Origins of Modern America, 1860-1900

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Origins of Modern America, 1860-1900

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ORIGIXS ()F l\llODEI\N 1:\ltll�ltl�1A, 1860-1900 �

Edit:ed by Allen Weinst:ein

Random House Readings in American History




Smith College

University of California, Los Angeles

Origins of Modern America, 1860- 1900 Edited by





Copyright © 1970 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 72-()6274 Manufactured in the United States of America.


The following volume is one of six in the Random House Readings in American History series. In each volume, the editor develops a coherent view of his own scholarly period, presenting a cross section of provoca­ tive new research that has influenced recent interpretations of American history. Each editor introduces his own period, discusses the literature bearing on its central themes, and offers the reader a sampling of current scholarship. The six volumes, arranged chronologically, contain major recent articles or portions of recent books on the evolving structure of American political, economic, social, and cultural life. They offer the student, when read either as single volumes or as a series, an exploration of the American past through the eyes of a half-dozen historical special­ ists. Each volume contains its own angle of vision, its own particular style of argument, and its own distinct flavor. The choice of selections and the introductory material are the work of the volume editor. Scholars may disagree over aspects of the periodization employed. None of the volume editors, however, found difficulty in treating within this framework the central themes of each succeeding era in American life. Although the most significant problems faced by previous generations of Americans are explored in each volume, the editors have not aimed at a "problems" approach. Similarly, although they discuss the flow of historical argument within their periods, they do not march '!conflicting interpretations" quickstep across the pages simply to give each what Herodotus called its "due meed of glory." Instead, the participating scholars have tried to sift the present state of knowledge on their period in order to determine the major themes and characteristics. In the present volume, Professor Allen Weinstein of Smith College analyzes the distinct nature of the transformations at the heart of modern America's formative period from 1860-1900. Students can assess for themselves the quality of Professor Weinstein's




judgments by careful examination of the readings, discussion with their own instructors, and reference to other historians mentioned in the text. The results may prove tentative and uncertain, a familiar state of affairs for the working historian. Yet, hopefully, the selections that follow will provoke in some a passion for continued reading in the national past, while providing for others an entry into that normally contentious world, the historians' America. Allen Weinstein Frank Otto Gatell

CONTENTS Introduction

Pdrt I

Civil War and Its Aftermath


ERIC L. McKITRICK Party Politics and the Union and Confed­ erate War Efforts


LAWANDA Cox AND JOHN H. Cox Negro Suffrage and Repub­ lican Politics: The Problem of Motivation in Reconstruc­ tion Historiography

3. JoHN HoPE FRANKLIN Reconstruction and the Negro

Part II

The New Society

A. Structure 4. ROBERT H. WIEBE The Confinements of Consensus


American Industry ¥


The Beginnings of "Big Business" in

6. DAVID J. ROTHMAN The Structure of State Politics


7. STEPHAN THERNSTROM Urbanization, Migration, and Social Mobility in Late Nineteenth-Century America



B. Response 8. HERBERT G. GUTMAN Protestantism and the American Labor � Movement: The Christian Spirit in the Gilded Age � 1/ 9. GILBERT C. FITE William Jennings Bryan and the Campaign of 1896: Some Views and Problems �


Part III 10.

The Approach of Empire RICHARD W. LEOPOLD The Roots of Imperialism




Modern America's formative period, from 1860 to 1900, began in civil war and terminated in world conquest. During these decades, the United States fought a long and bloody war of national unity, liberated its slave population only to abandon its freedmen to sectional serf· are so m.m>· intelligent workingmen non­ church goers? ·· "Jesus Christ. ·· he replied. "is with us our-side the church. and we shall prevail l 'ith d '"92 Despite these man>· difficulties. a perspecti,·e o,·er nwre th.m one or : two g-enerations sug-g-ests tentati,·e connections between the relig-il1u -� mode of n-pression of man>· Gilded .-\ge trade-unionists and lahor r-J dicals and the beh:n -ior of large numbers of di:-.1tfected G ilded Age Protestant workers. Except for those unions that drew support prinuril>· from workers liYing in smJll towns and or other isolated areas. the language of labor leaders and social radicals and the tone of their press after 1 900 displayed a marked decline in religit)US 'mplu�is when compared to the labor speeches. editorials. and letters penned between 1 860 and 1 ·ing the shift to an urban and industrial social order. �ot separated emotionall>· or historicall>· from a different past. they li\·ed through an er-a of extreme social change and social disorder. but carried with them meaningful and deepl>· felt tr-J ditions and ,·alues rooted in the immediate and e,·en more distant past. This process was not unique to the Cnited States. but occurred at different times in other rapidly changing societies and greatly explains the beha,·ior of the "first generation" to haYe contact \\7th a radically different economic and social suucmre. 93 Although it is an exaggeration to argue that the Yiolent and often disorganized protest characteristic of so much Gilded .-\ge labor agitation resulted only from the tension between the outlook the worker brought to the Gilded Age and that era·s r-apidl>· changing economic and social structure. it is not too much to suggest that the thought and the beha,-ior of Gilded Age workers were peculiar to that



Yitai in both pre-G,·il \\"ar reform mm·ements and enngelical crus;1des. perfectionist Christiani�- carried onr into the Gilded Age and ottered the uprooted but discontented Protestant worker ties \\7th the certainties of his past and reasons for his disaffection \\7th the present b>· den>·ing for him the premises of Gilded Age America and the not yet "con­ nntional wisdom'' of that day. In 1 � -� the secretary of the �liners' Protectin and Progressin .-\ssociation of \\"estern Pennsylnnia. . George Archbold. called the trade-union a ··God-gi,·en right. and warned fellow unionists of emplo>·er opposition : '·The Phil�tines are upon you, and the fair Delilah would rob you of your locks and shear you of your power." 9-' Twen�·-three years later and not in entirely dis­ similar language, \\·est Coast labor organizer and sailor Andrew F uruseth celebrated the twelfth anninrsary of the Sailors' L'nion of the Pacific:

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limited, and he was more interested in Hawaii and a Caribbean foothold f �heir strategic advantages than for their economic benefits. (Jiot until the very eve of the War with Spain was the economic case for imperialism fully articulated, and its subsequent elaboration must . e _ • attributed to the broadeni horizons military victory reveale I Albert J. �everidge, still an unknown Republican from Indiana, was among the 'fliist to insist that the United States could win new markets / ts throughout the world as distributing only by establishing "tradin �Speaking at Boston on April 27, 1898, points for American products." four days before Dewey overwhelmed the Spaniards at Manila Bay, Beveridge prophesied that great self-governing colonies would grow about those trading posts and carry American civilization to "shores hitherto bloody and benighted." At Indianapolis on September 16, the day McKinley instructed his commissioners on the peace terms, Beveridge referred to the existing glut in capital and labor. He pre­ dicted that over 10,000 Americans would emigrate to Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the Philippines to develop their forests, fields, and mines. That same montl{charles A. Conant, an authority on banking and finance, argued in �e North American Review that new markets and \ opportunities must:_b,e found if the nation's surplus capital was to be profitably employ� If the United States were to sit idly by and allow others to monopolize the trade of Africa and Asia, Conant warned, a social revolution would ensue at home. These belated economic arguments for imperialism were not respon sible for American intervention in Cuba in April, 1898. The War witj Spain was humanitarian in its origin, not materialistic. Although some individuals in the United States-holders of devastated property on the island, shipowners engaged in Cuban trade, publishers of the yellow press, and those who might obtain governmental contracts-stood to gain from the conflict, the vast majority of citizens simply yielded to an outraged conscience and a traditional hatred of Spain. (!_he business community I tried for three years to withstand those emotions. Editorials in trade • journals, petitions sent to Washington, and the proceedings of chambers of commerce suggest that the articulate banking, mercantile, and indus­ trial groups were loath to embark upon any crusade for humanity that might jeopardize the return of prosperitfil Recovery from the depression which began in 1893 had been delayed twice, once by the war scare � . �I over Venezuela in 1895 and again by the free silver campaign in 1896. The upturn of 1897, it was felt, must not suffer a similar fate. .tlineer the warming rays of easy military victories, opposition by busi­ ness leaders to foreign adventures quickly evaporated. Two factors account for this abrupt change during 1898. One was the realization that the war would not last very long or harm the process of recovery. r cond was- the opportunity that Dewey's triumph at Manila offered in the impending contest for the threatened markets of AsiOJt was • widely assumed that a foothold in the Philippines would nullify the



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Richard W. Leopold

advantages that Russia, Germany, England, and France had recently gained by extracting long-term leaseholds from China. The hard-headed businessman yielded as readily as the expansionist politician to the dream that colonies in the Western Pacific would be economically profitable; he was no more perceptive than the zealous naval officer in sensing that such possessions might be a strategic liability, not a military asset.

The Religious Root

More difficult to define is the religious root of imperialism. It is easy enough to show that foreign missions provided the first contacts with certain islands in the Pacific and with several kingdoms in the Orient. It is well known that the United States government often saw conditions in those remote regions through missionary eyes. It is true that an occasional�