Issues during the Gilded Age

Essay by wraithofwrathHigh School, 11th grade April 2004

download word file, 1 pages 3.0

During the late 19th century, a great number of issues arose, and not necessarily just between political parties. "Waving the blood shirt" was a phrase used to describe the election of former military war heroes as president. Some examples include George Washington, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, and Ulysses S. Grant. This was really a cheap method of acquiring presidential office, as a great general cannot be guaranteed to be a great president. Another problem was the tariff, a major cause of the Civil War, which was a tax on imported non-American goods designed to slightly discourage purchase of foreign goods while encouraging purchase from local merchants, as the tariff allowed them to sell at higher prices and still have lower prices than foreign goods. The North generally wanted high tariffs, as it boosted their economy, while the South generally wanted low tariffs, as all they did was cause them to pay more, not benefit them as it did the North.

Occasionally, tariffs regardless proved ineffective, as indicated in the Whiskey Ring scandal, in which distributors of whiskey pocketed taxes and sold it for cheap. Civil service reform also raised conflicts. The Pendleton Act of 1883 ruled that civil service jobs (such as cabinet billets in the White House) were to be given based on qualification, and not on personal favor--hence abolishing the spoils system. Although intended as a positive measure, opposing the corrupt power that the spoils system allowed, it turned out a disaster. Currency was also a prominent concern during these times. Wealthy people preferred gold as the base currency, as it was rarer than silver, therefore more expensive, and hence their wealth gave them the advantage over the purchase of gold. Not-so-wealthy citizens preferred the opposite; the cheapness of silver enabled them to purchase...