American Thought in Transition: The Impact of Evolutionary Naturalism, 1865-1900

By Paul F. Boiler Jr. | Go to book overview

Editor's Preface

Lincoln's assassination dampened but failed to extinguish America's elation over the ending of the Civil War and gave no pause to those oracles who predicted with more optimism than accuracy a period of tranquillity, orderly reunion, reconstruction, and a return to the regularity of normal life spiced with a modicum of predictable progress. The murder of the President, however, was more than the closing act of a great schismatic war; it was the opening event of the most violent, bloody, and turbulent peacetime era in the history of the country.Reunion and reconstruction there were; and if change be progress, then there was plenty of that too, though scarcely of the predictable variety. Tranquillity, however, entirely eluded the America of the Gilded Age.

The decades between the end of the Civil War and the closing of the Spanish-American War saw the building of all the transcontinental rail lines and the completion of the country's railroad network. Telegraph lines crisscrossed the continent, controlled mainly by one giant corporation, Western Union.Other huge corporations, known generically as trusts, grew along with the development of the national transportation and communications system and constituted the organizational structure of a burgeoning national industrial complex, which in turn attracted ever increasing numbers of Europe's poor to

-vii-

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