THE CLASH of CULTURES on the PLAINSNative Americans on the Plains numbered approx. 360,000 in 1860, most of them stillranging freely over the vast, vacant trans-Mississippi West.
But to their misfortune, the Indians stood in the path of the advancing white Americansettlers. An inevitable clash loomed between an acquisitive civilization and a traditionalculture.
Diverse tribes of buffalo-hunting Indians roamed thespacious western Plains in 1860.
The Plains Indians had become superbly skilled riders and fighters, as many an Americancavalry soldier would soon learn.Explain the disastrous environmental cycle triggered by the white settlers.
The federal govt. tried to pacify the Plains Indians by signing treaties with the “chiefs” ofvarious “tribes” at Ft. Laramie (1851) and Ft. Atkinson (1853). The treaties marked thebeginnings of the reservation system in the West. How did the white treaty-makersmisunderstand both Indian govt. and Indian society? How did federal Indian agentsfulfill their duties toward the natives? Did settlers respect Indian treaty rights?What was the result?
RECEDING NATIVE POPULATIONThe Indian wars in the West were often savage clashes. Cruelty begot cruelty. Whowere the high-profile former Union commanders from the Civil War who waged waragainst the Indians?
Despite a small minority of soldiers and citizens who sympathized with the Indian’s plight,the violently prejudicial attitude of most Americans guaranteed a violent resolution tothe “Indian problem.”
One of the most famous battles in the Indian War was the Battle of Little Big Horn.Describe the events leading to this catastrophic loss for Custer.
Assess the Indian’s fighting ability againstAmerican soldiers and settlers. Whatadvantages did they enjoy?The relentless fire- and- sword policy of thewhites at last shattered the spirit of theIndians. The vanquished Native Americanswere finally ghettoized on reservationswhere they could theoretically preservetheir culture.
What were the primary factors that led to the ultimate taming of the PlainsIndians? Describe the degree of decimation for buffalo. Which innovations sped upthe decimation? Cause-and-effect: how did this impact the Indians?
The whole story of Indian affairs is a shocking example of the greed and waste thataccompanied the conquest of the continent.
By the 1880’s the national conscience began to stir uneasily over the plight of theIndians. Who was Helen Hunt Jackson? How did she gain notoriety? What nationaldebate did she initiate?
The cornerstone of govt. Indian policy wasthe Dawes Severalty Act (1887).What were the primary provisions ofthis act? What was its ultimate impact?
MINING: FROM DISHPAN to ORE BREAKER The conquest of the Indians and the coming of the railroad were life-giving boons to the mining frontier. Gold in California and Colorado acted as magnets. Boom towns (“Helldorados”) sprang up only to often become ghost towns just as quickly.
The mining frontier played a vital role in subduingthe continent. Magnet-like, it attracted populationand wealth, while advertising the wonders of theWild West.
BEEF BONANZAS and the LONG DRIVEWhen the Civil War ended, the plains of Texas supported several million long-horned cattle. The problem of marketing was solved when the transcontinental railroads came through the West. The spectacular feeder of the new slaughterhouses was the “Long Drive.” But the expansion of rail lines unmade the “Long Drive”.
Cattle-raising as a big business represented the heyday of the cowboy. Ironically, manyof them were black Americans, who enjoyed the newfound freedom of the open range.
THE FARMER’S FRONTIERA fresh day dawned for western farmers with the Homestead Act of 1862. The new lawallowed a settler to acquire as much as 160 acres of land by living on it for 5years, improving it, and paying a nominal fee of approx. $30. What distinguished theHomestead Act from the earlier Northwest Land Ordinance of 1785?
The Homestead Act often turned out to be a cruel hoax – why?
Rail expansion played a major role in developing the agricultural West – namely, producingcash crops. Many Americans and European immigrants were induced to buy cheap landsfrom the govt.A shattering of the myth of the Great American Desert opened the gateways of theagricultural West. Pioneers were surprised by the fertility of the soil.Lured by high wheat prices, settlers in the 1870’s pushed still farther west, onto the poormarginal lands beyond the 100th meridian. Along with devastating drought, the techniqueof “dry farming” took root on the plains. “Dry farming” contributed to the notorious “DustBowl” decades later. Adaptations were incorporated – identify them.
THE FADING FRONTIERIn 1890 the superintendent of the census announced that for the first time in America’sexperience, a frontier line was no longer discernible. All the unsettled areas were nowbroken into by isolated bodies of settlements.Americans were disturbed by this reality, for the frontier was more than a place.Much has been said about the “safety valve theory” – why is its validity questionable?
THE FARM BECOMES a FACTORYCommercial farming was replacing subsistence farming (cash crops).The mechanization of agriculture was almost as striking as the mechanization of industry –it pushed many marginal farmers to the new industrial workforce.The advent of the refrigerator rail car promoted commercial agriculture – westernproduce could now be sold in the East for handsome profits.
DEFLATION DOOMS the DEBTOROnce farmers became chained to a one-crop economy, they were as vulnerable as thesouthern cotton growers to a variety of risky market forces. As long as prices stayedhigh, all went well. But when they skidded in the 1880’s, bankruptcies skyrocketed.
Identify & describe the factors imperiling the frustrated farmers? Despite theirunremitting toil, they operated year-after-year at a loss and lived off their “fat” as bestas they could. Farm tenancy rather than farm ownership was spreading like a weed.
THE FARMERS TAKE THEIR STANDInitial farmer unrest took the form of the Greenback movement following the Civil War.The successor movement, the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, was moreeffective in organizing farmers. The Grangers gradually raised their goals from individualself-improvement to improvement of the farmer’s collective plight. They were determinedto escape the clutches of the trusts.
Embattled Grangers also went into politics. Despite a gradual loss of influence, theorganization has lived on as a vocal champion of farm interests, while continuing theirsocial activities. Farmer’s grievances found a vent in the Greenback Labor Party, whichadded a program for improving the lot of labor.
THE FARMERS’ DILEMMA-TO PRODUCE or NOT to PRODUCE
PRELUDE to POPULISM A manifestation of rural discontent came through the Farmer’s Alliance – why did it not succeed? Out of the Farmer’s Alliance emerged the People’sParty, or Populists, in the early 1890’s. Describe its political platform. The queen of the Populist “calamity howlers” was Mary Lease. She demanded that Kansans should raise “less corn and more hell.” The Populists were ridiculed in the East, but they were not to be laughed aside. They became a political force by winning several congressional seats and running a strong third-party presidential candidate in 1892.
Racial divisions continued to hobble the Populists in the South, but their ranks wereswelling in the West. Could the People’s party now reach beyond its regional western basein agrarian America, join hands with urban workers, and mount a successful attack on thenortheastern citadels of power?
Why did these groups come together in a single party? How does the cartoon explain weaknesses of thePopulist coalition? Why would a party with numerous issues agree to focus on the single issue ofinflation? Why did the anticipated victory of Bryan never materialize?
RAISING INFLATION on the FARMFrom 1870 to 1900, the prices U.S. consumers paid for goods and services generally declined. For U.S.farmers, this meant lower costs, since prices for supplies & equipment declined. Yet, farmers wantedto foster inflation. Why? Many farmers held mortgages on their land, buildings and equipment.Because of deflation, they paid these mortgages off with dollars worth more than the dollars theyhad originally borrowed. As debtors, they were hurt by deflation; they sought price levels that wouldreduce the real cost of paying off their debts.
1. What happened to the farmer’s expenses for personal items (food, clothing) and farm supplies each year?2. What happened to the farmer’s mortgage and tax costs each year?3. What happened to the farmer’s income in each year?4. What happened to the farmer’s savings in years 2 and 3?5. Did debtors lose ground over the three years? Significant losses?
What happened to the farmer’s total income each year during this period of inflation?Who – debtors or creditors – gained during this period of inflation? Why might a stableprice level be better than inflation or deflation?
COXEY’S ARMY and the PULLMAN STRIKEThe economic panic of 1893 and the ensuing depression strengthened the Populist’sargument that farmers & laborers alike were being victimized by an oppressive economicand political system. Ragged armies of the unemployed began marching in protestnationwide. The most famous marcher was “General” Jacob Coxey, a wealthy Ohio quarryowner. What were his demands? How successful was his march?
Elsewhere, violent flare-ups accompanied labor protests, notably in Chicago. Mostdramatic was the crippling Pullman strike of 1894. Eugene V. Debs, a charismatic laborleader, helped to organize the American Railway Union. What sparked the strike?Describe the reactions of Gov. John Peter v. U.S. Attorney Gen. Richard Olney.What was the outcome?
Debs was arrested and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for contempt of court. Hespent much of his time in prison reading radical literature, which led to his leadership ofthe socialist movement in America.Embittered cries of “govt. by injunction” now burst from organized labor. Not only didthe govt. break the strike, but it jailed strikers for contempt without a jury trial.Signs multiplied that employers were striving to smash labor unions by court action, sonon-labor elements, including the Populists and other debtors, were likewise incensed.The “proof” pointed to an unholy alliance between business and the courts.
GOLDEN McKINLEY and SILVER BRYANIn 1896 dissension riddled the Democratic camp; President Cleveland no longer led hisparty.
Rudderless, the Democratic convention met in Chicago in July 1896 and refused toendorse their own administration. A “savior” in the person of William JenningsBryan, known as “Boy Orator of the Platte.” Describe the impact of his Cross of Goldspeech at the convention. What impact did it have on the Populists?
The leading candidate for the Republicanpresidential nomination was formercongressman William McKinley ofOhio, sponsor of the tariff bill of 1890.Provide a profile.McKinley was largely the creature offellow Ohioan Marcus Hanna, a millionairewho coveted the role of president maker.What was Hanna’s main politicalphilosophy? How effective was he inthe campaign?
WILLIAM McKINLEY (R) WILLIAM J. BRYAN (D)Declared for a gold standard, but called A silverite (unlimited coinage)for a worldwide gold-silver standardPro-business Pro-farmerPro-tariff Anti-tariffAdvanced the philosophy of “trickle down” Assailed the philosophy of “trickle down”economics economics•Free silver became the prime issue (the tariff was second)•Bryan, a brilliant orator, frightened many with his fanaticism•The Republicans were much better funded (big business coffers; $16 million v. $1 million)•Populists were non-players because the Democrats stole their main plank•The Republicans promised better times and conditions did improve•The campaign was a classic example of the main issue being too complex – most would vote forsteady continuity•1896 was the last election effort to win the White House with mostly agrarian votes.
McKinley’s enormous campaign war chest allowed for a relentless attack on Bryan and hisplatform.
Foreign governments also weighed-in duringthe campaign. There was fear overseas that asilver standard in the U.S. would wreak havocon the world economy.
The outcome was a resounding victory for big business, the big cities, middle class values,and financial conservatism. The election was supposed to be a classic match up betweenthe “nobodies” and the “somebodies.” Yet when Bryan made his evangelical appeal to thesupposed foes of the existing social order, not enough of them banded together to form apolitical majority.The Republican victory ushered-in a Republican grip on the White House for all but 8 ofthe next 36 years. It also marked diminishing voter participation, the weakening of partyorganizations, and the fading away of issues like the money question & civil service reform.Industrial regulation and the welfare of labor became the new key issues.
REPUBLICAN STAND-PATTISM ENTHRONEDThough a man of considerable ability, he was an ear-to-the-ground politician who seldomgot far out of line with majority opinion. Big business thrived under his hands-offapproach.The tariff issue quickly re-emerged. The Wilson-Gorman Act was not raising enoughrevenue to cover govt. deficits. House Speaker “Czar” Reed pushed through a newtariff, the Dingley Tariff bill, which raised the rates to an average rate of 46.5%.The Gold Standard Act of 1900 provided that the paper currency be redeemed freely ingold. New discoveries of gold and scientific advancements greatly increased the supplyof gold in the world markets, thus pushing down its value and creating inflation (cheapermoney).