Charles Dudley Warner's The Gilded Age

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The Gilded Age is a figurative label of the 1870 to 1890 era dubbed from Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner’s novel (GML 615). The label attempts to address the deceivingly lustrous view of America that concealed the rampant corruption, oppressive treatment and gaping inequality experienced during the era. The luster derived from rapid industrial growth that came to be known as the ‘Second Industrial Revolution’. By 1880, the number of railroad trucks in the U.S had tripled. This facilitated expansion of mining and agricultural commerce and paved the way for a national market for manufactures commodities. The economy was booming but the political and economic policies that promoted it failed to adequately address the emerging problems.…show more content…
Workers freedom during the Gilded Age was only applicable to select group of skilled workers and the interest of farmers were neglected in favor of industrialization. Working conditions for most workers were unsafe and wage prices were low. According to GML, many industrial workers labored sixty-hour weeks with no pensions, compensation for injuries. Consequently, between 1880 and 1890 approximately 35,000 workers perished every year in factories and mine accidents. This was the highest rate observed in the industrial world (GML 598). Industrial leaders like Andrew Carnegie and Rockefeller were hostile to any form of labor union activities that tried to improve unskilled labor working conditions. The courts through liberty of contract clauses struck state reforms that tried to improve working conditions. For example, the Lochner vs New York case overruled a state legislature that attempted to cap the maximum working hours to ten hours a day and sixty hours a week (GML 624). Also, policies, like the Sherman Antitrust Act, were used to suppress labor…show more content…
Economic and social discordance in the nation led to a rise of reformist that demanded a change in the current political and economic policies. Reformist, for example labor unions, wanted an increase in government control of the market to curb industrial monopoly, improvement of unskilled labor working conditions and support for farmers. It is important to note that the efforts to bring about change were mainly carried out through reforms of the existing system. Labor reformers laid the foundation for progressivism by promoting socialism, demanding eight-hour day for public employers. They also challenged the inappropriate interpretation of freedom based on Social Darwinism and Liberty of Contract. An emerging labor organization in the 1880s was the Knights of Labor which became the largest labor organization in the nineteenth century. Labor unions were progressively getting successful in asserting their political influence and this became apparent in the New York mayor election of 1886 where the labor’s candidate, Henry Ford, garnered enough votes to defeat, Theodore Roosevelt, the republican and only lost to the democrat candidate. Labor union demands for reform paved the way for progressive principles like direct democracy and effective
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