Chapter 23 Activity
The Gilded Age
Definition of gilded
Gilded (verb) - to cover (something) with a thin layer of gold
election of Grant and the "Bloody Shirt" campaign
Corruption during the Gilded Age
During the Gilded Age, governments were naive about the ways individuals and companies made money in business, both legally and illegally. They weren’t able to deal with cutthroat business practices, so they continued which cause lots of corruption. When it finally became very clear that some regulation was necessary, government didn’t know where or how to apply the controls.
One scandal during the Gilded Age dealt with the Union Pacific Railroad Company. The Union Pacific directors created Credit Mobilier that was to supply materials and labor. Though they were the directors of both companies, they kept their involvement with the Credit Mobilier quiet. Within a few years of the Railroad’s operation, the company went bankrupt. A New York newspaper exposed the scandalous co-ownership of the companies in 1872, and charges were confirmed by congressional investigation. Credit Mobilier tried covering up what they did by giving congressmen shares of its valuable stock that paid dividends of as much as 348%.
- Boss Tweed Spoils System
William Marcy Tweed, otherwise known as "Boss Tweed" was the head of Tammany Hall in New York. The Tammany Hall machine politics of the late 1860's and early 1870's used bribery and rigged elections (aka Spoils System) to con the city out of $200 million. The spoils system is a practice where a political party or member offers government jobs to the people in exchange for their vote. This often harmed the society as these people elected for office were inept and unskilled for that position. Tweed and other political machines did not assign roles accordingly which concluded to many malfunctions.
Tweed also traded jobs, housing, and other important items in return for the immigrant's votes. A portion of this money went to creating public jobs and constructing public buildings but people who worked in the cities (like contractors and suppliers) had to give kickbacks to the machine bosses in order to maintain their businesses. Because of this, Boss Tweed gained fortunes due to kickbacks and the bribes. Many of the people in New York were not convinced of the benefits the Boss System provided but those who complained were threatened or had their property taxes raised. In 1871, the New York Times published sufficient evidence that Boss Tweed had misused financial funds and convicted him and other bosses for their wrong doings. Political cartoon artist Thomas Nast portrayed the corruption of Boss Tweed through pictorial campaigns gaining support from immigrants and citizens.