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The Gilded Age Essay

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Updated: May 25th, 2019

Gilded Age is a period between 1870 and 1890. This is a very complicated period in the life of American citizens as during these years corruption flourished, social life in the country was supported with constant scandals and the gap between poor and rich was extremely big.

This period is characterized by enormous wealth, however, the philanthropy was also on a high level. Democrats and Republicans were two major parties which fought for power, and having received it they tried to make sure that the more people are put on the leading positions in the local and national government. Reading different sources of information, it is possible to create a personal opinion about the Gilded Age and the political issues which were spread there.

There are different points of view about political system which was during the Gilded Age. Cash ruled human decisions, and therefore, the politics was based on those people who had more money (Flehinger 159). Such state of affairs is inappropriate. It is impossible to run the country without the desire to make it better.

Those who got power by means of money were sure to have the goal to get more money from people to return what they spent and to earn more. In this case politics for people becomes simple source of money, not the desire to improve human life and to change something for better.

Buder said that “the Gilded Age was, of course, the time when the United States experienced profound demographic and economic growth” (Buder 873). It is impossible to contradict this opinion, however, it is also impossible to agree that all people experiences economic growth.

The political contradiction and the division of power negatively affected simple people. The lower layers of population were not really satisfied with what was going on. I am sure that the economical growth of the country was a successful issue, however, the benefit from such growth was available just for rich and wealthy people while simple employees remained with their personal income.

Among various disadvantages and negative effect of the Gilded Age in the American politics, Gage points to the radical violence (Gage 107). The violent acts flew through the whole country. People suffered from those but the government could do nothing to protect them. The question whether they wanted to do it raise here. Moreover, it is essential to understand that the accidents of violence could be useful for the government who could satisfy their interests while people suffered from violent acts.

Giroux is sure that the Gilded Age was even more antidemocratic than the previous period even though democracy was proclaimed as the political regime in the country. Looking at the illegal actions of the powered people and their lack of desire to maintain order in the country, It is impossible to disagree with the author of the article as proclaiming democratic regime in the country, people did not have any rights to govern the country. Only money solved all the problems and was the source of the decisions in the USA (Giroux 587).

“The Gilded Age celebrated two kinds of virtues: those of the soldier and those of the entrepreneur” (“The Loss of Public Principles and Public in Interest” 147) and this phrase reflects the real estate of affairs during the Gilded Age. Simple people had nothing, neither the power to govern the country, nor the opportunities to change anything. Just leading the lives they had to survive. Of course, the economical growth of the country affected their well-being, however, it was not that great at the well-being of the powerful people.

White says that “Gilded Age financial corruption consisted of quotidian faults—lying, deception, and dishonesty—played out largely on paper and along telegraph lines, but on a national and international scale” (White 21).

Much has already been said about corruption, however, White tried to measure the affect of corrupted government on simple population. Dwelling upon the reasons of the corruption which was provoked by the decisions proclaimed by the government, White is sure that the situation could be changed and I agree with the statement.

Cherny’s review of the book From Bloody Shirt to Full Dinner Pail: The Transformation of Politics and Governance in the Gilded Age by Charles W. Calhoun is a great opportunity to consider the presidents and the would-be presidents of the country during the mentioned period.

Having considered the presidents, their thought and reforms it is possible to draw personal conclusions about the reasons of the high economic and low political development of the country during the Gilded Age. The author points to the highest level of human participation in politics, however, the reasons and the real mechanism of that participation is not covered which is a great limitation of that study (Cherny 215).

Reuter dwells upon the place of the business in politics. He is sure that those who got more money could control the legislation in the country during the Gilded Age. This is correct and money run business in America during that period (Reuter 55).

Considering the Gilded Age, I become more and more assured that the present situation in the USA is similar to that one which happened in America in 1870-1890s. However, during 1876 and 1892 none of the candidates managed to get the priority in votes, that is why the power was constantly shared between two parties, Democrats and Republicans (Miller 51).

Cashman’s work America in the Gilded Age is the fullest edition which presents the political situation in the country. Having read this piece of writing I understood that even though the economical situation improved, the political issues were distant from being called perfect.

Two parties managed to run the country without giving an opportunity for others to interfere into the political process, however, these two parties were too opposite to agree on the manner how the country should be governed. “Government’s primary role during the nineteenth century was to distribute resources and privileges to identifiable groups” (Miller 59) rather than consider the problems of people and solve them on the political level.

Therefore, it may be concluded that the Gilded Age was a very controversial age. Being economically flourishing, it just promoted rich people, however, the charity was also developed. The political system might be characterized by the Democratic-Republican duopoly, democratic regime and corruption.

It is impossible to say for sure whether that period was good or bad as it contained both positive and negative issues. As for me, the political regime of the Gilded Age should be characterized as the negative one due to the reasons discussed above.

Works Cited

Buder, Stanley. “James T. Wall. Wall Street and the Fruited Plain: Money, Expansion and Politics in the Gilded Age.” Enterprise & Society 10.4 (2009): 873-874. Print.

Cashman, Sean. America in the Gilded Age: Third Edition. New York University Press, 1993. Print.

Cherny, Robert W. “From Bloody Shirt to Full Dinner Pail: The Transformation of Politics and Governance in the Gilded Age.” Journal of American History 98.1 (2011): 214- 215. Print.

Flehinger, Brett. “Party Games: Getting, Keeping, and Using Power in Gilded Age Politics.” Canadian Journal of History 41.1 (2006): 159-160. Print.

Gage, Beverly. “Why Violence Matters: Radicalism, Politics, and Class War in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.” Journal for the Study of Radicalism 1.1 (2007): 99-109. Print.

Giroux, Henry A. “Beyond the biopolitics of disposability: rethinking neoliberalism in the New Gilded Age.” Social Identities 14.5 (2008): 587-620. Print.

Miller, Worth Robert. “The Lost World of Gilded Age Politics.” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 1.1 (2002): 49-67. Print.

Reuter, William C. “Business journals and Gilded Age politics.” Historian 56.1 (1993): 55. Print.

“The Loss of Public Principles and Public in Interest: Gilded Age Rhetoric, 1872-1896.” Language of Democracy: Political Rhetoric in the United States & Britain, 1790-1900, (2005): 146-163. Print.

White, Richard. “Information, Markets, and Corruption: Transcontinental Railroads in the Gilded Age.” Journal of American History 90.1 (2003): 19-43. Print.

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