At the conclusion of the Civil War, the United States remained bitterly divided. Reconstruction and its failure left the Southern whites in a position of firm control over its black population, denying them their civil rights and keeping them in economic, social, and political second class status.
An unprecedented wave of immigration, 37 million people between 1840 and 1920, served both to provide cheap labor for American industry and to create diverse communities in previously undeveloped areas, such as California. The expansion of industry and population had a substantial cost as well. Native American tribes were generally forced onto small reservations so that white farmers and ranchers could take their lands. Abusive industrial practices led to the rise of the labor movement in the United States, which was sometimes violent.
The United States began its rise to international power in this period with substantial population and industrial growth domestically, along with numerous imperialist ventures abroad. By the late nineteenth century, the United States had become a leading global industrial power, building on new technologies (such as the telegraph and the Bessemer process), an expanding railroad network, and abundant natural resources to usher in the Second Industrial Revolution.
During this period, the United States conquered Cuba, which passed from Spanish rule to a de facto American one, and annexed Hawaii and Puerto Rico. At the end of the Spanish-American War, it acquired the Philippines, and after suppressing an independence movement in a war which killed hundreds of thousands of Filipino civilians, it began modernizing the islands, especially in terms of public health measures to stop epidemics that killed hundreds of thousands. Deciding not to permanently keep the Philippines, it promised independence in 1946.
Before his assassination, Abraham Lincoln had endorsed moderate plans for reconstruction. However, the immense human cost of the war and the social changes wrought by it led Congress to resist readmitting the rebel states without first imposing preconditions, including protection for the freed blacks. The obstinance of Lincoln's successor Andrew Johnson in opposing the wishes of the Republican majority in Congress lead to Congressional Reconstruction, also known as Radical Reconstruction. From 1867 to 1869, Congress passed a series of laws establishing the conditions and procedures for reintegrating the Southern states. These included Civil Rights Acts, Reconstruction Acts, and Constitutional Amendments.
Under Reconstruction, Republicans took control of Southern State governments from the Democrats and proceeded to comply with re-admission requirements. All Southern states were readmitted by 1870, and Reconstruction continued until 1877, when the contentious Presidential election of 1876 was decided in favor of Rutherford B. Hayes, supported by Northern states, over his opponent, Samuel J. Tilden. Some historians have argued that the election was handed to Hayes in exchange for an end to Reconstruction. This theory characterizes the settlement of that election as the "Compromise of 1877". In any case, Reconstruction generally came to an end at this time since white Northerners had lost interest in trying to protect Southern blacks from Southern whites.
The end of Reconstruction marked the demise of the brief period of civil rights and civil liberties for African Americans in the South, where most lived. The South then created a segregated society through its "Jim Crow Laws", with the Southern white elites ("Redeemers", the southern wing of the "Bourbon Democrats") in firm political and economic control under a dominant-party system, called "The Solid South". Furthermore, local white officials and mobs practiced lynching as a mechanism of terror to keep the black population under control and banned blacks from voting or otherwise seeking individual rights.
As in the Eastern U.S., expansion into the plains and mountains by miners, ranchers and settlers led to increasing conflicts with the indigenous population of the West. These wars, with their attendant atrocities, continued to 1890.
Long before this, the means of subsistence and the societies of the indigenous population of the Great Plains had been destroyed by the slaughter of the buffalo, driven almost to extinction in the decade after 1870 by indiscriminate white hunting.
U.S. Federal government policy, since the James Monroe Administration, had been to move the indigenous population beyond the reach of the white frontier into a series of Indian reservations. White "reformers", on the other hand, believed the indigenous population should be forcibly assimilated into white culture. The federal government even set up a school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in an attempt to impose the values and beliefs of the U.S. white population on indigenous youths.
In 1887, the Dawes Act reversed U.S. Indian policy, permitting the U.S. President to divide up tribal land and parcel out 160 acres (0.65 km²) of land to each head of a family. Such allotments were to be held in trust by the government for 25 years, after which time the owner won full title to the land, as well as citizenship. Lands not thus distributed, however, were offered for sale to settlers. This policy eventually resulted to the Indian loss, by seizure and sale, of almost half of their tribal lands. It also destroyed much of the communal organization of the tribes, further disrupting the traditional culture of the surviving indigenous population. The Dawes Act was an effort to integrate Indians into the mainstream; the majority accepted integration and were absorbed into American society, leaving a trace of Indian ancestry in millions of American families. Those who refused to assimilate remained in poverty on the reservations, supported by Federal food, medicine and schooling.
In 1934, U.S. policy was reversed again by the Indian Reorganization Act which attempted to protect tribal and communal life on the reservations.
From 1865 to about 1913, the U.S. grew to become the world's leading industrial nation. The availability of land and labor, the diversity of climate, the ample presence of navigable canals, rivers, and coastal waterways filling the transportation needs of the emerging industrial economy, and the abundance of natural resources all fostered the cheap extraction of energy, fast transport, and the availability of capital that powered this Second Industrial Revolution.
"Where there was iron there was coal" shifted production from artisans to factories, the Second Industrial Revolution pioneered an expansion in organization, coordination, and the scale of industry, spurred on by technology and transportation advancements. Railroads opened up the West, creating markets where none had existed. The First Transcontinental Railroad, built by Irish and Chinese immigrants, provided access to previously remote expanses of land. Railway construction boosted demand for capital, credit, and land.
New technologies in iron and steel manufacturing, such as the Bessemer process and open-hearth furnace, combined with similar innovations in chemistry and other sciences to vastly improve productivity. New communication tools, such as the telegraph and telephone allowed corporate managers to coordinate across great distances. Innovations also occurred in how work was organized, such as when Henry Ford's development of the moving assembly line and Frederick Winslow Taylor's ideas of scientific management.
To finance the larger-scale enterprises required during this era, the Stockholder Corporation emerged as the dominant form of business organization. Corporations expanded by combining into trusts, and by creating single firms out of competing firms, known as monopolies. High tariffs sheltered U.S. factories and workers from foreign competition, federal railroad subsidies enriched investors, farmers and railroad workers, and created hundreds of towns and cities. All branches of government generally sought to stop labor from organizing into unions or from organizing strikes.
Powerful industrialists, such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Jay Gould, known collectively as "robber barons", held great wealth and power. In a context of cutthroat competition for wealth accumulation, the skilled labor of the old-fashioned artisan and craftsman gave way to well-paid skilled workers and engineers, as the nation deepened its technological base. Meanwhile, a steady stream of immigrants encouraged the availability of cheap labor, especially in the mining and manufacturing sectors.
The cohesive ruling class of the Northeast possessed the confidence to proclaim an "American Renaissance", which could be identified in the rush of new public institutions that marked the period—hospitals, museums, schools, opera houses, public libraries, symphony orchestras— and by the Beaux-Arts architectural idiom in which they splendidly stood forth, after the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.
Also important in the Gilded Age were drastic educational changes, immigrant assimilation, religion movements, and huge empires built in a newly national press, notably by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer.
From 1840 to 1920, an unprecedented and diverse stream of immigrants arrived in the United States, approximately 37 million in total. They came from a variety of locations: 6 million from Germany; 4.5 million from Ireland; 4.75 million from Italy; 4.2 million people from England, Scotland and Wales; 4.2 million from the Austro-Hungarian Empire; 2.3 million from Scandinavia; and 3.3 million people from Russia (mostly Jews, and Poles and Lithuanian Catholics). Most came through the port of New York City, and from 1892, through the immigration station on Ellis Island, but various ethnic groups settled in different locations. New York and other large cities of the East Coast became home to large Jewish, Irish, and Italian populations, while many Germans and Central Europeans moved to the Midwest, obtaining jobs in industry and mining. At the same time, about one million French Canadians migrated from Canada to New England.
Immigrants came for a variety of reasons, such as to find economic opportunity (in the forms of steady factory employment or arable land to farm) or to escape from the Irish Potato Famine. Some Irish were recruited right off the boats into the Union Army during the Civil War. Many immigrants fled from religious or political persecution, especially conservative Lutherans from Saxony (Germany) and Jews from Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 19th century. Life was hard in Europe and constant wars and epidemics were reason for massive immigration toward better life in the United States. However, many of these new immigrants were subject to prejudice and discrimination. And all workers faced the dangerous and exploitative labor conditions prevalent throughout much of the United States.
While people from many countries made their way to the United States, others were unwelcome and even excluded by law. There was for example, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the Gentlemen's Agreement stopping Japanese immigration.
In the end, millions of new immigrants had to dig up their native roots from the Old World, and come in hope of finding a better life in the New World. This desire for freedom and prosperity led to the famous term; the American Dream.
Starting in the end of the 1870s, African Americans lost many of the civil rights obtained during the Reconstruction and became increasingly subject to racial discrimination. Increased racist violence, including lynchings and race riots, lead to a strong deterioration of living conditions of African Americans in the Southern states. Jim Crow laws, established after the Compromise of 1877, and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan were also important causes of uneasiness. Many decided to flee for the Midwest (as soon as 1879), an exile which was massified during the Great Migration which began before World War I. Blackface minstrelsy reproduced racist stereotypes (famous actors included Sam Lucas (1850-1916), who was the first black man to portray the role of Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852).
D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915) popularized the second rise of the KKK, while "scientific racism" theories, gave a new legitimity to previous racist prejudices and to proponents of white supremacism. Thus, the amateur anthropologist Madison Grant, head of the New York Zoological Society, had Congolese pygmy Ota Benga put on display at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, in 1906, alongside apes and other animals. At the behest of Grant, a prominent eugenicist, the zoo director placed Ota Benga in a cage with an orangutan and labeled him The Missing Link, illustrating that in evolutionary terms Africans like Ota Benga were purported to be closer to apes than were Europeans.
Despite their remarkable progress, 19th-century U.S. farmers experienced recurring periods of hardship. Several basic factors involved—soil exhaustion, natural disasters, a decline in self-sufficiency, and the lack of adequate legislative protection and aid. Perhaps most important, however, was over-production.
Along with the mechanical improvements which greatly increased yield per unit area, the amount of land under cultivation grew rapidly throughout the second half of the century, as the railroads and the gradual displacement of the Plains Indians opened up new areas of the West for settlement. A similar expansion of agricultural lands in countries, such as Canada, Argentina, and Australia, created problems of oversupply and low prices in the international market, where much of U.S. agricultural production was sold.
The farther west the settlers went, the more dependent they became on the monopolistic railroads to move their goods to market. At the same time, farmers paid high costs for manufactured goods, because of the protective tariffs that Congress, backed by Eastern capitalist industrial interests, had long supported. Over time, the Midwestern and Western farmer fell ever more deeply in debt to the banks that held their mortgages.
In the South, the fall of the Confederacy brought major changes in agricultural practices. The most significant of these was sharecropping, where tenant farmers "shared" up to half of their crop with the landowners, in exchange for seed and essential supplies. An estimated 80% of the South's African American farmers and 40% of its white ones lived under this debilitating system following the Civil War. Most sharecroppers were locked in a cycle of debt, from which the only hope of escape was increased planting. This led to the over-production of cotton and tobacco (and thus to declining prices and decreased income), exhaustion of the soil, and increased poverty among both the landowners and tenants.
The first organized effort to address general agricultural problems was the Grange movement. Launched in 1867, by employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Granges focused initially on social activities to counter the isolation most farm families encountered. Women's participation was actively encouraged. Spurred by the Panic of 1873, the Grange soon grew to 20,000 chapters and one-and-a-half million members.
Although most of them ultimately failed, the Granges set up their own marketing systems, stores, processing plants, factories and cooperatives. The movement also enjoyed some political success during the 1870s. A few states passed "Granger Laws," limiting railroad and warehouse fees.
By 1880, the Granger movement began to decline and was replaced by the Farmers' Alliances. By 1890, the Alliance movements had members from New York to California totaling about 1.5 million. A parallel African American organization, the Colored Farmers National Alliance, numbered over a million members.
From the beginning, the Farmers Alliances were political organizations with elaborate economic programs. According to one early platform, its purpose was to "unite the farmers of America for their protection against class legislation and the encroachments of concentrated capital." Their program also called for the regulation—if not the outright nationalization—of the railroads; currency inflation to provide debt relief; the lowering of the tariff; and the establishment of government-owned storehouses and low-interest lending facilities.
During the late 1880s, a series of droughts devastated the West. Western Kansas lost half its population during a four-year span. To make matters worse, the McKinley Tariff of 1890 was one of the highest the country had ever seen.
By 1890, the level of agrarian distress was at an all-time high. Working with sympathetic Democrats in the South and small third parties in the West, the Farmer's Alliance made a push for political power. From these elements, a new political party, known as the Populist Party, emerged. The elections of 1890 brought the new party into coalitions that controlled parts of state government in a dozen Southern and Western states and sent a score of Populist senators and representatives to Congress.
Its first convention was in 1892, when delegates from farm, labor and reform organizations met in Omaha, Nebraska, determined at last to make their mark on a U.S. political system that they viewed as hopelessly corrupted by the monied interests of the industrial and commercial trusts.
The pragmatic portion of the Populist platform focused on issues of land, transportation, and finance, including the unlimited coinage of silver. The Populists showed impressive strength in the West and South in the 1892 elections, and their candidate for President polled more than a million votes. But it was the currency question, pitting advocates of silver against those who favored gold, that soon overshadowed all other issues. Agrarian spokesmen in the West and South demanded a return to the unlimited coinage of silver. Convinced that their troubles stemmed from a shortage of money in circulation, they argued that increasing the volume of money would indirectly raise prices for farm products and drive up industrial wages, thus allowing debts to be paid with inflated currency.
Conservative groups and the financial classes, on the other hand, believed that such a policy would be disastrous, and they insisted that inflation, once begun, could not be stopped. Railroad bonds, the most important financial instrument of the time, were payable in gold. If fares and freight rates were set in half-price silver dollars, railroads would go bankrupt in weeks, throwing hundreds of thousands of men out of work and destroying the industrial economy. Only the gold standard, they said, offered stability.
The financial Panic of 1893 heightened the tension of this debate. Bank failures abounded in the South and Midwest; unemployment soared and crop prices fell badly. The crisis, and (Democratic) President Grover Cleveland's inability to solve it, nearly broke the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party, which supported silver, absorbed the remnants of the Populist movement as the presidential elections of 1896 neared. The Democratic convention that year was witness to one of the most famous speeches in U.S. political history. Pleading with the convention not to "crucify mankind on a cross of gold," William Jennings Bryan, the young Nebraskan champion of silver, won the Democrats' presidential nomination. The remaining Populists also endorsed Bryan, hoping to retain some influence by having a voice inside the Bryan movement. Despite carrying the South and all of the West except California and Oregon, Bryan lost the more populated, industrial North and East—and the election—to the Republican William McKinley.
The following year, the country's finances began to improve, mostly from restored business confidence. Silverites—who did not realize that most transactions were handled by bank checks, not sacks of gold—believed the new prosperity was spurred by the discovery of gold in the Yukon. In 1898, the Spanish-American War drew the nation's attention further away from Populist issues. If the movement was dead, however, its ideas were not. Once the Populists supported an idea, it became so tainted that the vast majority of American politicians rejected it; only years later, after the taint had been forgotten, was it possible to achieve Populist reforms, such as the direct popular election of Senators.
Relative to the life of a present day American industrial worker, the life of a 19th-century U.S. industrial worker was not easy. Even in good times wages were low, hours long and working conditions hazardous. As published in McClure's Magazine in 1894: "The coal mine workers breathe this atmosphere until their lungs grow heavy and sick with it" for only "fifty-five cents a day each." The situation was worse for women and children, who made up a high percentage of the work force in some industries and often received but a fraction of the wages a man could earn. Periodic economic crises swept the nation, further eroding industrial wages and producing high levels of unemployment and underemployment.
The elimination of competition and the creation of monopolies often forced workers to work for specific companies, with little choice. Although the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 forbade the existence of monopolies as a "felony", major corporations found loopholes that allowed them to continue controlling national industries. The companies usually demanded long hours of exhausting work for low pay and no benefits.
At the same time, technological improvements, which added to the nation's productivity, continually reduced the demand for skilled labor and increased the demand for unskilled labor. And the unskilled labor pool was constantly growing, as unprecedented numbers of immigrants—18 million between 1880 and 1910—entered the U.S., eager for work.
Before 1874, when Massachusetts passed the nation's first legislation limiting the number of hours women and child factory workers could perform to 10 hours a day, virtually no labor legislation existed in the country. Indeed, it was not until the 1930s that the Federal government became actively involved. Until then, the field was left to the state and local authorities, few of whom were as responsive to the workers as they were to wealthy industrialists.
The "crony capitalism", which dominated the second half of the 19th century and fostered huge concentrations of wealth and power, was backed by a judiciary, which consistently ruled against those who challenged the established system. In this, judges were merely following the prevailing philosophy of the times. As John D. Rockefeller is reported to have said: "the growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest." This "Social Darwinism," as it was known, had many proponents who argued that any attempt to regulate business was tantamount to impeding the natural evolution of the species.
Yet the costs of this indifference to the victims of industrialism were high. For millions, living and working conditions were poor, and the hope of escaping from a lifetime of poverty was slight. That industrialization tightened the net of poverty around America's workers was even admitted by corporate leaders, such as Andrew Carnegie, who noted "the contrast between the palace of the millionaire and the cottage of the laborer." As late as 1900, the United States had the highest job-related fatality rate of any industrialized nation in the world. Most industrial workers still worked a 10-hour day (12 hours in the steel industry), yet earned from 20 to 40 percent less than they needed. The situation was only worse for children, whose numbers in the work force doubled between 1870 and 1900.
The first major effort to organize workers' groups on a nationwide basis appeared with The Noble Order of the Knights of Labor in 1869. Originally a secret, ritualistic society organized by Philadelphia garment workers, it was open to all workers, including African Americans, women and farmers. The Knights grew slowly until they succeeded in facing down the great railroad baron, Jay Gould, in an 1885 strike. Within a year, they added 500,000 workers to their rolls.
The Knights of Labor soon fell into decline, however, and their place in the labor movement was gradually taken by the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Rather than open its membership to all, the AFL, under former cigar-makers union official Samuel Gompers, focused on skilled workers. His objectives were "pure and simple": increasing wages, reducing hours and improving working conditions. As such, Gompers helped turn the labor movement away from the socialist views earlier labor leaders had espoused.
Non-skilled workers' goals—and the unwillingness of business owners to grant them—resulted in some of the most violent labor conflicts in the nation's history. The first of these was the Great Railroad Strike in 1877, when railworkers across the nation went on strike in response to a 10-percent pay cut by owners. Attempts to break the strike led to bloody uprisings in several cities: Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, New York; and San Francisco, California.
The Haymarket Riot took place in 1886, when someone threw a bomb at police dispersing a rally called to protest the deaths of two workers who had been shot and killed by police during a strike at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago. Eleven people were killed, along with unknown dozens injured, at Haymarket.
Next came the riots of 1892 at Carnegie's steel works in Homestead, Pennsylvania. A group of 300 Pinkerton detectives, whom the company had hired to break a bitter strike by the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers, were fired upon and 10 were killed. As a result, the National Guard was called in to subdue the striking workers; non-union workers were hired and the strike broken. Unions were not allowed back into the Homestead plant until 1937.
Two years later, wage cuts at the Pullman Palace Car Company, just outside Chicago, led to a strike, which, with the support of the American Railway Union, soon brought the nation's railway industry to a halt. As was usual during this time, the Federal government, then under President Grover Cleveland, stepped in on the side of business. U.S. Attorney General Richard Olney, himself a former lawyer for the railroad industry, deputized over 3,000 men in an attempt to keep the rails open. This was followed by a Federal court injunction against union interference with the operation of the trains. When workers refused to bow to the maneuverings of the railroad industry and the Federal government, Cleveland again sent in Federal troops. The strike was eventually broken.
The most militant working class organization of the time was the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Formed from an amalgam of unions fighting for better conditions in the West's mining industry, the IWW, or "Wobblies" as they were commonly known, gained particular prominence from its incendiary and revolutionary rhetoric. Openly calling for class warfare, the Wobblies gained many adherents after they won a difficult 1912 textile strike (commonly known as the "Bread and Roses" strike) in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
The findings of the 1890 Census, popularized by historian Frederick Jackson Turner in his paper entitled The Significance of the Frontier in American History, contributed to fears of dwindling natural resources. The Panic of 1893 and the ensuing depression also led some businessmen and politicians to come to the same conclusion as influential European imperialists (e.g., Léopold II of Belgium, Jules Ferry, Benjamin Disraeli, Joseph Chamberlain, and Francesco Crispi) had reached nearly a generation earlier in Europe: that industry had apparently over-expanded, producing more goods than domestic consumers could buy.
Like the Long Depression in Europe, which bred doubts regarding enduring strength of world capitalism, the main features of the Panic of 1893 included deflation, rural decline, and unemployment (indicative of under-consumption), which aggravated the bitter social protests of the Gilded Age, the Populist movement, the Free Silver crusade, and violent labor disputes.
Similarly, the post-1873 period in Europe saw a reemergence of far more militant working-class organizations and cycles of large strikes. The rapid turn to the "New Imperialism" in the late nineteenth century can be correlated with cyclically spaced economic depressions that adversely affected many elite groups. Like the Long Depression, an era of increasing unemployment and deflated prices for manufactured goods, the Panic of 1893 contributed to fierce competition over markets in the growing "spheres of influence" of the United States, which tended to overlap with Britain's, especially in the Pacific and South America.
Some U.S. politicians, such as Henry Cabot Lodge, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt, advocated an aggressive foreign policy to pull the United States out of the depression of the second Grover Cleveland Administration, more aggressively than Cleveland was willing to pursue.
Just as the German Reich reacted to depression with the adoption of tariff protection in 1879, so did the United States with the landslide election victory of William McKinley, who had risen to national prominence six years earlier with the passage of the McKinley Tariff of 1890.
Just as Germany emerged as a great power after victory in the Franco-Prussian War completed the process of its unification, so the U.S. emerged as a great power after victory in the Spanish-American War. Like other newly industrializing great powers, the U.S. adopted protectionism, seized a colonial empire of its own (1898), and built up a powerful navy (the "Great White Fleet)." On the Pacific, since the Meiji Restoration, Japan's development followed a similar pattern, following the Western lead in industrialization and militarism, enabling it to gain a foothold or "sphere of influence" in Qing China.
As spoils from the Spanish-American War, the U.S. acquired the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Although U.S. capital investments within the Philippines and Puerto Rico were relatively small (figures that would seemingly detract from broader economic implications on first glance), these colonies were strategic outposts for expanding trade with Latin America and Asia, particularly China.
The U.S. took possession of the Philippine Islands from Spain in 1898. The natives of those islands had already begun a war of independence from Spain, a conflict that continued against a new enemy when the U.S. did not immediately set the Philippines independent. The United States found itself in a familiar colonial role when it suppressed an armed independence movement in the first decade of its Philippine occupation. During the ensuing Philippine-American War, 4,234 U.S. soldiers were killed, and thousands more were wounded. Philippine military deaths were estimated at roughly 20,000. Filipino civilian deaths, from war, famine, and disease, are unknown, but some estimates place them as high as one million—over 10% of the Philippine population.
U.S. attacks into the countryside often included scorched earth campaigns, where entire villages were burned and destroyed, torture (water cure) was practiced, and civilians were forcibly concentrated into "protected zones." Reports of the execution of U.S. soldiers, taken prisoner by the Filipinos, led to reprisals by American forces. Many U.S. officers and soldiers called the war a "nigger killing business." Other civilian casualties resulted from war-time disease and famine.
During the U.S. occupation, English was declared the official language, although the languages of the Philippine people were Spanish, Visayan, Tagalog, Ilokano and other native languages. Six hundred American teachers were imported aboard the U.S.S. Thomas. Also, the Roman Catholic Church was disestablished, and a considerable amount of church land was purchased and redistributed.
In 1914, Dean C. Worcester, U.S. Secretary of the Interior for the Philippines (1901-1913), described "the regime of civilization and improvement which started with American occupation and resulted in developing naked savages into cultivated and educated men."
Nevertheless, many Americans opposed American involvement in the Philippines, leading to the abandonment of attempts to construct a permanent naval base for use as an entry point to the Chinese market. In 1916, Congress guaranteed the independence of the Philippines by 1945.
The U.S. had become interested in constructing a canal across Panama to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt supported the independence of Panama from Colombia in order to construct and have control over the Panama Canal.
In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt announced his "Corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine, stating that the United States would intervene to protect U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere should Latin American governments prove incapable or unstable.
U.S. interest in Nicaragua arose from its possible use as an alternative Atlantic-Pacific canal route. In 1909, Nicaraguan President José Santos Zelaya resigned after the triumph of U.S.-backed rebels. This was followed up by the 1912-1933 U.S. occupation of Nicaragua.
The United States military occupation of Haiti, in 1915, followed the mob execution of Haiti's leader but was largely justified to the U.S. public as a consolidation of American control in the face of a possible German invasion of the island. Fears of German takeover were somewhat realistic: Germans controlled 80% of the economy by 1914; the major railroad was controlled by Hamburg bankers; and the Germans were even bankrolling revolutions that kept the country in political turmoil. The conquest resulted in a 19-year-long United States occupation of Haiti (1915-1934).
In April 1914, U.S. troops occupied the Mexican port of Veracruz following the Tampico Incident; the reason for the intervention was Woodrow Wilson's desire to overthrow the Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta.
In 1916, the U.S. occupied the Dominican Republic.
In March 1916, Pancho Villa led 1,500 Mexican raiders in a cross-border attack against Columbus, New Mexico, attacked a U.S. Cavalry detachment, seized 100 horses and mules, burned the town, and killed 17 of its residents. President Woodrow Wilson responded by sending 12,000 troops, under Gen. John J. Pershing, into Mexico to pursue Villa. The Pancho Villa Expedition to capture Villa failed in its objectives and was withdrawn in January 1917.
The presidential election of 1900 gave the U.S. a chance to pass judgment on the McKinley Administration, especially its foreign policy. Meeting at Philadelphia, the Republicans expressed jubilation over the successful outcome of the war with Spain, the restoration of prosperity, and the effort to obtain new markets through the Open Door Policy. McKinley's re-election was a foregone conclusion.
But the President did not live long enough to enjoy his victory. In September 1901, while attending an exposition in Buffalo, New York, McKinley was shot down by assassin Leon Czolgosz. He was the third President to be assassinated, all since the Civil War. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt assumed the presidency.
In domestic as well as international affairs, Roosevelt's accession coincided with a new epoch in American political life. The continent was peopled with non-natives; the frontier was disappearing. The country's political foundations had endured the vicissitudes of foreign and civil war, the tides of prosperity and depression. Immense strides had been made in agriculture, mining, and industry. However, the influence of big business was now more firmly entrenched than ever. The 1883 Civil Service Reform Act (or Pendleton Act), which placed most federal employees on the merit system and marked the end of the so-called "spoils system," permitted the professionalization and rationalization of the federal administration. However, local and municipal government remained in the hands of often corrupt politicians, political machines and their local "bosses." Henceforth, the spoils system survived much longer in many states, counties and municipalities, such as the Tammany Hall ring, which survived well into the 1930s when New York City reformed its own civil service. Illinois modernized its bureaucracy in 1917 under Frank Lowden, but Chicago held on to patronage into the 1970s.
Many self-styled progressives saw their work as a crusade against urban political bosses and corrupt "robber barons". There was increased demands for effective regulation of business, a revived commitment to public service, and an expansion of the scope of government to ensure the welfare and interests of the country as the groups pressing these demands saw fit. Almost all the notable figures of the period, whether in politics, philosophy, scholarship or literature, were connected at least in part with the reform movement.
Trenchant articles dealing with trusts, high finance, impure foods and abusive railroad practices began to appear in the daily newspapers and in such popular magazines as McClure's and Collier's. Their authors, such as the journalist Ida M. Tarbell, who crusaded against the Standard Oil Trust, became known as "Muckrakers". In his novel, The Jungle, Upton Sinclair exposed unsanitary conditions in the Chicago meat packing houses and the grip of the beef trust on the nation's meat supply.
The hammering impact of Progressive Era writers bolstered aims of certain sectors of the population, especially a middle class caught between big labor and big capital, to take political action. Many states enacted laws to improve the conditions under which people lived and worked. At the urging of such prominent social critics as Jane Addams, child labor laws were strengthened and new ones adopted, raising age limits, shortening work hours, restricting night work and requiring school attendance.
By the early 20th century, most of the larger cities and more than half the states had established an eight-hour day on public works. Equally important were the Workers' Compensation Laws, which made employers legally responsible for injuries sustained by employees at work. New revenue laws were also enacted, which, by taxing inheritances, laid the groundwork for the contemporary Federal income tax.
Roosevelt called for a "Square Deal," and initiated a policy of increased Federal supervision in the enforcement of antitrust laws. Later, extension of government supervision over the railroads prompted the passage of major regulatory bills. One of the bills made published rates the lawful standard, and shippers equally liable with railroads for rebates.
His victory in the 1904 election was assured. Emboldened by a sweeping electoral triumph, Roosevelt called for still more drastic railroad regulation, and in June 1906, Congress passed the Hepburn Act. This gave the Interstate Commerce Commission real authority in regulating rates, extended the jurisdiction of the commission, and forced the railroads to surrender their interlocking interests in steamship lines and coal companies.
Meanwhile, Congress had created a new Department of Commerce and Labor, with membership in the President's Cabinet. One bureau of the new department, empowered to investigate the affairs of large business aggregations, discovered in 1907 that the American Sugar Refining Company had defrauded the government of a large sum in import duties. Subsequent legal actions recovered more than $4 million and convicted several company officials.
Conservation of the nation's natural resources and beautiful places was among the other facets of the Roosevelt era. The President had called for a far-reaching and integrated program of conservation, reclamation and irrigation as early as 1901 in his first annual message to Congress. Whereas his predecessors had set aside 46 million acres (188,000 km²) of timberland for preservation and parks, Roosevelt increased the area to 146 million acres (592,000 km²) and began systematic efforts to prevent forest fires and to retimber denuded tracts. His appointment of his friend Gifford Pinchot as chief forester resulted in vigorous new scientific management of public lands. TR added 50 wildlife refuges, 5 new national parks, and initiated the system of designating National Monuments, such as the Grand Canyon.
Taft continued the prosecution of trusts, further strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission, established a postal savings bank and a parcel post system, expanded the civil service, and sponsored the enactment of two amendments to the United States Constitution. The 16th Amendment authorized a federal income tax, while the 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913, mandated the direct election of U.S. Senators by the people, replacing the prior system in which they were selected by state legislatures.
Yet balanced against these achievements were: Taft's acceptance of a tariff with protective schedules that outraged progressive opinion; his opposition to the entry of the state of Arizona into the Union because of its progressive constitution; and his growing reliance on the conservative wing of his party. By 1910, the Republican Party was divided, and an overwhelming vote swept the Democrats back into control of Congress.
Wilson, in a spirited campaign, defeated both rivals. Under his leadership, the new Congress enacted one of the most notable legislative programs in American history. Its first task was tariff revision. "The tariff duties must be altered," Wilson said. "We must abolish everything that bears any semblance of privilege." The Underwood Tariff in 1913 provided substantial rate reductions on imported raw materials and foodstuffs, cotton and woolen goods, iron and steel, and removed the duties from more than a hundred other items. Although the act retained many protective features, it was a genuine attempt to lower the cost of living for American workers.
The second item on the Democratic program was a reorganization of the banking and currency system. "Control," said Wilson, "must be public, not private, must be vested in the government itself, so that the banks may be the instruments, not the masters, of business and of individual enterprise and initiative."
The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was one of Wilson's most enduring legislative accomplishments. It imposed upon the existing banking system a new organization that divided the country into 12 districts, with a Federal Reserve Bank in each, all supervised by a Federal Reserve Board. These banks were to serve as depositories for the cash reserves of those banks that joined the system. Until the Federal Reserve Act, the U.S. government had left control of its money supply largely to unregulated private banks. While the official medium of exchange was gold coins, most loans and payments were carried out with bank notes, backed by the promise of redemption in gold. The trouble with this system was that the banks were tempted to reach beyond their cash reserves, prompting periodic panics during which fearful depositors raced to turn their bank paper into coin. With the passage of the act, greater flexibility in the money supply was assured, and provision was made for issuing federal reserve notes to meet business demands.
The next important task was trust regulation and investigation of corporate abuses. Congress authorized a Federal Trade Commission to issue orders prohibiting "unfair methods of competition" by business concerns in interstate trade.
A second law, the Clayton Antitrust Act, forbade many corporate practices that had thus far escaped specific condemnation—interlocking directorates, price discrimination among purchasers, use of the injunction in labor disputes and ownership by one corporation of stock in similar enterprises.
The Federal Workingman's Compensation Act in 1916 authorized allowances to federal civil service employees for disabilities incurred at work. The Adamson Act of the same year established an eight-hour day for railroad labor. The record of achievement won Wilson a firm place in American history as one of the nation's foremost political reformers. However, his domestic reputation would soon be overshadowed by his record as a wartime President who led his country to victory but could not hold the support of his people for the peace that followed.
Firmly maintaining neutrality when World War I began in 1914, the United States entered the war against Germany only after Germany's U-boats sank the ocean liner Lusitania, Germany announced that its U-boats would conduct unrestricted submarine warfare against neutral shipping, and the U.S. discovered, through an intercepted telegram known as the Zimmerman Telegram, that the Germans had attempted to ask Mexico to go to war against the United States in case the United States went to war with Germany. Sympathies among many politically and industrially influential Americans had favored the British and French cause from the start of the war; however, a sizable number of citizens (which included many of Irish and German extraction) were staunchly opposed to U.S. involvement in the European conflict (at least on the British side), and the vote in Congress on April 6, 1917 to declare war, unlike many other declarations of war by the United States, was far from unanimous.
Domestically, anything German, including language and culture, was shunned during the war (for example, sauerkraut was dubbed "liberty cabbage"). Some German-Americans who spoke out against the war or otherwise displeased their fellow citizens were subject to harassment or arrest. Unknown numbers of German-Americans may have anglicized their names and hidden their cultural roots during this period so as not to stick out from the mainstream.
The Wilson Administration created the Committee on Public Information (CPI) to control war information and provide pro-war propaganda. The private American Protective League, working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was one of many private right-wing "patriotic associations" that sprang up to support the war and at the same time fight labor unions and various left-wing and anti-war organizations. The U.S. Congress passed, and Wilson signed, the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. The Sedition Act criminalized any expression of opinion that used "disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language" about the U.S. government, flag or armed forces. Government police action, private vigilante groups and public war hysteria compromised the civil liberties of many loyal Americans who disagreed with Wilson's policies.
Fear of German occupation of Denmark and hence control of the Danish Virgin Islands prompted the United States to purchase the islands for $25,000,000 before entering the war.
On the battlefields of France, the arriving fresh American armed forces proved crucial in bolstering the war-weary Allied armies in the summer of 1918 as they turned back the powerful final German offensive (Spring Offensive) and advanced in the Allied final offensive (Hundred Days Offensive). With victory over Germany achieved a few months later on November 11, 1918, Britain, France and Italy imposed severe economic penalties on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles. The United States Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles; instead, the United States signed separate peace treaties with Germany and her allies. The Senate also refused to enter the newly-created League of Nations on Wilson's terms, and Wilson rejected the Senate's compromise proposal.
Despite Wilson's calls for treaty terms more agreeable to Germany, the economic impact of the reparations mandated from Germany by the Versailles Treaty was severe and a direct cause of the rise of Hitler and, thus, World War II in Europe. The additional failure of the treaty to meet Japan's imperial and colonial demands helped lay the groundwork in Japan for the rise of the Japanese military dictatorship and thus World War II in the Pacific.
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