structures to bring the historical evidence, events, and examples together for a connected thematic purpose. As we go through each portion of this lecture, you may want to keep in mind how the information relates to this larger thematic question. Here are some suggestions: write the focus question in the left or right margin on your notes and as we go through, either mark areas of your notes for you to come back to later and think about the connection OR as you review your notes later (to fill in anything else you remember from the lecture or your thoughts during the lecture or additional information from the readings), write small phrases from the lecture and readings that connect that information to each focus question AND/OR are examples that work together to answer the focus question.
65 As the nation industrialized, Americans tried to understand the ways in which their society was changing. Debates over political economy engaged millions of Americans, not just economists, politicians, and academics, and thousands of books and pamphlets were published regarding the ethical and social consequences of industrialization and highly technical issues such as currency reform and land taxation. Many Americans believed that something was terribly wrong in the nation’s social development, and their talk of “better classes” and “dangerous classes” became the rule as labor strife was recurrent. A number of states and even Congress established committees to investigate the changing relations between labor and capital, and many were shocked to learn that employers and workers distrusted each other and that workers complained of abuse and poverty. The emergence of a permanent class of wage earners challenged traditional American ideas of freedom. Did America still offer opportunities to ordinary citizens to gain economic independence? To many, it seemed that wage labor was no longer a temporary condition on the way to economic autonomy, nor did the West seem a refuge from deprivation in the East. Many Americans saw the concentration of wealth in this period as natural and a sign of progress, however, and mainstream economics held that wages were determined by supply and demand and should not be artificially changed by government or labor unions. The link between freedom and equality forged in the Revolution and strengthened by the Civil War no longer seemed relevant. Reformers in the Liberal Republican movement, which challenged Grant in the 1872 elections, even argued that universal male suffrage was a mistake, as the poor and workers might use the vote to threaten property. Instead, they urged a return to property qualifications for the vote.
66 The idea that some groups were superior to others, once based in racialized slavery, now reappeared in a scientific guise as a means to explain the success and failure of individuals and entire social classes. In 1859, British scientist Charles Darwin published On the Origins of Species , in which he posited a theory of evolution where plants and animals best able to adapt to their environment supplanted those less adaptable. Different thinkers simplified
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- Spring '08
- Economics, History, Capitalism, Civil War, Looking Backward, The Significance of the Frontier in American History, Federal government of the United States