During 1866-1920, the American political history was marked by a transition that saw it change politically. The events that occurred during this time period can were grouped into three eras which were identified as: Reconstruction (1865-77), Gilded age (1870-90) and progressivism and progressive era (1890-1920).
This was one of the most turbulent and controversial eras in the American history which began during the civil war and ended in 1877. The era witnessed America’s first experiment in interracial democracy. This era remains of relevance even today in America’s history since the issues central to it which was the role of the federal government in protecting its’ citizens’ rights and the possibility of racial and economic justice remains unresolved (Boehm, & American Bibliographical Center, 2001).
The victory in the civil war by the by the northern was the deciding factor in the fate of the union and of slavery. Reconstruction was mainly focused on ensuring that former slaves regained back their freedom and claimed back their rights (Peltier, 1993). President Andrew Johnson proposed a reconstruction plan that was rejected and was later followed by enactment of law and amendments of the constitution by the republican which empowered the government to enforce laws on equal rights and gave blacks the right to vote and hold office. This era was largely viewed as an era full of corruption and misgovernment and it was supposed that it was as a result of allowing blacks to hold offices. Nevertheless, it was an era of social, economic and political change.
Gilded Age (1870-90)
During this era, Americans perceived their nation as an island of political democracy in presence of undemocratic government. It was marked with a lot of political corruption and urban politics were controlled by corrupt machinery which extended it to the national level. In this era, every republican presidential candidate from 1868-1900 had once fought in the union army. This era saw the democrats dominating the south and catholi0c votes. Presidential candidates during this era made little efforts in mobilizing the public opinion. The American democracy at this time appeared to be healthy (Peltier, 1993). The political structure of this time proved to be ineffective in dealing with dealing with problems created by the rapid growing economy. The republican economic policies of this time favored eastern industrialists and bankers. In 1887, the congress established an interstate commerce commission. The era saw the government expanding its responsibility to the public, local elections was controlled by third parties such as The Greenback-Labor party.
The main idea during this era was that new ideas and honest, efficient government could bring about social justice. Efforts from all persons in America were brought together to bring the necessary changes in the country. Their actions were driven by several factors which included the fact that industrialization and urbanization had brought about social and political problems, need to have laws governing issues of industrialization, need to have corrupted government officials out of office and the need to have more education centers. The reformers had three goals in mind: - To reform the government and expand democracy, promote social welfare and to bring social reforms (Gross, 1990).
The reconstruction era appears to be the most important era of the three. The era saw an end to the practice of slave trade which was against human rights. Democracy of the country was also put into trial during this era which greatly defined the future of the country. Issue regarding racism was addressed during this era which saw the incorporation of the blacks in public offices. It is worth to note that, the issues that were raised during this era remains applicable even today in laws of America.