Political Paralysis in the Gilded Age
I. The “Bloody Shirt” Elects Grant
The Republicans nominated Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant, who was a great
soldier but had no political experience.
The Democrats could only denounce military Reconstruction andcouldn’t
agree on anything else, and thus, were disorganized.
The Republicans got Grant elected (barely) by “waving thebloody shirt,” or
reliving his war victories, and used hispopularity to elect him, though his popular vote
was only slightlyahead of rival Horatio Seymour. Seymour was the Democratic candidate
who didn’t accept a redemption-of-greenbacks-for-maximum-valueplatform, and thus
doomed his party.
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, partiallydue to 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 thatwould only
work if the treasury stopped selling gold, so they worked onPresident Grant directly and
through his brother-in-law, but their planfailed when the treasury sold gold.
The infamous Tweed Ring (AKA, “Tammany Hall) of NYC, headedby “Boss” Tweed,
employed bribery, graft, and fakeelections 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 later died in jail.
Samuel J. Tilden gained fame by leading the prosecution of Tweed,and he
would later use this fame to become the Democratic nominee inthe presidential election
Thomas Nast, political cartoonist, constantly drew against Tammany’s
III. A Carnival of Corruption