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

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

Chapter 5
Complaint and Reform

There was a great deal of economic self-congratulation in the United States during the Gilded Age. Andrew Carnegie liked to boast of how productive the American steel industry was and how serviceable it had become to the nation and to the world. John D. Rockefeller was similarly proud of oil; and both he and Carnegie—and other captains of industry—heartily endorsed the American system of acquisition and enjoyment.American economists added their praise of the system to that of business leaders. In 1891, Edward Atkinson, surveying American economic development in the Gilded Age, declared with satisfaction:

There has never been in the history of civilization, a period, or a place, or a section of the earth in which science and invention have worked such progress or have created such opportunity for material welfare as in these United States in the period which has elapsed since the end of the Civil War.

But there were rumblings of discontent as well as voices of praise. Henry George pointed out that the enormous increase in production had been accompanied by a shocking increase in poverty and that "the gulf between Dives and Lazarus" was wider than ever before and the struggle for existence fiercer.To Edward Bellamy the Ameri

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