Saturday, July 4, 2015

Political Reform II

Rural America attempted to better the lot of the farmer through such organizations as the Grange and a series of farm alliances. Farm concerns took on a clearly political cast in the rise of Populism. Conditions for all elements of society worsened during the Panic of 1893.

The silver question dominated economic discussions and led to the rise of William Jennings Bryan, a frequent presidential contender. However, the Election of 1896 was a conservative victory, bringing William McKinley to power. His first term was dominated by the war with Spain and the second was cut short by assassination.

A national reform movement known as Progressivism emerged and included advocates of women’s suffrage, municipal reform, state reform, temperance, immigration reform and a host of social reforms. The need for these changes was often expressed in terms of the “Social Gospel” or in the vivid prose of the muckrakers.

McKinley’s assassination in 1901 brought the American hero, Theodore Roosevelt, to the presidency. Breaking with his party, TR pursued a startling array of domestic reform legislation. The Election of 1908 brought in a more conservative leader, William Howard Taft. His domestic policy featured succcessful trust busting, but Taft broke with his predecessor over conservation issues. This split led to the emergence of the Bull Moose Party in the Election of 1912.

Woodrow Wilson benefited from the split between Roosevelt and Taft and continued with Progressive legislation: Federal Reserve Act (1913), Clayton Antitrust Act (1914) and Federal Trade Commission Act (1914).

The Supreme Court acted to counter the Progressives' liberalism in such decisions asPlessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Lochner v. New York (1905). However, Muller v. Oregon (1908) revealed a Court more willing to challenge its laissez faire past.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Second Industrial Revolution

American politics in the last third of the 19th century was dominated by the spoils system and the emergence of political machines and bosses, particularly in the burgeoning urban areas. Political abuses set the stage for reform efforts.

USA history

The Election of 1880 brought the short tenure of James A. Garfield, who was succeeded by his vice president Chester A. Arthur, whose administration was noted for the passage of the Pendleton Act (1883).

The Election of 1884 ushered in the first administration of Grover Cleveland. The Interstate Commerce Act was passed in 1887.

Benjamin Harrison took office after the Election of 1888 and oversaw the enactment of the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and the McKinley Tariff, all in 1890.

Cleveland returned for a second term following the Democratic victory in 1892, making him the only president elected to non-consecutive terms.

Major labor strife erupted in the Homestead Strike (1892) and the Pullman Strike(1894).

The post-Civil War years witnessed a new industrial era with advances in industrial technology, the building of the transcontinental railroads, and the development of the corporation. The growth of the industrial society depended on the cheap labor of the poor and the immigrants, groups that turned to unions to improve their lives. Opposing sides debated the relative merits of the new capitalism.

The new industrial age featured such titans as John D. Rockefeller, who organized oil trusts to ensure greater profits and less competition; Henry Ford, "father of mass production and the assembly line;" ^Andrew Carnegie, who built the modern steel industry with the integration of all phases of the process; and J.P. Morgan, who marshaled financial resources to form the world’s first billion dollar corporation.

As the railroads began to tie the continent together, the West experienced unparalleled growth that featured mining booms, the growth of a cattle culture and plains farming. The relentless westward push increased friction with resident Native Americans. The Wounded Knee Masacre (1890) became the last major uprising of American Indians.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sectional Controversy, Civil War and Reconstruction

Sectional Controversy

For a few years following the Compromise of 1850 it appeared that the issue of the expansion of slavery had been effectively addressed. Slowly, however, the question began to creep back into the national consciousness.

Slavery was effectively ignored by the major parties in theElection of 1852, but the jointissues of California, the railroads, and the Gadsden Purchaseended the short-lived serenity. The Kansas-Nebraska Act ignited tensions resulting in “Bleeding Kansas.”

The Election of 1856 brought James Buchanan to the presidency. He wrongly interpreted the Dred Scott case as a solution to the expansion of the slavery issue. Sectionalissues were also aired in theLincoln-Douglas debates in Illinois. The degree to which the nation had fractured was evident in the reactions to the events at Harper’s Ferry in 1859; the slavery issue was interpreted vastly differently in the North and South.

The Election of 1860 ushered in the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, but also touched off a secession crisis and theformation of the Confederacy.Efforts to compromise failed. The first shots of the Civil War were exchanged at Fort Sumter in April 1861.

At the outbreak of war the opposing sides possessed starkly differing aims, strategies and prospects.

The Civil War

The Union plan for victoryincluded three components:

1. A blockade of the South – an effort to deny supplies from and trade with outside sources; it appeared for a while that Britain was receptive to Confederate aims in the construction of the Alabama, which preyed upon Union shipping; France toyed with recognition of the South, but contented itself with an invasion of Mexico.

2. A move to split the Confederacy in two – beginning with U.S. Grant’s victories at Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862. The war in the West continued with New Orleans, guardian of the mouth of the Mississippi, falling to Union forces in April. Both sides suffered heavy casualties at Shiloh. An indecisive encounter at Perryville was followed by a Union victory at Murfreesboro, ending a Confederate push into Kentucky. The West was sealed off from the remainder of the Confederacy following the Union victory at Vicksburg in July 1863. Northern forces began a thrust into enemy territory in the Chattanooga campaign and later in the Atlanta campaign.William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea” ended with the occupation of Savannah in late 1864.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Expansion, Political Reform, and Turmoil

Following the War of 1812, there existed a superficial “Era of Good Feelings” in which partisan issues declined. The Election of 1816 brought in James Monroe, who made his major mark in foreign affairs. Much of the country’s energy was channeled into westward movement. Postwar prosperity ended abruptly in the Panic of 1819. Henry Clay and others touted an “American System” that was supposed to unite the country, but probably shortchanged the South.

A Transportation Revolution was under way, featuring a canal craze, the first railroads and steamboats. America also was experiencing the beginnings of its First Industrial Revolution.

The Election of 1824 was another disputed contest; the House of Representatives supported John Quincy Adams, which enraged Andrew Jackson's followers. The Election of 1828, sometimes referred to as the “Revolution of 1828," was Jackson's revenge, ushering in the age of the common man. Major issues included problems with the spoils system, the tariff, the nullification crisis, and the Second Bank of the United States.

Martin van Buren entered office after the Election of 1836; major occurrences included tensions with Britain, the Panic of 1837 and an ongoing dispute with John C. Calhoun.

The Election of 1840 ushered in the short term of William Henry Harrison and his successor John Tyler. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1843) was the leading accomplishment. The Manifest Destiny passions helped sweep James K. Polk into office, where he faced issues regarding Texas, the Oregon boundary, and the Mexican War (1846-48).

War hero Zachary Taylor emerged as the victor in the Election of 1848. His shortened term in office nevertheless yielded positive diplomatic results in the negotiation of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty (1850) with Britain. Taylor did not support the Compromise of 1850, but his successor, Millard Fillmore, signed its provisions into law.

A spirit of reform was evident in America during the first half of the 19th century, touching such areas as religion in the second Great Awakening, women’s issues, educational reform, the temperance movement, utopianism, and abolitionism.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Young Republic

Following independence, the American states began the process of drafting new state constitutions, many of which reflected increased democratic elements (women and slaves excepted).
The nation’s governing document was the Articles of Confederation whose weaknesses led to a “critical period” in the 1780s. Conservative elements in the country were especially disturbed by Shays' Rebellion in western Massachusetts.
The end of the War for Independence led to rapid settlement in the West.
Desire for a strong central government led to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The completed document was submitted to the states for ratification. The Federalist Papers, largely the work of Alexander Hamilton, remains the most cogent analysis of the U.S. Constitution.
George Washington’s election in 1789 ushered in the Federalist Era, which witnessed the process of translating the Constitution’s ideas into actual practice. A Bill of Rights was drafted by Congress and submitted to the states. Other early activity included the Tariff of 1789 and consideration of Hamilton’s economic program.
Much to Washington’s disapproval, partisan politics emerged, pitting the Federalists against the Jeffersonian Republicans. A challenge to the new government was posed by the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.
Foreign affairs under Washington found the nation proclaiming neutrality, but seeing it threatened by French minister Edmond Genêt. Outstanding issues with Spain and Britain were addressed in Pinckney’s Treaty and the controversial Jay’s Treaty.
Washington provided advice for his fellow citizens in his Farewell Address in 1796.

The Election of 1796 brought John Adams to power; his administration was marred by problems in the relationship with France and the divisive Alien and Sedition Acts.

The Election of 1800 exposed a weakness in the constitutional provision for electing a president. Thomas Jefferson’s triumph is sometimes regarded as the Revolution of 1800. The Jefferson administration dealt with far-reaching issues involving the Supreme Court, a war with the Barbary pirates, further westward expansion, the Louisiana Purchase, and diplomatic issues with Britain and France.

The Election of 1808 ushered in the administration of James Madison, who grappled with neutral rights issues, culminating in the War of 1812.

Young authors began to emerge with a style that said "Americana": Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Louisa May Alcott embraced Transcendentalism, Edgar Allan Poe, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, and others made their marksin the "Golden Age of American Literature."