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Mark Twain was an influential American author who labeled 19thcentury America as the “Gilded Age”. When saying this, he meant that the period was good on the top but corrupt underneath. During the time of the “Gilded Age”, there were several events that occurred, from the Panic of 1873 to the Pullman Strike and much more. One of these events that occurred during this time was the Credit Mobilier Scandal. This was one of many events that reflected Twain’s characterization of the period as the “Gilded Age” for many reasons.
The Credit Mobilier Scandal was when the Union Pacific Railroad bribed federal lawmakers in exchange for various business favors. Around the 1860s the Union Pacific Railroad was assigned with making a part of the transcontinental railroad. For this reason, the corporate leaders of the Union Pacific came up with the idea to set up a dummy corporation to switch public funds for their own use. Big stockholders in the Union Pacific Railroad made a company, called the Credit Mobilier of America, and presented its contracts to make the railroad. The representatives from the Union Pacific had made hidden deals with the federal lawmakers. They offered congressmen stock in the Credit Mobilier company, which basically was an insurance of a share of the public money that would be transmitted through the company. In exchange for the stock options, the congressmen gave the company nice government subsidies and many land grants. As said by Twain, that this period was corrupt underneath, proved by the fact that both the Union Pacific and congressional stockholders in Credit Mobilier got rich due to this occurring. Each side ended up getting what they wanted.
This scandal affected America politically at the time due to the fact of it damaging the careers of many Gilded Age politicians. Due to the obvious way in which they exchanged favors, the scandal broke in 1872. Brought to this was a congressional investigation that came and got all the information to the public’s attention. Two of the members of the House of Representatives at the time, Oakes Ames of Massachusetts and James Brooks of New York, were censured due to their involvement in the scandal. Not only this, but the scandal also ruined the careers of coming vice president Henry Wilson, Representative James A. Garfield and leaving vice president Schuyler Colfax, who all were involved. In the end, this scandal revealed how corruption corrupted Gilded Age politics, and just how the lengths railroads and other economic interests would go to satisfy and enlarge profits.
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