The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during the years 1869-1896.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 23.
Right after the Civil War, there was a HUGE boom in population. People thought greatly of the victorious Union soldiers and soon would elect a Union general, Ulysses S. Grant, to replace Andrew Johnson.
To say that Ulysses S. Grant was the George W. Bush of the 1800s is an understatement.
While running for president, he often took money and advantage of those who admired him for his feats. Even though the only time he voted, he voted for a Democrat, he ended up siding with the Republicans and was nominated in 1868. He would later win mainly because the Democrats couldn’t agree on much beyond the stop of reconstruction and the 500,000 newly-freed black voters.
The ‘Ohio Idea’ was brought on by poor, weakling farmers that wanted to cash in their worthless greenbacks (IOU’s) for some serious cash. The Democratic nominee, Seymour, liked this idea and ran with it.
The business deeds of this period stank royally. There was corruption behind every corner. Take the case of Fisk and Gould: these con artists planned on making the price of gold go skyward, think The Taking of Pelham 123, and forcing the US Treasury to sell off all their gold.
Not surprisingly, Grant was involved in the scheme. Their infamous date with density on May 24, 1869 was called ‘Black Friday’ .
Another corrupt businessman was ‘Boss’ Tweed, who would later help Tilden run against Hayes. And as if it couldn’t get worse for Grant, his cabinet was horrid! The great Mobilier Credit scheme was the final nail in the coffin. This was when railroad execs formed a new company and then hired themselves for boosted profits.
Even though Grant was clearly not doing a great job, he was re-elected anyway. This was mostly because the Dems’ nominee, Greely, was extremely conservative. Liberal Republicans, opposite of Grant, ensured that the congress passed an amnesty law that relieved some 500 confederate officials of their wrongdoing.
The country was not headed in the right direction.
A huge depression in 1873 rocked the country. This occurred because there was too many products and not enough demand. Grant and his ‘Hard-Money’ policy sought to gain back gold stocks and stop giving out greenbacks. But, alas, the American people didn’t like this and put the Dems in charge in 1874.
This was often common during this time. A shift of power from one party to another with nothing really accomplished. Most people voted the straight-party ticket, while others counted on God to do the voting for them. The Plains typically voted Republican or Populist, while the Southern, still racist, whites outvoted freed Republican slaves.
For some backassward reason, certain Republicans wanted Grant to run for a third term. Thankfully, the House put an end to this and Hayes was the Republican nominee. On the other side of the aisle, Tilden was the Democratic nominee. Hayes, from the electoral goldmine of Ohio, won the election narrowly by 250,000 votes.
However, similar to the 2000 election, a recount was devised and the final choice was made 4 days before the inauguration. And just like then, the partisan side voted in the choice of their party—Hayes would be the 19th president.
Hayes, though a Republican, sought an end to the reconstruction of the South. Things there would not improve for blacks until a full century later. Blacks in the South who tried to stand up for their rights were often shoved down and sometimes killed. Segregation was a norm as ‘Jim Crow’ laws were put into place.
On the other side of the country, in California, a different race was getting the same treatment: the Chinese. They were forced to do the worst jobs for little pay and survive constant attacks by (fellow immigrant) racists.
As Hayes’ popularity dwindled, the Dems deserted him and he was left without a party heading into the 1880 election. Garfield, yet another Civil War vet, won in a very tight race by only 40,000 votes. But alas, Garfield, a reformer, was assassinated by Guiteau (Goo-toe), a Stalwart (non-reformer). Arthur, the newly instated president, was expected to continue the Stalwart streak by supporting the spoils system, but then shocked the nation.
For the most part, Republicans, namely Arthur, wanted reform solely because of Garfield’s death. A big law passed by the GOP was the Pendleton Act, which made political contributions from feds illegal. The act also set up a new commission to help rein in federal power abuse. At the time, this was a huge step forward, the likes of which wouldn’t be seen again until both Roosevelts took office.
The GOP saw Arthur’s great competency as offensive and ensured he wouldn’t run for re-election. They instead chose Blaine for the ’84 election. Similarly to Grant, Blaine was extremely corrupt and many Republicans, called Mugwumps, flocked to the Dems’ nominee, Cleveland, a big-time reformer. But soon the Mugwumps would discover Cleveland had a few skeletons in his own closet.
Reminiscent of Bristol Palin, he fathered a child out of wedlock while governor of New York. Even so, he was elected. Cleveland, in his first tenure as president, followed strict principals. He put the laissez-faire system into place and later helped out businessmen big time. In 1887, he vetoed a bill that would have helped give much-needed seeds to Texan farmers.
Cleveland would soon have to do major reforming, as the Dems and Mugwumps whipped him into shape. He fired the majority of the Republicans with federal jobs and replaced them with Democrats. The issue of military pensions would be the elephant in the room for the remainder of his term.
Another elephant, or perhaps maybe a giraffe, was the issue of tariffs. Lower tariffs meant lower prices for consumers and the less protection monopolies had. This issue also put an end to the temporary surplus that Cleveland had instigated. Grover ultimately put in for lower tariffs and was rewarded by barely being nominated in 1888.
The Republicans saw their chance to take back the White House and nominated Harrison. With Harrison, Repubs got back jobs and more and more money was spent.
The newly-rooted Populist Party would nominate Weaver for president in 1892. He lost, obviously. It was mainly because only the Mid-Western farmers voted for him. The Populists soon became very racist under the leadership of Tom Watson and floated into obscurity.
Grover regained his office and really sucked it up. He no longer stood by his principles and pretty much let anything go. The depression of 1893 was, no doubt, his fault. During the depression, many businesses went under and Grover was forced to go to J.P. Morgan for help.
Cleveland didn’t get re-elected and the country would essentially suck until the Repubs regained office.
During the Gilded Age, women had extreme independence. Every once in while, an ankle was shown in public! Obesity among women was also popular, think BBW. But, seeing as there were no fast food restaurants or processed food companies, getting fat was actually a hard feat.
But in all seriousness, women became respected members of the communities as doctors and lawyers. Elizabeth Blackwell is a marvelous example.