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uws - T H M Essay United We Stand During the late 19th...

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T H M Essay United We Stand? During the late 19 th century workers were the victims of an industrial and a capitalistic movement that changed the face of America. Although working class people had the ability to fight back and not be completely manipulated and controlled by this industrial based society. However, they did not take advantage of their one and only advantage, numbers. If the masses would have come together for one common cause the poverty of the working class people could have been greatly reduced. Workers and their reform politicians were opportunists and not ever fully committed to the cause as a group. The first attempt to change the way the working class masses were treated was through political reform. The Peoples Party captured city hall in 1873. This was thought to be a major step on the road of political reform in Chicago. However powerful businessmen called for a new election rather then than allow the People’s Party administration to serve a full term. A battle in the courts followed and eventually the businessmen and their political allies won and the People’s Party was destroyed. 1 The people in Chicago did not rise up in outrage, or even challenge the courts decision. Many just decided to give up on political reform thinking that it was a lost cause. If a group of people were truly committed to this cause this injustice done to their elected 1. James Green, Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor movement, and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America (New York Anchor Books, 2006), 65
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officials would have caused much more of an uproar. The working class people in this single event basically just gave up their voting rights and their ability to cause the changes they fought for to be realized. The next labor party that attempted to win city hall and make the political reforms that so many workers were striving for was the Socialist Labor party. In 1879 the socialists constituted one-fifth of the total but that was large enough to deny the Republicans who had controlled city hall since 1860. Carter Henry Harrison was elected mayor and became Chicago’s first Democratic mayor since the Civil War. 2 The Socialist Labor party had high hopes going into the fall elections because of this strong showing in 1879. However that fall the socialists’ vote plummeted. The Democrat and the Republican ward bosses shepherded almost all of the stray workingmen back into their traditional parties. Also many socialists joined the job seekers that were pouring through City Hall searching for city jobs. Many in the Socialist Labor Party declared these office seekers as “opportunists” and accused some of the party leaders of corruption. 3 This dissention throughout the party and its supporters caused its demise the following year.
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