The Gilded Age Economy

During the Gilded Age both farmers and factory workers attempted to improve their economic situation. How effective were these attempts?

Unit 6 DBQ
This question is based on the accompanying documents. The documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise.
In your response, you will be assessed on the following.
Respond to the prompt with a historically defensible thesis or claim that establishes a line of reasoning.
Describe a broader historical context relevant to the prompt.
Support an argument in response to the prompt using all but one of the documents.
Use at least one additional piece of specific historical evidence (beyond that found in the documents) relevant to an argument about the prompt.
For at least three documents, explain how or why the document’s point of view, purpose, historical situation, and/or audience is relevant to an argument.
Use evidence to corroborate, qualify, or modify an argument that addresses the prompt.

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During the Gilded Age both farmers and factory workers attempted to improve their economic situation. How effective were these attempts?

Document 1
Source: The platform of the People’s (Populist) party (1892)

The conditions which surround us best justify our cooperation; we meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the legislatures, the Congress, and even touches the ermine of the bench. The people are demoralized. . . . The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled, public opinion silenced, business prostrated, homes covered with mortgages, labor impoverished, and the land concentrating in the hands of the capitalists. The urban workmen are denied the right of organization for self protection. . .The national power to create money is appropriated to enrich bondholders; a vast public debt payable in legal-tender currency has been funded into gold bearing bonds, thereby adding millions to the burdens of the people. Silver, which has been accepted as coin since the dawn of history, has been demonetized to add to the purchasing
power of gold by decreasing the value of all forms of property as well as human labor, and the supply of currency is purposely abridged to fatten usurers, bankrupt enterprise, and enslave industry. A vast conspiracy against mankind has been organized on two continents, and it is rapidly taking possession of the world. If not met and overthrown at once it forbodes terrible convulsions, the destruction of civilization, or the establishment of an absolute despotism.

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Document 2
Source: Acceptance speech of William McKinley, Canton, Ohio (August 26, 1896)

It is proposed by one wing of the Democratic party and its allies, the People’s and Silver parties, to inaugurate action on the part of the United States at a ratio of 16 ounces of silver to one ounce of gold. . . .We must not be misled by phrases, nor deluded by false theories. Free silver would not mean that silver dollars were to be freely had without cost or labor. . . . It would not make labor easier, the hours shorter, or the pay better. It would not make farming less laborious or more profitable. . . .Debasement of the currency means destruction of values. No one suffers so much from cheap money as the farmers and laborers. They are the first to feels its bad effects and the last to recover from them. . . .It is mere pretense to attribute the hard times to the fact that all our currency is on a gold basis. Good money never made times hard. . . .

Document 3
Source: James B. Weaver, A Call to Action: An Interpretation of the Great Uprising. Its Sources and Causes (1892)

It is clear that trusts are contrary to public policy and hence in conflict with the Common law. They are monopolies organized to destroy competition and restrain trade…. Once they secure control of a given line of business, they are master of the situation and can dictate to the two great classes with which they deal-the producer of the raw material and the consumer of the finished product. They limit the price of the raw material so as to impoverish the producer, drive him to a single market reduce the price of every class of labor connected with the trade, throw out of employment Large numbers of persons who had before been engaged in a meritorious calling and finally … they increase the price to the consumer…. The main weapons of the trust are threats, intimidation, bribery, fraud, wreck, and pillage.

Document 4
Source: American Industries Journal; c. 1890
(Picture)

Document 5
Source: Citizen; Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy; Louise W. Knight; 2005

The workers had tried to negotiate. After threatening on May 5 to strike if necessary, leaders of the forty-six-member workers’ grievance committee met twice with several company officials, including, at the second meeting, George Pullman, the company’s founder and chief executive, to demand that the company reverse the wage cuts and reduce the rents. The company refused, and on May 11, after three of the leaders of the grievance committee had been fired and a rumor had spread that the company would lock out all employees at noon, twenty-five hundred of the thirty-one hundred workers walked out. Later that day, the company laid off the remaining six hundred. The strike had begun. “We struck at Pullman,” one worker said, “because we were without hope.”

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Document 6

Source: Andrew Carnegie; Forum Magazine; 1886

“The right of the working man to combine and to form trades-unions is no less sacred than the right of the manufacturer to enter into associations and conferences with his fellows, and it must be sooner or later conceded,”

Source: Telegraph between Henry Frick and Andrew Carnegie; November 1892

Frick to Carnegie
“Our victory is now complete and most gratifying. Do not think we will ever have serious labor trouble again,” “We had to teach our employees a lesson and we have taught them one they will never forget.”

Carnegie to Frick
“Life worth living again”

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Document 7
Source: The Gilded Age; Mark Twain; 1873

“It is a time when one’s spirit is subdued and sad, one knows not why; when the past seems a storm-swept desolation, life a vanity and a burden, and the future but a way to death. It is a time when one is filled with vague longings; when one dreams of flight to peaceful islands in the remote solitudes of the sea, or folds his hands and says, What is the use of struggling, and toiling and worrying any more? Let us give it all up.” For more information on The Gilded Age Economy check out : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPLZyoVxUI4

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