What Are The Politics Of The Late 19th Century Robber Barons Dbq

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The late 19th century witnessed the birth and development of a variety of businesses that eventually achieved monopoly and influenced national politics. The robber barons in industries such as railroad, steel production, and oil became the richest citizens during the “Gilded Age” and caused widespread hatred among the poor. The prevalence of big businesses significantly increased wealth gap, enhanced industrial production, and promoted a laissez-faire government; meanwhile, the oppressed groups of Americans, including most notably farmers and factory workers, started to organize against the efficient yet extremely polarized society. Both economy and politics were revolutionized in the late 19th century as a result of the newly established …show more content…

At the same time, employment rate skyrocketed due to the low standards for labor skills. Even women were sometimes able to leave their homes and take part in low-skilled occupations such as typists, as seen in the picture in Doc J. As David A. Wells commented on the “element of skill,” the “pride which the workman formerly took is his work has been destroyed.” (Doc C) On the contrary, the business leaders were able to amass a significant amount of wealth and dictate the economy. For instance, J.P. Morgan was able to dominate a number of railroads after the panic of 1893, causing a decrease in railroad competitions nationwide. Labor leaders such as George E. McNeill treated the railroad president as “a railroad king.” (Doc B) Similarly, Andrew Carnegie established vertical integration in steel industries, and John Rockefeller accomplished both vertical and horizontal integration with his Standard Oil Trust. These businesses created a Victorian morality, further distancing the upper class from the working class. A firm believer in Social Darwinism, Carnegie directly addressed the widening wealth gap in his Gospel of Wealth. He promoted the use of philanthropy …show more content…

Some victims, such as many small business owners, expressed hatred toward the monopolies. George Rice, for example, was “ruined by Rockefeller’s colossal combination.” (Doc H) Others formed organizations to more effectively convey their demands. The abysmal conditions of the working class planted the seeds of the establishment of labor unions in the late 19th century. The National Labor Union (NLU), the Knights of Labor, and then the American Federation of Labor (AFL) all strived for a better workers’ condition. Specifically, Samuel Gompers, the founder of AFL, demanded “a reduction of the hours of labor,” “adequate wages,” etc. (Doc G) The labor unions took actions against the relentless business owners: the Railroad Strike, the Homestead Strike, and the Pullman Strike were examples that attempted to ameliorate working conditions by refusing to work. Similarly, the southern and western farmers formed organizations that asked for legislations that would benefit them. The Grange, for instance, successfully convinced some state legislatures to pass laws that set maximum rates for freight shipment. The Populist Party, which evolved from the Farmers’ Alliance, was more politically involved. It requested an expansion of the power of government so as to allow subtreasury, direct election of senators, a graduated income tax, etc. (Doc F) Some radicals even started to adopt Marxism as an alternative to the

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