Essay by SwissorcheederCollege, UndergraduateA, October 2014

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Tawny Gilbert

Michelle Jacobs

Exam One- Take Home

September 9, 2014


In many ways it could be said that the great "captains of industry" who emerged in the period between the Civil War and the end of the 19th century were operating well within the American tradition. The basis of monopoly capitalism and the exploitation of the free market system had been laid long before the war, under such varied circumstances as the New England textile mills and the plantation slavery system of the Deep South. In addition, the "spoils system" which was to prove so helpful to a few corrupt lobbyists and the tycoons they represented had been an established part of Washington politics since the Jackson Administration took office in 1829, but the post-War conditions of the American economy, and especially the political situation that was the legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction, provided unique opportunities for businessmen to form great combines corner markets, and establish monopoly franchises as part of the national wealth.

(McNamara) So while the captains of industry were definitely a product of the American tradition, the schism between North and South and the opening of the American West enabled them to bend or break the rules of that tradition: fair play, a democratic distribution of the wealth, and equal access to the natural resources of the land.

The contradiction of the captain of industry going corrupt presented itself shortly after the Civil War, when the victorious Republican Party first began to show signs of moral short-sightedness. During the notorious "Era of Good Stealings" of the Grant Administration, which began in 1868, financial manipulators first began to exert real political influence in New York and Washington: Notorious in the financial world were...