The Gilded Age, Populist and Progressive Era Reading Group

Chapter 20: Imperial Dreams (Part 1) :: American Colossus by H.W. Brands

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “The republic is something more than a local policy. It is a general principle, not to be forgotten at any time, especially when the opportunity is presented of bringing an immense region within its influence.”
  • “They see wealth and poverty side by side. They note great inequality of social position and social chances. They eagerly set about the attempt to account for what they see, and to devise schemes for remedying what they do not like. In their eagerness to recommend the less fortunate classes to pity and consideration, they forget all about the rights of other classes, they gloss over the faults of the classes in question, and they exaggerate their misfortunes and their virtues. They invent new theories of property, distorting rights and perpetuating injustice, as anyone is sure to do who sets about the readjustment of social relations with the interests of one group distinctly before his mind, and the interests of all other groups thrown into the background. When I have read certain of these discussions, I have thought that it must be quite disreputable to be respectable, quite dishonest to own property, quite unjust to go one’s own way and earn one’s own living, and that the only really admirable person was the good-for-nothing.”
  • “The work which the English race began when it colonized North America is destined to go on until every land on the earth’s surface that is not already the seat of an old civilization shall become English in its language, in its religion, in its political habits and traditions, and to a predominant extent in the blood of its people. The day is at hand when four-fifths of the human race will trace its pedigree to English forefathers, as four-fifths of the white people in the United States trace their pedigree today.”

Thought Questions

  • What is Turner’s “Frontier Thesis”
  • What factors (Russian and American) led into the transfer of Alaska to the United States
  • Who were William Sumner and Herbert Spencer and what is “social Darwinism”
  • Describe the fallacies associated with the concept of “social Darwinism”
  • Explain and Expand: “Most significantly, the war confirmed the redemptive power of American democracy.”
  • Compare and Contrast: John Fiske and Charles Sumner
  • Describe the relationship between war and social Darwinism
  • Describe the relationship between American religion and social Darwinism
  • Who was Alfred Thayer Mahan and how did he influence American imperialism
  • Describe the American conquest of Hawaii

Primary Sources

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

 

 

The Gilded Age, Populist and Progressive Era Reading Group

Chapter 19: Tariff Bill And Dollar Mark :: American Colossus by H.W. Brands

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Though Republicans won the presidency in three of the four elections from 1876 to 1888, the Democratic candidates actually polled more popular votes (19.1 million total to 18.8 million for the Republicans). Republicans controlled the Senate for ten of the twelve years after 1876; Democrats controlled the House for ten of the twelve years.”
  • McKinley’s election inaugurated an era of Republican dominance of the federal government that lasted till the Great Depression of the 1930s.
  • “I do not promise the members of this House whenever they listen to me to give them wisdom of adamant. I do not promise them I shall not change my mind when I see good reason for doing it. I only promise that I will give them honestly what my opinion is at the time. They must take their chances about it being for eternity.”
  • “One, with God, is always a majority, but many a martyr has been burned at the stake while the votes were being counted.”
  • “It is the women who do the shopping,” Reed observed, “who keep the run of prices, who have the keenest scent for increased cost. They heard in every store the clerks behind the counters explain how this article or that could not be sold hereafter at the former price because of the McKinley Bill; they went home and told their husbands and fathers.”
  • “That’s what I tell all the boys,” he said. “But, Mack, don’t let’s lie to one another.”
  • “We are doing this in a semi-confidential way and will not receive any money from persons except those who give from proper motives,”
  • “If a gold plank is adopted, we will not carry a state west of the Mississippi River”
  • “The existing gold standard must be maintained”
  • “You may make fun of the West and South if you like. You may say that their people are not financiers,” he told the Eastern members of the House. “But these people have just as much right to express their ideas and to guard their interests as you have to guard yours, and their ideas are as much entitled to consideration as yours.”
  • “We of the South have burned our bridges behind us so far as the Eastern Democrats are concerned,” Ben Tillman of South Carolina declared. “We denounce the administration of President Cleveland as undemocratic and tyrannical!”
  • “I speak more in sorrow than in anger,” David Hill said. “You know what this platform means to the East.”
  • “Things are going against us, William,” he told McKinley. “You’ve got to stump or we’ll be defeated.” The candidate knew better. “I will not try to compete with Bryan,” he said. “I am going to stay here”—in Canton, Ohio, his hometown—“and do what campaigning there is to be done. If I took a whole train, Bryan would take a sleeper; if I took a sleeper, Bryan would take a chair car; if I took a chair car, he would ride a freight train. I can’t outdo him, and I am not going to try.”

Thought Questions

  • Explain and Expand: “We are New Yorked to disgrace and death, and mugwumped to a state of idiocy.”
  • Describe the circumstances around the election of 1888 and Benjamin Harrison’s candidacy
  • Describe the circumstances around the election of 1892 and the return of Grover Cleveland
  • Describe the circumstances around the election of 1896 and William McKinley’s candidacy
  • Explain and Expand: “The Democrats were entrenched in the South, and they became ever more entrenched as the politics of the region grew ever whiter. The Republicans retained their advantage in the Northeast and Ohio Valley.”
  • Describe the myth and reality of the “New South”
  • Explain and Expand: “a place where good Representatives went when they died”
  • What was the significance of tariff reform in the Gilded Age
  • Explain and Expand: “The tariff was a triumph for the capitalist class but a disaster for the Republican party.”
  • Describe the circumstances around and consequences of the Panic of 1893
  • Describe the impact of the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act
  • Who was Mark Hanna and what was his relationship with William McKinley?
  • Affirm or Refute: “Hanna’s attachment to McKinley was opportunistic—the capitalist to the candidate, the kingmaker to the king-to-be—but it was also emotional. … His attitude was always that of a big, bashful boy toward a girl he loves.”
  • What issues animated William Jennings Bryan
  • Explain and Expand: “In the end the Populists tried to have it both ways. They nominated Bryan for president, but in place of Arthur Sewall, the Democratic nominee for vice president, they forwarded the anti-fusionist Watson, who accepted the nomination under the duress of believing that his candidacy alone could prevent a fatal fracture in the party.”

Primary Sources

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

The Gilded Age, Populist and Progressive Era Reading Group

Chapter 18 – The Wages of Capitalism :: American Colossus by H.W. Brands

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “As a starting point for a new education at fifty- five years old, the shock of finding oneself suspended, for several months, over the edge of bankruptcy, without knowing how one got there, or how to get away, is to be strongly recommended.”
  • “The more he saw of it the less he understood it. He was quite sure that nobody understood it much better. Blindly some very powerful energy was at work, doing something that nobody wanted done.”
  • “On July 5 union sympathizers at Bellevue, Pennsylvania, not far from Homestead, reported the arrival by train of the Pinkerton men, who boarded two barges for the final approach to Homestead. Before the barges came within sight of the plant, the workers had spread the alarm. An informal militia of workers raced to the waterfront below the plant, and as the barges, propelled by a tug, drew near, the workers opened fire.”
  • “Some of the workers tossed sticks of dynamite at the barges; these effected little damage to the steel craft but seriously dented the Pinkertons’ morale. Another group of workers pumped hundreds of gallons of oil into the river upstream from the barges and attempted to set it alight as it drifted down. But the fuel wouldn’t catch. Still another group improved on the incendiary idea, commandeering a raft, filling it with oily refuse, setting it ablaze, and pushing it downstream toward the barges. This variant came close to succeeding, but the current redirected the fiery vessel at the last moment and spared the Pinkertons from roasting.”
  • “The corporation is everything and everywhere,” a journalist from Pittsburgh recorded. “The corporation trims your lawn and attends to your trees; the corporation sweeps your street, and sends a man around to pick up every cigar stump, every bit of paper, every straw or leaf; the corporation puts two barrels in your back yard, one for ashes and one for refuse of the kitchen; the corporation has the ashes and refuse hauled away.… The corporation does practically everything but sweep your room and make your bed, and the corporation expects you to enjoy it and hold your tongue.”

  • “The forces of labor must unite,” he told the second annual meeting of the ARU in June 1894. “The dividing lines must grow dimmer day by day until they become imperceptible, and then labor’s hosts, marshaled under one conquering banner, shall march together, vote together, and fight together, until working men shall receive and enjoy all the fruits of their toil. Then will our country be truly and grandly free, and its institutions as secure and enduring as the eternal mountains.”
  • “While the boycott is ostensibly declared as a demonstration of sympathy in behalf of the strikers in the Pullman shops it in reality will be a struggle between the greatest and most powerful railroad labor organization and the entire railroad capital.”
  • “A strike is essentially a conspiracy to extort by violence … Whatever other doctrine may be asserted by reckless agitators, it must ever be the duty of the courts, in the protection of society, and in the execution of the laws of the land, to condemn, prevent, and punish all such unlawful conspiracies and combinations.”
  • “The first shot fired by the regular soldiers at the mobs here will be the signal for a civil war I believe this as firmly as I believe in the ultimate success of our course. Bloodshed will follow, and ninety percent of the people of the United States will be arrayed against the other ten percent.”
  • “From this moving mass of shouting rioters squads of a dozen or two departed, running toward the yards with fire brands in their hands. They looked in the gloaming like specters, their lighted torches bobbing about like will-o’-the-wisps. Soon from all parts of the yard flames shot up and billows of fire rolled over the cars, covering them with the red glow of destruction.… It was pandemonium let loose, the fire leaping along for miles and the men and women dancing with frenzy. It was a mad scene where riot became wanton and men and women became drunk on their excesses.”
  • “When a body of 100,000 men lay down their implements of labor, not because their rights have been invaded, but because the bread has been taken from the mouths of their fellows, we have no right to say they are criminals. It is difficult for us to place ourselves in the position of others, but this Court should endeavor to do so and should realize that the petitioners in this case are representatives of the great laboring element of this country, upon which this country must so largely depend for its safety, prosperity, and progress.”
  • “Every detail of the proceedings was stamped with the effort on the part of the prosecutor to make a mountain out of a mole hill”

Thought Questions

  • In what ways was the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago significant for the United States?
  • What did The World’s Columbian Exposition symbolize about the United States
  • Describe the “battle of the currents”
  • Describe the symbolism in the following: “Millet and his crews devised a novel method of applying the mixture of white lead and oil— through hoses and nozzles from tanks pressurized by air. The “whitewash gang,” Burnham called them, and their spray equipment, even while launching a revolution in the painting industry, finished the Chicago job with just hours to spare.”
  • Explain and Expand: “Many visitors got their first direct appreciation of standard time zones (adopted by American railroads during the 1880s) by observing the fair clocks, which were connected electrically to the Naval Observatory in Washington, an hour ahead of Chicago. George Ferris’s giant wheel wasn’t finished when the fair began, but its size and shape drew gasps nonetheless.”
  • What was the significance of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890
  • What was the significance of the National Cordage Company
  • Describe the American economy in the early 1890s, the Panic of 1893 and the ensuing depression
  • In what ways had time changed banking and the currency issue
  • Describe the Haymarket riot of 1886 and its significance on organized labor
  • Who was Henry Clay Frick
  • Compare and Contrast: Pinkertons and working men
  • Explain and Expand: Pinkertons and working men
  • Explain and Expand: “The union leaders were right to be concerned about a loss of popular sympathy.”
  • Explain and Expand: “George Pullman was a paternalist, but before that he was a capitalist”
  • Who was Eugene V. Debs and what role did he have in the American Railway Union?
  • Compare and Contrast: American workers with the railroads, financial resources, federal government, public opinion.
  • Explain and Expand: “Combinations of workingmen to promote their interests, promote their welfare, and increase their pay if you please, to get their fair share in the division of production, are not affected in the slightest degree, nor can they be included in the words or intent of the bill,”
  • React and Respond: “President Cleveland directed Nelson Miles, still the commander of the Western army, to deploy federal troops against the strikers.”
  • Explain and Expand: “The troop deployment made the tense situation explosive. General Miles was as determined to crush this labor rebellion as he had been to crush the Ghost Dancers.”
  • Who was Jacob Coxey
  • Explain and Expand: “If Jacob Coxey had known either more or less about economics he might have agreed.”
  • Describe the arrival of Coxey’s Army in Washington D.C.
  • Explain and Expand: “The Western Coxeyites never got anywhere near Washington.”

Primary Sources

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

Primary Source Documents

Grover Cleveland – State of the Union Address – December 7, 1896

To the Congress of the United States:

As representatives of the people in the legislative branch of their Government, you have assembled at a time when the strength and excellence of our free institutions and the fitness of our citizens to enjoy popular rule have been again made manifest. A political 

contest involving momentous consequences, fraught with feverish apprehension, and creating aggressiveness so intense as to approach bitterness and passion has been waged throughout our land and determined by the decree of free and independent suffrage without disturbance of our tranquillity or the least sign of weakness in our national structure.

When we consider these incidents and contemplate the peaceful obedience and manly submission which have succeeded a heated clash of political opinions, we discover abundant evidence of a determination on the part of our countrymen to abide by every verdict of the popular will and to be controlled at all times by an abiding faith in the agencies established for the direction of the affairs of their Government.

Thus our people exhibit a patriotic disposition which entitles them to demand of those who undertake to make and execute their laws such faithful and unselfish service in their behalf as can only be prompted by a serious appreciation of the trust and confidence which the acceptance of public duty invites.

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Primary Source Document

Grover Cleveland – State of the Union Address – December 2, 1895

To the Congress of the United States:

The present assemblage of the legislative branch of our Government occurs at a time when the interests of our people and the needs of the country give especial prominence to the condition of our foreign relations and the exigencies of our national finances. The reports of the heads of the several administrative Departments of the Government fully and plainly exhibit what has been accomplished within the scope of their respective duties and present such recommendations for the betterment of our country’s condition as patriotic and intelligent labor and observation suggest.

I therefore deem my executive duty adequately performed at this time by presenting to the Congress the important phases of our situation as related to our intercourse with foreign nations and a statement of the financial problems which confront us, omitting, except as they are related to these topics, any reference to departmental operations.

I earnestly invite, however, not only the careful consideration but the severely critical scrutiny of the Congress and my fellow-countrymen to the reports concerning these departmental operations. If justly and fairly examined, they will furnish proof of assiduous and painstaking care for the public welfare. I press the recommendations they contain upon the respectful attention of those charged with the duty of legislation, because I believe their adoption would promote the people’s good.

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Primary Source Documents

Grover Cleveland – State of the Union Address – December 3, 1894

To the Congress of the United States:

The assemblage within the nation’s legislative halls of those charged with the duty of making laws for the benefit of a generous and free people impressively suggests the exacting obligation and inexorable responsibility involved in their task. At the threshold of such labor now to be undertaken by the Congress of the United States, and in the discharge of an executive duty enjoined by the Constitution, I submit this communication, containing a brief statement of the condition of our national affairs and recommending such legislation as seems to me necessary and expedient.

The history of our recent dealings with other nations and our peaceful relations with them at this time additionally demonstrate the advantage of consistently adhering to a firm but just foreign policy, free from envious or ambitious national schemes and characterized by entire honesty and sincerity.

During the past year, pursuant to a law of Congress, commissioners were appointed to the Antwerp Industrial Exposition. Though the participation of American exhibitors fell far short of completely illustrating our national ingenuity and industrial achievements, yet it was quite creditable in view of the brief time allowed for preparation.

I have endeavored to impress upon the Belgian Government the heedlessness and positive harmfulness of its restrictions upon the importation of certain of our food products, and have strongly urged that the rigid supervision and inspection under our laws are amply sufficient to prevent the exportation from this country of diseased cattle and unwholesome meat.

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Primary Source Document

Grover Cleveland – State of the Union Address – December 4, 1893

To the Congress of the United States:

The constitutional duty which requires the President from time to time to give to the Congress information of the state of the Union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient is fittingly entered upon by commending to the Congress a careful examination of the detailed statements and well-supported recommendations contained in the reports of the heads of Departments, who are chiefly charged with the executive work of the Government. In an effort to abridge this communication as much as is consistent with its purpose I shall supplement a brief reference to the contents of these departmental reports by the mention of such executive business and incidents as are not embraced therein and by such recommendations as appear to be at this particular time appropriate.

While our foreign relations have not at all times during the past year been entirely free from perplexity, no embarrassing situation remains that will not yield to the spirit of fairness and love of justice which, joined with consistent firmness, characterize a truly American foreign policy.

My predecessor having accepted the office of arbitrator of the long-standing Missions boundary dispute, tendered to the President by the Argentine Republic and Brazil, it has been my agreeable duty to receive the special envoys commissioned by those States to lay before me evidence and arguments in behalf of their respective Governments.

The outbreak of domestic hostilities in the Republic of Brazil found the United States alert to watch the interests of our citizens in that country, with which we carry on important commerce. Several vessels of our new Navy are now and for some time have been stationed at Rio de Janeiro. The struggle being between the established Government, which controls the machinery of administration, and with which we maintain friendly relations, and certain officers of the navy employing the vessels of their command in an attack upon the national capital and chief seaport, and lacking as it does the elements of divided administration, I have failed to see that the insurgents can reasonably claim recognition as belligerents.

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Primary Source Document

Grover Cleveland – State of the Union Address – December 3, 1888

To the Congress of the United States:

As you assemble for the discharge of the duties you have assumed as the representatives of a free and generous people, your meeting is marked by an interesting and impressive incident. With the expiration of the present session of the Congress the first century of our constitutional existence as a nation will be completed.

Our survival for one hundred years is not sufficient to assure us that we no longer have dangers to fear in the maintenance, with all its promised blessings, of a government rounded upon the freedom of the people. The time rather admonishes us to soberly inquire whether in the past we have always closely kept in the course of safety, and whether we have before us a way plain and clear which leads to happiness and perpetuity.

When the experiment of our Government was undertaken, the chart adopted for our guidance was the Constitution. Departure from the lines there laid down is failure. It is only by a strict adherence to the direction they indicate and by restraint within the limitations they fix that we can furnish proof to the world of the fitness of the American people for self-government.

The equal and exact justice of which we boast as the underlying principle of our institutions should not be confined to the relations of our citizens to each other. The Government itself is under bond to the American people that in the exercise of its functions and powers it will deal with the body of our citizens in a manner scrupulously honest and fair and absolutely just. It has agreed that American citizenship shall be the only credential necessary to justify the claim of equality before the law, and that no condition in life shall give rise to discrimination in the treatment of the people by their Government.

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