Gilded Age Thematic

In the time following the Civil War, politics were heavily corrupted on the local, state, and federal levels. By the end of Reconstruction, political machines dominated the government. By abusing what was considered “honest graft” these corrupt political machines held positions all over the government. It was not until later that the government took action against this corruption. Tammany Hall was one corrupt local political machine. On the national level, most of Congress was corrupt during this time period. To combat political corruption, the federal government made changes to the election process. This period of political corruption came to be known as the “Gilded Age”.
Tammany Hall was a corrupt political machine based in New York City that operated on the local level during the Gilded Age. Tammany Hall was lead by Boss Tweed and his second in command, George Washington Plunkitt. In order to gain popularity, Tammany Hall provided public services such as, legal services, unemployment services, and emergency services. Those who refused to support Tammany in the election were harassed by Boss’s men. Tammany gained a profit by accepting bribes and receiving kickbacks from businesses they supported. Tammany also profited by using its power to appoint New York Congressmen who passed favorable laws for Tammany in exchange. Thanks to the efforts of political cartoonist Thomas Nast, Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall political machines’ crimes were revealed to the public. Tweed and his regime were arrested and tried in 1872.
When it came to political abuse on the national level, most of Congress was corrupt. Many Congressmen managed to get their positions with the help of political machines. In return, they passed laws favorable to their political machine. In addition, many Congressmen exchanged the passing of favorable laws for valuable stocks. A famous example of this was the Credit Mobilier Scandal. Union Pacific Railroad Co. bribed Congressmen with stocks in…

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