Blog #2

Toward the end of the 19th century, the number of Americans who utilized their right to vote was much higher than the previous years, jumping from 50-60% in the early/mid-1800s to almost 80% between 1876 and 1896 (17.4.1 Out of Touch Politics). However, the political process was still inefficient and partial. The two main political parties (Democratic and Republican) split the governmental power evenly between the two parties dominated by white males. The political process during this time was heavily influenced by large companies and took laissez-faire (a philosophy that argued that the government should impose no restraints on business, Glossary) approach. 

At the time, large companies had a strong hold on the market and wanted politics done their way. They created political machines (a powerful urban political organization that mobilized large blocs of working-class immigrant voters and often engaged in corrupt and illegal activity) in order to control who won political offices. They did things such as provide their voters’ jobs, construction contracts and provided needy voters a variety of favors and services (17.1.4 The Political Machine- “Boss Rule”). Whomever the machine helped they expected to vote in their favor, which created fear in voters because those in political machines could be very violent. Political machines terrified several native-born, wealthy Americans because they changed the attitude and philosophy associated with voting. Prior to the machines, candidates were successful based upon their family’s last name and wealth instead of their political abilities. 

The political process treated women and minorities very similar. Neither group was able to hold an office and were very rarely involved in politics. As time went on, both groups began to create movements of their own in order to gain freedoms and rights. Working men had the ability to participate in politics but often could not invest much of their time into it because they had to provide for their families. Rich, white men often held political offices because they could afford to. Eventually, things became more inclusive to working, white males, and then to women, and finally to minorities.

Keene, Jennifer D., Cornell, Saul, and O’Donnell, Edward T. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume 2, 3rd ed. 2019.

3 thoughts on “Blog #2

  1. You did a good job explaining political machines and the effects it had on people. It’s a shame that the political machines terrified native people just to get a vote. There were so many other ways to do that instead of a fear factor. The words corrupt and illegal involved in politics scare a lot of people. The political machines seemed very threatening. It was very important for women, men, and minorities to stand up and fight for what they believed in. Even though it didn’t make a big difference right away, it changed politics in the long term. I believe it’s important for all people to have the chance to have their voice heard if they wish, in the matter of politics.

  2. Great job describing the political machines of the 1800s and how they affected people. Do you believe that the fear that these political machines caused was worth it? Overall your blog is very effective in describing the outcome of political machines and the political corruption of the late 19th century.

  3. I was really impressed with your description of how political machines were so dominant in the 1800’s. I was troubled when I saw that many of these machines used illegal actions to secure a place in office. I also like the part of your blog where it talks about how before these machines were a thing and voting was ran by white males, the most important attributes for a person running for office was wealth, and not coming to far behind was the persons last name. Overall I believe you did a fantastic job of describing politics in the 1800s and how it was very corrupt.

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