“An analysis of the
popular culture of the United States from 1865 to 1900 reveals deep
class, gender and ethnic or racial divisions.” Assess the
validity of this statement.
It is possible that the
economic divisions of the reconstruction and corporate
industrial era led to the creation of racial and ethnic divisions or
vice versa, that is a question of the chicken and the egg. The
American era of reconstruction and the corporate
era the followed produced a strong division between economic classes,
ethnic groups and other racial devisions in America; such as those
expressed in it's economic, social and political events.
Life in the south after the
civil war was difficult, close to 1 in 10 southern men had been
killed during the war and allowed for a great deal of corruption in
southern politics. Carpetbaggers, often poor northerners
seeking wealth in the south, quickly took over southern state
governments including a number of governorships. The constitutions
and subsequent laws forced through were much more democratic and
repealed black codes. The repeal of black codes was not for the
black population however as much as it was for the carpetbaggers, who
could manipulate their votes with ease. Mean while in the north,
equal amounts of vote manipulation was taking place.
Through out the 1850's and
1860's William Tweed controlled the new
York politics. Tweed and people like him
(such as many of the carpetbaggers) abused his political power and in
the end, may have cost New York City 100 million dollars om
unnecessary repairs, fake bills and fake
vouchers. This political corruption was eventually revealed by
cartoonist Thomas Nast and Tween was eventually jailed. Political
power was often abused, as was shown with “Boss” Tweed
and in the Credit Mobilier Scandal for financial gain in this
reconstructive era helped deepen the economic divides in America.
These economic divides were
further expressed in Americas economic issues. Under President Grant
the central economic question was whether
of not the government should remove the greenback from circulation or
print more. There were two sides on this issue which lasted into the
progressive era. The debtor and the 'big money' or lenders. The
debtors included farmers primarily who had to buy farm equipment and
seed, to do this they were forced to borrow money so should money
devaluate, they would have to repay less money than otherwise. These
ideas lead to events such as the Coxey rebellion which cause more
fear than it ultimately need have as only 200 men continued through
to the capital. The money lenders on the other hand, wanted the
exact opposite of inflation. The money lenders wanted deflation
which would not only make sure that money had a stable value, it
would also make sure that they got their money back from the debtors.
These money lenders favored a gold standard because of this. This
among other issues is what led to the populist movement. This same
issue was later expressed by bimetallism
and the Sherman Silver Act (which was later repealed by Cleavland).
The divisions and rivalries created by this single issue was not
only expressed in all muckraker works, but also in yellow journalism
which, both of which had massive impact upon public opinion.
Muckrakers also covered
social issues however, these issues included the crimes perpetrated
by the industrialists (Robber Barons) as well as things like the safety of children.
The 1880's was the golden age for children's
literature, authors like Howard Pyle, author of Robin Hood,
and Joel Chandler Harris, who's characters Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox
and Uncle Remus were quite popular and who continue to be so today.
The mid-1880's was a time
of literary realism with the publishing of The Rise of Silas
Lapham and similar works
considering business ethics in a time of
social corruption. Other large scale social issues included the
prohibition of alcohol and restrictions upon immigration. The
prohibition of alcohol was widely promoted
by the anti-saloon league and a large number of manufactures. The
primary target of it's campaigning was the
unemployed as many manufacturers would only
hire sober workers. While the prohibition worked to a mild degree,
the fact that it affected the lower class the most did nothing but
widen the divide between the worker and the employer
in terms of equality. The desire for
restrictions upon immigration were generated out of the native born's
feeling of the superiority and their feelings of entitlement. These
desires eventually led to a 10 year ban upon Chinese
immigration and a number of quotas however for the large part,
America was still open to almost anyone.
number of things were present in the reconstructive and cooperate
industrial eras that created and widened the divides between race,
ethnicity, and economic wellbeing. One of the largest issues was
that of job availability and safety, this
one issue controlled an amazing amount of the votes in the united
states and until the populists achieved the Australian
ballot, it allowed employers like Boss
Tweed to manipulate the votes effectively.
This political corruption eventually led to the muckrakers and their
stories exposing this corruption to the public, the best example of
this can be found in Shame of the Cites.
The other issue that primarily led to the division between classes
was expressed in the populist issue. While the populist idealist
desires for inflation and what can be best expressed as rule by the
agrarian class was not perhaps the best
path for the nation as a whole, the populist movement and it's
related literature clearly expressed the
strong division between economic classes.