democrat
    Winfield Hancock centered on the tariff issue.
  • Republicans won favor with business, labor, and
    Northerners by advocating a protective tariff.
  • Democrats sought to appease the interests of
    farmers and Southerners by opposing such tariffs
    as inflationary and anti-consumer.

The Election of 1880
The pie graph of the popular vote on the
electoral map below demonstrates the divided
nature of the American electorate, which would
continue throughout the 1880's and 1890's.
The Assassination of James Garfield
  • Garfields presidency was cut short after only
    four months, when a disappointed office seeker
    shot and mortally wounded the president.
  • The assassination became a catalyst for Civil
    Service Reform Act, which officially made the
    United States bureaucracy a meritocracy instead
    of a system rooted in patronage and graft.

The Presidency of Chester Arthur
  • Chester Arthur became the twenty-first President
    of the United States after President Garfield was
  • He was a product of the patronage system.
  • It was a surprise when Arthur proved himself an
    independent executive who was able to make
    unpopular decisions.
  • He pushed for lower tariffs, though Republicans
    usually sought to appease corporate constituents.

The Pendleton Civil Service Act
  • One of Arthur's most surprising actions was his
    support of the Pendleton Civil Service Act of
    1883, which created a new system for filling
    vacancies and outlawed political contributions
    from civil servants
  • First, for open, competitive examinations for
    testing the fitness of applicants for the public
    service … Second, that all the offices… shall be
    filled by selections according to grade from
    among those graded highest as the results of such
    competitive examinations.

The Chinese Exclusion Act
  • Another of legislation that came during Arthur's
    presidency was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882,
    which was the first federal restriction on
  • Arthur vetoed a more restrictive version of the
    bill, which angered labor groups, but signed one
    that halted Chinese immigration for ten years and
    forbid citizenship for Chinese persons already in
    the country.

Mugwumps and the Election of 1884
  • Democrat Grover Cleveland narrowly won the thanks
    to divisions within the Republican Party.
  • Idealistic Republican "Mugwumps, voted for
    Cleveland because of their disgust over James
    Blaines implication in scandals.
  • Cleveland became the first Democratic president
    since James Buchanan.
  • The "honest" (Mugwump) Republican voter in this
    cartoon chooses the path of independence,
    following the brains end of the Republican

The Election of 1884
  • This mass defection of reform-minded Republicans
    became known as the "Republican Revolt."

The First Cleveland Administration
  • As a "caretaker" president, Cleveland rarely
    proposed legislation on his own.
  • However, he pushed civil service reform and
    opposed the costly pensions that Civil War
    veterans clamored for.
  • He sided with creditors and conservatives as a
    proponent of the gold standard in the controversy
    over currency.

Cleveland and the Tariff Issue
  • Cleveland dedicated his 1887 State of the Union
    Address to one of the defining issues of his
    presidency and his time tariff reform.
  • After the Civil War, the government routinely ran
    a budget surplus.
  • Manufacturers advocated the tariff because it
    allowed them to charge higher prices in the
    absence of foreign competition.
  • Farmers opposed it for the same reason.
  • Cleveland advocated a reduction in tariffs, which
    alienated the Republican faction that got him

The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887
  • In 1887, Cleveland signed the Interstate Commerce
    Act, which established the Interstate Commerce
    Commission (ICC).
  • The ICC was first independent regulatory agency
    in the history of the United States Government.
  • It was designed to regulate the monopolistic
    railroad industry, which employed discriminatory
    pricing practices and kickbacks to benefit big
    business, like Standard Oil, and politicians,
    like James Blaine.

The Election of 1888
  • Cleveland's position on the tariff alienated the
    Republicans who supported him in 1884.
  • The Republicans chose Benjamin Harrison of
  • The campaign was subdued and narrowly focused on
    the tariff issue.
  • Cleveland narrowly won the popular vote, but
    Harrison won with a majority of the electoral

The Presidency of Benjamin Harrison
  • Though he received 100,000 fewer votes than
    Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison became the nation's
    23rd President.
  • He was active in establishing trade relations
    with Mexico and Central America .
  • He was the first president since 1875 to enjoy
    majorities from his party in both houses of
  • Huge appropriations bills increased the national
    budget to over 1 billion.
  • Democrats were able to campaign against the
    "Billion Dollar Congress" and win the midterm
    elections of 1890.

The Sherman Silver Purchase Act and the McKinley
  • In return for passing the Sherman Silver Purchase
    Act of 1890, Republicans established the
    protectionist McKinley Tariff of 1890.
  • The McKinley Tariff was the second highest in US
    History, raising duties by 50 percent. It also
    had the effect of raising prices for consumers.
  • The Sherman Silver Purchase Act put more
    silver-backed money into circulation, but it also
    led to a depletion the government's gold reserves
    because an unexpectedly large number of citizens
    took advantage of a provision in the law that
    allowed holders of US Treasury bonds to redeem
    them for gold.

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act
  • The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 was the
    government's first intervention to remedy the
    restraint of trade caused by monopolies and
  • Though the measure passed unanimously in both
    houses of Congress, it was vague in its
    definitions and depended on the courts for
  • It was not until the end of the 19th century that
    the Act was stringently enforced and interpreted.

United States v. E.C. Knight and Co.
  • The opinion from the 1895 United States v. E.C.
    Knight and Co. is an example of the loose
    interpretation and enforcement of the Sherman
    Anti-Trust Act in its early years.
  • According to Article I, Section 8 of the
    Constitution, Congress may, "regulate commerce
    with foreign nations, and among the several
  • Thus, the federal government cannot control
    economic activity within one state.
  • In the Knight case, court declined to apply the
    law to a refining corporation that controlled 98
    of the nation's sugar because it did not consider
    manufacturing to be interstate commerce.

The Election of 1892
  • In 1892, the Democrats nominated Cleveland and
    the Republicans nominated Harrison.
  • Three third parties joined the race for the
    presidency as well.
  • Grover Cleveland made history as the only
    president to be elected to two non-consecutive
  • He won by the largest margin of any other
    president during the Gilded Age.
  • He was the first Democratic president to have
    majorities in both houses of Congress since
    before the Civil War.

The Election of 1892
The Second Cleveland Administration and the
Depression of 1893
  • As Cleveland took office for a second time, the
    country was on the brink of economic depression.
  • Over 16,000 business went bankrupt, the
    unemployment rate exceeded 20 percent, and wage
    cuts led to violent labor unrest and declining
    standards of living.
  • Cleveland, to the dismay of fellow Democrats,
    forced repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act
    and a return to the gold standard as one remedy
    for the financial crisis.

The Election of 1896 William Jennings Bryan
  • President Cleveland's actions during the
    depression alienated Democrats, who were
  • Instead they nominated the former Congressman and
    electrifying orator William Jennings Bryan of
  • The populist People's party also endorsed him.
  • Bryan was called The Great Commoner because of
    his commitment and appeal to working and middle
    class Americans.

Excerpt from Bryans Cross of Gold Speech
  • Bryans support for the backing of currency with
    silver instead of gold was due to the presumed
    inflation that it would cause, allowing farmers
    to more easily pay back their debts.
  • If they dare to come out in the open field and
    defend the gold standard as a good thing, we
    shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind
    us the producing masses of the nation and the
    world. Having behind us the commercial interests
    and the laboring interests and all the toiling
    masses, we shall answer their demands 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

The Election of 1896 William McKinley
  • William McKinley won the Republican nomination.
  • He was a pro-business protectionist who was
    instrumental in the passage of record-high
    tariffs during the Harrison administration.
  • Prior to the twentieth century, it was customary
    for presidential candidates not to campaign
  • McKinley ran a traditional "front porch" campaign
    while Bryan broke with tradition by touring the

The Grand Realignment
  • Bryan's emphasis on the silver issue aroused
    fears of anarchy and alienated urban, industrial
    states with increasingly high populations.
  • William McKinley won by the biggest margin since
  • The 1896 is often characterized as a "realigning
    election" because it broke the stalemate between
    the parties to usher in an era of Republican
    dominance that thrived until the 1930's.
  • When William McKinley was inaugurated 1897, both
    the depression and the silver issues began to

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