Chapter 24 ~ Politics in the Gilded Age ~ 1869 – 1889
I. The “Bloody Shirt” Elects Grant
The Republicans nominated Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant, who was a great soldier but had no political
The Democrats could only denounce military Reconstruction and couldn’t agree on anything else, and thus, were
iii. The Republicans got Grant elected (barely) by “waving the bloody shirt,” or reliving his war victories, and used
his popularity to elect him, though his popular vote was only slightly ahead of rival Horatio Seymour. Seymour
was the Democratic candidate who didn’t accept a redemption-of-greenbacks-for-maximum-value platform, and
thus doomed his party.
iv. However, due to the close nature of the election, Republicans could not take future victories for granted.
II. The Era of Good Stealings
Despite the Civil War, the population still mushroomed, due to incoming immigration, but during this time,
politics became very corrupt.
Railroad promoters cheated gullible customers.
Stock-market investors were a cancer in the public eye.
Too many judges and legislators put their power up for hire.
Two notorious millionaires were Jim Fisk and Jay Gould.
In 1869, the pair concocted a plot to corner the gold market that would only work if the treasury stopped
selling gold, so they worked on President Grant directly and through his brother-in-law, but their plan failed
when the treasury sold gold.
iii. The infamous Tweed Ring (AKA, “Tammany Hall) of NYC, headed by “Boss” Tweed, employed bribery, graft,
and fake elections to cheat the city of as much as $200 million.
Tweed was finally caught when The New York Times secured evidence of his misdeeds, and Tweed, despite
being defended by future presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden, was convicted and imprisoned.
Thomas Nast, political cartoonist, constantly drew against Tammany’s corruption.
III. A Carnival of Corruption
Grant, an easy-going fellow, apparently failed to see the corruption going on, even though many of his friends
wanted offices and his cabinet was totally corrupt (except for Secretary of State Hamilton Fish), and his in-laws,
the Dent family, were especially terrible.
The Credit Mobilier, a railroad construction company that paid itself huge sums of money for small railroad
construction, tarred Grant.
A New York newspaper finally busted it, and two members of Congress were formally censured (the
company had given some of its stock to the congressmen) and the Vice President himself was shown to have
accepted 20 shares of stock.
iii. In 1875, the public learned that the Whiskey Ring had robbed the Treasury of millions of dollars, and when
Grant’s own private secretary was shown to be one of the criminals, Grant retracted his earlier statement of “Let
no guilty man escape.”
Later, in 1876, Secretary of War William Belknap was shown to have pocketed some $24,000 by selling junk
IV. The Liberal Republican Revolt of 1872