The Gilded Age
The Gilded Age Hist 2110
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The Gilded Age (1877app. 1900) and Social Darwinism keywords: Gilded Age, “robber baron,” Andrew Carnegie, “The Gospel of Wealth,” John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Social Darwinism, “survival of the fittest,” Herbert Spencer, “Acres of Diamonds” essay question: What is “social Darwinism”? What is it about Gilded Age America that might have made this philosophy a popular one? Use at least two examples from class to explain your answer. essay question for Up from Slavery: In Up from Slavery, Booker T. Washington states his belief that African Americans on the postReconstruction South should “cast down your bucket where you are.” (page 106) What does he mean by this? How does that statement reflect Washington’s broader philosophy about the advancement of black people after slavery? What, specifically, did Washington support and what did he oppose? Use several specific examples from the book in order to support your answer. I. Gilded Age (1877app. 1900)money, industrial technology was seem as ushered A. New businesses and technologies led to unprecedented wealth. inspired people were infatuated with them and what they were spending their money on, new economic information, new forms of wealth, resentment with and needed to be change because so much had gotten through brutality and corruption, engaged in monopoly , gild dip into gold, rotten and shiny B. Often accompanied by brutality and corruption. C. “Social Darwinism” emerged as a philosophy that helped some Americans (mostly wealthy) explain and live with the new economic disparities. Embraced the philosophy because it was science and it was adapted that basically said wealthy people are good II. The “Robber Barons”generational tycoons, gave money away to colleges, most made their money through the railroads A. Andrew Carnegie: (18351919) was a Gilded Age industrialist, the owner of the Carnegie Steel Company, and a major philanthropist. He epitomized the Gilded Age ideal of the selfmade man, rising from poverty to become one of the wealthiest individuals in the history of the world. Born into a humble family in Scotland, Carnegie came to the United States with his impoverished parents at the age of thirteen. He worked as a bobbin boy and a telegraph messenger before taking a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad at the age of eighteen. By the Civil War, he held an administrative position with the railroad. At the war's end, Carnegie entered the iron industry, and recognizing that steel rails would soon replace iron rails, he invested in the steel business. Carnegie utilized the newest technologies, such as the Bessemer blast furnace, to expand his steel company. He also employed "vertical integration"—control over every aspect of the industry from the mining of iron ore through the production and distribution of steel—to increase his control over the industry and the profitability of his firm. By the turn of the century, Carnegie Steel was the largest steel company in America. In 1901, financier J.P. Morgan acquired Carnegie Steel in the process of building U.S. Steel. Andrew Carnegie retired to Scotland and dedicated his time and money to various philanthropies consistent with the philosophy that he had advanced in "The Gospel of Wealth." Among these philanthropies were the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. B. John D. Rockefeller: John D. Rockefeller (18391937) was a Gilded Age industrialist and the founder of Standard Oil. Born in New York, he was trained as a bookkeeper but entered the oil business shortly after the discovery of oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859. In 1869, he formed the Standard Oil Company; within fifteen years, Standard Oil had acquired nearmonopoly control over the American petroleum industry, refining 90% of the nation's oil. Rockefeller's strategy of establishing a virtual monopoly over one aspect of the production process—in his case oil refining—was labeled horizontal integration. To eliminate his competitors, Rockefeller used his firm's superior size to negotiate preferential rates from the railroads that transported both his and his competitors' oil, making it nearly impossible for his competitors to stay in business. Due to its controversial monopolistic control over the oil industry, Standard Oil faced a series of It was declared illegal by the state supreme court of Ohio in 1892 and dissolved in 1899. It was then reorganized as a holding company, the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. But the United States Supreme Court ruled that this also constituted an illegal monopoly and ordered the company dissolved in 1911. By this point, John D. Rockefeller had largely retired from active management of the company. With personal assets estimated at a billion dollars, he supported several philanthropies including the University of Chicago, the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Various Rockefellerfunded charities continue to make important contributions in the philanthropic field even today. C. J.P. Morgan: finance, son of a banker, Morgan bought 5000 defective rifles(blow off your finger) for 3.50 cents apiece and sold them for selling them back to the army for 22.00, father started an investment bank, rename the company under his name, was a finance sold stocks and loan money got to known as the House Of Morgan1895 the US government had a crash and had jp Morgan for money because they was bankrupt, denied and said lack the ability to pay back,but made a deal to get bonds so he can sale bonds at a higher price, and scribbled some numbers to sell Carnegie Steel for 42 million and started a new company known as US Steel and sold the stock for 1.3 billion and took a fee for himself for arranging the deal 150 million D. John Jacob Asterselling fur, but tract it E. Madam CJ Walker first African American rich F. DukeTobacco, rolled them into paper and sold them III. Social Darwinism A. Charles Darwin Darwin founder of evolution technically incorrect, all the time all animals are having offspring that are slightly diff of the norm that they have diff mutations vast majority are bad, could be good or bad, some die off others remain, contradicts Genesis in the Bible, very brutal, 1 More likely to live or the other they get laid B. Herbert Spencer Believed he was applying science the era, more influential, incredibly popular, 1. “the survival of the fittest” to be more fit you have to be more fit in something, lucky that happen to have the mutation that you were born in 2. Social Statics (1850) power of the world already few thinking of the men and has already become the recognize basis, human being are no longer physically evolving no longer evolution going to fail us the way the humans are competing the way they are advancing is by social Darwinism, the way that they are competing today they are competing for money, anything that we do to help the people to succeed or having them not succeed its against government to terrorist, post office didn’t have anything to do with how they survive. Not sufficiently it is best that they die. If sufficient then it’s on them. Something you did wrong if fail something you succeeded then you were smart, (The growth of the large business the american role this is not the evilness of business but of the law of God)Rockfeller, trinkle down to the society C. Russell Conwell: “Acres of Diamonds” (1890) gave a speech after town after town after town, that was the way america was entertain, estimated thousands of time got rich enough and served the president of a University about a guy that wants to be rich to finding diamonds and gets to sadi arabia and slips on a rock and dies meanwhile and bought a farm and finds diamonds, point of the story was this guy made a mistake was far away so don’t blame them on excuses you have the responsibility to make yourself rich. You are rich because you made it happen you are poor because of your shortcoming. Social Darwinism isn’t going away it still exist today D. Eugene Debs (18551926) was the president of the American Railway Union and a founding member of the Social Democratic Party of America. Born in Indiana, he dropped out of high school and went to work for the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad at the age of fourteen. He soon became active in the local Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. In 1893, he helped organize the American Railway Union and became its first president. During the Pullman strike of 1894, Debs instructed members of the ARU to support Pullman employees by refusing to handle Pullman cars, which were a vital part of the nation's passenger rail system. Debs defied a court order demanding that union leaders cease in their encouragement of the strike and was subsequently sentenced to six months in jail. Shortly thereafter he embraced socialism, helped found the Social Democratic Party of America, and ran for president five times as a socialist candidate. During World War I, Debs publicly opposed American intervention in the war and consequently was convicted under the 1918 Espionage Act, which imposed sweeping restrictions on speech and actions deemed detrimental to the war effort. Imprisoned in the Atlanta federal penitentiary, Debs ran for president from his jail cell and received more than 900,000 votes in 1920. E. George Washington Plunkitt (18421924) was an influential leader in Tammany Hall, New York's Democratic political machine. He served as a state senator and a representative to the New York Assembly. But he exercised greater political influence through his work as a ward boss in New York's Fifteenth Assembly District. Plunkitt was born in poverty and only received three years of formal education. But he rose through the ranks of Tammany Hall by building a following among the workingclass Irish of the Fifteenth District. Plunkitt also acquired considerable personal wealth by trading his political support for information; in return for useful inside information, he guaranteed that his loyal followers would vote as he directed. In 1905, reporter William Riordon published "a series of very plain talks" in which Plunkitt frankly described his political methods and philosophy. In explaining the difference between "honest and dishonest graft," and the legitimacy of using political power to advance his own personal interests, Plunkitt challenged conventional ideas about corruption and disinterested public service. F. George Pullman (18311897) was an industrialist, the designer of the Pullman Palace sleeping car, and the developer of a set of labor practices labeled "industrial paternalism." Born in New York, Pullman left school when he was fourteen to help support his family. He eventually became a cabinet maker and a contractor. He began experimenting with a sleeping car before the Civil War, but his business did not experience much success until after the war. Pullman moved his manufacturing plant from Detroit to Chicago in 1880. There, troubled by the poor quality of housing available to his workers, he built his own worker village, complete with homes, schools, churches and parks. While Pullman's intentions were partially philosophical and humanitarian—he believed that improved conditions would raise worker morale and generate positive labor relations—his village was also designed to operate at a profit. Consequently, the rents and utility prices he charged his workers to live there tended to be higher than in surrounding areas. When Pullman reduced wages at his plant in 1894, he rejected worker requests that rent and utility bills also be reduced; the workers then went on strike. The Pullman strike, supported by the American Railway Union, crippled America's railroads for more than a month. Rioting in Chicago killed 30, and the strike ended only after a court order backed by 14,000 federal and state troops forced workers back to work. Among the many losers in the strike were George Pullman and his labor theories; the model of "industrial paternalism" Pullman had long advanced failed miserably to prevent the exact type of desperate labor conflict it was designed to avoid. G. Frank Norris (18701902) was an author whose major works include McTeague (1899), The Octopus (1901), and The Pit (1903). Norris was born in Chicago but moved west with his family and attended the University of California in 1890. Intent on a literary career, he accepted a job with the San Francisco Chronicle in 1895 and traveled to South Africa to cover the Boer War. As a novelist, Norris explored the impact of emerging economic forces on the individual. In The Octopus, for example, he chronicled the conflict between California ranchers and the railroads. On a deeper level, Norris was among a group of turn of the century writers who rebelled against the "overcivilized" conditions of latenineteenthcentury America, and the "feminized" literature that these conditions produced. In his works, the harsher realities of "real life" are exposed and often celebrated as sources of insight into the more authentic and vital character of human existence. H. Frederick Winslow Taylor (18561915) was an inventor and engineer who became famous as the father of scientific management, also called Taylorism. The organization of modern industry, management, and much of daily life in industrial societies reflects his immeasurable influence. Taylor was the nineteenth century's most ardent champion of efficiency in industry. He ostensibly set out to raise both productivity and wages (and thereby ease the explosive tension between industrial labor and management). Yet Taylor's theories heavily skewed the benefits of increased productivity in favor of management. The theory of the differential rate, for example, "scientifically" linked backbreaking production quotas to supposedly "fair" wage increases that were rarely proportional. Thus, Taylor utterly lacked the ability to understand his workers as anything other than underperforming cogs in a great industrial machine. Once remarking that he couldn't "look any workman in the face without seeing hostility," he was every bit as personally resented by the men he supervised as he was famous with the captains of industry. 1. Key Points Rapid economic growth generated vast wealth during the Gilded Age New products and technologies improved middleclass quality of life Industrial workers and farmers did not share in the new prosperity, working long hours in dangerous conditions for low pay Gilded Age politicians were largely corrupt and ineffective Most Americans during the Gilded Age wanted political and social reforms, but they disagreed strongly on what kind of reform Timeline Nov 3, 1868 Grant Elected President Republican Ulysses S. Grant defeats Democrat Horatio Seymour and is elected president of the United States. Grant receives 214 of 294 votes in the Electoral College. But his margin of victory in the popular vote is only 306,000 out of 5.7 million votes cast. The support of 500,000 recently enfranchised southern black voters accounts for Grant's victory. Jan 10, 1870 Rockefeller Incorporates Standard Oil John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company is incorporated in Ohio. Rockefeller has been active in the oil business since 1863. Standard Oil was first formed as a partnership in 1868. Mar 4, 1871 Curtis Heads Civil Service Commission President Ulysses S. Grant names George William Curtis to head the Civil Service Commission. Curtis, as editor of Harper's Weekly, has condemned political corruption and advocated imitation of the British system of awarding government positions on the basis of performance on a written test. The commission's recommendations will be disregarded and Curtis will resign in 1875. 1872 Carnegie Imitates Bessemer Steel After visiting Henry Bessemer's steel plant in England, and noting the demand in Britain for steel rails, Andrew Carnegie returns to America intent on expanding his steel business. Sep 4, 1872 Crédit Mobilier Scandal The New York Sun reports that VicePresident Schuyler Colfax, and several members of Congress, including future President James Garfield, received what amounted to free stock in return for protecting the Crédit Mobilier, a railroad construction company, from investigation for financial irregularities. Nov 5, 1872 Ulysses S. Grant Reelected President Ulysses S. Grant is reelected to a second term as president of the United States, defeating Horace Greeley, the nominee of both the Democratic and Liberal Republican Parties. Grant receives 56% of the popular vote and 286 of 352 Electoral College votes. Greeley dies less than a month after the election. The National Labor Party (formerly the National Labor Union) candidate, Charles O'Connor, receives only 29,489 votes, ending the National Labor Union's experiment in direct political action. 1873 Mark Twain Publishes The Gilded Age Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner publish The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, a satire of contemporary greed and corruption, coining the label for the period that is now commonly applied to the second half of the nineteenth century. Sep 18, 1873 Panic of 1873 The collapse of Jay Cooke and Company, a Philadelphia investment bank, triggers a nationwide financial panic that leads to a broader economic depression which lasts until 1879. May 10, 1875 Corruption in Grant Administration A federal grand jury indicts 238 people—including President Ulysses S. Grant's personal secretary, General O.E. Babcock, and dozens of whiskey distillers and revenue officials—for conspiring to defraud the United States government of tax revenues. Mar 10, 1876 Alexander Graham Bell Invents Telephone Inventor Alexander Graham Bell successfully transmits a human voice over a wire. The telephone will revolutionize personal and business communication. Mar 2, 1877 Hayes Wins Disputed Presidency The Electoral Commission established by Congress to investigate the presidential election of 1876—in which disputed returns from Louisiana, South Carolina, Oregon, and Florida have left the outcome undecided—declares that Rutherford B. Hayes is elected president of the United States. Jul 16, 1877 Railroad Strike of 1877 Brakemen and firemen from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad walk off the job at Camden Junction, Maryland, initiating a wildcat strike that will shut down thousands of miles of track throughout the northeastern United States. Nov 2, 1880 James Garfield Elected President Republican James Garfield is elected president of the United States. His popularvote margin of victory over Democrat Winfield Hancock is 7,018 votes out of more than 9 million cast. Garfield receives 214 Electoral College votes; Hancock receives 155. James Weaver, the candidate of theGreenback Labor Party, receives 308,578 votes. 1881 McCormick's Mechanical Harvester Cyrus McCormick introduces a mechanical harvester and twine binder, one of several new technologies increasing agricultural productivity. Jul 2, 1881 Garfield Assassination President James Garfield is shot by Charles Guiteau, a deranged federal officeseeker. Garfield will die on 19 September. VicePresident Chester A. Arthur will be sworn is as president one day later. Jan 16, 1883 Pendleton Act Hoping to reduce corruption in the distribution of government jobs, the United States Congress passes the Pendleton Act, introducing an examination system for selecting federal civil servants. Only 10% of all federal appointees are made subject to this process of selection by examination. Railroads Create Standard Time Zones America's railroads implement the standardized time zones (Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific) devised by William F. Allen of the General Time Convention. Nov 4, 1884 Cleveland Elected President Democrat Grover Cleveland defeats Republican James Blaine and is elected president of the United States. Cleveland's popular vote margin of victory is 62,683 votes out more than 10 million cast. Greenback Labor Party candidate Benjamin Butler receives 175,370 votes; John St. John, candidate for the Prohibition Party, receives 150,369 votes. In the Electoral College, Cleveland receives 219 votes to Blaine's 182. Knights of Labor Strike Railroad The Knights of Labor join a strike against the Wabash Railroad, part of Jay Gould's Southwest System, paralyzing the entire system. Gould is forced to make concessions to the Knights, leading to a dramatic boost in their membership. Within a year the Knights of Labor will have more than 700,000 members. May 4, 1886 Haymarket Riot A rally in Chicago's Haymarket Square in support of striking workers from McCormick Harvester Works ends when a bomb is thrown, killing six policemen and wounding more than 60 others. Eight anarchists are convicted of the crime, but all supporters of unions and the eighthour day are found guilty by association in the public eye. The influence of the Knights of Labor quickly diminishes; membership will decline by more than 50% over the next year. May 31, 1886 Rail Gauge Standardization Most southern railroads adopt the standard rail gauge of 4' 8.5", completing the process of standardizing the nation's rail system begun in the North several years earlier. Dec 8, 1886 American Federation of Labor Founded The American Federation of Labor, an alliance of independent craft unions, is founded. Samuel Gompers is selected to serve as its first president. Nov 6, 1888 Harrison Loses Popular Vote, Wins Presidency Republican Benjamin Harrison is elected president of the United States despite polling almost 100,000 fewer votes nationwide than Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland. Harrison carries the critical swing states of Indiana and New York in winning 233 Electoral College votes to Cleveland's 168. Jun 1889 Andrew Carnegie's "Gospel of Wealth" Industrialist Andrew Carnegie publishes an essay entitled "The Gospel of Wealth," which outlines the social responsibilities and social benefits of vast personal wealth. 1892 Stanford Beats Cal Walter Camp, Yale's football coach, is invited to prepare Stanford University's football team for its game against the University of California, marking the emergence of college football as a national sport. Stanford wins the game. Jun 30, 1892 Homestead Steel Strike Henry Frick, Chairman of the Board of Carnegie Steel and plant manager at Carnegie's Homestead steel plant, shuts down the factory and locks out its employees when negotiations with representatives from the Amalgamated Association of Steel and Iron Workers break down. Jul 2, 1892 Populist Party Convention Thirteen hundred delegates gather at Omaha, Nebraska to select a presidential nominee and draft a platform for the recently formed Populist (or People's) Party. James Weaver is selected as the party's presidential candidate; James G. Field is named the party's vicepresidential candidate. Jul 6, 1892 Battle at Homestead Steel Two barges filled with armed Pinkerton Detectives attempt to land at Homestead to guard Carnegie's steel plant. Striking steel workers prevent the barges from landing. During the fourteenhour battle, seven steel workers and three detectives are killed. Jul 23, 1892 Henry Frick Survives Attack Alexander Berkman, a labor activist and anarchist, attempts to kill Henry Frick, plant manager at Andrew Carnegie's Homestead steel plant. Despite being stabbed several times in the neck and torso, Frick survives—and refuses to seek medical treatment until the end of his normal workday. Nov 8, 1892 Cleveland Returns to Presidency Democrat Grover Cleveland is elected president of the United States, returning to a second term in the White House after a fouryear hiatus. He receives 5,554,414 popular votes; Republican Benjamin Harrison receives 5,190,802; Populist James Weaver receives 1,027,329. In the Electoral College, Cleveland receives 277 votes to Harrison's 145 and Weaver's 22. May 11, 1894 Pullman Strike Workers employed at the Pullman Company, outside of Chicago, go onstrike when the company's owner, George Pullman, refuses to reduce rents in the company housing to match announced wage cuts. Jun 21, 1894 Debs Expands Rail Strike The American Railway Union, led by Eugene Debs, instructs it members not to handle Pullman cars in support of the striking workers at Pullman's factory. Jul 4, 1894 Federal Troops Crush Pullman Strike President Grover Cleveland sends federal troops to Pullman to enforce a court order prohibiting American Railway Union leadership from encouraging striking workers. Rioting in several cities will lead to the deployment of more than 14,000 state and federal troops. Debs Arrested With American Railway Union president Eugene Debs arrested for violating the court order, and thousands of troops protecting railroads from striker interference, the Pullman strike ends in defeat for the workers and the union. Jul 6, 1896 Democrats Nominate William Jennings Bryan The Democratic Party meets in Chicago and nominates William Jennings Bryan as its presidential candidate. The Party Platform calls for the free and unlimited coinage of silver at ratio of 16 to 1. Populists Endorse William Jennings Bryan The Populist Party, meeting at St. Louis, nominates Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan as its candidate for the presidency, primarily because of his support for the free coinage of silver. "Midroaders" oppose the selection of Bryan, arguing that alliance with the Democrats will compromise the broader objectives of the Populist Party. Nov 3, 1896 William McKinley Elected President Republican William McKinley is elected president of the United States, receiving 7,035,638 popular votes. Democrat and Populist candidate William Jennings Bryan receives 6,467,946 votes. Apr 1898 Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders Theodore Roosevelt resigns as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in order to form a volunteer cavalry regiment to fight in Cuba after the United States declares war against Spain. 1899 Bayer Aspirin The Bayer Company introduces "Aspirin," an acetylsalicylic acid designed to reduce pain. Apr 1, 1901 J.P. Morgan's U.S. Steel United States Steel, J.P. Morgan's holding company, which includes the recently acquired Carnegie Steel, is chartered by the state of New Jersey. McKinley Assassination Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as president of the United States after President William McKinley dies eight days after being shot by anarchistLeon Czolgosz. MORE THOUROUGH INFORMATION Key Points The Gilded Age challenged longestablished American social ideals Vast new wealth and giant industrial corporations undermined old Jeffersonian ideas about America as an egalitarian nation of small independent farmers and artisans Corrupt new politics challenged the old republican ideal of civicminded public service Americans from all over the social and political spectrum were dissatisfied with the state of Gilded Age society; calls for reform were pervasive but Americans disagreed strongly over what kinds of reforms should be enacted Old Questions, Old Answers Gilded Age extremes of wealth and poverty challenged old Jeffersonian ideals that described America as an egalitarian nation of small farmers and craftsmen. Changes in American politics also challenged old understandings of the public interest Is wealth a good thing? Should the rich be allowed to keep all the money they earn? Or does the public have a right to a portion of that money? Should businesses compete or cooperate? Are we better served by an economy made up of small competing businesses, or one dominated by a handful of large monopolies? What should guide a voter when casting his or her ballot? Whose interests should an elected office holder serve? For a long time, Americans thought they knew the answers to these questions. Informed primarily by the agrarian vision of thinkers like Thomas Jefferson, Americans valorized a nation of small, independent farmers and craftsmen. Wealth was suspect—it generated vice and it corrupted people and nations. Competition was valued as a source of innovation and efficiency. In addition, the hardworking small producers of this economic vision were thought to make ideal citizens. Uncorrupted by wealth, and rendered impervious to political pressure by their economic selfsufficiency, they were able, rationally and virtuously, to recognize and promote the communal interest that should lie at the center of public policy. Citizenship and patriotism were equated with selfsacrifice, the subordination of selfinterest to the greater good of the nation. But during the Gilded Age, this vision was challenged. The huge changes in the American economy forced a reconsideration of these longheld, but perhaps obsolete values. The emergence of much larger business enterprises, the generation of much greater individual fortunes, and the surfacing of a new type of politician forced Americans to reconsider the values defining American society and politics. Addressing the New Dimensions of the American Economy Huge industrial monopolies did not fit into old American ideology of small producers, forcing Americans to develop new economic philosophies Social Darwinists like Herbert Spencer argued that cutthroat competition was natural and that embodied "survival of the fittest" John D. Rockefeller argued that the age of the individual was over and that only large monopolies could provide order Socialist Daniel De Leon argued that government coordination of the economy was necessary to provide stability The challenge to traditional American ideals began with the sheer size of America's new industries. In 1900, Andrew Carnegie operated eight steel mills and produced more than 4 million tons of steel annually. John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil operated dozens of refineries, controlled roughly 90% of the nation's oil, and generated $57 million in profits in 1904. How did an industrial empire like Carnegie's fit into the old republican vision? How could Rockefeller's monopoly on oil refining, built by driving his competitors out of business, be squared with the old republican vision of a nation of small producers? One answer was provided by Social Darwinism. Social theorists like William Sumner and Herbert Spencer applied Charles Darwin's theories of natural selection to the economy and argued that the ascendance of these industrial giants was "natural." Competition was nature's way of achieving progress. At times the process could be harsh; there were inevitable casualties. But competition ensured that the human race marched individually and collectively toward a better future. Another, and in many ways quite different, answer was provided by John D. Rockefeller himself. Rather than celebrate the competition in which he had prevailed, he lamented the waste that had accompanied the contest. He looked forward not to further competition, but to the end of competition and the archaic vision of economic individualism of which it was a part. He argued that the age of the individual and the era of competition were dead. This was an age of consolidation and cooperation. The capital demands of the new industrial order were too great for the individual, and competition between businesses produced wasteful chaos. And indeed, Rockefeller's own experience in the oil fields seemed to bear this out. America's oil industry passed through periods of boom and bust in its infancy. Every new oil strike inspired waves of new fortune seekers and consequently rapid overexpansion. Invariably, oil markets were soon saturated, leading to collapsing prices and business failures. Just as Rockefeller had brought order to the oil industry by swallowing up his competitors, he argued that all of America's new industries would benefit from the responsible management provided by a handful of industry leaders. By carefully managing production and distribution, these industrial leaders would provide American consumers with a steady supply of needed goods. It might be easy to dismiss Rockefeller's argument as a selfserving rationale for his own monopoly and the cutthroat methods he utilized in eliminating his competitors. But what is striking is that even those on the other side of the political spectrum shared a good deal of his vision. Daniel De Leon, editor of The People and a leader in the Socialist Labor Party, agreed with Rockefeller that the age of the individual was dead. The economy was too complex; the industrial order was too large. He further agreed that cutthroat competition was wasteful, and that the new economy required central management. But he believed that the government, not private industrialists like Rockefeller, should provide this direction. De Leon, echoing the communist theorist Karl Marx, suggested that the economy was like an orchestra which had been performing without a conductor for too long. Those who believed that the various instruments of the orchestra could be harmoniously tied together by some invisible hand were deluding themselves. Without a "central directing authority," he argued, economies collapsed into chaos. Or even worse, they were dominated by the selfserving ambitions of people De Leon described as industrial tyrants—men like John D. Rockefeller. What was needed,concluded De Leon, was a central directing authority committed to the welfare of the greater community—by overseeing production, by managing the allocation and distribution of resources, the government would ensure more beautiful and more equitable economic music. Reconciling Wealth and Republicanism In old republican ideology, great wealth was morally suspect Great wealth of Gilded Age required new thinking about the morality of money Populist leader James Weaver demanded leveling of income inequality Industrialist Andrew Carnegie argued that the wealthy must live modestly and use their fortunes to elevate all civilization While Rockefeller and De Leon debated the best way to manage the size of America's economic realties, others debated the meaning and the legitimacy of the new wealth that this economy generated. In Jefferson's vision, wealth was suspect—it bred luxury and vice, and it raised frightening visions of a European aristocracy. It softened people's moral fiber and undermined the virtue that was essential to good citizenship. But during the Gilded Age, Americans witnessed the growth of personal fortunes of unprecedented dimension. Homes of unprecedented size lined posh urban streets, and newspapers provided elaborate accounts of gaudy social events that violated traditional understandings of material moderation. Could America—a nation built on republican values of material restraint—absorb this sort of wealth and still retain its traditional virtue? James Baird Weaver, a leader in the farmer's reform movement known as Populism, said no. He noted that Dives and Lazarus—Biblical characters representing wealth and poverty—"always make their appearance side by side in disturbing contrast just before 42 the tragic stage of revolution is reached." He denounced the ostentatious displays of wealth alongside desperate urban poverty, and he summoned farmers and laborers to transform the political structures that supported this inequity. That Weaver, a spokesman for common farmers, would find revolutionary meaning in these gaudy displays of wealth is not surprising. But Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest men in the world, was almost as severe in his criticism of contemporary uses of wealth. In his 1889 essay, "The Gospel of Wealth," Carnegie offered an interesting take —part critique, part apologetic—for America's new affluence. Carnegie suggested, for starters, that wealth could play a useful role in America. Certain institutions like museums, colleges, and libraries required a level of capital investment that only wealthy industrialists could provide. History's great civilizations had always depended on the resources of the wealthy to promote the cultural achievements that future generations celebrated. But in order to fill this philanthropic role, America's industrial aristocracy needed to live frugal, modest lives. They must shun the ostentatious displays—the palatial houses, the indulgent amusements—and instead model moderation for all those beneath them on the social ladder. Most fundamentally, the wealthy should not view their wealth as their private possession, or even truly "their own." Instead they should view their money as "trust funds" that it was their "duty to administer" on behalf of the community. 43 There was much that was selfserving in Carnegie's formulation—he had employed cutthroat tactics in building his steel empire; his workers worked twelvehour days and their attempts at union organizing had been brutally crushed in the Homestead Strike of 1892. For many workers, there seemed to be something condescending in a philosophy that preferred librariesover a living wage—a philosophy that suggested people were better served by a museum or a park than a higher standard of living. But there may have also been a great deal of truth in Carnegie's observation that republics, like the United States, depended on wealthy industrialists to build cultural monuments. With neither a traditional aristocracy nor an established church, America lacked the institutions that had sponsored Europe's great cultural achievements. Moreover, there was an arrow in Carnegie's gospel directed toward selfindulgent industrialists as well. He condemned those who died wealthy, and who failed to properly steward the wealth with which they had been entrusted. And he was equally critical of inherited wealth. Leaving a fortune to one's heirs was "most injudicious," he wrote. Quite often, the beneficiaries of this misguided generosity "become impoverished through their follies." To encourage the rich to dispose of their wealth judiciously during their lifetimes, he supported a much higher estate tax—that is, a higher tax on a person's wealth at the time of their death. "Of all the forms of taxation, this seems the wisest," he observed. It would ensure that the community received the share to which it was entitled. And it would enable the community to make a statement as to its values— to implicitly express what Carnegie called its "condemnation of the selfish millionaire's unworthy life."44 Rethinking Citizenship Republican ideology required that politicians act as virtuous servants of the public interest Gilded Age politicians like Tammany Hall's George Washington Plunkitt argued for new system of "honest graft"; others called it simply corruption Carnegie, Rockefeller, Weaver, and De Leon all challenged Americans to think about the character of their emerging economy. America's political ideology faced an equally dramatic and direct challenge during these years. No person more fully or more bluntly summed up this ideological challenge than George Washington Plunkitt. Plunkitt was a member of Tammany Hall, the Democratic political machine that dominated New York politics through the second half of the nineteenth century. He held a few offices, but for the most part his political influence was wielded on the edges of the political system—as a party bossresponsible for mobilizing the workingclass voters, many of them immigrants, upon which the party relied to maintain its power. In explaining his work to a reporter at the turn of the century, Plunkitt advanced an entirely new understanding of citizenship and political service. In his mind, selfinterest and selfenrichment were legitimate parts of both roles. For example, as a member of the Tammany machine, he used insider information to grow rich. His political connections would feed him tips, such as where the new city park was to be built, and he would swoop in and buy up all the land before the city's news went public, driving up the land's value. He framed his behavior within the language of the American dream—"I seen my opportunities and I took 'em." But earlier generations would have summarily rejected his jaded take on this old adage as nothing more than corrupt selfishness. Plunkitt similarly reconceived the political role of the common citizen. Just as he was unapologetic in defending his use of political power to pursue his own financial gain, he argued that the electorate had an equal right to expect government to deliver the goods—a government job, a city contract, help with a ticket or a license. In fact, he described a citizen's vote as a "marketable commodity"—something a voter sold to the highest bidder, that is, the candidate who promised him the most for his vote. This was a far cry from Thomas Jefferson's call to disinterested public service, the surrender of selfinterest to the welfare of the community. But in Plunkitt's view, citizenship, and even patriotism, were more about personal rewards than personal sacrifice. His musings were filled with stories of "patriotic" young men whose national spirit had been crushed when they were denied a city job. In one of these tragic tales, the jilted patriot eventually died in Cuba, fighting for America's Spanish enemy. The key to Plunkitt's power was the favorseeking voters who did his bidding on Election Day. Plunkitt built a following from the ground up—and he offered their votes to politicians who promised him information from which he could profit and city jobs that he could distribute back to his followers. Consequently, Plunkitt's great nemesis was civil service reform. A batch of reform measures dating to the 1870s, civil service sought to remove public jobs from the control of politicians like Plunkitt. In cities where these reforms were implemented, job seekers had to take a test, and positions were awarded on the basis of performance. In effect, civil service reform was an attempt to restore the meritocratic ideal that Jefferson had introduced in somewhat different form under the guise of a "natural aristocracy." Jefferson had argued that good government found ways to elevate the most "talented and virtuous" among the public; civil service reform sought to identify those most fit for public bureaucracies through examinations. But for a politician like Plunkitt, these reforms were a curse—they threatened to undermine the entire system of entrepreneurial government that served him, and many of his followers, so well. Plunkitt's ideas clashed sharply with traditional notion of political behavior; fortunately most Americans still find his views unsettlingly corrupt. But what is most striking, and most important, about Plunkitt's ideas is that he presented them to the public willingly. He made no attempts to hide his philosophy. He was not offering a soulbearing confession. He was introducing a new political ideology—a new definition of citizenship and even patriotism. And his ability to succeed with this philosophy, and then lay it before the public, speaks to the dramatic transformation of America's social and political environment during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Like Rockefeller, Carnegie, De Leon, and Weaver, Plunkitt was addressing the realities of the new order. And while Plunkitt's ideas may seem the most jarring to contemporary ears, Rockefeller's and De Leon's proclamation that the age of the individual was over was just as disturbing in their own time. And before we judge Plunkitt too harshly, we should remember that he succeeded as long as he did because a large number of New York's voters supported and benefitted from his methods. Plunkitt's pragmatic, service exchanging approach to government, while deeply contrary to traditional notions of public service, offered something to New York's workingclass immigrant population that no other public agency was willing to provide. Eventually city, state, and federal government officials would embrace the idea that government should play a part in solving the public's small problems—that is, they would adopt that part of Plunkitt's philosophy that suggested that improving the daily lives of common people was one of government's responsibilities. Americans would similarly draw upon the ideas of Carnegie in reconciling traditional republican values with the new levels of personal wealth, just as they would borrow from the ideas of Rockefeller and De Leon in resolving the tension between the values of competition and benefits of consolidation and central management. In other words, the Gilded Age changed both America and the ways we think about America. By the turn of the century, America looked much different than it did fifty years earlier, and Americans had begun to find new answers to old questions.
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