Two Americas - The Civil War
Borgerkrige er normalt noget man forbinder med fejlslagne stater, hvor centralmagten har mistet grebet om landet. Men selv lande som USA kan havne i borgerkrig hvis uenighederne er store nok.
Den amerikanske borgerkrig var kulminationen på mange års spændinger mellem USAs nordlige og sydlige stater. De var uenige om mange ting, men især om slaveri. Uenigheden blev så stor, at de sydlige stater løsrev sig fra unionen. USAs præsident under krigen var Abraham Lincoln – én af USAs allermest kendte præsidenter. Han nægtede at lade unionen gå i stykker. Efter fem års blodig krig var slaverne fri og USA samlet igen. Det var et meget anderledes USA, der opstod efter krigen. Den tid kan du læse om her:
The 16th and 17th Amendments
The 16th Amendment, ratified just before President William Howard Taft left office, authorized a federal income tax. The 17th Amendment, approved a few months later, mandated the direct election of senators by the people, instead of state legislatures. In opposition to these progressive measures, Taft accepted a new tariff with higher protective schedules, opposed the entry of the state of Arizona into the Union because of its liberal constitution, and increasingly relied on the support of the conservative wing of his party.
By 1910 Taft’s party was bitterly divided. Democrats gained control of Congress in the midterm elections. Two years later, Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic, progressive governor of the state of New Jersey, campaigned against Taft, the Republican candidate – and also against Roosevelt who ran as the candidate of a new Progressive Party. Wilson, in a spirited campaign, defeated both rivals.
During his first term, Wilson secured one of the most notable legislative programs in American history. His first task was tariff revision. “The tariff duties must be altered,” Wilson said. “We must abolish everything that bears any semblance of privilege.” The Underwood Tariff, signed on October 3, 1913, provided substantial rate reductions on imported raw materials and foodstuffs, cotton and woolen goods, iron and steel. It also removed the duties from more than a hundred other items. Although the act retained many protective features, it was a genuine attempt to lower the cost of living. To compensate for lost revenues, it established a modest income tax.
The second item on the Democratic program was a thorough reorganization of the banking and currency system. “Control,” said Wilson, “must be public, not private, must be vested in the government itself, so that the banks may be the instruments, not the masters, of business and of individual enterprise and initiative.”
The Federal Reserve
The Federal Reserve Act of December 23, 1913, was Wilson’s most enduring legislative accomplishment. Conservatives had favored the establishment of one powerful central bank. The new act, in line with the Democratic Party’s Jeffersonian sentiments, divided the country into 12 districts, with a Federal Reserve Bank in each, all supervised by a national Federal Reserve Board with limited authority to set interest rates. The act assured greater flexibility in the money supply and made provision for issuing federal-reserve notes to meet business demands. Greater centralization of the system would come in the 1930s.
The Federal Trade Commission
The next important task was trust regulation and investigation of corporate abuses. Congress authorized a Federal Trade Commission to issue orders prohibiting “unfair methods of competition” by business concerns in interstate trade. The Clayton Antitrust Act forbade many corporate practices that had thus far escaped specific restriction, including interlocking directorates, price discrimination among purchasers, use of the injunction in labor disputes, and ownership by one corporation of stock in similar enterprises.
Farmers and other workers were addressed in the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 which established an “extension system” of county agents to assist farming throughout the country. Subsequent acts made credit available to farmers at low rates of interest. The Seamen’s Act of 1915 improved living and working conditions on board ships. The Federal Workingman’s Compensation Act in 1916 authorized allowances to civil service employees for disabilities incurred at work and established a model for private enterprise. The Adamson Act of the same year established an eight-hour day for railroad labor.
This record of achievement won Wilson a firm place in American history as one of the nation’s foremost progressive reformers. However, his domestic reputation would soon be overshadowed by his record as a wartime president who led his country to victory but could not hold the support of his people for the peace that followed.
During the Republican administration of President McKinley, Americans saw the successful outcome of the War with Spain, the restoration of national prosperity, and an effort to obtain new markets through the Open Door Policy. In the presidential election of 1900, McKinley easily defeated his opponent, William Jennings Bryan. But the president did not live to enjoy his victory. In September 1901, while attending an exposition in Buffalo, New York, he was shot down by an assassin, the third president to be assassinated since the Civil War.
Roosevelt Enters a New Era
Theodore Roosevelt, McKinley’s vice president, assumed the presidency. Roosevelt’s appointment was met with a new era in American political life and international relations. Little frontier remained, the continent was now populated. A small, formerly struggling republic had become a world power. The country’s political foundations had endured foreign and civil war, prosperity and depression. Immense strides had been made in agriculture and industry. Free public education had been largely realized and a free press maintained. The ideal of religious freedom had been sustained. However, big business was now more influential than ever and local and municipal governments were often controlled by corrupt politicians.
Progressivism and Reform
In response to the excesses of 19th-century capitalism and political corruption, a reform movement emerged called “progressivism,” which gave American politics and thought its special character from approximately 1890 until the American entry into World War I in 1917. The Progressives had diverse objectives. In general, however, they saw themselves as engaged in a democratic crusade against the abuses of urban political bosses and the corrupt “robber barons ” of big business. Their goals were greater democracy and social justice, honest government, more effective regulation of business, and a revived commitment to public service. They believed that expanding the scope of government would ensure the progress of U.S. society and the welfare of its citizens.
Literature of Exposure
The years 1902 to 1908 marked the era of greatest reform activity. Writers and journalists strongly protested practices and principles inherited from the 18th century rural republic that they felt were inadequate for a 20th century urban state. Years before, in 1873, the celebrated author Mark Twain had exposed American society to critical scrutiny in The Gilded Age. Now, trenchant articles dealing with trusts, high finance, impure foods, and abusive railroad practices began to appear in the daily newspapers and in such popular magazines as McClure’s and Collier’s. Their authors, such as the journalist Ida M. Tarbell, who crusaded against the Standard Oil Trust, became known as “muckrakers.”
In his sensational novel, The Jungle, Upton Sinclair exposed unsanitary conditions in the great Chicago meat-packing houses and condemned the grip of the beef trust on the nation’s meat supply. Theodore Dreiser, in his novels The Financier and The Titan, made it easy for laymen to understand the machinations of big business. Frank Norris’s The Octopus assailed amoral railroad management; his The Pit depicted secret manipulations on the Chicago grain market. Lincoln Steffens’s The Shame of the Cities bared local political corruption. This “literature of exposure” roused people to action.
The hammering impact of uncompromising writers and an increasingly aroused public spurred political leaders to take practical measures. Many states enacted laws to improve the conditions under which people lived and worked. At the urging of such prominent social critics as Jane Addams, child labor laws were strengthened and new ones adopted, raising age limits, shortening work hours, restricting night work, and requiring school attendance.
By the early 20th century, most of the larger cities and more than half the states had established an eight-hour day on public works. Workman’s compensation laws made employers legally responsible for injuries sustained by employees at work. New revenue laws were also enacted which sought to place the burden of government on those best able to pay by taxing inheritances, incomes, and the property or earnings of corporations.
President Theodore Roosevelt and Progressive leaders in the Congress (foremost among them Wisconsin Senator Robert LaFollette) felt that most of the problems reformers were concerned about could be solved if dealt with on a national scale. Roosevelt declared his determination to give all the American people a “Square Deal.”
During his first term, he initiated a policy of increased government supervision through the enforcement of antitrust laws. With his backing, Congress passed the Elkins Act (1903), which greatly restricted the railroad practice of giving rebates to favored shippers. The act made published rates the lawful standard and shippers equally liable with railroads for rebates. In addition, Congress created a new Cabinet Department of Commerce and Labor, which included a Bureau of Corporations, empowered to investigate the affairs of large business aggregations.
Roosevelt won acclaim as a “trust-buster,” but his actual attitude toward big business was complex. Economic concentration, he believed, was inevitable. Some trusts were “good,” some “bad.” The task of government was to make reasonable distinctions. When, for example, the Bureau of Corporations discovered in 1907 that the American Sugar Refining Company had evaded import duties, subsequent legal actions recovered more than $4 million and convicted several company officials. The Standard Oil Company was indicted for receiving secret rebates from the Chicago and Alton Railroad, convicted, and fined $29 million.
Roosevelt’s striking personality and his trust-busting activities captured the imagination of the ordinary individual; approval of his progressive measures cut across party lines. In addition, the abounding prosperity of the country at this time led people to feel satisfied with the party in office. He won an easy victory in the 1904 presidential election.
Roosevelt called for stronger railroad regulation and Congress passed the Hepburn Act in June 1906. It gave the Interstate Commerce Commission real authority in regulating rates, extended the commission’s jurisdiction, and forced the railroads to surrender their interlocking interests in steamship lines and coal companies.
Other congressional measures carried the principle of federal control still further. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 prohibited the use of any “deleterious drug, chemical, or preservative” in prepared medicines and foods and required proper labeling of products. The Meat Inspection Act of the same year mandated federal inspection of all meat-packing establishments engaged in interstate commerce.
Conservation of the nation’s natural resources, managed development of the public domain, and the reclamation of wide stretches of neglected land were among the other major achievements of the Roosevelt era. In response to the previous exploitation of public resources, Roosevelt placed conservation high on the presidential agenda. Whereas his predecessors had set aside 18,800,000 hectares of timberland for preservation and parks, Roosevelt increased the area to 59,200,000 hectares. They also began systematic efforts to prevent forest fires and to re-timber stripped tracts of land.
William Howard Taft
Roosevelt’s popularity was at its peak during the campaign of 1908, but he was unwilling to break the tradition by which no president had held office for more than two terms. Instead, he supported William Howard Taft, who had served under him as governor of the Philippines and secretary of war. Taft, pledging to continue Roosevelt’s programs, defeated Bryan, who was running for the third and last time.
The new president continued the prosecution of trusts, further strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission, established a postal savings bank and a parcel post system, expanded the civil service, and sponsored the enactment of two amendments to the Constitution, both adopted in 1913.
The Populist Party
By 1890, agrarian distress, fueled by years of hardship and hostility toward the McKinley tariff, was at an all-time high. Working with sympathetic Democrats in the South or small third parties in the West, the Farmers’ Alliances made a push for political power. A third political party, the People’s (or Populist) Party, emerged. The elections of 1890 brought the new party into power in a dozen Southern and Western states, and sent a score of Populist senators and representatives to Congress.
The first Populist convention was in 1892. Delegates from farm, labor, and reform organizations met in Omaha, Nebraska and with a determination to overturn a U.S. political system they viewed as hopelessly corrupted by the industrial and financial trusts.
The pragmatic portion of their platform called for the nationalization of the railroads, a low tariff, and loans secured by non-perishable crops stored in government-owned warehouses. More radical, they advocated currency inflation through Treasury purchase and the unlimited coinage of silver at the “traditional” ratio of 16 ounces of silver to one ounce of gold.
Gold vs. Silver
Agrarian spokesmen were convinced that their troubles stemmed from a shortage of money in circulation. They argued that increasing the volume of money would indirectly raise prices for farm products and drive up industrial wages, allowing debts to be paid with inflated currency. Conservative groups and the financial classes, on the other hand, responded that the 16:1 price ratio was nearly twice the market price for silver. A policy of unlimited purchase would deplete the U.S. Treasury of all its gold holdings, sharply devalue the dollar, and destroy the purchasing power of the working and middle classes. Only the gold standard, they said, offered stability.
The financial panic of 1893 heightened the tension of this debate. Bank failures swept the South and Midwest, resulting in rising unemployment and falling crop prices. The crisis and President Grover Cleveland’s defense of the gold standard sharply divided the Democratic Party. Democrats who were silver supporters went over to the Populists as the presidential elections of 1896 neared.
Pleading with the convention not to “crucify mankind on a cross of gold,” William Jennings Bryan, the young Nebraskan champion of silver, won the Democrats’ presidential nomination. The Populists also endorsed Bryan. In the epic contest that followed, Bryan carried almost all the Southern and Western states. But he lost the more populated, industrial North and East – and the election – to Republican candidate William McKinley.
The following year the country’s finances began to improve, in part owing to the discovery of gold in Alaska and the Yukon. This provided a basis for a conservative expansion of the money supply. In 1898 the Spanish-American War drew the nation’s attention further from Populist issues. Populism and the silver issue silenced but many of the movements other reform ideas carried on.
Periods of Hardship
Late-19th century American farmers experienced recurring periods of hardship. The advancement of mechanical improvements and land expansion led to a heavy supply that pushed the price of agricultural commodities down.
Midwestern farmers were subject to high railroad freight rates and protective tariffs. Low market prices and high costs resulted in higher debt and further obligation to the banks that held their mortgages. During the late 1880s droughts devastated the western Great Plains and bankrupted thousands of settlers.
In the South, the end of slavery brought major changes. Much agricultural land was now worked by sharecroppers, tenants who gave up to half of their crop to a landowner for rent, seed, and essential supplies. An estimated 80 percent of the South’s African American farmers and 40 percent of its Caucasian population lived under this debilitating system. Most were locked in a cycle of debt, from which the only hope of escape was increased planting. This led to the over-production of cotton and tobacco, and thus to declining prices and the further exhaustion of the soil.
Grange Movement and Farmers’ Alliances
The first organized effort to address general agricultural problems was by the Patrons of Husbandry, a farmer’s group popularly known as the Grange movement. Launched in 1867 by employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Granges focused initially on social activities to counter the isolation most farm families encountered. Women’s participation was actively encouraged. Spurred by the Panic of 1873, the Grange soon grew to 20,000 chapters and one-and-a-half million members. The Granges set up their own marketing systems, stores, processing plants, factories, and cooperatives, but most ultimately failed. The movement also enjoyed some political success. During the 1870s, a few states passed “Granger laws,” limiting railroad and warehouse fees.
By 1880 the Grange was in decline and being replaced by the Farmers’ Alliances, which were similar in many respects but more overtly political. By 1890 the alliances, initially independent state organizations, had about 1.5 million members from New York to California. A parallel African American group, the Colored Farmers National Alliance, claimed over a million members. Federating into two large Northern and Southern blocs, the alliances promoted elaborate economic programs to “unite the farmers of America for their protection against class legislation and the encroachments of concentrated capital.”
- What did the 17th Amendment change?
- Woodrow Wilson introduced a reorganization of the banking system, how was the system reorganized?
- What is meant by the Open Door Policy?
- Why is Roosevelt seen as a trust-buster and why did that leave people satisfied with the party in office?
- What would an increase of money do, according to the agrarian spokesmen?
- What did the financial panic of 1893 do?
- Has Denmark ever had a system similar to the Sharecropper system?
- What were the Farmers’ Alliances?
The 17th Amendment changed the structure of the representation; discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this change towards a more representative democracy.
Regulating trust-funds and busting monopolies are still vital issues in politics today. The latest example of such challenges is seen in the financial crisis where the failures of big companies such as the Lehman Brothers, General Motors etc. have huge impact on the economy. Discuss why countries still experience problems with enforcing fair competition and what measures governments may take to avoid such failures.
The president of United States from 1993-2001, Bill Clinton, also tried to combat trust-funds. He fought the case against Microsoft and won. Some consumers believe that it is a shame, because consumers now cannot buy a package deal from Microsoft, but have to supplement some computer programs with some technologies offered by other suppliers. Discuss this.
Around this same time, farmers in Denmark also joined the political scene. Discuss differences and similarities between the farmers’ parties in the two countries. Do the Danish farmers’ parties still exist?
Discuss the concept of “Sharecroppers”. Do you know of any similar systems in the world today?
Discuss the fact that there were two farmers’ organizations, one for Caucasians and one for African Americans
Labor and Reform
The life of a 19th-century American industrial worker was hard. Even in good times wages were low, hours long, and working conditions hazardous. Little of the wealth that the growth of the nation had generated went to its workers. Moreover, women and children made up a high percentage of the work force in some industries and often received only a fraction of the wages a man could earn. Periodic economic crises swept the nation, negatively influencing industrial wages and producing high levels of unemployment.
Technological improvements, which increased the nation’s productivity, continually reduced the demand for skilled labor. An unprecedented number of immigrants, some 18 million, entered the United States between 1880 and 1910 seeking work.
In 1874, Massachusetts passed the nation’s first legislation limiting the number of hours women and child factory workers could perform to 10 hours a day. It was not until the 1930s that the federal government would become actively involved. Until then, the field was left to the state and local authorities, few of whom were as responsive to the workers as they were to wealthy industrialists.
The laissez-faire capitalism that dominated the second half of the 19th century and fostered huge concentrations of wealth and power was backed by a judiciary that repeatedly ruled against those who challenged the system. In this, they were merely following the prevailing philosophy of the times. Drawing on a simplified understanding of Darwinian science, many social thinkers believed that both the growth of large business at the expense of small enterprise and the wealth of a few alongside the poverty of many was “survival of the fittest,” and an unavoidable by-product of progress.
American workers, especially the skilled among them, appear to have lived at least as well as their counterparts in industrial Europe. Still, the social costs were high. As late as the year 1900, the United States had the highest job-related fatality rate of any industrialized nation in the world. Most industrial workers still worked a 10-hour day (12 hours in the steel industry), yet earned less than the minimum deemed necessary for a decent life. The number of children in the work force doubled between 1870 and 1900.
The first major effort to organize workers’ groups on a nationwide basis was with the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor in 1869. The Order was originally a secret, ritualistic society organized by Philadelphia garment workers but grew into a cooperative program, open to all workers, including African Americans, women, and farmers. The Knights grew slowly until its railway workers’ unit won a strike against the great railroad baron, Jay Gould, in 1885. Within a year they added 500,000 workers to their rolls, but, unable to repeat this success, the Knights soon fell into a decline.
The American Federation of Labor (AFL) then emerged. Rather than open membership to all, the AFL, under former cigar union official Samuel Gompers, was a group of unions focused on skilled workers. Its objectives were “pure and simple” and apolitical: increasing wages, reducing hours, and improving working conditions. This labor movement differed from the socialist views of most European labor movements.
Violence in Labor
Before and after the founding of the AFL, American labor history was violent. In the Great Rail Strike of 1877, rail workers across the nation went out in response to a 10-percent pay cut. Attempts to break the strike led to rioting and wide-scale destruction in several cities: Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, New York; and San Francisco, California. Federal troops had to be sent to several locations before the strike was ended.
Nine years later, in Chicago’s Haymarket Square incident, someone threw a bomb at police about to break up an anarchist rally in support of an ongoing strike at the McCormick Harvester Company in Chicago. In the ensuing conflict, seven policemen and at least four workers were reported killed. Some 60 police officers were injured.
In 1892, at Carnegie’s steel works in Homestead, Pennsylvania, a group of 300 Pinkerton detectives the company had hired to break a bitter strike by the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers fought a fierce and losing gun battle with strikers. The National Guard was called in to protect non-union workers and the strike was broken. Unions were not let back into the plant until 1937.
In 1894, wage cuts at the Pullman Company just outside Chicago led to a strike, which, with the support of the American Railway Union, soon tied up much of the country’s rail system. As the situation deteriorated, U.S. Attorney General Richard Olney, himself a former railroad lawyer, deputized over 3,000 men in an attempt to keep the rails open. This was followed by a federal court injunction against union interference with the trains. When rioting ensued, President Cleveland sent in federal troops, and the strike was eventually broken.
The most militant of the strike-favoring unions was the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Formed from a combination of unions fighting for better conditions in the West’s mining industry, the IWW, or “Wobblies” as they were commonly known, gained particular prominence from the Colorado mine clashes of 1903 and the singularly brutal fashion in which they were put down. Influenced by militant anarchism and openly calling for class warfare, the Wobblies gained many adherents after they won a difficult strike battle in the textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912. Their call for work stoppages in the midst of World War I, however, led to a government crackdown in 1917 that virtually destroyed them.
- What does hazardous mean?
- What caused high unemployment in the 19th century?
- Which philosophy dominated the 19th century and how can it be described?
- What objectives did the American Federation of Labor follow?
- Why did the rail workers go on strike in 1877?
- How did president Cleveland respond to the strike led by U.S. Attorney General Richard Olney?
During the 19th Century strikes have been one of the main methods for workers to speak their opinion. Discuss other means workers could use to speak their opinion and their effectiveness to change status quo.