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.