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The Gilded Age

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When you are young and even well into your adult years people will tell you there will always be somebody who is smarter, faster, happier, or better at something than you are. This is true for all periods of time but in the Gilded Age those who were better gained more and more crushing the people below them with unprecedented greed, corruption, and power. The few exploited the many by way of opportunity. Something our nation was built on, yet the avaricious elite used it for evil methods.

In the years that followed Reconstruction many issues came up including whether laissez-faire was the correct system to follow. Because of problems like that remained unsettled for some time industrial leaders began to pop up and create overpowering monopolies. Just like what Walmart is considered today. Monopolies could lower prices to a degree at which smaller businesses could not compete. This would allow them to buy out a smaller company and lower competition. In today's world we value competition because we know it is what makes prices lower. It is what allows smaller businesses to get into the market and provide new knowledge to the same concepts. It is what allows new companies to gain momentum and have the means to develop new methods. In the gilded age freedom was valued over equality. Those who could rise would rise, crushing those they surpassed.

During the Gilded Age, many industrialists were considered robber barons. They were in fact, because of the monopolies they created, the large amounts they "stole" from the American people, and their selfish attitudes. A few of these industrialists were Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and J.P. Morgan. . It was this morality and their personal business strategies that have lead historian to classify these three men as either robber barons or captains of industry.

These men established large monopolies and bought out all other little businesses. This made it impossible for competition of any kind. Perhaps the most famous of these men and most definitely the richest of them is John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller joined with smaller companies through trust agreements and mergers. Many people consider Rockefeller a tyrant who suppressed many because of his forcible ways of gaining his monopolies. Rockefeller was fond of buying out small and large competitors. If the competitors refused to sell they often found Rockefeller cutting the prices of his Standard Oil or in the worst cases, their factories mysteriously blowing up. Rockefeller was obsessed with controlling the oil market and used many of undesirable tactics to flush his competitors out of the market. Rockefeller was also a master of the rebate game. He was one of the most dominant controllers of the railroads. He was so good at the rebate that at some times he skillfully commanded the railroad to pay rebates to his standard oil company on the traffic of other competitors. He was able to do this because his oil traffic was so high that he could make or break a section of a railroad a railroad company by simply not running his oil on their lines. Another one of Rockefellers earlier mentioned but not explained tactics was his horizontally integrated monopoly. Rockefeller used this horizontal monopoly to set prices and force his competitors to merge with him. (All with Doc. J) Document J shows that Rockefeller had his tentacles, or his influence and power around every piece of the oil industry. That, also, includes the politicians and their support.

Rockefeller was an intelligent man who sought for better means in order to increase productivity. He used the opportunities of the time to take advantage of a free system. One of his best characteristics was that he lowered the cost of oil across the word by his largest scale production. To see that his oil was top quality at minimum cost he also hired specialist managers, this was a revolutionary concept at the time. Rockefellers most remembered and quite possibly best feature was his fanatical relationship with efficiency.

Some of the industrialists tried to justify their monopolies by saying it helped the poor. This is just like the Iron Law of wages in the sense that the industrialists were trying to get out of trouble by claiming it's a good thing. Doc. F. shows Rockefeller's several justifications for monopolies. One of them is permanent work and good wages for laborers. This was just Rockefeller's attempt at justification. In reality consumers and workers were crushed with lack of competition. Quality and prices could go up and wages could go down. They could not refuse to buy monopoly goods or work at a monopoly for lack of choice. Doc. H shows the train of bribery and extortion traveling over what looks like politicians. This shows that politicians and possibly high-end businessmen upheld monopolies. If the politicians and businessmen could not be bribed there would be no problem with the political system but there were several. Doc. M also supports this by showing the power monopolies had in the senate. The monopolies represented as old men who look like moneybags oversee the senate. The people's entrance is closed showing that the people, the many had no influence.

The financial situation in the government was becoming an important issue. One way was with tariffs. Some people wanted to place tariffs on foreign goods in order to protect the businesses at home. The ones they were involved in. The problem with this was that it would hurt the common people's ability to buy certain products. Southern Democrats wanted the coinage of silver. This would increase inflation and make southern farmers' debts easier to pay. A minor tariff reduction passed in 1894 under the anti-tariff Democrat, Grover Cleveland was the Wilson-Gorman Tariff. Although the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional, part of the Wilson-Gorman Act also established an income tax. After failing to secure a low tariff, the Populists and the Democrats increasingly



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