The Changing Economy: 1865-1939 Essay, Research Paper
The Changing Economy: 1865- 1939
History 113- Midterm # 2
The end of the Civil War brought a whole new era of economy, political control, and Presidential intervention. The economy emerged from its agriculturally based economy into a flourishing big business dominated world and eventually in 1929 came crashing down. I agree only partially with the quote “ The Civil War saw the beginning of an 80-year decline of real individual economic opportunity; nonetheless, the vast majority of Americans continued to profess their belief in individualism as evidenced by the Presidents they elected. Thus, between 1865 and 1939, the majority of Americans accepted big business dominance and rejected all forms of government interference and regulation contrary to individualism.”
It is true that the Civil war saw the beginning of a decline of individual economic opportunity. During an era known as “The Gilded Age” lasting from the end of the war until 1900, large corporations dominated the U. S. economy. The population went from being composed of predominantly farmers and small business owners to large business owners and shareholders. Technology began to revolutionize corporations, such as the construction of national railroads. Big business also led to monopolies, where one company would have full control over a specific area leaving others struggling. To resist big business labor unions, such as the American Federation of Labor, formed although they were usually no competition for big corporations. Between the end of the Civil war and 1900 manufacturing increased by four times leaving many farmers and small business owners moving to the city. After the stock market crash of 1929 everyone seemed to suffer an economic decline and it was no longer limited to individual opportunity.
Americans did not continue to profess their belief in individualism as evidenced by the Presidents they elected. The Individualist thinker believes that social, economic and political organization should be put to an end. Between 1865 and 1939 most of the Presidents had large political influences on the country. As this time period in 1865 was beginning, Lincoln was assassinated and Andrew Johnson became President. Johnson made an attempt at getting political leadership over Congress but failed and was later impeached. Ulysses S. Grant became the next President and the country was then under congressional control. Up until 1985 when Chester Arthur was President the country had fairly tight Presidential leadership. The only true case of Presidents showing Individualist values was at the beginning of the Great Depression under Herbert Hoover. During the Depression Hoover thought the economy would straighten itself out without government intervention. The nation then realized this mentality was not working and Hoover was defeated to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. Roosevelt was all for government intervention and created the New Deal which would be designed to provide government support to those struggling. From FDR the country adopted a new concept of economic and social regulation from the government. By the early 1940’s the economy, under Roosevelt’s Democratic control, was back to the same standards as before the depression.
Between 1865 and 1939 not all Americans accepted big business dominance. In the beginning of this era most of Americans were farmers or small business owners. When corporations began and monopolies formed many Americans put up resistance organizing labor unions and going on strike. The Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor were founded to fight big business, and this led to a large number of labor strikes. The rich were getting richer and the poor were dying out because of big business, so the only ones really happy with this situation were the business owners. Farmers eventually were losing too much money and had no choice but to move into the city, where there may be some hope for economic success.
The majority of Americans did not reject all forms of government intervention. The largest group rejecting the government from intervening was the big business owners and shareholders. They were already wealthy and did not want the President to have a large hand in social and economic control. During 1885 and 1933 many politics were corrupt from the business leaders developing an alliance with politics causing Presidential control to be small. If the country had rejected all forms of the government regulation, they may have never gotten out of the Depression. FDR had a large governmental control over the country, regulating much of the economy. This is why FDR as opposed to Herbert Hoover got the country back to solid economic grounds.
From the Civil War to the end of the Great Depression the United States economy went through many levels of economic, political, and social success and failure. Without the government stepping in to make regulations the country would have never been able to climb out of the plague of the Depression under Individualist means.