Politics, economy and society

  • Created by: Grant
  • Created on: 08-04-13 11:40

The political system and the role of the president

  • Two-party system by 1890
    • (1) Republicans
    • (2) Democrats
  • Both heavily influenced by Civil War (1861-5)
  • Local issues important (e.g. Prohibition)
  • No clear divide between right and left
  • Both parties had conservatives and reformers
  • 1890s - Both parties developing
  • Other political movements threatened, but never gained, support from the two parties
  • Neither party support African-American interests


  • Formed in 1854 as anti-slavery movement
  • Became pro-business over time
  • Had reformist wing influenced by progressivism
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The political system and the role of the president

Republicans (cont.)

  • Reformist wing promoted:
    • Social justices
    • Conservation
  • Leading figure: Theodore Roosevelt
    • President 1901-9
    • Ran for president again in 1912 as progressive candidate against Taft, a Republican
    • Bull Moose Progressive Party - Split Republican vote and lost Taft presidency, handing it to Democrat Woodrow Wilson

Key Republicans

  • Mark Hanna - Political analyst and "mastermind" of Republican political campaigns
  • Theodore Roosevelt - VP from 1901; President 1901-9; Leader of Bull Moose Progressive Party
  • William Taft - President 1908-12
  • Warren Harding - President 1920-3
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The political system and the role of the president

Key Republicans (cont.)

  • Calvin Coolidge- President 1923-4
  • Herbert Hoover- President 1924-8


  • Claim to be oldest political party in US
  • Civil War changed party
  • Power base:
    • Western farmers
    • White southerners
  • 'Solid South' voted Democrat in every election (exc. 1928) from 1880-1960
  • Party of opposition for majority of existence

Key Democrats

  • William Jennings Bryan - Dominant political personality during opposition years
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The political system and the role of the president

Key Democrats (cont.)

  • Woodrow Wilson - President 1912-20
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt - President 1928-44
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Mass immigration and its impact on society and pol

Where did immigrants come from?

  • 1890 - Already 9m foreign-born Americans
  • Immigration not yet reached its peak
  • Majority of immigrants from southern (Spain, Portugal and Italy) and eastern Europe (Jews from Russia)
  • Previous immigrants from northern Europe (Britain, Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia)

Reasons immigrants came to the US

  • American Dream
  • Growing US economy offered jobs to immigrants
  • New technology made travel easier (e.g. steam ships)
  • Easy access - 1 in 50 denied entry
  • Escape discrimination (e.g. Jews from Russia)
  • Destruction of peasant economies in southern and eastern Europe due to cheap wheat from US
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Mass immigration and its impact on society and pol

When did immigration reach its peak?

  • 1900-14
  • Peak year: 1907 - 1.2m immigrants
  • Majority from Italy and Russia

Impact of immigration on US society

  • They brought 'radical and dangerous' political ideas with them (e.g. communism, anarchism)
  • Many feared immigrants would steal jobs and work for low wages
  • Feared they'd overwhelm population
  • Settled in ethnic areas of cities unlike first wave immigrants who spread out
  • Prohibition - Blamed on immigrants' drinking habits (mainly the Irish)
  • Revival of KKK during and after WWI - Violence
  • Hostility to African-Americans who migrated north
  • Small-town US worried about 'aliens' undermining traditional moral and religious values
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The rise of big business and its impact on the eco

Reasons the US economy was booming before 1890

  • Main:
    • (1) Increase in workers and markets via mass immigration - Labour force growing, construction industry booming
    • (2) Technology - Growth of steam ship companies, mechanisation of industry, invention of steel plough, refrigerated container and railway expansion led to expansion of domestic and foreign meat production
    • (3) Great Plain opening - Cultivation of fertile lands, production of huge surpluses
  • Other:
    • Big business:
      • Bethlehem Steel
      • Carnegie Steel
      • Rockefeller's Standard Oil
    • Many companies merged, creating vast enterprises linking manufacturing, railroads and shipping
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The rise of big business and its impact on the eco

Reasons the US economy was booming before 1890 (cont.)

  • Rapid expansion of banking and finance
    • JP Morgan - Provided wealth for industrialisation
  • Sudden downturns in uncontrolled economy left farmers, small businesses and their workers worse for wear
  • Big business impacted politics
  • Industrialisation created wealthy barons
  • Barons:
    • Carnegie
    • Rockefeller
    • Vanderbilt
    • Morgan
  • These barons gained political influence, especially in Republican Party
  • Creation of big business created backlash of opposition
  • New mass labour force led to the spreading of socialist ideas and organisation of labour in trade unions
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The rise of big business and its impact on the eco


  • Urbanisation - Creation of towns and cities
  • Industrialisation - Creation of factories in towns and cities
  • Big business - Large companies out to make large profits

Trade Unions

  • AFL - American Federation of Labour (Founded 1886)
    • 300,000+ members
    • Samuel Gompers
    • Tried to improve working conditions of skilled workers
    • Gompers didn't want to associate with Debs, a socialist
    • 1907 - Created strong links with Democrats
    • Many believed AFL was too moderate and did not support unskilled workers
    • Led to creation of IWW
  • Most Americans feared socialism
  • Linked it to TUs, mass immigration and anarchy
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The rise of big business and its impact on the eco

  • Socialists believe in equality - Big business leaders feared organised labour because it meant TUs and TUs lead to strikes
  • IWW - Industrial Workers of the World (Founded 1905)
    • Founded by Bill Haywood and Eugene Debs
    • Debs left by 1908
    • IWW nicknamed "The Wobblies"
    • Members: 50,000+
    • Openly endorsed socialist ideas - Saw no barriers between workers and employees
    • Links with anarchists (e.g. Emma Goldman)
      • Emphasised divide between those who wanted political actions and those who wanted strikes
    • Big business and conservaties saw IWW as revolutionary and violent (McKees Rock Strikes of 1912)
    • Employers use the courts to overpower "socialist threat" by creating injunctions against strikes and prosecuting socialist leaders
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The rise of big business and its impact on the eco

  • IWW (cont.)
    • IWW attacked during WWI for being unpatriotic
    • 1919-20: Target for Red Scare
    • Support for socialism never matches support for TUs
      • Debs couldn't break two-party politics of US

Other political parties

The Populists

  • Big influence in Democratic Party
  • When William Jennings Bryan emerged as a national figure in the 1890s, many were concerned populism would swallow the Democrats
  • Populist Party founded 1889-90
  • Supported by people in the Great Plains and southwest who opposed dominance of US economy by banks, business and rich east-coast elites
  • Populist ideas detailed in Omaha Platform 1892
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The rise of big business and its impact on the eco

The Populists (cont.)

  • 'Silverites' campaigned for mass circulation of silver coins and for Prohibition
  • Anti-Darwinists, anti-imperialists and anti-expansionists
  • Party overshadowed by WJB and the Democrats
  • After 1908: Virtually non-existent
  • Leading Populist - William Jennings Bryan

The Progressives

  • Leading Progressive - Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin
    • Campaigned for rights of ordinary people against big business
    • Republican 'insurgents'
    • 'Insurgents' gained lots of support which caused a dispute with William Taft and the conservative 'stalwarts'
    • La Follette hoped to run for president in 1912 but was overshadowed by Theodore Roosevelt
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The rise of big business and its impact on the eco

The Progressives (cont.)

  • 1912 - Bull Moose Progressive Party set up as a vehicle for TR to run for president against Taft
  • Split the Republican vote and caused Wilson, a Democrat, to end Republican dominance
  • Progressives believe in:
    • Government intervention
    • Strong central government necessary to bring about reforms and efficiency
    • Wanted to protect people's rights against corruption
    • Fighting evils of industrialisation without going as far as Socialism
    • Social jsutic (e.g. women's suffrage)
    • Direct election to Senate
    • Conservation
  • Some were pacifists and anti-imperialists
  • Most were strong nationalists
  • Progressive wing of Republican Party reuinted with Republicans in 1916
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The rise of big business and its impact on the eco

The Progressives (cont.)

  • Progressive Party achieved little on its own, but looked threatening
  • Influential between 1890-1929 as many presidents were influenced by progressive ideas:
    • TR
    • Wilson
    • Taft
  • Progressive ideas reflected in their policies

Importance of populism and progressivism

  • Not very important, however, they did appear to be a threat at various times
  • Progressivism was more important - It cost Taft his presidency
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