The Gilded Age
By: Max Johnston
The world Gilded literally means covered thinly with gold leaf or gold paint. The word applies to 30 year period after the civil war marked by graft and corruption. Everything in America was described as "perfect" and the American dream, land of opportunity. Well this is true to an extent even though everything looked all pretty from the outside the inside was not the hype. America was gilded, made look beautiful and amazing but really, corruption and overcrowding, was happening in America. Living was poor for immigrants and everything wasn't sunshine and rainbows upon arriving.
The 1868 election had two candidates, Horatio Seymour was nominated as the Democratic candidate, while Ulysses Grant was nominated by the Republicans. Grant did little campaigning, and Seymour traveled across the nation reassuring that the South wanted to fully return to the Union. The Grant campaign made this unsuccessful by waving the "bloody shirt". This is a reference to the South and the Democrats did to the country. He was calling them traitors for the deaths that took place. Grant won 53% of the popular vote, and 214 of the 294 possible electoral votes.
To most America looked like a place of prosperity and great opportunity. Thus attracted many immigrants to the United states. There was a sudden spike in industry growth due to immigrants desperately looking for work. Conditions were poor for the new immigrants so the government decided to step in. Many associations used good old boy a system to make life better for the immigrants. Others began dealing with large blocks to influence the immigrants for votes. These leaders would call themselves bosses. These bosses would run for office and remember those who were loyal to them. When making it in office they would reward those in giving them positions they may not have familiarity called the spoils system. Then there were the machines. Tammany Hall was one of the most famous example of machine politics. It was the headquarters of the Democratic party in NYC. The boss of it was William Marcy Tweed. This political machine used bribery, and rigged elections to bilk the city of over $200 million. Some money went to supporting local businesses, and some went to constructing public buildings. Anyone doing business in the city had to give kick backs to the bosses in order to stay in business. In 1871, the New York Times published evidence of the misuse of public funds to eventually convict Tweed and the Tammany Hall. The political cartoonist Thomas Nast convey Tweed's abuses to even the illiterate through his cartoons. Tweed then bribed Nast $100,000 to end the pictorial campaign. Nast refused that and even higher offers. Nat ultimately took down Tweed. Then Tweed then to Spain to escape arrest. Although even in Spain he was recognized by Nast's cartoons. Spanish authorities then sent Tweed back to the US. Samuel Tilden prosecuted Tweed, and Tweed was convicted in 1872 and died in jail. Karma struck this man with brute force.
After the election of 1876, the outcome became dependent on disputed returns from Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. They were the only 3 states still with Reconstruction Era Republican governments. Allies of the Republican party candidate Rutherford Hayes met in secret with moderate Southern democrats. This was in order to negotiate acceptance of Hayes' election. The Democrats agreed not to block Hayes' victory only if Republicans withdraw all troops from the South. As a result, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina were back to being Democratic and the Reconstruction Era was officially over.