Chapter 20: Economic Crash and Political Upheaval, 1890-1900 1


Economic Crash and Political Upheaval, 1890-1900


After you read and analyze this chapter, you should be able to:

1.Evaluate the choices farmers faced in the 1896 presidential election and explain the long-term outcomes of that election.

2.Analyze how some Americans’ expectations about the U.S. role in world affairs began to change between 1889 and 1897.

3.Evaluate the outcomes of the war with Spain and tell how the acquisition of new possessions reflected the new expectations about America’s role in world affairs.


I.Poverty and the City

A.“How the Other Half Lives”

1.Jacob Riis’s work by this title, published in 1890, shocked Americans with its descriptions of the lives of the poorest New Yorkers.

a)Overcrowded and poorly maintained tenements were hazardous to the health and safety of their residents.

b)No other city was as densely populated as New York, but nearly all urban working-class neighborhoods were crowded.

2.Despite widespread urban poverty, few agreed on its causes or any possible cures.

B.Challenging Urban Poverty: The Settlement Houses

1.Jane Addams opened Hull House, the first settlement house in Chicago, in 1889.

a)Some settlement house workers became forces for urban reform by promoting better education, improved public health and sanitation, and honest government.

II.Political Upheaval, 1890-1892

A.Harrison and the Fifty-First Congress

1.The McKinley Tariff raised some tariff rates but added to the free list.

2.The Sherman Antitrust Act regulated against restraint of trade.

B.The Politics of Nativism

1.During the 1890s, nativism became more visible and political.

a)The American Protective Association intensified its crusade against Catholics.

2.Nativists wanted to reduce immigration.

a)Anarchists were especially targeted.

3.“New immigrants” from southern and eastern Europe were less desirable than “old immigrants” from northwestern Europe.

C.The Origins of the People’s Party

1.Farmers were most troubled by the prices they received for their crops, especially when prices fell after the Civil War as national and world demand fell.

a)In addition, they condemned the monopolistic practices of grain and cotton buyers.

b)Since much of the post-Civil War agricultural expansion was based on borrowed money, falling prices only worsened the ability of farmers to repay their debts.

c)Railroads also angered farmers, since their owners appeared to be greedy and have too much influence in politics.

d)Southern farmers especially condemned the tariff that protected manufacturers, since no tariffs protected them from the perils of the marketplace.

2.Farmers joined organizations they hoped would provide some relief.

a)The Grange (Patrons of Husbandry) provided a social outlet and an educational opportunity for farm families; it grew rapidly.

b)The Grange became a leading proponent of cooperative buying and selling.

c)Granger Laws were state regulations prohibiting railroad-rate discrimination.

3.The Greenbackers argued that prices would stabilize through printing more greenbacks, an idea that appealed to farmers in debt.

4.The Silverites wanted the government to resume issuing silver dollars.

D.The People’s Party

1.Farmers’ Alliances emerged when previous farmers’ groups faded; the Populist Party represented their interests.

a)The Populists emphasized three elements: antimonopolism, government action on behalf of farmers and workers, and increased popular control of government.

b)They also favored a series of structural changes to make government respond more to the people, including expansion of the merit system for government employees, election of U.S. senators by direct ballot, a one-term limit for the president, the secret ballot, and the initiative and referendum.

E.The Elections of 1890 and 1892

1.Everywhere Republicans suffered defeat, and the Democrats chose Grover Cleveland as their candidate again.

a)Populist candidates displayed strength in the West and South.

III.Economic Collapse and Restructuring

A.Economic Collapse and Depression

1.At the time, no one really understood why the economy collapsed so quickly.

2.The major underlying factors included the end of agricultural expansion and railroad construction and their domino effects on other industries.

a)Coxey’s Army demonstrated against unemployment in 1894.

B.Labor on the Defensive: Homestead and Pullman

1.The 1892 Homestead steel-plant strike was broken by the use of strikebreakers and the state militia.

a)The nation’s largest craft union was soundly defeated, underscoring the weakness of organized labor in the new industrial environment.

2.Attempts to build industrial unions (distinct from craft unions) also failed.

a)Debs organized the American Railway Union in 1893.

b)When it backed a Pullman workers’ strike in 1894, the railway companies set out to destroy it.

c)A U.S. government injunction and the use of federal troops crushed the strike and destroyed the union.

3.The Depression of 1893 also undermined the union movement.

C.The “Merger Movement”

1.There were a large number of mergers in manufacturing and mining from 1898 to 1902.

a)The high point came in 1899, with 1,208 mergers involving $3 billion.

2.The merger movement resulted partly from economic weakness revealed by the depression.

3.The threat of vicious competition among reviving manufacturing companies prompted reorganization.

a)The most prominent company was U.S. Steel, which was created by J. P. Morgan.

4.In fact, the new industrial combinations failed to provide long-term economic stability.

IV.Political Realignment

A.The Second Mississippi Plan and the Atlanta Compromise

1.In the Civil Rights Cases (1883), the Supreme Court ruled that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applied only to state governments, not individuals and companies.

a)This meant that state governments were obligated to treat all citizens as equal before the law, but that private businesses need not offer equal access to their facilities.

2.The Second Mississippi Plan (1890) specified payment of a poll tax and passing a literacy test as requirements for voting.

a)Everyone understood that these measures were intended to disfranchise black voters.

3.Booker T. Washington’s speech on the Atlanta Compromise found a mixed reception among African Americans since it emphasized cooperation instead of confrontation to attain progress in civil rights.

4.State after state followed the lead of Mississippi and disfranchised black voters.

a)A number of southern states added an additional barrier in the form of the white primary, which specified that political parties had the right to limit participation in the process by which they chose their candidates.

5.In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” facilities did not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

a)Violence directed against blacks, including lynching, accompanied the new laws.

b)African Americans fought against lynching in various ways, but especially by publicizing the record of brutality.

B.The Failure of the Divided Democrats

1.Democrats were divided over silver coinage and its role in causing the depression.

2.Most voters returned decisively to the Republicans in the 1894 election.

C.The 1896 Election: Bryan Versus McKinley, Silver Versus Protection

1.The Republicans nominated McKinley, who focused on the tariff, and the party’s platform pronounced in favor of the gold standard and against silver.

2.The Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan, whose “Cross of Gold” speech exemplified the party’s support for silver.

a)Populists felt compelled to give Bryan their nomination, too.

3.McKinley won with 51.1 percent of the popular vote.

a)Bryan’s defeat ended any significant influence on politics by the Populists; the Democratic Party adopted many of their issues.

D.After 1896: The New Republican Majority

1.McKinley forged a broader appeal and emphasized the gold standard and protective tariffs for economic recovery.

a)The 1896 election ushered in a generation of Republican dominance of national politics.

2.Events of the 1890s also worked significant changes in the Democratic Party.

3.Many Americans held their new party commitments less intensely than before, and the political role of newspapers also changed.

V.Stepping into World Affairs: Harrison and Cleveland

A.Building a Navy

1.Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote The Influence of Sea Power upon History, which played a key role in the emergence of the modern navy.

a)He argued that sea power had been the determining factor in European power struggles.

b)Mahan identified three elements central to greatness on the seas: production of goods for foreign trade, shipping to carry on this commerce, and colonies to provide both markets and products.

c)He also advocated a large modern navy, centered on battleships, and stressed a vision for empire.

d)As a result, the United States began to create a modern, two-ocean navy.

B.A New American Mission?

1.Josiah Strong, a Protestant minister and missionary, argued that expansion of Protestant ideals was a Christian duty.

a)Such beliefs were widespread in the late nineteenth century.

b)“Progress” and Social Darwinism merged with a belief in Anglo-Saxon superiority.

C.Revolution in Hawai`i

1.The McKinley Tariff (1890) put sugar on the free list, eliminating Hawai`i’s advantage since its sugar now faced competition from Cuban sugar.

2.Queen Liliuokalani came to power in 1891 and hoped to regain control from the United States. She planned a new constitution that would return political power to the monarchy.

a)Sugar planters set out to overthrow the monarchy, and Liliuokalani surrendered in 1893.

b)Hawai`i became a republic that was dominated by its planter community.

D.Crises in Latin America

1.Presidents Harrison and Cleveland extended American involvement in this region.

a)Rebels in Chile won control in 1891 but were forced to apologize to the United States.

b)The Venezuelan boundary dispute (1895-1896) was settled by American arbitration.

2.Cleveland faced a very different situation in Cuba and was more restrained.

a)Yellow journalism intensified American feelings about events in Cuba, but Cleveland was intent on avoiding American involvement.

b)Cleveland feared intervention might lead to annexation by the United States against Cubans’ wishes and was forced to warn Spain of possible intervention.

VI.Striding Boldly into World Affairs: McKinley, War, and Imperialism

A.McKinley and War

1.McKinley became president amid increasing demands for action in Cuba (1897), but he moved cautiously.

a)He stepped up diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, but two events in 1898 scuttled progress toward a negotiated solution.

b)The de Lôme letter ridiculing McKinley was published in the New York Journal.

c)A few days later, the Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, and those advocating intervention now cried, “Remember the Maine.”

2.McKinley now extended his demands on Spain, and Spain promised reforms but would not agree to mediate Cuban independence.

a)McKinley asked Congress for authority to act to stop the war in Cuba; it passed four resolutions in April 1898 in effect declaring war.

b)The Teller Amendment disavowed any intention to annex Cuba.

c)In response to American actions, Spain declared war.

B.The “Splendid Little War”

1.Surprising many Americans, the first engagement occurred in the Philippines.

a)Dewey’s victory in Manila focused public attention on the Pacific, and there was a renewed interest in annexing the Hawaiian Islands as a naval base.

b)Hawaii was annexed on July 7, 1893.

c)Dewey’s victories demonstrated that the American navy was superior to Spain’s.

2.The Spanish-American War lasted only 16 weeks.

C.The Treaty of Paris

1.Spain surrendered all claims to Cuba, ceded Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States, and sold the Philippines to the United States for $20 million.

2.It was the first time a U.S. treaty failed to confer U.S. citizenship on a conquered territory’s residents; the treaty also failed to mention future statehood for the Philippines.

3.America had become a colonial power now that it owned territories with no prospect for statehood and residents who lacked citizenship.

4.The terms of the treaty were controversial and launched a debate over imperialism.

a)An active anti-imperialist movement quickly formed which included William Jennings Bryan, Andrew Carnegie, and Jane Addams.

b)Anti-imperialists argued that denial of self-government violated the Declaration of Independence and holding colonies threatened the very concept of democracy.

c)Others worried about the perversion of American values, while some racists argued that the Filipinos were incapable of self-government.

d)Imperialists, on the other hand, argued that the United States needed new markets as well as naval bases and a larger military presence.

D.Republic or Empire: The Election of 1900

1.William Jennings Bryan easily won the Democratic nomination again with a platform that condemned the imperialism of the McKinley administration.

2.The Republicans re-nominated McKinley and chose Theodore Roosevelt for vice president on a platform defending expansion.

a)McKinley easily won a second term.

E.Organizing an Insular Empire

1.The U.S. Army took over running Cuba when the Spanish left.

a)A constitutional convention was held in late 1900, and Cuba became a protectorate of the United States.

2.The Foraker Act made Puerto Ricans citizens of Puerto Rico but not the United States.

a)The 1901 Insular Cases confirmed the colonial status of Puerto Rico and other possessions.

F.The Open Door and the Boxer Rebellion in China

1.New Pacific acquisitions were endowed with excellent harbors and sites for naval bases, and they also strengthened the ability of the United States to protect access to commercial markets in Asia.

2.Britain, Germany, Russia, and France had carved out spheres of influence in China.

a)The 1900 Boxer Rebellion tried to rid China of foreigners, but U.S. troops were sent in to “protect” the open door.


Identify the following items and explain the significance of each. While you should include any relevant historical terms, using your own words to write these definitions will help you better remember these items for your next exam.

1.Annie Le Porte Diggs

2.Farmers’ Alliances

3.William Jennings Bryan


5.Jacob Riis


7.settlement house

8.Hull House

9.Social Gospel

10.House Ways and Means Committee

11.McKinley Tariff

12.Sherman AntiTrust Act

13.Sherman Silver Purchase Act



16.American Protective Association


18.“new immigrants”

19.“old immigrants”

20.commodity market standard

22.grain elevator


24.graduated income tax


26.referendum panic reserves


30.Coxey’s Army

31.Eugene V. Debs

32.industrial union

33.Pullman car


35.U.S. marshal


37.Civil Rights Cases

38.poll tax

39.Booker T. Washington

40.normal school

41.Atlanta Compromise

42.grandfather clause

43.Plessy v. Ferguson


45.Gold Standard Act

46.Alfred Thayer Mahan






52.guerrilla warfare


54.Joseph Pulitzer

55.William Randolph Hearst

56.yellow journalism

57.Enrique Dupuy de Lôme

58.USS Maine



61.Teller Amendment

62.Philippine Islands

63.Theodore Roosevelt

64.Rough Riders

65.Treaty of Paris


67.Platt Amendment

68.Foraker Act

69.Insular areas

70.Emilio Aguinaldo

71.William Howard Taft

72.Boxer Rebellion

73.Open Door notes

74.balance of power

75.spheres of influence




1.The Homestead and Pullman strikes

a.resulted in great victories for organized labor.

b.proved that industrial unions could accomplish more for labor than craft unions.

c.demonstrated that industrialists could count on federal and state governments to put down strikes.

d.collapsed with the onset of the depression of 1893.

2.To meet the growing need for labor, industrialists in the late nineteenth century

a.accepted the inevitability of strikes.

b.utilized child labor.

c.established a network of industrial training schools.

d.entered into compacts with anarchists.

3.Alfred Thayer Mahan

a.was among the most influential imperialists in Congress in the 1880s and 1890s.

b.provided much of the theoretical justification for imperialistic adventures.

c.warned against the dangers of having a large modern navy.

d.advocated the immediate annexation of Samoa and Hawaii as states.

4.William McKinley justified annexing the Philippine Islands civilize and Christianize the inhabitants there.

b.because their inhabitants requested it. prevent Spain from recolonizing them.

d.because the rebels there were creating havoc.

5.Regarding the insurrection in Cuba against Spanish rule in the 1890s, Americans were generally

a.hostile toward the insurrectionists.

b.sympathetic toward Spain.


d.convinced that Spanish rule was oppressive.

6.The reasons for quick American victories in the “splendid little war” of 1898 included

a.Theodore Roosevelt’s prewar preparations for naval action in the Philippines.

b.defections among Spanish soldiers stationed in the Philippines.

c.harmony between African American and southern white soldiers in the U.S. Army.

d.the fact that the United States had a large, well-trained professional army.

7.Famous Americans who opposed imperialism

a.found themselves denounced as traitors.

b.believed that the economy of the United States could not support commitments overseas.

c.argued that having a colonial empire conflicted with democracy.

d.charged that colonies around the globe would lead to war with European nations.

8.As a result of the depression of 1893,

a.most political leaders agreed that the time had come to create a federal unemployment insurance fund.

b.the Democrats decided that the time had come to favor government intervention in the economy.

c.the crime rate soared because millions of people lost their jobs.

d.the president of the United States was forced to turn to a private banker to rebuild the country’s gold reserves.

9.The Populist Party called for a group of structural changes in government that included all of the following EXCEPT