Thesis: The Gilded Age has become classified as an era that demeans American politics. The time period consisted of severe lack of interest and concern with the people, idleness within the government and its decisions, as well as numerous instances of groups’ tending to maintain the disposition to shift toward the extremes.
The time throughout the 1870s and some of the twentieth century acquired the name of the “Gilded Age.” The era was a time of economic growth, especially in the North and West.
However, the Gilded Age was also a time of poverty.
Paragraph I: Apathy – lack of interest/concern
Difficult adjustment to modern industrial labor
Not much job security
Skilled artisans not needed – machines impersonal and demeaning Factory laborers worked 10-hour days
Use of women and children
Decrease in need for skill workers
38 states passed child labor laws
Employed in agriculture – government didn’t bother to deal with reversing exemption from laws Railroad strike (1887)
10% wage cut
Approached class war
Caused President Hayes to suppress disorders in West Virginia
Paragraph II: Inaction – Idleness
Haymarket Bombing – “Anarchist”
Knights of Labor attempt to distance themselves from radicals Did not try to pacify them
Pullman Strike (1894)
Refused to reduce rents to pacify
Government “preserve order”
Corporations depend on federal authorities
Crush labor uprisings on demand
Corporations do not attempt to give their workers what they want Though did take action in crushing uprisings, no action taken to pacify those dissidents.
Paragraph III: Extremism – Tendency/disposition to go to extremes Social Darwinism leading to more radical approaches to reform Social Darwinism – application to human society the laws of evolution Socialist Labor Party (1870s)
Founded by Daniel De Leon
Led to the American Socialist party
Wider following than Socialist Labor Party
Henry George – Progress and Poverty
Blamed social problems on power of monopolists to grow wealthy from rising land values “single tax” on land – destroy monopolies
Rival – Edward Bellamy
Through peaceful evolutionary process trusts of late 19th cent. Grow to combine a single trust controlled by gov’t and distributed wealth equally. “Fraternal cooperation” replace competition
Class divisions disappear
Despite the creation of new labor unions and strikes during 1880s and 1890s, workers failed on the whole to create successful organizations or to protect their interests the way corporations protected their own. Almost all the advantages seemed to be with the capital.
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