American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900

American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900

H.W. Brands

Language: English

Pages: 704

ISBN: 0307386775

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this grand-scale narrative history, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist H. W. Brands brilliantly portrays the emergence, in a remarkably short time, of a recognizably modern America.
 
American Colossus captures the decades between the Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century, when a few breathtakingly wealthy businessmen transformed the United States from an agrarian economy to a world power. From the first Pennsylvania oil gushers to the rise of Chicago skyscrapers, this spellbinding narrative shows how men like Morgan, Carnegie, and Rockefeller ushered in a new era of unbridled capitalism. In the end America achieved unimaginable wealth, but not without cost to its traditional democratic values.

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markets have their way. He evidently increased Butterfield’s stake in the plot and tried—unsuccessfully—to win over Grant’s private secretary. And he persuaded Corbin to write Grant delineating the dire consequences to the economy if gold fell. Corbin’s letter reached the president in western Pennsylvania, where he was vacationing. The courier arrived while Grant was playing croquet. He waited patiently, then impatiently, for the president to finish his game and read the letter. After Grant did,

placed greater weight on the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. For the state of Louisiana to assert, and the majority of the Supreme Court to accept, that the segregation law was race-neutral was fatuous or deceitful. “Every one knows that the statute in question had its origin in the purpose, not so much to exclude white persons from railroad cars occupied by blacks, as to exclude colored people from coaches occupied by or assigned to white persons.… No one

were essentially restraints on white majorities disposed to deny political rights to blacks. The problem of minority rights within majority rule wasn’t unique to Gilded Age America; it is inherent in democracy. But it became acute and undeniable in the United States during the decades after the Civil War, for although the constitutional restraints on the white legislative and practical majorities held for a while, they couldn’t withstand the relentless pressure of personal prejudice and

1880s, which were bad for this protest movement, as good times are generally bad for protests. Brutal weather in 1886 and 1887—summer drought followed by winter blizzards—punished the Plains, killing crops by the section and livestock by the herd. The suffering farmers might not have blamed the political system but for a veto by President Cleveland of a bill to buy seed for destitute Texas wheat growers. Cleveland sympathized with the Texans but contended that the ten-thousand-dollar

independence. When the Spanish government balked, McKinley’s time ran out. “If the President of the United States wants two days, or if he wants two hours, to continue negotiations with the butchers of Spain, we are not ready to give him one moment longer for that purpose,” Democratic congressman Joseph Bailey of Texas warned. One of the lingering congressional holdouts asked Tom Reed to dissuade the war hawks. “Dissuade them!” Reed told a reporter. “He might as well ask me to stand out in the

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