The US is the nation where industrialization first took place outside Europe. The most successful industry in this former British colony during the period of the civil war was shipbuilding. Other industries include iron manufacturing. The agricultural, construction, and mining industries also experienced an exponential growth during the mid 19th century, which was further boosted by a respective population growth.
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It was during the late years of 19th century that the United States of America became the leading industrialized nation on the globe.
Shortly after the civil war, the industry was still characterized by hand labor that minimized the ability of production for most industries. However, the industry quickly gained momentum with hand labor being replaced by machines thereby increasing the rates of production. Many people therefore began concentrating in cities to work in these industries.
Accompanying this change was the sharp contrast between the workers and the employers. The discontent of workers brought about movements that aimed at protecting workers’ rights. This work explains how the industrial workers and farmers organized themselves in response to industrialization in the United States of America after the civil war.
Effects of Civil War on Workers
The American civil war of 1861-1865, was followed by many movements. Some of them include the National Farmers Alliance, in Texas, and another organization dominated by the Blacks called ‘Colored Farmers’ Alliance.
Racial problems caused the National Farmers’ Alliance not to achieve much. The Alliances were movements created mainly to fight for the rights of its members who were mainly farmers during this period (Liu 13). This is because before the civil war began, the richest one percent of Americans owned 26 percent of America’s national property.
The period after the civil war was characterized by change in work patterns within the workers’ community. Most farmers came to rely on mowers, reapers, and harvesters. Labor organizations formed in many northern cities thereby making many workers to strike over underpayment. The civil war therefore enhanced the growth of industrialization especially in the northern regions of the United States.
It was after the civil war that new opportunities to work outside the home emerged for women. The opportunities include clerical works and teaching which were previously dominated by men. Nursing was also considered particularly suited to female skills. This change mainly occurred in the northern states of the U.S. Northern women could also find jobs as teamsters, in bridge keeping, and also as undertakers.
Organization of Farmers and Industrial Workers in Response to Industrialization
The United States became the world’s leading industrialized country by the year 1913. This was because there were so many natural resources available together with many other factors such as availability of labor, land, and the diversity of climate in the entire nation. It was also during the period of 1865-1913, that new technologies in iron and manufacturing of steel came up. As a result, well paid skilled workers emerged. They include the engineers who replaced the skilled labor of the old-fashioned artisans and craftsmen. The influx of immigrants caused cheap labor to become more and more available particularly in the mining industry.
The civil war also heralded several farming practices such as sharecropping. This made most of the sharecroppers to be locked in a cycle of debt thus acting as the impetus for the emergence of movements that aimed at addressing general agricultural problems.
It is worth noting that workers and employers do not have anything in common because the worker’s lifestyle is characterized by hunger and want while the employer’s lifestyle is characterized by good things of life. This is the reason why there are many conflicts between the two classes of people. The working class will always be moved towards abolition of capitalism.
The federal government has been engaging in several endeavors to assist the working class through national legislation concerned with labor laws, and by influencing public opinion by peaceful legal methods that appear to be categorically favoring the organized labor. This is the reason why the national government supports the labor organizations. As a result, labor organizations have continued to grow year by year.
The average annual union membership has been increasing since the year 1870. Empirical data indicate that apart from agricultural workers, the number of industrial workers has been increasing with a corresponding increase in union membership. In the year 1870, the number of workers in the industrial sector was just over six million with a three hundred thousand membership subscription in the union.
The figure has continued to increase thereby realizing the twenty five million mark by the year 1910, with an eight percent subscription to the union (Document A).
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In addition, the workers union has been engaged in national political issues such that it has been able to make decisive steps in determining who gets what in the national politics. The leaders of these unions have been engaging in battles with political parties urging them to respect workers rights and enhance their welfare.
There are also many employment malpractices that the workers’ union addressed. They include issues such as underpayment and poor working conditions. This is because many workers were forced into very cheap labor, of which they would be forced to quit should they feel otherwise (Document D).
For instance, Pullman trial describes the plight of Theodore Rhodie, a painter who tried to explain the reason that made him strike. His daily wages continued to diminish; he was being abused by his employers. At the same time, Rhodie owed his grocer and butcher some debt. As a matter of fact, together with his fellow workers, Rhodie could barely make a living out of their daily wages (Document E).
Many people would also champion for farmers rights as evidenced by William Jennings Bryan, in his July 9, 1896 speech at the Democratic National Convection, in Chicago. In this particular speech, Jennings explains why agriculture is such an important tool to the American society. He disputes with certain ideologies that the large cities have been built by gold. Rather he says that if one destroys the cities, they will grow again as if by magic, because of agriculture (Document F).
The civil war acted as the impetus of industrialization as the United States developed into the leading industrialized nation on the globe. Due to this industrialization, there arose many conflicts between workers and their employers. This is because the capitalist employers did not do much to solve the problems of the lives their workers lived.
Thus workers union was formed to champion for the rights of workers. This resulted into the harmonization of the relationship between the workers, farmers and employers, a relationship that continues to prevail until now.
Document A: source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1957. Union Membership, 1870-1910.
Document D: source: 1892 Populist Party Platform in Omaha, Nebraska.
Document E: source: Pullman Trial 1894.
Document F: source: William Jennings Bryan, July 9, 1896, at the Democratic National Convention, Chicago.
Liu, Henry. “The Shape of US Populism: Part II: Long term effects of the Civil War.” Independent Critical Analysis and Commentary, March 14, 2008. 15 Jan. 2011. <http://www.henryckliu.com/page157.html>