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Social Changes in America Brought About by the Gilded Age

Social Changes in America Brought About by the Gilded Age

The Gilded Age was characterized by rapid industrialization, reconstruction, ruthless pursuit of profit, government, corruption, and vulgarity (Cashman 1). After the Civil War, America was beginning to regroup as a nation. There were many other changes developing in the country. Industrialization was taking over the formerly agricultural country. The nation’s government was also in great conflict (Foner 20). Many changes occurred during the Gilded Age. These changes affected farmers, labor, business, and politics.

Many southerners saw Reconstruction as an attempt by the north to punish the south, rather than an attempt to rebuild the nation (Foner 29). This period was marked by intense bitterness and anger. Regional and racial pressure remained powerful. The Ku Klux Klan came into full force, terrorizing blacks by tactics such as night riding (Foner 94). Poll taxes forced an unreasonable fee on blacks at the voting booth. During Reconstruction, the northern economy experienced a tremendous industrial boom, while the South struggled through Reconstruction (Powers 48). Immigrants began pouring into northern cities and provided a cheap labor source for Northern Industry. The south remained primarily agricultural. Much of the Gilded Age can be seen as a response to the result of the events of Reconstruction.

Almost all of the Gilded Age politics revolved around the effort of the government to find some system so they could regulate big business and to regulate its own abuses. Machine Politics was the government’s response. The first reason machine politics worked was because there were no secret ballots (Mandelbaum 135). Ballots were very colorful and it was easy to tell who someone was voting for when they went to the polls (Mandelbaum 139). When a party controlled a district, which was very common, that party might threaten people who decide to vote against it. Police officers did nothing about this although it was illegal because they have government jobs also (Mandelbaum 148).

Boss Tweed is the best example of machine politics. He was in charge of the “Tweed Ring” in New York City. Machine politics worked wonderful in New York City where the Irish stuck together and used machine politics to their advantage(Mandlebaum 28). Tweed gained control over the police officers allowing him to exercise control over...

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