Lesson 11.3 – The Rise of Progressives (Vocabulary& Notes)

Key Terms (Vocabulary):

1. Gilded Age - period in American history lasting from the 1870s

to the 1890s marked by political corruption and extravagant spending

2. patronage - the practices of awarding government jobs to

political supporters

3. merit - ability, achievement, or worthiness

4. Civil Service Commission-a government agency created by the Pendleton

Act of 1883 to fill government jobs on the basis of merit

5. civil service - all government jobs except elected offices and

those in the military

6. interstate commerce- business that crosses state lines

7. Interstate Commerce Commission-(ICC) a government agency organized to

oversee railroad commerce

8. Sherman Antitrust Act- an 1890 law that banned the formation of trusts

and monopolies in the United States

9. political boss - a powerful politician who controls government,

trades favors for support, and demands payoffs

from businesses

10. muckraker - a journalist who exposed corruption and bad

business practices in the late 1800s and early 1900s

11. Progressive - a reformer in the late 1800s and early 1900s who

wanted to improve American life

12. public interest - the good of the people

13. primary - an election in which voters choose their party’s

candidate for the general election

14. initiative - a process by which voters can put a bill directly

before the state legislation

15. referendum - a process by which people vote directly on a bill

16. recall - a process by which voters can remove an elected

official from office

17. graduated income tax-a tax on earnings that charges higher rates for

higher income levels

18. William Tweed - (1823-1878) Boss William Tweed was an infamous

political boss who stole millions of dollars from New York City

19. Chester A. Arthur - (1829-1886) 21st President of the United States,

who worked to reform the Spoils System

20. Wisconsin Idea - a series of Progressive reforms introduced in the

early 1900s by Wisconsin governor Robert La Follette

21. spoils system - a practice of giving supporters government jobs

Lesson 11.3 – The Rise of Progressives

Obj: to describe politics during the Gilded Age and efforts at political reform; to identify efforts to regulate big business; to explain how the muckrakers inspired reform; to identify the Progressives and explain their reforms.

The Gilded Age of the late 1800s got its name from an 1873 novel by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner titled The Gilded Age.

Gilded means coated with a thin layer of gold paint. It implies falseness beneath surface glitter.

For many Americans, the novel, which poked fun at the era’s greed and political corruption, captures the spirit of the time.

In the words of one observer, it was government, “of, by, and for the rich.”


1870s – 1890s –

• Struggled to clean up political corruption

• Political power was split between the two major parties

o North and West voted Republican

o South voted Democratic

• Neither party controlled Congress for more than a term or two

o Republicans held the White House for more than 25 years

▪ Presidents had less power than Congress during the period

• During this time, elections provided great entertainment

o Campaigns featured:

▪ Brass bands

▪ Torchlight parades

▪ Long speeches

▪ Picnics

• Americans marched, ate, drank, and listened.

o Almost 80% of voters turned out, never again this high.

• Two concerns shaped politics.

o Many Americans worried about the power of the rich

▪ Bankers, industrialists, and other wealthy men were controlling politics at the expense of the public good

▪ Corruption was another worry

• Bribery and fraud

• Reformers blamed the spoils system

• How did city governments become so corrupt?

o Cities grew

o Services needed to expand

▪ Sewers

▪ Garbage collection

▪ Roads

o Politicians accepted money to give away these jobs

▪ Result, bribes and corruption became a way of life

Corruption at the Top

Political bosses (powerful politicians)

• gained power in many cities

• ruled county and state governments

• controlled work done locally

• demanded payoffs from businesses

• Popular with the poor

o Especially with immigrants

o Provided jobs and made loans to the needy

o Handed out extra coal for heat in winter

o Handed out turkeys at Thanksgiving

• In exchange, the poor voted for the boss or his chosen candidate

Boss Tweed

New York City –

• Boss William Tweed

o Carried corruption to new extremes

o During 1860s-1870s, he cheated the city out of more than $100 million.

o Journalists exposed his wrongdoing

▪ Example: Thomas Nast’s picture angered Tweed

• Even if his supporters cannot read, they could understand his cartoon (a vulture feeding on the city)

▪ Faced with prison, he fled to Spain

• There, he was arrested

• Local police recognized him from Nast’s cartoon

o 1878 – he died in jail

▪ Thousands of poor New Yorkers mourned for him


The spoils system had grown since the days of Andrew Jackson – 7th US President.

As new presidents took office:

• Job seekers swarmed into Washington

• Demanded government jobs as rewards for their political support

o Patronage

▪ Led to corruption

• Jobholders stole public money

• There were those who had no skills for the jobs they were given

Initial Reforms

Calls for reform slowly brought change

1877 – President Rutherford B. Hayes – the 19th President of the United States

• Took steps toward ending the spoils system

• Ordered an investigation of the NY customhouse

o Investigators found hundreds of appointed officials receiving high salaries but doing no work

o Hayes dismissed two customhouse officials

▪ Despite protests of local Republican leaders

1881 – James Garfield – 20th President of the United States

• Swamped with office seekers

• Thought government jobs should be awarded on merit not politics

• Charles Guiteau – July 1881, shot Garfield

o Garfield would die two months later of his wounds

Garfield’s assassination sparked new efforts to end the spoils system.

Reform of Federal Jobs

Chester A. Arthur succeeded Garfield to become the 21st US President

• A product of the spoils system

• One of the customhouse officials that was dismissed by Hayes

• Yet, as president he worked with Congress to reform the spoils system

1883 – Congress passed the Pendleton Act

• It created the Civil Service Commission

o Exams for federal jobs

▪ Highest scorers earn the posts

o Jobs filled based on merit

▪ Civil service jobs

• Except: elected offices and the military

o At first, it controlled only a few federal jobs

o Later, reformers pressured Presidents to place ore jobs under the Commission.

▪ By 1900 – it controlled about 40% of all federal jobs

Cities Encourage Honest Government

Many city reformers set up good government leagues.

Their goal was to replace corrupt officials with honest leaders.

The leagues had some successes.


1877 – Collis Huntington – builder of the Central Pacific Railroad

• Tried to bribe members of Congress to kill a railroad bill that would be unfavorable to his interests

o Gave large amounts of money to members of Congress

Government Regulation of Business

The behavior of men like Huntington convinced many Americans that big business controlled the government.

• Demands that something be done to limit power


• Government began to regulate railroads and other large businesses

o Could regulate interstate commerce under the Constitution

1887 – President Grover Cleveland – 22nd & 24th President of the United States

• 22nd Term

o Signed the Interstate Commerce Act

▪ Forbade practices such as pools and rebates

▪ Set up the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC)

• To oversee railroads

• At first weak

• But later became more effective

Promoting Competition

1888 – Benjamin Harrison beats out Cleveland to become our 23rd President.

• 1890 – signed the Sherman Antitrust Act

o Prohibited businesses from trying to limit or destroy competition

o Sounded strong

o Enforcing it would prove difficult

o At first, judges ruled in favor of trusts

▪ Said the “law” was an illegal attempt to control private property

o Instead of regulating trusts, was used against labor unions

▪ Courts said union strikes blocked free trade

• Thus threatened competition

o Later on, with the reform movement strengthening, the courts began to use it against monopolies.


Reformers who used the press to turn public opinion against corruption.

Corruption caused:

• Inadequate fire and police protection

• Poor sanitation services

These reformers would be known as muckrakers (crusading journalists):

• They raked the dirt, or the muck

Jacob Riis –

• Photographer

• Writer

• Journalist

• Provided shocking images of slum life

o How the Other Half Lives

Ida Tarbell –

• Targeted unfair practices of big business

o Standard Oil Company

• Led to demands for more control of trusts

Upton Sinclair –

• 1906 – shocked the nation with his novel

o The Jungle (pg 601 in TB)

▪ Although fiction, it was based on facts

▪ Revealed grisly details about the meatpacking industry

• Horrid working conditions

• Unsanitary practices

• Meat from sick animals

• Rats ground up in meat

• Meat dyed to look healthy

▪ The purpose of the book was to alert the public to the unfit working conditions of meatpackers

• But the public outrage focuses on the contaminated food they were unknowingly being fed.

• The novel would lead to the government passing the Pure Food and Drug and Meat Inspection Act.

Lincoln Steffens –

• Journalist

• Published with McClure’s Magazine

• Gathered his articles about political corruption plaguing cities across the nation

Muckrakers helped change public opinion.

Once seeing how dishonest politicians and businesses corrupted the nation, they demanded change.


1900 – Reformers called themselves Progressives

• Forward-thinking people who wanted to improve American life.

• Won many changes between 1898-1907

o Resulting in a period called the Progressive Era

• Came from many backgrounds

• Backed many different causes

• United by one belief – the ills of society could be solved

• They wanted the government to act in the public interest.

• Religion and science inspired them

o Late 1800s – The Social Gospel

▪ Movement stressing the duty of Christians to improve society

o Used scientific studies and statistics to solve society’s problems

• Valued education

o John Dewey –

▪ Progressive educator

▪ Wanted schools to:

• Promote reform

• Teach democratic values by example

• Students should ask questions

• Work together to solve problems

The Wisconsin Idea

Progressive Robert La Follette –

• His motto, “The will of the people shall be the law of the land”

• Fighting spirit earned him the nickname “Battling Bob”

• Governor, whose reforms became known as the Wisconsin Idea

o Lowered railroad rates

o Resulting in an increase of railroad traffic

▪ Helping both railroad owners and customers

Empowering Voters

Progressives wanted voters to participate more directly in government

Earlier - Party leaders picked candidates for local and state offices

• Primaries

o Voters choose their party’s candidate in a general election

o 1903 – Wisconsin the first state to adopt a primary run by state government officials.

o 1917 – all but four states had done so.

Other reformers gave voters more power

• Initiative –

o Gave voters the right to put a bill before a state legislature

▪ A certain number of qualified voters must sign petition to propose a law.

• Referendum –

o Allowed voters to put a bill on the ballot and vote it into law

• Recall –

o Allowed voters to remove an elected official from office

▪ Helped let voters get rid of corrupt officials

Many states elected Progressive governors eager for reform (pg 603 in TB)

Amending the Constitution

Other Progressive changes:

• Lowering tariffs on imported goods

o If American industry had to compete against foreign imports, consumers would benefit from lower prices

• Changing the US Constitution:

o Graduated income tax

▪ Wealthy pay taxes at higher rates than the poor or middle class

o Supreme Court held that a federal income tax was unconstitutional

▪ Progressives campaigned for a 16th Amendment

• The power to pass an income tax

• Ratified in 1913

▪ 1913 – 17th Amendment approved - The direct election of senators

o Voters elect senators to stop the bribery of lawmakers voting for certain candidates.

o Ratified in 1914


In order to avoid copyright disputes, this page is only a partial summary.

Google Online Preview   Download