From Hayes to McKinley: National Party Politics, 1877-1896

From Hayes to McKinley: National Party Politics, 1877-1896

From Hayes to McKinley: National Party Politics, 1877-1896

From Hayes to McKinley: National Party Politics, 1877-1896

Excerpt

The last generation of the nineteenth century fills a peculiar place in American thinking. It seems remote and grandfatherly, but its problems and ideals are still real. It radiated optimism in a time of great change, but seldom trusted what the twentieth century calls "idealism." Frankly materialistic, it was aware of human limitations, and assumed that well-being both reflected and created progress. These ideals spread through all levels of society, not just among those who ruled. Millions who hoped to rise, and often did, clung fervently to ethics symbolized by successful men.

All this confuses scholars, who usually dismiss the period as an interlude between the Civil War and Progressivism. Historians have recently re-examined the era's diplomacy, economy, and culture, but few have studied party politics. General accounts and textbooks too often repeat facile conclusions that make every businessman a robber baron and all politicians humbugs. This usually reflects poor information. Detailed studies are scarce, and fragmentary sources make research into politics difficult. A generation of men more interested in power than fame kept poor records. Bitter struggles within and between parties to retain and consolidate support put a premium on the quiet compromise and unwritten understanding among leaders, which hampers historical investigation. A predominantly Republican era has also found few partisans among historians who tend to be "liberal" Democrats.

These politicians seem genteel and bland, but the issues they met were deeply significant, attesting to America's emergence as a great industrial state and international power. Tariff protection, free silver, and civil service reform only sound archaic. As reciprocity, inflation . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.