Issues of the Gilded Age

Issues of the Gilded Age
Chapter Introduction
This chapter will explain the social and political issues
of the Gilded Age. It will focus on segregation and the
struggles of minorities for equality, how corruption and
inaction marked this era of national politics, and how
farmers fueled a new movement called Populism.
• Section 1: Segregation and Social Tensions
• Section 2: Political and Economic Challenges
• Section 3: Farmers and Populism
Segregation and Discrimination
• Assess how whites created a segregated society in
the South and how African Americans responded.
• Analyze efforts to limit immigration.
• Compare the situations of Mexican Americans and
of women to those of other groups.
Terms and People
Jim Crow laws – segregation laws enacted in the
South after Reconstruction
poll tax – tax which voters were required to pay
to vote
literacy test – reading and writing test formerly
used in some southern states to prevent African
Americans from voting
grandfather clause – a law which allowed a
person to vote only if his ancestors had voted prior
to 1866, also used to disenfranchise African
American citizens
Terms and People (continued)
Booker T. Washington – the most famous black
leader during the late 19th century, he encouraged
African Americans to build up their economic
resources through hard work
W.E.B. Du Bois – a black leader in the late 19th
century who disagreed with Washington and argued
that blacks should demand full and immediate
Ida B. Wells – an African American teacher who
bought a newspaper and embarked on a lifelong
crusade against the practice of lynching
Terms and People (continued)
Las Gorras Blancas – a group of Mexican
Americans who protested their loss of land in the
Southwest by targeting the property of large ranch
How were the civil and political rights of
certain groups in America undermined
during the years after Reconstruction?
In the course of the Gilded Age, the equal rights
extended to African Americans during
Reconstruction were narrowed.
This move away from equality for all had a lasting
impact on society in the United States.
Federal troops were removed
from the South in 1876.
Ways in which
blacks’ right
to vote was
restricted in
the South:
poll taxes
literacy tests
grandfather clauses
violence / intimidation
Segregation via Jim Crow laws became the norm,
and African Americans lost voting rights.
Widespread intimidation of Southern blacks before the
election caused many to flee to remote areas for safety.
“Negroes hiding out in a
Louisiana swamp.”
“Every thing points to a
Democratic victory this fall.”
“Of course he wants to vote the
Democratic ticket.”
The many
strategies used to
keep African
American voters
away from the
polls were very
In addition to losing their voting rights, African
Americans also faced widespread segregation in the
South and in the North.
The constitutionality
of Jim Crow laws
was upheld by the
Supreme Court
in the 1896 case
Plessy v. Ferguson.
Still, African
Americans refused to
accept their status as
second-class citizens.
Several important
leaders emerged and
called for equality.
Booker T. Washington was the most famous
black leader of the late 19th century.
Washington believed that black citizens should
focus their energies on building up their own
economic resources through hard work, instead of
using those energies to overturn Jim Crow.
Some disagreed with Booker T. Washington.
W.E.B. Du Bois
argued that
blacks should
demand full and
equal rights
Du Bois felt
the burden of
achieving equality
should not rest on
the shoulders of
African Americans
Another black leader was Ida B. Wells, who devoted
her life to the crusade against lynching.
Mexican Americans struggled against
In the Southwest,
four out of five
Mexican Americans
lost their land
after the MexicanAmerican War,
despite a treaty
which guaranteed
their property
Las Gorras Blancas,
a Mexican American
group, fought for their
rights by inflicting
property damage on
landowners and
publishing grievances in
their own newspaper.
•Chinese immigrants also faced racial prejudice in
the West at this time.
The 1882 Chinese
Exclusion Act
prohibited Chinese
laborers from entering
the country.
Faced with severe job
discrimination, some
Chinese Americans
managed to start
their own businesses.
Prior to the Civil War, women played a large role in
reform movements, including the call to abolish
Leaders wanted to
further women’s rights
and were disappointed
when women were not
included in the
Fourteenth and Fifteenth
Susan B. Anthony
and Elizabeth Cady
Stanton formed
the National
Woman Suffrage
Association in
Susan B. Anthony voted in an election in
1872 and was arrested.
Awaiting trial, she toured the
nation, delivering a powerful
speech on the issue.
Activists did not secure women’s suffrage
during the 19th century.
Elizabeth Cady
Stanton 1815-1902:her
Lucretia Mott 1793-1880
daughter (Harriet E. Blatch) became a
prominent suffrage leader in the 20th
Lucy Stone 1818-1893
Susan B. Anthony 1820-1906
Gilded Age Economics and
• Analyze how corruption affected national
politics in the 1870s and 1880s.
• Discuss civil service reform during the 1870s
and 1880s.
• Assess the importance of economic issues in
the politics of the Gilded Age.
Terms and People
spoils system – a system in which politicians awarded
government jobs to loyal party workers with little regard
for their qualifications
civil service – government departments and their
nonelected employees
Pendleton Civil Service Act – law that created a civil
service system for the federal government in an attempt
to hire employees on a merit system rather than on a
spoils system
gold standard – using gold as the basis of the nation’s
Why did the political structure change during
the Gilded Age?
Congress passed few laws between 1877 and 1900. It
was an era marked by inaction and political corruption.
The Gilded Age raised questions about whether or not
democracy could succeed in an era dominated by
powerful industrial corporations and men of great
Between 1877
and 1897,
party loyalties
were evenly
• Neither political party
achieved control of
both the White House
and Congress for
more than two years
in a row.
• Presidents during the
Gilded Age were
elected only by slim
• This made it difficult
to pass new laws.
Corruption plagued
national politics as
many officials accepted
Cartoonists such as
Thomas Nast worked
to expose corruption.
Nast cartoon of “Boss” Tweed
The spoils system was the glue of the
political parties.
The spoils system, in
which party supporters
received government
jobs regardless of
their qualifications,
shifted power to a few.
This system
made the
political parties
A movement arose to promote civil service reform.
Ending the
spoils system
was difficult.
Change finally happened,
in part, because
President James Garfield
was assassinated by a
man who believed the
Republican Party owed
him a job.
•Chester A. Arthur became President and
supported civil service reform.
In 1883, he signed into law the
Pendleton Civil Service Act,
which established a merit-based system for
government employment.
Economic debates focused on tariffs and
monetary policy during the Gilded Age.
Republicans favored tariffs on imported goods.
Tariffs supported American industry, but
Democrats claimed that they increased
consumer prices and made it harder for
farmers to sell their products abroad.
Monetary policy disputes centered on whether
or not to maintain the gold standard, where
gold is the sole basis of the nation’s currency.
The Coinage Act of 1873 reversed the policy of
having the government issue both gold and
silver coins.
Some people
wanted to
use only gold
as money.
Some wanted
to use both
gold and
Bankers were worried silver would impact trade and
undermine the economy. Farmers hoped it would
create inflation and raise their income.
• Analyze the problems farmers faced and the
groups they formed to address them.
• Assess the goals of the Populists, and explain
why the Populist Party did not last.
Terms and People
Grange – an organization of farmers who joined
to learn about new farming techniques, to call for
the regulation of railroad and grain elevator rates,
and to prompt the establishment of the ICC
Oliver H. Kelley – a Minnesota farmer and
businessman who organized the Grange
Populist Party – a political party formed in 1892
on a platform of silver coinage, government
ownership of the railroads, and fighting the corrupt
and unresponsive elite
Terms and People (continued)
William Jennings Bryan – the Democratic
nominee for president in 1896, who supported
many Populist principles including silver coinage,
and who toured the country to speak directly to
William McKinley – the Republican candidate for
president in 1896, who followed a traditional
strategy of letting party workers campaign for him
What led to the rise of the Populist
movement, and what effect did it have?
Millions of Americans moved west after the Civil
War to pursue the American dream.
A variety of factors made their lives extremely
difficult, which led to the social and political revolt
known as Populism—and created one of the
largest third-party movements in American
Frustration of the Farmer
Organization was inevitable.
Like the oppressed laboring classes of
the East, it was only a matter of time
before Western farmers would attempt
to use their numbers to effect positive
The situation for farmers during the
middle of the 19th century
As farm income dropped, farmers
blamed businessmen, railroads and Wall
Street for their declining incomes.
Farmers began organizing and entering
politics, forming new parties as they began
seeing the existing Democrats and
Republicans as tools of business and hostile
to the needs of agriculture.
The issue of free coinage of silver
became a key demand of farmers and others.
Alliances with labor unions and other
progressive groups became a goal of the
newly created farmer organizations.
People moving to the West and South in the late
1800s knew that their lives would not be easy.
facing the
farmers of
the West
and South
low prices for crops
high transportation, equipment,
and loan costs
reduced influence in politics
They did not anticipate the many problems that made
survival nearly impossible.
Frustrated by these problems, farmers
began to organize.
Farmers created groups to address their
These groups formed a network called the
Grange movement. The Grange was
formally organized by Oliver H. Kelley
in 1867 and gained a million members.
The Grange declined after the 1870s,
but Farmers’ Alliances became
important reform organizations that
continued the Grange’s goals.
The spread of the Farmers’ Alliances led to the
formation of the Populist Party in 1892.
The Populist platform
warned about the
dangers of political
corruption, an
inadequate money
supply, and an
government. They
called for:
coinage of silver
an income tax
government ownership
of railroads
bank regulations
The farmer warning citizens about the
corruption of the railroads
The debate
over monetary
policy was
an important
issue of the
Those who
wanted only a
gold standard
were on one side.
Those who wanted to
use silver and gold—
including the Populist Party—
were on the other.
The Populists
did well in 1892,
electing three
governors, five
senators, and ten
The Populist
candidate for
president received
one million votes
in that election.
•An economic depression began in 1893, and
labor unrest and violence broke out. The
Populist Party grew.
In 1896, a young lawyer named William
Jennings Bryan spoke at the national
Democratic convention.
The speech, with its Populist message
of “free silver,” moved Democrats to
nominate Bryan. The Populist Party
chose to give him their support.
William Jennings Bryan campaigned against
Republican candidate William McKinley in a
way that had never been seen before.
He toured the country,
talking directly to voters.
McKinley won
against Bryan
in 1896 and in
Bryan’s emphasis
on money reform
wasn’t popular with
urban workers.
The Populist Party was weakened by
supporting William Jennings Bryan on the
Democratic ticket.
It survived
another decade,
but its viability
as an alternative
to the two major
parties was over.
Many of the reforms
sought by the Populists
eventually became
reality. The new
campaigning style used
by Bryan became the
Chapter Summary
Section 1: Segregation and Social Tensions
After Reconstruction ended, the rights of African Americans
narrowed. A significant turn away from equality occurred,
as Jim Crow laws mandating segregation and limiting voting
rights took hold. Other minority groups also struggled for
equality at this time.
Section 2: Political and Economic Challenges
The political scene during the Gilded Age was marked by
inaction, as party loyalties were very evenly divided.
Corruption challenged the national government and its
spoils system while many called for reform.
Chapter Summary
Section 3: Farmers and Populism
When millions of people moved West after the Civil War,
they did not expect to face the nearly impossible conditions
they did. In response, farmers powered a new political
revolt called Populism that grew into a large third-party