National politics in the gilded age (1873 – 1896)

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Use the website below to answer each set of questions for each section. Be sure to read the articles it is suggested to read as well as study the maps, cartoons and other primary sources provided. This online module largely corresponds with Chapter 23: Political Paralysis in the Gilded Age.
The Gilded Age

  1. Why would Twain describe this era as the "gilded" age rather than the "golden" age?

  2. How do you interpret the message of the "Hopelessly Bound" cartoon?

  3. How do you interpret the message of the "What a Funny Little Government" cartoon?

The Election of 1880

  1. Which regions voted Democratic and why? Which voted Republican and why?

The Assassination of James Garfield

  1. What does Dr. Newman cite as the leading causes of the President's death?

The Presidency of Chester Arthur

  1. Who do protective tariffs benefit and why is it remarkable that a Republican president in the 1880's advocated lowering them?

  2. How did Arthur balance the demands of his corporate and labor constituents with the larger interests of the American people?

The Pendleton Civil Service Act

  1. What is the primary goal of the Civil Service Act?

  2. Why do you think Arthur, himself a beneficiary of the spoils system, advocated such a reform?

The Chinese Exclusion Act

  1. What did the Chinese exclusion act accomplish?

  2. Why would labor groups favor banning Chinese immigrants?

The Election Campaign of 1884

  1. Analyze the many symbolic aspects of the Harper's "Plumed Knight" cover. Consider both the setting and Blaine's attire.

  2. Summarize the accusations levied against Democrats in "Tract No. 2." Why is this an example of "bloody shirt" campaigning?

Mugwumps and the Outcome of the 1884 Election

  1. Compare the 1880 electoral map to the 1884 electoral map. Which states outside the reliably Democratic "Solid South" voted for Cleveland?

The First Cleveland Administration

  1. What problems does Cleveland see with the tax system in the United States? What actions does he recommend and why?

  2. How do you think big business, Republicans, and Northerners reacted to Cleveland's signing of the Interstate Commerce Act and his stance on the tariff? How might this affect his chances for re-election? Why?

The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887

  1. After reading the excerpts from the Interstate Commerce Act, what can you infer about the specific practices of the railroad industry that the act was designed to reform?

  2. Why was the Interstate Commerce Act important in the Gilded Age and in U.S. history in general?

The Election of 1888

  1. Compare the electoral map of 1888 with that of 1884. Which two states did Cleveland lose to Harrison? How is this related to the tariff issue?

  2. What do the election results from the 1880's tell you about the relative strength of the major parties?

The Presidency of Benjamin Harrison

  1. When both houses of Congress and the presidency are all controlled by the same party, how is the legislative process affected?

The McKinley Tariff and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act

  1. How did Harrison's policies on the silver issue and the tariff differ from those of President Cleveland?

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act

  1. What does the opinion state about the intent of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act?

  2. Does the court deny that the sugar refinery corporation is a monopoly? According to the opinion, why doesn't the law apply to them?

  3. Do you agree with the Court's conclusion that manufacturing is only indirectly related to interstate commerce in this case? Why or why not? What would your opinion be if you were on the Court?

The Election of 1892

  1. Which states did Cleveland pick up in the Election of 1892? Did these states have industrial or agrarian economies?

The Second Cleveland Administration and the Depression of 1893

  1. According to Cleveland, what is the problem with the Sherman Silver Purchase Act?

  2. What psychological effect does the depreciation of currency have, according to the President?

The Election of 1896: William Jennings Bryan

  1. Briefly summarize the economic policies of the Democrats and explain the rationale behind them.

  2. How did President Cleveland deviate from the Democrat's agenda as expressed in their 1896 platform?

  3. What planks do the parties have in common?

  4. What are some of the more radical ideas expressed in the People's Party platform? Which of them eventually became law?

  5. What does Bryan mean by "the broader class of businessmen" in the "Cross of Gold" speech?

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