Democracy – Industrial Revolution & Reconstruction

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution Opposing Viewpoints.  Ed. Bruno Leone.  Greenhaven Press, Inc.

“America was born of revolt, flourished in dissent, became great through experimentation.”  – Henry Steele Commager, American Historian 1902-1984

“The term ‘industrial revolution’ refers to the shift of an economy from one in which most of its production is agriculturally based to one based on the mechanized manufacturing of goods in large-scale enterprises.”

This causes:

–         increased productivity and per capita incomes

–         the movement of people from rural to urban areas

–         substation of machine power for human labor in many kinds of work

The first industrial revolution began in England in the mid to late 1700s.  Signs of industrialization were evident in New England beginning in the early 1800s but dramatic shifts did not occur until after the civil war.

Three major causes for the shift in the U.S.:

–         development and improvement of coal-powered steam engines (1769), which was more powerful than former power sources being humans, wood and water

–         mechanized ways to produce textiles

–         coal powered furnaces that mass produced iron

The industrial revolution created a new class – the capitalists – the owners of the factory plants and other physical means of industrial production.  Also creating a new class of industrial workers who were employed at these factories.

The industrial revolution took major roots during and post Civil War.  “Congress in the 1860s enacted a series of legislative measure that encouraged industrialization and economic development, including new protective tariffs, banking reforms, and support for a transcontinental railroad.”  Additionally, demands from the war stimulated the growth of industries to produce war time products.  (18)

Post civil war was more of a 2nd Industrial Revolution.  Two major developments spurred this change:

  1. completion of national transportation and communications networks (canals, roads, steamships and railroads, telegraph, telephone) including the construction of a nationwide railroad network
  2. use of electricity as a source of power (major asset to urbanization)

Between 1860 and 1916 the percentage of city dwellers jumped from 10% to 50%

“Rapid industrialization raised the question of whether America’s republican ideals could survive in a meaningful way, whether industrial growth contributed positively or negatively to American’s society, and whether political and economic institutions needed to be reformed in response to the changes sweeping America’s economy.” (21)


–         labor saving devices

–         more consumer goods

–         skyscrapers

–         declinging prices in industrial products

–         opportunity for workers and capitalists

–         growing population

–         increased average life expectancy

–         trend toward lower working hours

Andrew Carnegie – “The United States….has already reached the foremost rank among nations, and is destined soon to out-distance all others in the race…..largely attributable to….[America’s] manufacturing industries.” (21)


–         not all Americans were profiting equally

–         poverty and inequality worse than prior

–         replaced skilled craftsmen with poorly paid unskilled workers

–         questionable public morality and tactics of major industrialists

–         corruption in big business

–         laissez-faire ideaology that the government should not tamper with “economic laws” that goverened wages, prices and business practices

Henry George from Progress and Poverty – “The march of invention has clothed mankind with powers of which a century ago the blodest imagination could not have dreamed but in factories where labor-saving machinery has reached its most wonderful development, little children are at work; wherever the new forces [of industry] are anything like fully untilized, large classes are maintained by charity or live on the verge of recourse to it; amid the greatest accumulations fo wealth, men die of starvation.” (21)

The two sides of post Civil War industrial revolution:

“There is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings.” – Russell Conwell, a minister who became rich for his “Acres of Diamonds” lectures in which he celebrated the attainment of wealth as a Christian duty (69)

Other critized the poverty and inequality found in American society arguing that political and economic reform should rectify this foult.  The rise of large corporations, largely unregulated and in many cases dwarfing the size of government as being harmful to the public good.  (Largely against Rockefeller’s Standard oil Company)

“America’s post-Civil War industrial revolution placed the issues of wealth and poverty at the forefront of American life. The following viewpoints present some differing opinions on the effects of large-scale industrialization.” (69)

“Beneath all political problems lies the social problem of the distribution of wealth.” (70)

Chapter Titles

3) Wealth, Poverty, and Industrialization in the Gilded Age

a) Concentrations of Wealth Harm America – Henry George

b) Concentrations of Wealth Help America – Andrew Carnegie

c) Industrialization Has Created the Need for Radical Social Reform – Eugene V. Debs

d) Radical Social Reform is Unworkable and Unnecessary – William Graham Sumner

e) Industrial Trusts are Harmful – Woodrow Wilson

f) Antitrust Laws are Harmful – Walter Lippmann

Social Effects of the Industrial Revolution

a)      The Industrial Revolution Has Benefitied American Society – David A. Wells

b)      The Industrial Revolution Has Created Inequality and other Social Ills – W.D. Dabney

c)      The Industrial Revolution has Harmed Society by Encouraging Women to Work Outside the Home – Washington Gladden

d)      Society is not Harmed by Women’s working Outside the Home – Ida Husted Harper

e)      The Growth of Cities must be Reversed – Anna R Weeks

f)        The Growth of Cities is Inevitable and Beneficial – F.J. Kingsbury

Industrial Revolution Part II

“Between 1871 and 1911 approximately 28 million people left Europe.  Of these 20.5 million headed for America, the “Land of Opportunity”.”

Beginning of the growing middle class, one could even start seeing a division between the upper and lower middle class.  Upper = industrialists, bankers, lawyers and doctors.  Lower = shopkeepers, craftsmen, teachers, civil servants, and clerks.

“Women were becoming more and more interested in politics, often took the lead in philanthropic campaigns.  In 1840s Sarah Bagley fought to get women’s workday limited by law to ten hours; Jane Addams started Hull House in Chicago in 1889, offering an education and help for immigrants adapting to American culture.  “

Above Quotations from Living History Industrial Revolution.

“Between 1790 and 1870 the U.S. population grew from 4 million to 40 million.  In this change it employed many immigrants as factory workers and the nation thus became industrialized.”

“In 1877, Bell started the Bell Telephone Company.  In 1884, he opened the first long-distance line, which connected telephones in New York and Boston……By 1890, nineteen thousand telephone operators were employed by phone companies to handle calls.”  [These were mostly women, the boys that were originally hired were to rowdy.  Women’s calm demeanor and better manners made for a better workplace.]

Edison set up his laboratory in 1876 in Menlo Park.

Carnegie opened his first steel mill in Pennsylvania in 1875.  By 1900 he was one of the top business men of his time.

Rockefeller’s – Standard Oil Company was organized in 1867.  “In 1879, John D. Rockefeller organized the Standard Oil Trust.”  Rockefeller eventually controlled 90% of the nation’s oil refineries.

Other industries that came under a monopoly in the late 1800s include:  railroad, meatpacking, tobacco, sugar, whiskey, banking, coal and iron mining.

“Pullman monopolized everything.  It was well that it should be so.  The men had arisen who could manage, and the tools belonged to him.” – Andrew Carnegie

Carnegie, coming from a poor background, also believed that any many with intellect could rise out of the slums to become a powerhouse.

Articles and Books to do with the antitrust movement in the age of big business in the late 1800s:

History of the Standard Oil Company by Ida M. Tarbell

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Frenzied Finance by Thomas Lawson

The Railroads on Trial by Ray Stannard Baker

“On July 2, 1890, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act.”  This made “any business merger, combination, or trust illegalif its actions could be proven to restrain, or control, trade.”

“By 1870, about forty thousand New York women worked full-time.  Most had jobs sewing garments, either at home or in a factory.  Women could also take jobs as sho girls, secretaries, telephone operators, teachers, nannies, cooks, maids, and general domestic helpers.”

Education came to the forefront during this time.  Elementary school became a requirement in many states.  High schools expanded allowing the working man’s son to stand next to the rich man’s son.  More colleges opened as well.  All of these institutions were funded both publicly and privately.

Above information from The Industrial Revolution In American History

RECONSTRUCTION – 1865 – 1877

Period immediately following the civil war, referring to the rebuilding of the country and reuniting both the North and the South and political parties……rather unsuccessfully….

“By 1873, most Northerners were absorbed by troubles closer to home:  A combination of inflation, high taxes, and bed debts had halted the stunning economic growth the North had enjoyed during and since the Civil War.  Suddenly, solving problems of massive unemployment, growing labor unrest, and falling crop prices seemed far more important than making sure ex-slaves were able to vote.”  (88)

“While southern Republicans bickered, the Democratic party grew stronger and stronger.  Its members had a common goal: to bring down the hated Radical governments.  Republican weakness and Democratic unity, combined with ongoing violence and intimidation by white conservatives during election campaigns, help explain how the Democrats managed to win back control of one southern state after another during the 1870s.” (88)

1876 Tilden (D) v. Hayes (R)

Both sides declared that their candidate had won.

Democrats won the popular vote.  Though the Democratic scare tactics used primarily in the South is thought to be the cause of the win.

Freedmen and women were alarmed because they feared with a Democratic president slavery would be reestablished.

It was eventually declared that Republicans won the electoral vote (through gaining SC, LA, FL) and the election.

A Plan of peace was established which awarded the South:

1.  assured the South federal aid to finish its railroad system as well as other building projects and prominent positions for Democrats in the federal government

2. return to “home rule” to the South, federal troops left SC and LA, leaving Democrats fully in charge

3.  Democratic governors elected in SC and LA pledged to protect the rights of black citizens

Above Information regarding Reconstruction from: Reconstruction America After the Civil War by Zak Mettger

Grant gave jobs to friends and family and was associated with giving favors to the rich.  He was rude and ill mannered with cultured men who made suggestions for government improvement.

“By 1871, the term Grantism had dome to represent corruption in government, bad taste in culture, and dishonesty in business – all the things reformers thought were wrong with America under Grant’s administration.  But it would be unfair to say that Grant was responsible for all the problems.  He was an honest man who sincerely wanted the best for the country.  His worst crime was his inexperience.”  (85)

In 1872 the Liberals and the Democrats combined forces to get Grant out of office.  They both nominated Horace Greeley, writer for New York Tribune, he opposed slavery and secession during the war.  In 1872 he was the spokesman for reconciliation and local self-government in the South.  Greeley had also supported fads such as vegetarianism and spiritualism.  Grant won 56% of the popular vote, the highest percentage won by any presidential candidate between 1828 and 1904.

“In September 1873, the nation’s economy unexpectedly collapsed.  First, the gigantic banding firm of Jay Cooke and Company failed because it could not pay its debts.  Then, many other banks shut down, forcing railroads, to whome the banks owed money, out of business.  With no railroads to buy steel, 40% of the country’s steel furnaces closed.  Even the New York Stock Exchange close down for a time.

The financial disaster caused panic among those who lost fortunes.  More tragic, though, was the effect on workers.  Now unemployed, they could not afford to house or feed their families.  Several families were often crammed into one tiny apartment.  They ate their meals at soup kitchens provided by charitable organizations.  Crime increased.”

Overwhelmed by their own problems, Northerners felt more strongly than even that the Southern states should deal with the “black question” themselves.” (96)

From Reconstruction following the Civil War in American History.  By Marsha Ziff


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