Did the politics of the Gilded Age fail when dealing with social and economic issues? That statement has long been debated by many historians, journalists, and professors. The Gilded age was a time of transfomation. The late 19th centuraies welcomed new economies, techonologies, and social costums. Although the Gilded Age was a time of change it still faced many issues.
Gilded Age politics could be accurately described by having complete disregard for the citizens of the era. James Bryce, a British political commentator, states in his article, “For the end of the war coincided with the opening of a time of swift material growth and abounding material propensity in which industry and the development of the west absorbed more and more of the energy of the people. Hence a neglect of details of politics such as had never been seen before.”(Doc 1). What Bryce said aimed towards a foreign audience, immagrants. He attempts to talk about how the American government failed to continue thier involvement in political affairs.
The problems that the working class faced was terrible, both personally and professionally. In the workplace, emplyees were often women, foriegnors, and children. The children were not only deprived of receiving an adequate education, but they also were expected to know everything and anything about laboring jobs. “Employers claim that these boys not apprentices, and even if they se desired, could not teach… an apprentic all of the intricacies of a trade, for the reason that where the skill and intelligence of a journeyman (trained) workman were once essential, a simple machine now unerringly performs the service, and consequently, there is no occasion for an apprentice to learn to do the labor by hand.” (Doc 5) The introduction of new and different technologies arose, which latter caused the workers with less skills to show their expendability. Though this article may have been writen to describe the conditions of the working class and what they faced, it also exposed the truth of facotry culture. Immigrants made up a lot of the workers as well, which did in fact anger many American citizens as it was no secret that foreigners were willing to do the same job with the same responsibilities for less pay. Immigrants took jobs in factories and other industrialized jobs, and livied in the urban areas closer to their place of employment. These homes became a commonplace, even though the conditions often had cramped bedrooms with little to no circulation of fresh air and natural light. It seemed as though the circumstances were similar at work, like they could not wake from a consitent nightmare. “They are dwarfed, in my estimation, sir, as the majority of men and women who are brought un in factories must be dwarfed under the presen industrial system; because by their long hourse of indoor labor and their hard work they are cut offf from the benefit of breathing fresh air ad from the sights that surround a workman outside a mill. Being shut up all day in the noise and in the high tempuratures of these mills, they become physically weak.”(Doc 6) Doctor Timothy Stow highlights that the health of the workers were unnatural. Immigrants, women, men, and even children were often put in situations where there was unsanitary conditions in which they lived and worked. As shown the government took some action to solve these social issues that plagued the working class during the Gilded Age, bt it did not effect everyone.
The overwhelming influence of monopolies and trusts, like the ones deminstrated by Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, and Carnegie’s US Steel, led to economic debate that were never fully resolved satisfactorily. The utilization of integration by John D. Rockefeller allowed for him to simply buy smaller oil companies and merge them with his own, eliminating the competition in addtion to gathering more resources and employees at the already existing companys. Many buisnesses monopoized small buisnesses so that their own could grow. “Monopoly and anti-monopoly… represent the two great tendencies of our time; monopoly, the tendency to combination: anti-monopoly, the demand for social conrtol of it. As the man is ben toward buisiness or patriotism, he will negotiate combination or agitate for laws to regulate them.”(Doc 2) This system was allowed by a laissez-faire approch where major corporations would be able to fund campaigns and other endeavors the politicians may have previously considering. Lloyd, a financial writer and social reformer, targeted politicians to point out that the only two avenues left to choose from is to either join a trust or to actively speak out against them, exposing the corruption of the system in the process. Keppler’s 1899 political cartoon also points out that the undeniable influence the trusts and monopolies have on the politics of the era, in this case, specifically the senators. The artist’s intent was concise; the corruption that lied at the crux of Gilded Age politics resided within the bribery and manipulation of government officials by businesses such as DuPoint and JP Morgan. An inevitably poor attempt to correct the issue of monopolies was the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 which fell through due to the poor wording and vagueness that allowed for many easy loopholes to be found and easily used.
In conclusion, the circumstances that defined the Gilded Age brought about many problems that the politics of the time failed to do justice when trying to solve them. Despite occasional pieces of legislation being signed into law, the passivity and general corruption of the government ultimately denied the passage of reform when it came to social and economic issues. Although a few measures were taken to handle the plight of the working class, the disparity in railroad rates and the overwhelming influence of monopolies and trusts on politics, they were largely ineffective to reach their intended goals.


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