The Unfinished Nation: Chapter 19 From Stalemate to Crisis


Chapter 19 Main Themes


  1. The effects of the political equilibrium of the Democratic and Republican parties during the late nineteenth century, and the origins of this equilibrium in differing regional and socio-cultural bases.


  1. The inability of the political system and a limited national government to respond effectively to the nation's rapid social and economic changes, particularly the advent of large corporations and industrial capitalism.


  1. The powerful but unsuccessful challenge mounted by the troubled agrarian sector to the new directions of American industrial capitalism, and how this confrontation came to a head during the crises of the 1890s and the election of 1896.


A thorough study of Chapter 19 should enable the student to understand:


    • The nature of American party politics in the last third of the nineteenth century.


    • The problems of political patronage in the administrations of Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, and Chester A. Arthur that led to the passage of the Pendleton Act.


    • The circumstances that permitted the Democrats to gain control of the presidency in the elections of 1884 and 1892.


    • The origins, purposes, and effectiveness of the Interstate Commerce Act and the Sherman Antitrust Act.


    • The positions of the two major parties on the tariff question, and the actual trend of tariff legislation in the 1880s and 1890s.


    • The rise of agrarian discontent as manifested in the Granger movement, the Farmers' Alliances, and the Populist movement.


    • The historical controversy surrounding the origins and character of agrarian populism.


    • The rise of the silver question from the "Crime of '73" through the Gold Standard Act of 1900.


    • The significance of the presidential campaign and election of 1896.


    • The reasons for the decline of agrarian discontent after 1898.





Bimetallism The practice of using two metals gold and silver as the basis for the dollar. The United States practiced bimetallism throughout its history up until 1873.

Cooperatives Business enterprises owned by members of an organization and operated for members' benefit and profit. Farmers hoped to avoid reliance on businessmen by forming their own cooperatives, but most of these enterprises failed.

Dark Horse A political candidate who is not considered a front runner and whose victory would be surprising to most observers.

Laissez Faire The theory that the economy functions best when it is free from governmental interference. In a strict laissez-faire system, the government neither helps nor hinders business, but many American businessmen who professed laissez-faire doctrines were happy to accept government aid in the form of protective tariffs and railroad subsidies.

Subtreasuries A network of government-owned warehouses advocated by the Populist Party, in which farmers could deposit their crops. Using these crops as collateral, growers could then borrow money from the government at low rates of interest and wait for the price of their goods to go up before selling them.