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Corruption in the Gilded Age


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Title: Corruption in the Gilded Age

Corruption in the Gilded Age
Social Darwinism
  • Term coined by Herbert Spencer
  • Based on Charles Darwins survival of the
  • Human society evolves and improves due to
  • Emphasized individualism no matter how humble
    your origins, you can rise as high as your
    talents and commitment will take you
  • Capitalists used this idea to support their
    belief in laissez-faire economics (which allowed
    unrestricted competition)

The Gospel of Wealth
  • Andrew Carnegie bought into the idea of Social
    Darwinism, but also believed that those who
    profit from society have a responsibility to
    improve society in return
  • Endorsed philanthropy, gave millions of dollars
    to build schools, libraries, hospitals,
    orphanages, etc.

The Gilded Age
  • Period of 1877 1900
  • Term coined by Mark Twain
  • Gilding is when a thin layer of gold is put
    over a worthless metal to create the illusion of
  • Twain described this period as a thin layer of
    prosperity masking the poverty and corruption

Ulysses S. Grant
  • 1822 1885
  • Republican
  • 18th President (1869 1877)
  • Administration was marred by dozens of scandals
    involving several members of his cabinet, mainly
    involving bribery

The Whiskey Ring
  • Scandal involving several members of Grants
    administration, including his personal secretary,
    where federal employees accepted bribes from
    whiskey distillers to help them avoid paying
    federal taxes on alcohol production
  • 110 people were convicted of defrauding the
    government out of at least 3 million in taxes

The Credit Mobilier Scandal
  • Several investors in the Union Pacific Railroad,
    including Congressman Oakes Ames, formed a
    construction company, then used their positions
    on the railroads board to hire their company to
    do construction work at exaggerated prices
  • The Union Pacific received their funding from
    federal grants when grant money ran out, Ames
    gave other members of Congress shares in the
    Union Pacific to bribe them to approve more
    federal grant money

Political Machines
  • Informal political group designed to gain and
    keep power
  • Growth of cities had outpaced the ability of city
    governments to meet the needs of citizens
  • Run by party bosses
  • Party bosses helped immigrants find jobs,
    housing, food, heat and protection in return
    they told immigrants who to vote for in elections

  • Graft acquiring money through dishonest or
    questionable means
  • Example party bosses would know when and where
    the city might want to build a park, so they
    would buy up the property cheap before it became
    public knowledge and then sell the land to the
    city for personal profit

William Boss Tweed
  • 1823 1878
  • Ran Tammany Hall (The Democratic Partys
    political machine in NYC) from 1858 1871
  • Used his position to make himself wealthy
  • Arrested in 1871 and convicted of defrauding the
    city government of about 200 million

Thomas Nast
  • 1840 1902
  • German immigrant
  • Worked for Harpers Weekly as political
    cartoonist from 1859 to 1886
  • Targeted Boss Tweed and political machines was
    so effective that Tweed offered him a 500,000
    bribe to go study art in Europe Nast turned it
  • Creator of modern image of Santa Claus, Uncle
    Sam, the Donkey and Elephant symbols for
    Democratic and Republican Parties
  • Died of Yellow Fever in Ecuador

Rutherford B. Hayes
  • 1822 1893
  • Republican
  • 19th President (1877 1881)
  • Reformer
  • Replaced officials who had been appointed by
    party bosses
  • No spoils system in his administration

Stalwarts Halfbreeds
  • Stalwarts Republicans who supported the
    political machines and spoils system
  • Half-breeds Republicans who supported civil
    service reform and an end to the political
    machines and spoils system

James Garfield
  • 1831 1881
  • Republican
  • 20th President (1881)
  • Elected despite being implicated in the Credit
    Mobilier Scandal
  • A Half-breed, he was assassinated after only
    200 days in office by a disgruntled office seeker
    who felt he had been cheated out of a good
    government job

Chester A. Arthur
  • 1829 1886
  • Republican
  • 21st President (1881-1885)
  • A Stalwart, he was so affected by Garfields
    assassination that he switched to being a
    Half-breed and championed civil service reform
  • Did not receive nomination in election of 1884
    due to terminal kidney condition

Pendleton Act of 1883
  • Ended the spoils system by creating the US Civil
    Service Commission
  • Federal employees would get jobs based on skills
    and merit, not political favoritism

Election of 1884
  • Republicans nominated former Speaker of the House
    and Sec. of State James Blaine, but many voters
    believed he was corrupt due to his implication in
    several railroad scandals
  • Democrats ran Governor of New York Grover
    Cleveland, who was seen as honest due to his open
    admission of fathering a child out of wedlock
    with a mistress

Grover Cleveland
  • 1837 1908
  • Democrat
  • 22nd 24th President (1885-89, 1893-97)
  • Fought for political reforms, but at the same
    time was willing to use military force to limit
    labor unions (Pullman Strike)

  • Democrat Cleveland even won support from
    reform-minded Republicans
  • These Republicans were called mugwumps, an
    Algonquin Indian word meaning important person
  • The term Mugwump would mean someone who switches
    political party for generations following

Wabash v. Illinois
  • 1886 Supreme Court decision
  • Court ruled that states can not regulate railroad
    companies because railroads are engaged in
    interstate commerce which can only be regulated
    by the federal government

Interstate Commerce Act of 1887
  • Reaction to Wabash v. Illinois decision
  • Created the Interstate Commerce Commission to
    regulate railroads by restricting rates and
    ensuring that no discriminatory practices were
  • ICC was disbanded in 1995

Benjamin Harrison
  • 1833 1901
  • Republican
  • 23rd President (1889 1893)
  • Grandson of William Henry Harrison
  • Had the first billion dollar government
  • Ran on campaign of supporting high tariffs

The McKinley Tariff of 1890
  • Raised the tariff on imported goods to nearly 50
  • Passed Congress as part of a political deal
    Republicans got the tariff, Democrats Populists
    got the Sherman Silver Purchase Act
  • Tariff would severely hurt farmers, but greatly
    help industrialists

Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890
  • First federal law limiting trusts, monopolies,
    and cartels, but not really enforced until
    Theodore Roosevelts presidency
  • Designed to protect competition among businesses
    and to protect consumers from the dangers of

United States v. EC Knight Co.
  • 1895
  • First test of the Sherman Antitrust Act
  • EC Knight Co. was a sugar refinery that had a
    monopoly on sugar in US
  • Court ruled that Sherman Antitrust Act could
    limit monopolies only in distribution (interstate
    commerce), not in manufacture of goods

Grover Cleveland Returns!
  • 1892 Cleveland was nominated by Democrats again
    and defeated both the Republican candidate
    Harrison and the new Populist Partys candidate
    James B. Weaver
  • Shortly after taking office, US experienced the
    Panic of 1893 (financial crisis)
  • It was also during this term that Cleveland used
    US Army to end the Pullman Strike

William McKinley
  • 1843 1901
  • Republican
  • 25th President (1897 1901)
  • Defeated William Jennings Bryan in 1896 election,
    and won re-election in 1900, but was assassinated
    in 1901 by an anarchist

Political reforms
  • Secret ballot individuals votes would be kept
    secret, not published
  • Referendum allows citizens to vote directly on
    important issues rather than leave the issues in
    the hands of elected officials
  • Recall allows voters to remove an elected
    official from office before their term is up
  • Initiative allows voters to force elected
    officials to vote on a certain issue