Victorian Era Outline

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Corruption and Reform in the Gilded Age of American Politics

Thesis: The Gilded Age of American politics was the most corrupt and lowest point of our government. Although power was ripped from the hands of the people, it eventually led to much-needed reforms during the progressive-era.

I. Politics existed to benefit interest groups during this time-period. A. Conservative presidents attempted to avoid controversy and practiced laissez-faire policies. This allowed businesses to get away with whatever they wanted. a. Rutherford B. Hayes, ended reconstruction in exchange for votes. “Corrupt Bargain” of 1877. b. Garfield, killed by civil servant; starts civil service reforms. c. Chester Arthur, elected due to strong boss system of New York. B. Tariff Controversy – Budget surplus in Washington. Politicians could either use pork-barrel bills, which would pump money into small-districts benefitting the few, or lower the tariff, which was feared by United States business. C. Politicians didn’t want to regulate railroads due to their role in Westward expansion. They believed that the railroads were fueling the American dream. d. Wabash Case (1886) – States can’t regulate interstate railroads. e. ICA – Creates ICC, supposed to regulate commerce, but hard to enforce. First step toward regulating monopolies. f. Credit Mobilier Scandal – Politicians profiting from railroads. D. Republicans control government; however, they are split between the Stalwart and Half-Breed factions. II. Corruption in the cities was prevalent in Gilded Age society. A. A political machine controls who gets elected within a city. It is also known as the boss system or machine politics. a. Boss Tweed – A political boss in New York, where this system was strong. He used the influx of new immigrants to get votes. Government leaders would then have to give these immigrants kick-backs and money from government projects. B. The...
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