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Nov 18, 2018 - America Transformed, Costs of War, Economics, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Northern Pensions    Comments Off on Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

By 1890 the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), as a fraternal order of Northern veterans, had become not only indispensable to politicians for election victory, a guiding light for “correct” histories of the war in textbooks and a Northern view of American nationalism, but most importantly, a very powerful lobby for pensions.

In late January 1879, Congress passed the Arrears of Pension Act for Northern veterans who could collect past monies due for any claimed disability, which “placed a tremendous premium on deception and fraud.” Men who had an attack of fever while in the army persuaded themselves that every ill since being discharged was caused by that fever. By the time Grover Cleveland became president in 1885, the pension list had grown to 385,125 who drew more than $65 million annually from the public treasury, North and South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

“It has ever been easy to arouse popular excitement upon the treatment of wounded or disabled soldiers, and this noble sentiment has been often played upon by designing men. Moreover, the Democratic party has always been compelled to deal with more than the usual caution with the question when it affected soldiers who served in the Federal ranks . . . as any unwillingness to pass pension bills for such soldiers was certain to be interpreted as reflecting sympathy for the lost cause.

For this reason Grover Cleveland, as he looked over the pension system of the nation of which he was chosen president, must have summoned all of his courage. To allow the [pension] scandals which had developed to pass unrebuked was impossible for a man with his views of the duty as a President; to attempt to end them was to bring down more abuse from his enemies in both political parties.

Under a just system of army pensions the maximum of expenditure on account of any war is reached within eight or ten years of its close. Thereafter death steadily diminishes the number of legitimate pensioners . . . In 1866 there had been 126,722 pensioners drawing from the public treasury, all told, about thirteen and a half million dollars annually. As the years passed these numbers increased until, in 1873, there were more than 238,000 names on the roll, which called for some $29,000,000 a year.

From that time mortality should have materially reduced the number of pensions; and if the congressional demagogues had kept their hands off, this would certainly have happened.

In his first annual message to Congress [Cleveland] used the words: “It is fully as important that the rolls should be cleansed of all those who by fraud have secured a place within, as that meritorious claims should be speedily examined and adjusted.”

Conscienceless profiteers, intent upon coining into gold a noble public sentiment, had adopted the practice of disregarding the decisions of the Pension Bureau, and taking spurious claims directly to Congress in the form of private pension bills, which dishonest manipulators or too sentimental patriots steered through, as secretly as the rules would allow. It was a practice safe as well as profitable, for few politicians dared to resist, lest they be regarded as unpatriotic.”

(Grover Cleveland: The Man and the Statesman, Volume I, Robert McElroy, Harper and Brothers, 1923, excerpts pp. 189-191)

Portuguese Trade with Africa

It is said that a Portuguese merchant was the first to purchase slaves in 1441 from an African chieftain, who were then taken to Portugal. This country had emerged as the first European country and viable political unit which could raise sufficient revenues through taxation to sustain overseas expeditions for future trade relations. And, like their European counterparts, African coastal slave catchers viewed their captives as marketable objects.

The African slave trade monopoly developed by the Portuguese spread to other European powers, and eventually New England, which created its own “rum triangle” of the transatlantic trade in slaves. Thus, the agrarian Southern colonies of British America became populated with African slaves to work the British plantation labor system. It is then clear who developed, profited from and perpetuated the existence of African slavery, and where condemnation should be accurately directed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Portuguese Trade with Africa

“The transatlantic trade affected the coastal area of West Africa that became Liberia in 1822. Before the arrival of Europeans in the fifteenth century, coastal pre-Liberia had been affected by internal and external social dynamics. The Mande, Mel and Kwa were the first linguistic groups to reside in the region . . . [and] Dei, Bassa, Kran, Kru and Glebo came to pre-Liberia in about 988 AD.

Nearly all these ethnic groups practiced some form of slavery prior to the arrival of the Europeans. [The European] discovery of the New World brought significant demands for . . . a large number of Africans to meet the demand for labor. [North and South American] Indians were enslaved, but frequently escaped. As many as 30 million Indians were killed by diseases such as smallpox and chicken pox . . .

Attempts were made to enslave poor Europeans. Some poor Irish, Scots and English were reduced to indentured servitude to meet the increasing demands for labor in the New World.

The first group of African slaves sent to the West Indies in 1510, had been bought in Portugal. Owing to the increasing significance of the slave trade, King John III activated the monopoly that had been established over the coastal pre-Liberian trade, even though the Portuguese monopoly was ignored by other European powers as the transatlantic slave trade, started by Portugal, was taken over by Spain and then the Netherlands.

Nearly all the major European powers came to be involved with the trade from the 1400s to the 1800s. It has been estimated that as many as 9.5 million Africans were transported to the Americas between 1510 and 1870.

The prosperity of the Vai, Kissi, Kry, Bassa and Glebo merchants was directly tied to their participation in the Atlantic trade . . . [and] African coastal merchants perceived slavery as a commercial action. The African slavers sent “gampisas”, professional slave captors, into the interior to hunt for slaves for their western allies.”

(Transatlantic Trade and the Coastal Area of Pre-Liberia, Amos J. Beyan, The Historian, Phi Alpha Theta, Volume 57, No. 4, Summer 1995, excerpts pp. 757-758; 763-768)

Money Versus Morality Up North

In his “Lords of the Loom” study of the years preceding the war, author Thomas H. O’Conner asserts that “Throughout much of traditional historical literature, the conservative Northern Whigs in the decades before the Civil War have either been completely overlooked, or else dismissed out of hand with vague generalizations.” He further credits fellow author Vernon Parrington with cautioning his readers that “the Puritan and the Yankee were two halves of the New England whole.” Conner’s book is the story of what happened “when the Puritan conscience collided head-on with the Yankee zeal for profit – when the moral desire to uproot the evils of slavery reached the point where it had to be weighed against the economic demands for more slave-grown cotton” – for New England mills.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Money Versus Morality Up North

“In 1941, Philip Foner, in his “Business and Slavery,” made an appeal for a more detailed study of the Northern businessman and his reaction to the coming of the Civil War. Countering the popular interpretation that the war was a product of two conflicting economic systems, Professor Foner presented his own observations regarding the concerted efforts of the New York financial interests to check any and all movements which tended to precipitate an intersectional struggle.

Foner’s challenge has failed to arouse very much historical enthusiasm, apparently, for many recent historical treatments of the critical years before the Civil War continue to generalize upon the essential economic antagonisms of the North and the South, and still look upon the Northern industrialist as the catalytic agent which propelled the sections into bloody warfare.

One of the most distinctive presentations of this economic point of view came into the twentieth century with the writings of Charles Beard. The South, according to Beard, was an area of “planters operating in a limited territory with incompetent labor on soil of diminishing fertility,” in contrast to the industrial men of the North who “swept forward . . . exulting in the approaching triumph of machine industry, [and who] warned the planters of their ultimate subjection.”

The economic interpretation was carried into the twenties by the work of Vernon Parrington . . . enthusiastic about the “agrarian democracy” of the West, sympathetic at times toward the interest of the South, Parrington had little regard for the ideals of a middle class which was busily engaged in “creating a plutocracy.” In the decades before the war, claimed Parrington, the major parties of the United States chose to follow the economic interests of “master groups, heedless of all humanitarian issues”; and once the war was over, the “slave economy could never again thwart the ambitions of the capitalist economy.”

[Despite considerable evidence to the contrary], Writers continue to generalize upon New England’s “hatred of Southerners and their institutions” and often describe this hatred so intense that New England would “do everything possible to destroy slavery.”

(Lords of the Loom: The Cotton Whigs and the Coming of the Civil War, Thomas H. O’Conner, Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1968, excerpts pp. 1- 6)

Virginia’s Killing Fields and War Profiteering

The immense carnage unleashed by Lincoln in 1861 led to Northern war-weariness by mid-1864 — and the suppression of liberties in the North had only increased opposition to his military regime. Lincoln’s war had unleashed another devil – war-profiteering. Historian James G. Randall wrote that “The relation of the War Department to the army on the one side and the contractors on the other is a sorry tale. Whether it was a matter of uniforms, food, horses, guns or munitions, the service was made to suffer while ill-gotten wealth was gathered in by shameless profiteers.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Virginia ‘s Killing Fields and War-Profiteering

By early June 1864, war-weary Northerners began to suspect that they had been betrayed by rosy promises of victory, just as they had been disappointed in every spring since 1861. They had been led to believe that the armies of Generals Grant and Sherman, in their combined offensives aimed at crushing the Confederacy, would finally achieve the triumph that had eluded Federal armies through three years of slaughter.

This time, Grant hurled 115,000 men across the Rapidan and attacked Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, a force only half as large but well entrenched behind elaborate defenses in the thicket of The Wilderness. Sherman led about 100,000 men out of Chattanooga, heading south to capture the railroad center of Atlanta . . .

As usual, the War Department sent forth cheerful bulletins about great “victories” and Northern newspapers blazoned headlines: “Glorious Successes – Lee Terribly Beaten.” “Our Army in Full Pursuit of the Enemy Towards Richmond.”

In fact, Secretary [of War Edwin] Stanton deliberately withheld the truth that Grant’s forces had suffered horrendous losses in the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor battles and that they had finally moved across the James River to about the same place where General McClellan had been two years before.

In a few weeks of direct frontal attacks on Richmond’s defenses Grant lost more than 50,000 men – killed, wounded and missing – almost as many men as Lee had in his army. Other estimates of Union losses ran much higher. John Tyler, an officer with Lee’s staff, claimed that the total was 70,000.

“Grant has shown great skill and prudence combined with remorseless persistency and brutality,” Tyler commented.

Eventually the enormous casualties could no longer be concealed as the people read the lengthening lists of killed and wounded in their newspapers, and boatloads of maimed soldiers arrived at the Washington waterfront from the killing fields of Virginia.

Thurlow Weed observed a depressing scene in New York State: “Regiments are returning home worn, weary, maimed and depleted. Our cities and villages swarm with skulking, demoralized soldiers.” He also lamented that “there is a reckless, money-making spirit abroad which, profiting by our disasters, favors a long war.”

“The commercial metropolis of the Union is flushed with prosperity and riots in extravagance,” one newspaper found. Throughout the spring of 1864, the New York Times observed that speculation mounted madly, higher and higher. “It was openly proclaimed on the Street that too much could not be paid for railway shares or mining allotments, because the currency was going to the dogs.” War profiteers made a vulgar display of their ill-gotten wealth by wearing diamond-studded waistcoats and spending money freely on jewelry for their women, and riding in fancy carriages and entertaining with lavish parties in their expensive homes.

As far as wealthy pleasure-seekers were concerned, the war was only a dim and distant sound coming out of the South . . . They would not care if the war would go on for another year or so if they could keep their precious carcasses out of the army. They could hire their substitutes for a few hundred dollars each and let the Irish, Germans, and the freed slaves fill the ranks and endure the hardships of battle and risk their lives for the Union.”

(The Dark Intrigue: The True Story of a Civil War Conspiracy, Frank van der Linden, Fulcrum Publishing, 2007, excerpts, pp. 113-114)

 

Total War, Confiscation and Sheer Theft

Author Clyde Wilson asserts that “The triumph in 1861-65 of the Republican Party over the will of the American people and the invasion, destruction and conquest of the Southern States, like a foreign territory has somehow, strangely, gotten mixed up with the idea of government of, by and for the people.” The Republican president crowned his revolutionary actions with the creation of a nationalist mythology which we still live under today. The Union was preserved by Lincoln and his party in a territorial sense, but not the Founders’ Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Total War, Confiscation and Sheer Theft

“Another great moral cost of the War, as Richard Weaver pointed out, was inauguration by the Republicans of the “total war” concept, reversing several centuries of Western progress in restraining warfare to rules.

General Sherman himself estimated that in his march across Georgia and the Carolinas, only 20 percent of the destruction had any military value. The rest was sheer wanton terrorism against civilians – theft and destruction of their food, housing, and tools. One egregious example was the burning and sack of Columbia – a city which had already surrendered and was full of women and children and wounded soldiers – a looting which marked the emancipation of black women by their wholesale rape.

Along with destruction went immense confiscation and theft, much of it under cover of a Confiscation Act which was enforced without ever being legally passed. The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives simply declared the bill passed and adjourned. This high-handed legislative practice continued throughout the War and Reconstruction.

The Republican Governor of Indiana suspended the legislature and acted as dictator for two years. Republicans continually agitated for an open dictatorship under Fremont or some other trustworthy Radical; all of this is known but seldom acknowledged.

In addition to the Confiscation Act, for rebel property there was a mechanism for the government to collect taxes in the occupied regions of the South to finance the War. At last $100,000,000 in cotton (the most valuable commodity in North America) was seized — $30,000,000 more or less legally under the confiscation and tax acts, the rest sheer theft. The rest was stolen by Republican appointees.

A Secretary of the Treasury commented that he was sure a few of the tax agents he sent South were honest, but none remained so very long. We know, for instance, of that great war hero Admiral [David] Porter, who with General [Nathanial] Banks was badly beaten by vastly inferior Confederate forces in the Red River campaign, yet emerged from that campaign with $60,000 worth of stolen cotton for his personal profit.

The confiscation and theft continued in full force until at least 1868; they did not end with the hostilities.”

(State Rights Revisited: War, Reconstruction and the End of the Union, Clyde N. Wilson; Defending Dixie, Essays in Southern History and Culture, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 142-143)

Disruptive and Inharmonious Boston Abolitionists

The aristocratic cotton manufacturers who supported Henry Clay’s “American System” organized the Massachusetts Whig party out of the chaos of Andrew Jackson’s reelection in 1832. They and their allies saw high tariffs as job insurance, and resented Jackson’s appeal to immigrant labor, farmers and urban workers. These Massachusetts Whigs had grown wealthy from Eli Whitney’s invention and slave-produced cotton from the South, and considered abolitionists as enemies of the Constitution and peace. Both Whitney and the mill owners were responsible for perpetuating slavery in the South as they made cotton production highly profitable.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Disruptive and Inharmonious Boston Abolitionists

“The leaders of the Whig party, for a number of reasons, were particularly responsive to the abolitionist threat. Several members of their class, including Sewall, Edmund Quincy, Ellis Gray Loring, Francis Jackson, James Russell Lowell, William Ellery Channing, and Wendell Phillips, had entered abolitionist ranks and so threatened the newly-restored [upper Boston] class unity.

Although the aristocrats were engaged in a great many reforms, abolitionism never became fashionable or even acceptable to the social elite as a whole, and aristocrats who associated with the abolitionists were quickly ostracized. Consequently, many of the leading abolitionists came from less socially-distinguished families and were most successful in their appeals to the middle class.

The Whig leaders, who regarded abolitionism as a disruptive influence in American society and deplored the abolitionists’ opposition to harmony with the South and the maintenance of the Union, seldom distinguished the moderate abolitionists from the Garrisonian extremists.

Worst of all, from the Whig point of view, the abolitionists, in their demand for immediate, uncompensated emancipation, had attacked property right which the conservative Whigs regarded as fundamental to every other right.

The Whig leaders opposed all denunciations of slavery and slaveholders, many of whom were personal friends, business associates, and political allies. They considered slavery a redundant issue in Massachusetts politics and anti-slavery propaganda worse than meaningless in the North. Although most of them, to be sure, considered slavery an evil, they emphasized that it was an institution wholly controlled by the States, and as such was protected by the Constitution, which was no to be tampered with.

Anti-slavery agitation in the North would only bring about sectional disharmony and, in addition, worsen the condition of the slave in the South. Abbott Lawrence summed up the conservative Whig position when he wrote:

“I am in favor of maintaining the compact as established by our fathers. I am for the Union as it is. I have no sympathy with the abolition party of the North and East. I believe they have done mischief to the cause of freedom in several States of the Union. The abolition of slavery in the States is exclusively a State question and one with which I do not feel that I should meddle or interfere in any shape or form.”

(Cotton Versus Conscience: Massachusetts Whig Politics and Southwestern Expansion, 1843-1848, Kinley J. Brauer, University of Kentucky Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 22-24)

Lincoln’s War Department

Lincoln’s initial choice to lead his War Department was Senator Simon Cameron, described as “the Pennsylvania opportunist, and successively Democrat and Know Nothing before affiliating with the Republicans.” Lincoln was under intense pressure from Pennsylvania Republicans to appoint Cameron to the cabinet, though the latter’s troubled past warned against it. In 1838, Cameron was appointed to settle claims of the Winnebago tribe in Wisconsin and “besides other irregularities Cameron had given to the red men depreciated notes on his own bank – all of which brought against him the first of many charges of dishonorable dealing and earned for him the derisive sobriquet of the “Great Winnebago Chief.” Indeed, “Cameron” and “corruption” became synonymous terms.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s War Department

“The most flagrant malfeasance was in the War rather than Navy Department, for the War office had at its disposal many fat army contracts. Conditions in this department were made even worse by the fact that the code of political ethics of Secretary of War Simon Cameron made it impossible for him to play the role of crusader in eliminating sharp practices.

Indeed, his handling of the financial affairs of the department were scandalous in the extreme. The most glaring favoritism was shown. Some manufacturers could get contracts while others could not. Middlemen abounded and easily obtained lavish contracts, which they sold to manufacturers at high profit.

One gun manufacturer endeavored in vain to secure business from the War Department, but got orders for 200,000 guns from middlemen who, though unable to manufacture the guns, knew how to get contracts. Many contracts went to subcontractors.

Either through criminal negligence or criminal collusion on its part, the War Department under Cameron permitted and even encouraged fraud of the grossest character. Moreover, contractors frequently besieged Republican leaders with appeals to intercede for them with Cameron in the award of contracts.

Cameron conducted the War Department as if it were a political club house; he used contracts freely to pay off old political debts and to shower additional favors upon his henchmen.

Representative Henry L. Dawes, of Massachusetts . . . declared that Cameron used fat contracts to win political support at meetings “where the hatchet of political animosity was buried in the grave of public confidence and the national credit was crucified between malefactors.”

(Lincoln and the Patronage, Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, Peter Smith, 1964, excerpts pp. 147-148; 150)

Factions Combine to Battle a Common Foe

Lincoln was the consummate politician at the head of a minority party made up of warring factions, whose only commonality was deep hatred of Democrats and the interests of the American South. He realized after his plurality victory that public jobs, i.e., the patronage, had to be wisely distributed to these factions to cement the fragile party together. In the Fort Sumter crisis, though common sense and peace demanded wise leadership and diplomacy, Lincoln instead put party above country – fearing that any action appearing conciliatory toward the South would cause his Republican party of many faces to disintegrate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Factions Combine to Battle the Common Foe

“The groups who contributed to Lincoln’s triumph in 1860 almost defy analysis, so numerous and varied they were. Among the more important were:

  1. the antislavery Whigs, who seized upon the sectional issue for political reasons or because they sincerely believed that the Southern planter interests would either politically ruin the nation or cause disunion.
  2. Free-Soil Democrats, particularly in the Northwest, who feared extension of Negro slavery into their territory or who had severed their allegiance with the Democratic party when [both Presidents Pierce and] Buchanan disregarded their section’s interest in favor of the South.
  3. Disgruntled Democrats, with no pronounced opinions on the sectional controversy . . . disappointed in their many quests for public office or else detested Buchanan and other Democratic chieftains . . .
  4. Certain Know-Nothing who disliked the Democrats for party reasons or because of the latter’s coddling of the Irish vote.
  5. German-born naturalized citizens who hated the Southern slave-plantation system, feared competition with Negro labor, and wanted free land.
  6. Homestead and internal improvement people in general.
  7. Protective tariff advocates, particularly in Pennsylvania, who opposed Democrats because of their free-trade [and low-tariff] tendencies.
  8. Groups in favor of the Pacific railroad [to increase Northeastern trade with the Orient].
  9. Those who wanted daily overland mail and who believed that the Buchanan administration was favoring [a Southern railroad route].
  10. Certain Union-minded conservative men in the border States, who believed that the regular Democratic party under Pierce and Buchanan was becoming an instrument of pro-slavery interests and a force for secession and who hoped to conservatize the Republican party from within.

Only a few years before these numerous factions had hewn at each other’s heads; they had come together in the recent campaign like Highland clans to battle the common foe. The leaders of these various factions were still jealous of one another and often openly hostile.”

(Lincoln and the Patronage, Harry J. Carman & Reinhard H. Luthin, Peter Smith, 1864, excerpts pp. 9-10)

 

Creating Engines for Political Security

The “glittering prize” of political party victory was control of the distribution of political offices, and Lincoln astutely arranged the patronage to control his party as well as keep jealous competitors at bay. The Collectors of Customs posts were most important, and were decisive in Lincoln’s decision for war rather than lose his tariff money and appointing powers.  Count Gurowski, the Polish immigrant and political gadfly mentioned below, believed in the European tradition that “treason” was simple opposition to royalty. In the United States, however, Article III, Section 3, defines treason only as waging war against “them,” the States, or adhering to their enemies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Creating Engines for Political Security

“The arduous task of cabinet-making was far from completed before Lincoln was beset with a swarm of office-seekers. Indeed, Washington was a veritable mecca for patronage mongers bent upon securing consulships, Indian agencies, postmaster-ships, or anything else in the gift of the appointing power [of the President].

Those who witnessed the rush of job hunters could not easily forget the spectacle. Wrote home a Michigan Congressman: “The City is overwhelmed with a crowd of rabid, persistent office-seekers – the like never was experienced before in the history of the Government.”

An Indiana member reminisced later: “I met at every turn a swarm of miscellaneous people, many of them looking as hungry and fierce as wolves, and ready to pounce upon members [of Congress] as they passed, begging for personal intercessions, letters of recommendations, etc. . . . the scuffle for place was unabated.”

And the eccentric Count Adam Gurowski, viewing the scene, confided to his diary in this same month of March 1861 his impressions:

“What a run, a race for offices. This spectacle likewise new to me. The Cabinet Ministers, or, as they call them here, the Secretaries, have old party debts to pay, old sores to avenge or to heal, and all this by distributing offices, or by what they call it here, the patronage. They, the leaders, hope to create engines for their own political security, but no one seems to look over Mason and Dixon’s line to the terrible and with lightning-like velocity spreading fire of hellish treason.”

Politically and financially, the collectors of customs posts were among the most important at the disposal of the Administration. That at the metropolis of the Empire State was the most lucrative. “There is no situation in the U. States which enables the incumbent to exert such influence . . . as the Collectorship of New York,” one political observer had written in the 1840’s; to another this position was second only in influence to that of Postmaster-General.”

Under the caption “Fat Offices of New York,” Horace Greeley’s Tribune informed its readers in 1860 that ranking first in importance and revenue was the collectorship, with its fixed salary of $6,340, and some $20,000 more in the form of “pickings and fees.” Before Lincoln’s first administration had run its four years, the Surveyor of the Port estimated the number of employees in the New York Custom House at 1,200 and the assessment on their salaries for political party purposes at 2 percent.”

(Lincoln and the Patronage, Harry J. Carman & Reinhard H. Luthin, Peter Smith, 1864, excerpts pp. 53-54; 59-60)

 

Postwar Corruption and Thievery in Washington

The war waged against the American South was more about destroying it’s political and economic power in the Union, so that Northern political and economic interests could prevail nationally. The resulting carnival of political vice and scandal is best summarized with: “The festering corruptions of the post-war period sprang up in every part of America and in almost every department of national life. Other loose and scandalous times . . . had been repellent enough; but the Grant era stands unique in the comprehensiveness of its rascality.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Postwar Corruption and Thievery in Washington

“The Civil War had severed the Southern checks on the exploitation of natural resources, had supplanted an old, experienced ruling class for a new, inexperienced one, had released the dynamic energies of the nation, and had ushered in the Era of Manipulation.

Under President Grant, pliant and politically naïve, the government had fallen into the hands of dishonest and incapable men . . . politics under the cloak of Radicalism more and more had become identified with manipulation for economic favor. Hordes of lobbyists had swarmed over the land, seeking railroad subsidies, mining concessions, and thousands of other government handouts.

The West was being plundered by railroad and mining corporations, the South by Carpetbaggers and Scalawags. The cities and the State legislatures, in North and South alike, were infested with rings, lobbyists, bribe-givers, and bribe-takers. Even the national Congress had become a tool of predatory business interests. Machine politics, firmly founded on patronage, economic privilege, the bloody shirt, and the soldier vote, prevailed everywhere.

The new ruling classes, flushed with prosperity, had lost their sense of responsibility, and corruption had kept pace with the upward swing of the business cycle. Political morality had sunk to its lowest level in American history.

In the closing days of the last Congress, [Grant’s self-styled House floor leader] Ben Butler and a few others had slipped through a measure increasing the salaries of the President, members of Congress, and other high officials. Tacked onto the unpopular measure was a retroactive feature which in effect gave each member a $500 bonus for his service the last two years.”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley; Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1855, excerpts pp. 250-252)

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