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Political Corruption of the Gilded Age


Fiske and Gould then bid price of gold upward. ... In 1875, the press revealed a 'Whisky Ring' had robbed millions in excise-tax revenues. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Political Corruption of the Gilded Age

Political Corruption of the Gilded Age
The Gold Thing
  • Jim Fiske and Jay Gould attempted to corner gold
    market in 1869
  • Persuaded Grant to order federal Treasury to stop
    selling gold.
  • Fiske and Gould then bid price of gold upward.
  • Treasury finally released gold and the bubble
    burst in 1869 (b/c of over-speculated/inflated
    value of gold similar to 1929 Stock Market
    Crash) --caused a financial panic, stock market
    depression, bankruptcies of Wall Street firms
  • Congressional probe found Grant did nothing
    illegal but acted recklessly.

The most infamous Boss Tweed Tammany Hall
  • Led by Wm. Marcy Tweed, the Tweed Ring ran the
    Tammany Hall political machine
  • Political machine definition an unofficial
    system of a political organization based on
    patronage, the spoils system, "behind-the-scenes"
    control, and longstanding political ties within
    the structure of a representative democracy
    typically led by a boss have a long-term group
    of dedicated workers who depend on the patronage
    generated by government contracts and jobs.
  • Tweed used bribery, graft, fraudulent elections
    to gain about 200 mil at the expense of NYC
  • NY Times exposed him in 1871. Cartoons by Nast
    most damaging to Tweed (esp. with illiterate
  • Nast was even offered a 100K bribe to "study art
    in Paris" so not to portray Tweed badly Nast
    refused despite even higher offers.
  • Samuel Tilden prosecuted Tweed he was sent to
    jail where he died (Paved the way for Tildens
    presidential nomination in 1876)

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George Plunkitt Honest Graft
  • Everybody is talkin these days about Tammany men
    growin rich on graft, but nobody thinks of
    drawin the distinction between honest graft and
    dishonest graft. Theres all the difference in
    the world between the two. Yes, many of our men
    have grown rich in politics. I have myself. Ive
    made a big fortune out of the game, and Im
    gettin richer every day, but Ive not gone in
    for dishonest graftblackmailin' gamblers,
    saloonkeepers, disorderly people, etc.and
    neither has any of the men who have made big
    fortunes in politics.
  • Theres an honest graft, and Im an example of
    how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by
    sayin I seen my opportunities and I took em.
  • Just let me explain by examples. My partys in
    power in the city, and its goin' to undertake a
    lot of public improvements. Well, Im tipped off,
    say, that theyre going to lay out a new park at
    a certain place.
  • I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that
    place and I buy up all the land I can in the
    neighborhood. Then the board of this or that
    makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get
    my land, which nobody cared particular for
  • Aint it perfectly honest to charge a good price
    and make a profit on my investment and foresight?
    Of course, it is. Well, thats honest graft. Or
    supposin its a new bridge theyre goin to
    build. I get tipped off and I buy as much
    property as I can that has to be taken for
    approaches. I sell at my own price later on and
    drop some more money in the bank.
  • Wouldnt you? Its just like lookin ahead in
    Wall Street or in the coffee or cotton market.
    Its honest graft, and Im lookin for it every
    day in the year. I will tell you frankly that
    Ive got a good lot of it, too.

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Credit Mobilier Scandal
  • Insiders of the Union Pacific Railway formed
    Credit Mobilier --a railroad construction
  • Hired themselves to build the railroad and paid
    themselves huge fees (like dividends of 348 to
  • Distributed shares of stock to congressmen to
    avoid interference.
  • In 1872 the charges confirmed by a Congressional
    investigation that censured two members the
    vice president
  • Grants reputation tarnished although most
    corruption occurred before his presidency.

Whiskey Ring Scandal
  • In 1875, the press revealed a Whisky Ring had
    robbed millions in excise-tax revenues.
  • Pres. Grant, said "Let no man escape
  • Yet, one of Grants own cabinet members part of
    the scam. Grant persuaded the jury not to convict

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Indian Supply Scandal
  • Secretary of War Belknap pocketed 24,000 for
    selling the privilege of disbursing supplies to
    Indians and then the supplies were often
  • The House of Representatives voted to impeach him
    and he resigned the same day.

The Prompt
  • How did politicians live under the shadow of
    Ulysses Grants presidency from 1876 to 1896?

  • Thesis Sample The scandals of the Grant
    administration made honesty in government a
    dominant political issue for an entire
  • What do you think??

A Good Sample Paragraph
  • After the scandals of the 1870s, the voters
    demanded honesty from their political leaders.
    When James Blain ran in 1884, he was portrayed as
    an imposter who tried to fool the people into
    believing he was a crusader or Plumed Knight.
    In fact, he had used his office for private gain
    (Doc A.)

  • Moreover, some political bosses tried to justify
    their misdeeds by saying there was difference
    between honest graft, which involved using
    insider information and did not hurt anyone
    specifically, and dishonest graft, which was
    practiced by those officials who took pay offer
    from saloon keepers and gamblers however, the
    voters rejected this distinction and demanded
    politicians protect the public interest rather
    than enrich themselves, as seen in the tremendous
    public sentiment against Boss Tweed (Doc B).

Another prompt
  • The industrialists of the last quarter of the
    19th c. were visionaries rather than robber
    barons. Assess the validity of this statement.

Which thesis is BEST? Why?
  • Industrialists like JD Rockefeller and A Carnegie
    did many good things and some bad things, but
    generally, they helped American become great.
  • Men such as JD Rockefeller and A Carnegie should
    have shared their money with more people,
    including their workers.
  • The trusts created by Rockefeller and Carnegie
    made America competitive internationally, but
    they exploited their workers and the American

Write your own
  • The industrialists of the last quarter of the
    19th c. were visionaries rather than robber
    barons. Assess the validity of this statement.
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