Period 3

The Problem(s)

The United States was under the great influence of "special interest groups", which would alter lawmaking to benefit themselves by pressuring, in many different ways, elected persons. Large businesses, at the turn of the century, would use dishonest methods such as "special interest" groups in order to figuratively have the U.S. government "in their back pocket."

Another corruptive process used before the Progressive Movement was the giving and receiving of bribes from certain groups. These bribes were made to politicians in order to be considered as "campaign contributions" and to give the certain groups direct relations in politics and the changes thereof.

Machine politics was the process of an individual, in a large city, leading his group, known as a machine, that would make positive contributions to society in exchange for votes from members of that society. The positive contributions were usually reforms in the sense of giving better occupations or food to poor city-dwellers. Thus it was that the machine would gain support, and control the local government. If the support didn't ensure the machine's election, the machine would use illegal methods to get elected, and, once elected, they often received "campaign contributions." One of the most famous political machines was the Tammany Hall, led by "Boss" Tweed, in New York City, which illegally acquired large sums of money from the city.

Election frauds were where an individual became elected to an office by the public, not because the people necessarily wanted to vote for that candidate, but because the length of the ballot was too great it caused voters to, generally, deside on the candidates of that person's favorite political party.

Just as Andrew Jackson had used once elected as president, many dishonest officicals, during the rise of giant businesses, would give government positions, under themselves, to their supporters. This process is known as a spoil system.

The Solutions

A Civil Service Reform Act, also known as the Pendleton Act, was conceived and ratified in 1883, and thus established Civil Service Commisions. It was decided that, with the aid of the Senate, the president would select three commissioners for each state, making sure that no more than two were from the same party.

The problem of having untrustworthy and illegally elected officials was solved by giving voters the opportunity to take part in nominating candidates. Also, direct primary elections for the state and federal positions. These elections were ways to let candidates ascertain the wishes of the people over the party leaders. Because these elections were held before the conventions, they allowed a greater chance, for those who won in the primaries, a chance to gain a nomination.

Besides the direct primary election, a newspaper editor in Oregon, William S, U'Ren, endorsed three other reforms. The first of these was the initiative, which accounted for allowing voters to sugggest a law directly. Another reform was the referendum, or a reform stating that a proposed law had to be subjective to the authority and decision of the people through voting. The final of these reforms was the recall, which would permit people to vote an elected official out of office. Many other states eventually came to accepting at least one of these reform proposals.

The secret ballot reform was a reform at the state level that gave privacy to voters by granting them a ballot box. This secrecy while voting not only kept the political machine bosses from viewing voters' ballots, but it made the people feel more secure and confident during voting.

The direct election of senators came about because the people of the U.S. had the recall reform, which gave them an immense quantity of power over state and local officials. The idea of senators being elected directly, or by the people, was popular among the people, and thus state leaders, for the purpose of remaining on positive terms with the people, would accept this notion and try to pass a constitutional amendment to enforce it. On May 16, 1912, the Seventeenth Amendment was adopted by Congress, which stated that each state in the U.S. would: have two senators, have each senator serve terms of six years, give each senator the ability to cast one vote, and, most importantly, give the process of electing senators to the people of the United States.

The Images

external image OldWigwam.jpg This poster illustrates the idea of machine politics needing massive amounts of people in order to apply their dishonest and deceiving methods of gaining and keeping political positions.

external image 1871_1021_brains_135.jpg This political cartoon, entitles "The 'Brains' that Achieved the Tammany Victory at the Rochester Democratic Convention," exposes "Boss" Tweed as a greedy individual who thinks only about money. William Tweed ordered his machine to take action in ensuring that such images did not contine to reach the public. As the second of the primary sources below shows, Mr. Tweed was not concerned with publication bashing his standards, but he feared that pictures were easy for even the illiterate to comprehend.

The Primary Sources

The machine controls the whole process of voting, and practices fraud at every stage. The [tax] assessor's list is the voting list, and the assessor is the machine's man. . . . The assessor pads the list with the names of dead dogs, children, and non-existent persons. One newspaper printed the picture of a dog, another that of a little four-year-old Negro boy, down on such a list. A "ring" orator, in a speech resenting sneers at his ward as "low down," reminded his hearers that that was the ward of Independence Hall, and, naming over the signers of the Declaration of Independence, he closed his highest flight of eloquence with the statement that "these men, the fathers of American liberty, voted down here once. And," he added with a catching grin, 'they vote here yet."- Excerpt from Lincoln Steffens' 1906 book "The Shame of the Cities."

“Stop them damn pictures. I don’t care so much what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But, damn it, they can see pictures.” -
William Marcy Tweed's quote directed toward his machine.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Consitution. - The Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Citations

The Progressive Era handout.

Garcia, Jesus, Donna Ogle, Frederick Risinger, Joyce Stevos, and Winthrop Jordan. Creating America- A
History of the United States
. 1st. US: McDougal Littell, 2002.

“Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Wikipedia- The Free Encyclopedia. 9
February 2007. 21 Feb 2007

"Lincoln Steffens: The Shame of the Cities (1906)."
ABC-CLIO - American History. 2007. 21 Feb 2007.

"Civil Service Reform Act (1883)."
ABC-CLIO - American History. 2007. 22 Feb 2007.

"Political Posters."
Historical Archives - Hudson Library & Historical Society. 22 Feb 2007.

Lisa Melandri. "Drawing the Line."
The Galleries at 22 Feb 2007.

"Thomas Nast Gallery- September 1871 - 1872 'Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, Catholicism, and Public Education'."
Great Caricatures. 22 Feb 2007.

"Progressive Era Reform."
Oswego City School District Regents Exam Prep Center. 2001. 22 Feb 2007.

"Seventeenth Amerndment."
ABC-CLIO - American History__. 2007. 22 Feb 2007.