MGC HIST 2112 - Essay 3 Who Improved the Most from 1870 to 1900

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US History Online Who did Life improved between 1870 and 1900? And who’s life got worse in that time period?A new America was waiting to be formed. The Gilded Age was only 5 years after the Civil War had ended. The country was trying to fit its’ pieces back together after the war violently ripped it apart. The North, also known as the Union army, had finally found the right pressure points to get the Confederate army to surrender. A new America had to be formed, with a new government to guide it. The former adversaries had to come together and become a single entity under an agreed upon federal governance. The Confederate South was brutalized and battered, it was destroyed and now dependent on its former adversary turned ally: The North, the Union. As slavery came to an end in the South (or did it?), what was to become of the former slaves? What about the former slave owners? As the South struggled for decades to pick up the pieces, business was exploding in the North and East coast, and later the West coast. Who would benefit from this prosperity? How would former slaves impact the societies of the South? These questions would be answered during this time period. Sometimes the competing interests and factions could engage one another rhetorically, and other times, violently and without mercy. Capital vs labor, black Southerners vs the white southern social order. The old Political parties wrangled for prominence while fighting off novel energy, fueled by populism and the cries of the forgotten. But no matter the conflict that occurred or the lulls of peace in between the conflicts, there was one group that always benefitted during this era. The robber barons, those people with the nose forpower, were able to access the halls of governmental power and consistently benefit from their pursuits. Some of the barons created wealth through ingenuity, talent, and grit, some achieved a favorable outcome through duplicity, ruthlessness and cunning. Whichever their methods they were achieved beyond anyone’s (except JP Morgan’s) wildest dreams. In contrast, life for the average American worker was almost torturous, especially for blacks, Chinese, and other “non-traditional” immigrants.As cities expanded and industrialization developed, the common worker was squashed under the boot of this revolutionary progress. Big business, like Standard Oil, and Carnegie Steel had quashed many small artisans and farmers, pushing former business owners into the labor force as employees. Small business couldn’t keep up with government and the forming conglomerates occurred. By 1880, fewer Americans were farming than worked in a factory—before, the opposite was true. Life for the average American worker, was “uncomfortable and unsafe,” remarked one writer, Hamlin Garland. This work was sometimes 6-7 days long, with 12+hour shifts. No age floor or child labor laws. Environments were filled with toxic air, chemicals, and very little safeguards if any. These conditions mixed with the marriage between big business (especially the rail and agricultural industry) and government, further exacerbated the tension and bleakness of the American worker. Low morale and dissatisfaction caused many Americans to question this new era of American prosperity. Prosperity wasn’t for everybody but the very few. The American people were looking for hope, some form of relief. A light to guide through the sea of smog and injustice they felt daily. They felt betrayed by government, they felt betrayed by the promise of hard work. The American people had exhausted all optimism with big business and the government officials who were inextricable from them. This era was ripe for a Labor movement, for the unions. Large Unions like the Amalgamated Association of American Iron and Steel Workers and theAlliance (Farmer’s Alliance) had chapters in several states by 1890. The Unions wanted better compensation, an eight-hour shift (which eventually happened by 1886), and they wanted collusion between government and corporations to stop. When union demands weren’t met, sit outs happened, strikes were frequent. Strikes were an effective way to attack a company’s economic health. Clashes often occurred between the workers and the employers and the streets were paved in blood. Such as what occurred in the Homestead strike of July 6th, 1892. Henry Frick, one of Carnegie’s managers(or lieutenants) were weary of the Amalgamated Association of American Iron and Steel Workers and they hired a private security militia, but the Pinkerton Agency as it was called, could not contain the union fighters. The federal government was called to intervene on Carnegie’s behalf. 8,000 federal troops were sent to quell the clash and stop the demonstrations. Pinkerton fighters were killed, union fighters were killed, some jailed. And this turbulent climate wasn’t unique to Homestead. Similar clashes happened between American Railway Union and the federal government. The leader of the American Railway, Eugene V. Debs was arrested in 1894 after the Pullman Strike, in Chicago and Sacramento. 34 workers were killed. Eugene upon release in 1895, was greeted by around 300,000 people. And he became like a martyr of this class war.This is was the Gilded age. A tremendous advancement and growth of industry was only matched by the growth of economic inequality. America emerges as a Super-Power surpassing much of the incumbent powers of Europe. American prosperity and liberty are given to those who could earn it by crooked means or by invention—some used both crime and invention. It was the age of the robber baron. Robber barons such as JP Morgan hated competition. He felt he was destined to be in charge, and like other robbers, he used government interference and takeovers to sustain his economic power. Many corporations became few corporations as companies like Standard Oil gobbled up other oil companies. The same happened in the steel industry with Carnegie Steel. American liberty had been defined, and redefined, costed many lives, and livelihoods. Some never saw prosperity during or even after this period for several decades. Blacks were still locked out of American life and subjected to torture greater than the average factory worker. There is no question the American worker suffered. Particularly, Chinese and Black workers, who were targeted by the local governments in which they resided. California enacted laws to suppress the

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MGC HIST 2112 - Essay 3 Who Improved the Most from 1870 to 1900

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