Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World


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Garfield was succeeded by his VP Chester Arthur.

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Reformers, especially the " Mugwumps " complained that powerful parties made for corruption during the Gilded Age or " Third Party System ". Voter enthusiasm and turnout during the period — was very high, often reaching practically all men. The major issues involved modernization, money, railroads, corruption, and prohibition. National elections, and many state elections, were very close.


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The presidential election saw a mudslinging campaign in which Republican James G. Blaine was defeated by Democrat Grover Cleveland , a reformer. He also expanded civil services and vetoed many private pension bills. Many people were worried that these issues would hurt his chances in the election. When they expressed these concerns to Cleveland, he said "What is the use of being elected or reelected, unless you stand for something?

The dominant social class of the Northeast possessed the confidence to proclaim an " American Renaissance ", which could be identified in the rush of new public institutions that marked the period—hospitals, museums, colleges, opera houses, libraries, orchestras— and by the Beaux-Arts architectural idiom in which they splendidly stood forth, after Chicago hosted the World's Columbian Exposition of Urbanization the rapid growth of cities went hand in hand with industrialization the growth of factories and railroads , as well as expansion of farming.

The rapid growth was made possible by high levels of immigration.

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From through an unprecedented and diverse stream of immigrants arrived in the United States, In all, Another 1. New York and other large cities of the East Coast became home to large Jewish, Irish, and Italian populations, while many Germans and Central Europeans moved to the Midwest , obtaining jobs in industry and mining. Immigrants were pushed out of their homelands by poverty or religious threats, and pulled to America by jobs, farmland and kin connections.

They found economic opportunity at factories, mines and construction sites, and found farm opportunities in the Plains states. While most immigrants were welcomed, Asians were not. Many Chinese had been brought to the west coast to construct railroads, but unlike European immigrants, they were seen as being part of an entirely alien culture.

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An informal agreement in , the Gentlemen's Agreement , stopped Japanese immigration. Some immigrants stayed temporarily in the U. Most, however, permanently left their native lands and stayed in hope of finding a better life in the New World. This desire for freedom and prosperity led to the famous term, the American Dream. The Third Great Awakening was a period of renewal in evangelical Protestantism from the late s to the s.

A major component was the Social Gospel Movement, which applied Christianity to social issues and gained its force from the Awakening, as did the worldwide missionary movement. New groupings emerged, such as the Holiness movement and Nazarene movements, and Christian Science. At the same time, the Catholic Church grew rapidly, with a base in the German, Irish, Polish, and Italian immigrant communities, and a leadership drawn from the Irish.

The Catholics were largely working class and concentrated in the industrial cities and mining towns, where they built churches, parochial schools, and charitable institutions, as well as colleges. The Jewish community grew rapidly, especially from the new arrivals from Eastern Europe who settled chiefly in New York City. They avoided the Reform synagogues of the older German Jews and instead formed Orthodox and Conservative synagogues. Starting in the end of the s, African Americans lost many of the civil rights obtained during Reconstruction and became increasingly subject to racial discrimination.

Increased racist violence, including lynchings and race riots , lead to a strong deterioration of living conditions of African Americans in the Southern states. Jim Crow laws were established after the Compromise of Many decided to flee for the Midwest as early as , an exile which was intensified during the Great Migration that began before World War I.

In , the U. Supreme Court effectively upheld the Jim Crow system of racial segregation by its " separate but equal " doctrine. By , the Granger movement began to decline and was replaced by the Farmers' Alliance. From the beginning, the Farmers' Alliance were political organizations with elaborate economic programs. According to one early platform, its purpose was to "unite the farmers of America for their protection against class legislation and the encroachments of concentrated capital.

These were known as the Ocala Demands. During the late s, a series of droughts devastated the West. Western Kansas lost half its population during a four-year span. By , the level of agrarian distress was at an all-time high. Mary Elizabeth Lease , a noted populist writer and agitator, told farmers that they needed to "raise less corn and more hell". Working with sympathetic Democrats in the South and small third parties in the West, the Farmer's Alliance made a push for political power.

From these elements, a new political party, known as the Populist Party , emerged. The elections of brought the new party into coalitions that controlled parts of state government in a dozen Southern and Western states and sent a score of Populist senators and representatives to Congress. Its first convention was in , when delegates from farm, labor and reform organizations met in Omaha, Nebraska , determined at last to make their mark on a U. The pragmatic portion of the Populist platform focused on issues of land, railroads and money, including the unlimited coinage of silver. The Populists showed impressive strength in the West and South in the elections , and their candidate for President polled more than a million votes.

It was the currency question, however, pitting advocates of silver against those who favored gold, that soon overshadowed all other issues. Agrarian spokesmen in the West and South demanded a return to the unlimited coinage of silver. Convinced that their troubles stemmed from a shortage of money in circulation, they argued that increasing the volume of money would indirectly raise prices for farm products and drive up industrial wages, thus allowing debts to be paid with inflated dollars.

Conservative groups and the financial classes, on the other hand, believed that such a policy would be disastrous, and they insisted that inflation, once begun, could not be stopped. Railroad bonds, the most important financial instrument of the time, were payable in gold.

If fares and freight rates were set in half-price silver dollars, railroads would go bankrupt in weeks, throwing hundreds of thousands of men out of work and destroying the industrial economy. Only the gold standard , they said, offered stability.

Being America : liberty, commerce, and violence in an American world, Jedediah Purdy

The financial Panic of heightened the tension of this debate. Bank failures abounded in the South and Midwest ; unemployment soared and crop prices fell badly. The crisis, and President Cleveland's inability to solve it, nearly broke the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party, which supported silver and free trade, absorbed the remnants of the Populist movement as the presidential elections of neared. The Democratic convention that year was witness to one of the most famous speeches in U.

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Pleading with the convention not to " crucify mankind on a cross of gold ", William Jennings Bryan , the young Nebraskan champion of silver, won the Democrats' presidential nomination. The remaining Populists also endorsed Bryan, hoping to retain some influence by having a voice inside the Bryan movement.

In the economy began to improve, mostly from restored business confidence. Silverites—who did not realize that most transactions were handled by bank checks, not sacks of gold—believed the new prosperity was spurred by the discovery of gold in the Yukon. In , the Spanish—American War drew the nation's attention further away from Populist issues.

If the movement was dead, however, its ideas were not. Once the Populists supported an idea, it became so tainted that the vast majority of American politicians rejected it; only years later, after the taint had been forgotten, was it possible to achieve Populist reforms, such as the direct popular election of Senators in The women's suffrage movement began with the Seneca Falls Convention ; many of the activists became politically aware during the abolitionist movement.

The movement reorganized after the Civil War, gaining experienced campaigners, many of whom had worked for prohibition in the Women's Christian Temperance Union. By the end of the 19th century a few western states had granted women full voting rights, [76] though women had made significant legal victories, gaining rights in areas such as property and child custody.

Around , the movement, which had grown sluggish, began to reawaken. This put an emphasis on its demands for equality and arguing that the corruption of American politics demanded purification by women because men could no longer do their job. Suffragists were arrested during their " Silent Sentinels " pickets at the White House, the first time such a tactic was used, and were taken as political prisoners.

Finally, the suffragettes were ordered released from prison, and Wilson urged Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment enfranchising women.

Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World
Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World
Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World
Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World
Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World
Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World

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