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Gilded age

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Gilded age

The period in the United States from around 1877 to 1895 was one in which American society underwent enormous change. New social and economic processes such as changing political parties, questioning citizenship, and formations of labor unions disrupted older ways of organizing American society, challenged traditional ways of thinking about what it meant to be an American, and led Americans to look for ways to cope with these changes. The Gilded Age proved to be an era which America appeared great on the outside, when in reality the country was internally struggling to deal adapt to the many changes economically and socially. This paper will discuss the ways in which changes disrupted traditional American ideas and structures and how Americans clashed over coping with this massive change by looking at Robert Cherny's American Politics in the Gilded Age, "The River Ran Red" and the fourteenth amendment.

Cherny discussed many of the changes that occurred during 1877-1895 in his book American Politics in the Gilded Age. Cherny's focus early in the book on the role of the political parties during the time period. He does not scratch the surface, but tries to dig deep the Gilded Age of politics. Cherny also addresses social and economic changes. He said that progress merely provided a "gleaming surface of the Gilded Age. Just below that golden surface, however, lay twelve-hour workdays in factories, the widespread use of child labor, and large-scale business dealings'" (Cherny 4).

During the gilded age, parties changed their traditional ways of voting and elections. Parties were at war to gain political majority in order to have control in government decisions, so they began tactics to insure victories at the polls. Parties discouraged attendance at primaries by meeting at late hours and dangerous areas, developed bargaining tactics like "logrolling" (trading of influence or votes among legislators to gain passage of certain projects), and voters found it difficult to split a ticket when party organizers left no space to fill in names on the ballot. In Cherny's book, Richard Jensen said that "Elections were treated like battles in which the two main armies (parties) concentrated on fielding the maximum number of troops (voters) on the battlefield (polls) on election day" (Cherny 12). America was ...

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