Corruption And Prosperity In The Gilded Age

1563 words - 6 pages

Deriving from the famed novel The Gilded Age written by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, the Gilded Age was a time from the early 1860s to the early 1900s of political corruption and vast economic prosperity. After the Civil War, America became determined to reconstruct itself into a society not restricted as to what it could and could not have as individuals in terms of goods and services. America wanted to be viewed as something more than just farmers and craftsmen derived from different nations. During this time railroads, telephone lines and other revolutionary industrial contributions helped to cover up the problems of American society with a layer of gold, as wages in America increased dramatically over the years. In addition, political representatives in America at this time were corrupt in the way they administered office, thinking they were above the law and should be allowed to attain all the wealth in the world. Political representatives were also corrupt in the way they campaigned on both municipal and federal levels, offering bribes for votes to secure a chosen party in government. The economic and social changes America faced during this time are what helped shape the nation into the superpower it is today.

As a result of greed, political elections in America became exciting. Voter participation was at an all time high and presidents won elections by slim majorities. Most memorable is the election of 1880 when James Garfield won the federal election by only 1898 votes. The political corruption that occurred during this time happened on both a federal and municipal level. This was the time the political machine really started to take shape. Those who were running in the federal elections would gain votes in urban regions by accepting jobs and contracts from powerful organizations in exchange for political loyalty. It was to no ones surprise that the politicians would keep some of the wealth for themselves. The most infamous political machine of the Gilded Age was Tammany Hall, which was run by William M. Tweed after the election of 1869. As an active member of the Democratic Party in America, Tweed was a corrupt politician who would use patronage and bribery in order to secure the votes of individuals during the federal election. In The History of Tammany Hall, author Gustavus Myers tells of the bribery Tweed imposed upon officials:
“Tweed stated that he gave to one man $600,000 with which to buy votes, this being merely a part of the fund. Tweed further testified that he bought the votes of five Republican Senators for $40,000 apiece, giving one of them $200,000 in cash to distribute. The vote in the two houses was practically unanimous: in the Senate, 30 to 2, and in the Assembly 116 to 5.” (Myers 227)
It is estimated that the expenses Tweed invested into turning voters in his favour reached well into the millions. Tweed later found justice when he was charged for bribery by the Supreme Court, in which they ruled that Tweed...

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