Gilded Age Politics

"Everybody is talkin' these days about . . . graft, but nobody thinks of drawin' the
 distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. There's all the difference in
 the world . . . . I've made a big fortune out of the game, and I'm gettin' richer every
 day. . . . There's an honest graft, and I'm an example of how it works. I might sum
 up the whole thing by sayin': 'I seen my opportunities and I took 'em.' "



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  • John Sherman
  • Thomas B. Reed
  • James G. Blaine
  • Grand Army of the Republic
  • "greenbacks"
  • Pendleton Act
  • "Solid South"
  • Halfbreeds & Stalwarts
  • Credit Mobilier affair
  • "Black Friday"
  • Whiskey Ring
  • "Salary Grab"
  • Hamilton Fish
  • Samuel Tilden
  • Granger movement
  • Alliance movement
  • Omaha Platform
  • William Jennings Bryan
  • Coxey's Army


  • William Jennings Bryan: "Cross of Gold" Speech (1896)


1.  Author Mark Twain referred the era following the Civil War as the "Gilded Age."
     Discuss why Twain attached this label to the period, and whether it is an appropriate

2.  "It is in vain to search the Republican and Democratic national platforms between
     1862 and 1896 for any clear-cut antithesis on any real issue." Assess the validity of
     this statement.

3.  Identify the dominant political characteristics of the Gilded Age and explain the
     factors responsible for the decline of the presidency during this period.

4.  Evaluate the terms of any two of the following Presidents, citing specific examples to
     support your conclusions—Ulysses S. Grant; Rutherford B. Hayes; James A. Garfield;
     Chester Arthur; Grover Cleveland; Benjamin Harrison; William McKinley.

5.  Discuss the emergence and decline of the Populist Party. What were the important
     points of its Omaha Platform of 1892?

6.  Trace the need for and evaluate the effects of any two of the following legislative
     measures enacted during the Gilded Age—Chinese Exclusion Act (1882); Pendleton
     Act (1883); Interstate Commerce Act (1887); Dawes Severalty Act (1887); Sherman
     Anti-Trust Act (1890).


  1. National politics between 1865 and 1900 was dominated by
    1. the White House.
    2. Congress.
    3. the Supreme Court.
    4. major third parties such as the Populists.

  2. The best presidential term during the late 1800s was probably served by
    1. James Garfield.
    2. Chester Arthur.
    3. Grover Cleveland.
    4. Benjamin Harrison.

  3. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) confirmed
    1. state regulation of railroads.
    2. federal control of interstate commerce.
    3. the reservation policy for western Indians.
    4. segregation through its "separate but equal" clause.

  4. All of the following were part of the Populist platform of 1892 except
    1. subtreasury plan.
    2. initiative, referendum, and recall.
    3. single-term limit for the President.
    4. civil service reform.

  5. The 1896 "Cross of Gold" speech delivered by William Jennings Bryan advocated
    1. higher tariffs.
    2. public works programs in the cities.
    3. government ownership of railroads.
    4. unlimited coinage of silver.

Mount Rushmore is named for Charles E. Rushmore, a New York City attorney who visited the Black Hills in the mid-1880s. During his trek through the region, the curious lawyer would query his guides about names of prominent topographical features. As the story goes, when Rushmore pointed to a certain as yet unnamed mountain cliff, someone in his party randomly called it "Rushmore Mountain." Soon thereafter, official government maps began identifying the site as such. The name was somehow transposed before Gutzon Borglum came along to carve the faces. Click on the mountain to access LECTURE GUIDE for this unit.


"Elected"   by Alice Cooper