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The History of Gilded Age

The Gilded Age was a period in U.S history that occurred in the late 19th century around 1870-1889. This period was characterized by the second Industrial Revolution and the post-reconstruction effects of increased agricultural activities. Consequently, this period witnessed a massive growth in the U.S economy whose outcome was an increase in the population, wealth, and luxury like never before. In addition, this was the era of extreme political partisanship with many of the political leaders associating themselves with certain political parties. However, most politicians of this age were deemed corrupt and lived in a lot of luxury. It can therefore be said that, though this age was dazzling on the surface, beneath it was rampant corruption in government. The following paragraph will illustrate the depth of this corruption.

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The Gilded Age was marked by corrupt leaders both in the Federal government and State authority. Corruption was part of life during the Gilded Age and scandalous events were viewed as a normal routine. Rich businessmen would buy their way into office without many objections and political favors would be traded in like any other commodity. Businessmen such as Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Morgan, and Rockefeller controlled the political affairs of the U.S at that time and would buy in political office when they so wish to. As a result, this period was characterized by a lot of scandals whereby contracts were offered based on political payoff rather than on the quality of work that one could accomplish. A case in point was the Whiskey ring scandal by the Republicans. This was a conspiracy among tax collectors and the influential political figures at the time which involved the diversion of Federal tax revenues onto a Liquor business. As a result of these rampant corruptions, Congress became disorderly and inefficient in its work. A quorum was hard to be arrived at given the drunken nature of the members of Congress. Consequently, the moral standards of the members of Congress declined as seen by the unnecessary chewing and spitting on the floor of the House. The House was filled with Tobacco everywhere making it unfit for fruitful discussion. The Senate, on the other hand, was also characterized by corruption in the form of auctioning the Senate seat to the highest bidder in the Federal authority. As a result, the Senate came to be identified as a “rich man’s club.” Very few legislations were passed during that time, hence, the peoples’ desires were rarely fulfilled by the government. As a result, people became disappointed with the government especially women whose voting rights were not provided for by the Fifth Amendment. This implied that; women would be inactive in politics thus resulting in the formation of various movements such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (Sage, www.sagehistory.net).

The Gilded Age leaders compared to the previous leaders such as Lincoln are seen as leaders of low quality. This argument is based on the fact that these leaders were uncommitted to implementing reforms that would improve peoples’ well-being. Unlike the previous leaders who initiated reforms meant to bring inequality, justice, and freedom such as the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gilded Age leaders initiated reforms that favored the rich businessmen while neglecting the common workers. These reforms included currency and tariff reforms meant to make the environment friendlier to the business community. Therefore, these leaders became more self-centered. Secondly, the leaders before the Gilded Age leaders practiced non-partisan politics. However, in the Gilded Age, political affiliation had a significant meaning since favors would be awarded to members of the ruling political party. Therefore, to be on the safe side, one had to identify himself with the ruling party to gain political favors. However, in the previous leadership, the ruling political party concentrated on uniting the Americans and ensuring equity among everybody especially the African Americans who had just been liberated from slavery. Party politics was a rare phenomenon and was only intense while campaigning for an office.

Works Cited

Sage, Henry J. Politics in the Gilded Age. 2006. Web.

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