A.P. U.S. History Notes
Chapter 24: “Politics in the Gilded Age”
~ 1869 – 1889 ~
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 but couldn’t agree on
anything else, and thus, were unorganized.
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 ahead of rival
, the Democratic candidate who didn’t accept a redemption-of-greenbacks-
for-maximum-value platform, and thus doomed his party.
However, due to the still-close nature of the election, Republicans could not take future
victories for granted.
The Era of Good Stealings
Despite the Civil War, population still mushroomed, due to incoming immigration, but during
this time, politics became very corrupted.
Railroad promoters cheated gullible customers.
Stock-market investors were a cinder in the public eye.
Too many judges and legislators put their power up for hire.
Two notorious millionaires were
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.
The infamous Tweed ring of NYC, headed by
, 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
, was convicted and imprisoned.
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
), and his in-laws, the
family, were especially terrible.
, 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 Congressmen) and the
Vice President himself was shown to have accepted 20 shares of stock.
In 1875, the public learned that the
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
was shown to have pocketed some
$24,000 by selling junk to Indians.