the best president in the Gilded Age

Who do you think was ? Why?



The post Civil War era known as “The Gilded Age” took place from
approximately 1870 until about 1896. This period of time possibly received its
name from a novel by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner. In this novel, they
told that underneath the diplomatic and successful eminence of the late
nineteenth century lurked dishonesty and greed in American society. There were
five presidents in and out of the White House during those twenty-six years; and
although so much time went by, not much seemed to be accomplished. Consequently,
none of the presidents in the Gilded Age were looked very highly upon. However,
the one that achieved the most was Grover Cleveland, whose reform efforts seemed
to be the most dedicated.

The six presidents who took office between the years of 1870 and 1896 were
Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, and
Benjamin Harrison. These presidents are among the nation’s least-known chief
executives. A reflection of the times, they were nicknamed, “the lost
Americans.” Philosopher and historian, Henry Adams, wrote of this era: “No
period so thoroughly ordinary had been known in American politics since
Christopher Columbus first disturbed American society. The period was poor in
purpose and barren in results.”(Smith 19) Some of these presidents shared
similar backgrounds from home-states to their Civil War experiences, but “All
generally shared a limited view of the presidency’s role in national life.”(Smith
19)

In 1876, the Republicans thought they found a candidate who would fit the
bill—Rutherford B. Hayes. Running against Samuel Tilden, they both had
reputations of honest politicians in the era of widespread corruption. “After
a confusing election, Hayes stole the presidency and became the nineteenth
president of the United States.”(Kent 39) Hayes faced challenges as president.
In July 1877, a massive strike by railroad workers halted trains all over the
country. Many politicians and railroad executives urged Hayes to put the
railroads under federal control or to use troops to break up the strike. Hayes
did send federal troops to keep order in several cities, but he refused to take
sides. The president also refused to sign legislation aimed at keeping Chinese
immigrants out of the country. Hayes was a semi-accepted president, and he may
have won a second term. “But Hayes—who called the presidency, “this life
of bondage, responsibility, and toil”—decided not to seek reelection.”(Kent
55)

>From the very beginning James Garfield looked upon his victory with
worry. He stated, “I know I am bidding good-bye to my old freedom,”(Brown
49) he wrote after the election. “I know many will be disappointed with me.”(Brown
104) His worries turned out to be justified. Two hundred days later, President
Garfield died at the age of forty-nine after being shot five weeks earlier by
assassin, Charles Guiteau. Therefore, the president was barely able to
accomplish anything.(Brown 91)

Chester Arthur changed his political style when he was in office, but not his
personal style. “He loved to party at the White House, and often did not
concentrate enough on his job.”(Stevens 25) Arthur’s commitment to end
political corruption surprised many. He was not afraid to veto politically
popular bills, including the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1882. Although Arthur
turned out to be a much better president than most Americans expected, his
policies angered many Republicans, and he was not renominated in 1884.(Stevens
88)

In the White House, Benjamin Harrison made good on his promise to support
high tariffs; the McKinley Tariff Act, passed by Congress in 1890, raised
tariffs to the highest level ever. He also supported two other major pieces of
economic legislation: the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and the Sherman Silver
Purchase Act.(Clinton 17) His presidency marked the beginning of change in
American foreign policy. Harrison was renominated in 1892, although he had
angered many party members by refusing to grant jobs and favors to political
allies, but he lost the election to a better man—Grover Cleveland.(Clinton 60)

Forgettable, but not completely unaccomplished, Grover Cleveland is
remembered as the twenty-second and twenty-fourth president of the United
States. It all began during the campaign of 1884 when Cleveland ran against
James G. Blaine, also known by Cleveland’s Democratic supporters as, “Blaine!
Blaine! The continental liar from the state of Maine!”(Shenkman 125) Not to be
outdone, Blaine’s Republican supporters chanted, “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?”(Kent
53) that refers to a scandal brought out about Cleveland in the election. After
a mudslinging election, his honesty impressed enough Americans to make Grover
Cleveland the first Democrat elected president since James Buchanan in 1856, and
the Democrats replied, “Gone to the White House! Ha, Ha, Ha!”(Kent 54)

Cleveland’s first term began