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American Politics in the Gilded Age: 1868 - 1900



American Politics in the Gilded Age: 1868 - 1900

Robert W. Cherny

ISBN: 978-0-882-95933-7 January 1997 Wiley-Blackwell 192 Pages


Often Gilded-Age politics has been described as devoid of content or accomplishment, a mere spectacle to divert voters from thinking about the real issues of the day. But by focusing too closely on dramatic scandals and on the foibles of prominent politicians, many historians have tended to obscure other aspects of late nineteenth-century politics that proved to be of great and long-term significance.

With the latest scholarship in mind, Professor Cherny provides a deft and highly readable analysis that is certain to help readers better understand the characteristics and important products of Gilded-Age politics. Topics covered include: voting behavior; the relation between the popular will and the formation of public policy; the cause and effect of the deadlock in national politics that lasted from the mid-1870s to the 1890s; the sources of political innovation at state and local levels; and the notable changes wrought during the 1890s that ushered in important new forms of American politics.

Foreword V

Acknowledgments IX


CHAPTER ONE: The Domain and Power of Party 5

Parties, Elections, and Patronage 6

Parties, the State, and Public Policy 16

The Major Parties: The Republicans and The Democrats 22

On the Periphery of Party Politics: Mugwumps, Suffragists, Prohibitionists, Grangers, Greenbackers , and Laborites 31

CHAPTER TWO: The Deadlock of National Politics, 1868—1890 46

Grant: The Emergence of Deadlock, 1868—1876 50

Hayes: The Confirmation of Deadlock, 1876—1880 60

Garfield and Arthur: The Deadlock Continue, 1880—1884 67

Cleveland: The Deadlock Lengthens, 1884—1888 74

Breaking the Deadlock? Harrison and the Fifty-first Congress, 1888—1890 85

CHAPTER THREE: Political Upheaval, 189—1900 94

The Emergence of Populism, 1890—1892 97

The Dividend Democrats Fail to Govern, 1893—1896 110

Republican Resurgence and Democratic Downfall: The Battle of the Standards, 1896 118

Conclusion: An End and Many Beginnings 127

Illustrations and Maps follow page 84

Appendix: Tables 139

Table 1.1: Farm Production and Crop Prices, 1865—1900 139

Table 2.1: Popular and Electoral Vote for President, 1868—1904 141

Table 2.2 Electoral Votes by Selected Regions and States 142

Table 2.3 Party Strength in Congress, 1868—1904 143

Table 2.4 Federal Income and Expenses, Including Customs Receipts 144

Bibliographical Essay 146

Index 159

"This is a solid piece of work. ... Cherny consistently explains complicated political events in a clear and and interesting fashion. ... An imaginative appendix...should assist readers to understand this "watershed" period in the nation's political life." (Teaching History, Spring 1999)
"Cherny provides a very readable narrative of key political events and personalities, and he employs an array of useful concepts that are based on the most current scholarship." (Great Plains Quarterly, Winter 1998)