Spoilsmen: An Age of Cynicism Essay

Spoilsmen An Age Of Cynicism Term paper

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Richard Hofstadter's The American Political Tradition
Richard Hofstadter's The American Political Tradition, like all his other writings, was greatly influenced by the ideology of the time period in which he wrote. ...
An Age of Illusion In its most simplistic form, The Gilded Age was a contradictory time for the United States—particularly the northern and western regions. It was a time of both immense prosperity for the few “spoilsmen,” as well as great depravity for the many, due to overpopulation, under-skilled immigrants and exploited workers, and vastly limited public resources, which resulted in the subsequent workers’ reform movement. Due to the fact that the railroad industry boomed with the help of land grants from the government—and the less accredited Chinese and Irish immigrants—many other industries were able to explode, such as oil, steel, and meat packing. With these successes, this era for the United States appeared as a time and place of dreams, where anything could be accomplished ;however, beneath the golden appearance was a nation burdened with many hardships, especially by the underprivileged masses who came to the country hoping to improve their life. In further examination, the morals of politicians were thrown out the window, due to goals different from serving the people. Men began to participate in politics not for the purpose of improving the lives of the populous, but simply for the personal monetary rewards, some of which provided by the bribery from the wealthy men of industry. Simply put by Henry Adams, “The moral law had expired—like the Constitution.” (Hofs. P222) These men of industry—Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, to name a few—held much of the credit to the term “Gilded Age,” which was coined by Mark Twain. Because of these men, foreigners viewed the United States of America as the land of opportunity, as these men did come from an unprivileged youth (Hofs. P215), creating a veil of gold, for which the era was named. This constructed a deceptive illusion for those who came wishing for success, as these industrialists wiped the playing field for their soul advantage. Despite various obstacles, these men of industry became extremely successful with the right amount of intelligence, perseverance, skill, and luck. Although everything appeared golden, this very thin coating was soon discovered to be nothing more than that. Beneath these very few success stories lie many times more stories of tragedy, loss, and discarded attempts at success. In 1859, twenty-one years before the marked start of The Gilded Age, Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution by natural selection (Hofs. P217), which is essentially “survival of the fittest.” This theory led to a large misuse of the phrase, especially by politicians and the famous men of industry. The “spoilsman” himself, John D. Rockefeller, who had once credited God for his successes, used Darwin’s theory when explaining why his business thrived. “…the growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest.” (Hofs. P218) This thought represents how these men did not care about who they hurt through their process of industrializing. They simply believed that they were successful because they were the best. Monopolizing also weaves into this philosophy, as the larger corporations of a particular industry would be able to buy out competition with no feeling of guilt because they were “the fittest.” The processes of industrialization and monopolization drove
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