History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.
entitled Wealth against Commonwealth, attacked in scathing language certain trusts which had destroyed their rivals and bribed public officials.  In 1903 Miss Ida Tarbell, an author of established reputation in the historical field, gave to the public an account of the Standard Oil Company, revealing the ruthless methods of that corporation in crushing competition.  About the same time Lincoln Steffens exposed the sordid character of politics in several municipalities in a series of articles bearing the painful heading:  The Shame of the Cities.  The critical spirit appeared in almost every form; in weekly and monthly magazines, in essays and pamphlets, in editorials and news stories, in novels like Churchill’s Coniston and Sinclair’s The Jungle.  It became so savage and so wanton that the opening years of the twentieth century were well named “the age of the muckrakers.”

=The Subjects of the Criticism.=—­In this outburst of invective, nothing was spared.  It was charged that each of the political parties had fallen into the hands of professional politicians who devoted their time to managing conventions, making platforms, nominating candidates, and dictating to officials; in return for their “services” they sold offices and privileges.  It was alleged that mayors and councils had bargained away for private benefit street railway and other franchises.  It was asserted that many powerful labor unions were dominated by men who blackmailed employers.  Some critics specialized in descriptions of the poverty, slums, and misery of great cities.  Others took up “frenzied finance” and accused financiers of selling worthless stocks and bonds to an innocent public.  Still others professed to see in the accumulations of millionaires the downfall of our republic.

=The Attack on “Invisible Government."=—­Some even maintained that the control of public affairs had passed from the people to a sinister minority called “the invisible government.”  So eminent and conservative a statesman as the Hon. Elihu Root lent the weight of his great name to such an imputation.  Speaking of his native state, New York, he said:  “What is the government of this state?  What has it been during the forty years of my acquaintance with it?  The government of the Constitution?  Oh, no; not half the time or half way....  From the days of Fenton and Conkling and Arthur and Cornell and Platt, from the days of David B. Hill down to the present time, the government of the state has presented two different lines of activity:  one, of the constitutional and statutory officers of the state and the other of the party leaders; they call them party bosses.  They call the system—­I don’t coin the phrase—­the system they call ‘invisible government.’  For I don’t know how many years Mr. Conkling was the supreme ruler in this state.  The governor did not count, the legislature did not count, comptrollers and secretaries of state and what not did not count. 

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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