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The Rise of The Captains of Industry and Robber Barons

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Some 19th-century industrialists UN agency were known as ‘captains of industry’ overlap with those called ‘robber barons’. These embody individuals like J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Andrew W. Mellon, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller. There was a time in U.S. history when the business magnates and titans of industry boasted a lot of wealth than even today’s prime technology innovators and visionaries. Throughout America’s Gilded Age — that spanned most of the latter half of the nineteenth century, from around 1870 to 1900 — the inflation-adjusted wealth and impact of America’s most soaring figures overshadowed what we see nowadays. The wealth of individuals like John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Henry Ford, and Andrew Carnegie would by today’s standards be measured within the many hundreds of billions of dollars — way more than technical giants like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and even Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest individual within the world as of 2019. Wealth so vast can often highlight the financial inequality of an era. It’s this concept of grandeur within the face of unresolved social concerns that led Mark Twain to coin the phrase “Gilded Age” in his 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. The title recommended that the thin veneer of wealth for the elite disguised broader problems for several within the lower and middle classes.

However, the progress created within the United States throughout the Gilded Age can’t be denied. As a part of the Second Industrial Revolution, the country underwent a formidable economic expansion — led by the day’s larger-than-life figures of wealth and power. An abundance of this growth was courtesy of railroads — that currently spanned from coast to coast — in addition as factories, steel, as well as coal mining industry. Big business boomed, with technology like typewriters, cash registers, and adding machines helping to transform how people worked. And the economic explosion included not only industrial growth, however, also a growth in agricultural technology like mechanical reapers. In a time of such great expansion and fewer regulations surrounding wealth and business practices, circumstances were perfect for the increase of a class of extremely wealthy individuals who made up a very small percentage of society. They had the power and means to create opportunities and jobs for the many, although with less social prioritization on workers’ rights, problems like discrimination, exploitation, and low wages marked the era. The rich elite of the late nineteenth century consisted of industrialists who amassed their fortunes as so-called robber barons and captains of industry. Both are known as business tycoons, but there was a huge difference in the way they made their fortunes. The term “robber baron” goes back to the Middle Ages and carries negative connotations. Robber barons generally used ethically questionable ways to eliminate their competition and develop a monopoly in their industry. Often, they had little empathy for workers. Captains of industry, however, were usually philanthropists. They made their wealth — and used it — in a way that would benefit society, like providing a lot of jobs or increasing productivity. It’s been argued that solely as a result of such individuals were ready to amass great amounts of capital could our country become the world’s greatest industrial power. I am on the fence about this because it is easy to see them as both “captains of industry” for making our lives easier, but also can be called “robber barons”. But you have to wonder where they doing it to make our lives easier or because it puts money into their pockets. So, I’m not so sure on where I stand.

For those within the industrial sector, organized labor unions fought for higher wages, affordable hours and safer working conditions. The labor movement led efforts to prevent child labor, provide health benefits and supply aid to workers who were injured or retired. The origins of the labor movement lay within the formative years of the American nation, once a free wage-labor market emerged within the artisan trades late within the colonial period. The earliest charted strike happened in 1768 when New York journeymen tailors protested the wage reduction. The formation of the Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers (shoemakers) in Philadelphia in 1794 marks the start of sustained trade union organization among American workers. From that point on, native craft unions proliferated within the cities, publishing lists of “prices” for their work, defending their trades against diluted and low-cost labor and, more and more, demanding a shorter workday within the face of the Industrial Revolution. Thus, a job-conscious orientation was fast to emerge, and in its wake, there followed the key structural components characterizing American trade unionism. First, with the formation in 1827 of the Mechanics’ Union of Trade Associations in Philadelphia, central labor workers began uniting craft unions within the city, and then, with the creation of the International Typographical Union in 1852, national unions began bringing along native unions of constant trade from across the United States and Canada (hence the frequent union designation “international”). Although the factory system was coming up throughout these years, industrial workers played very little part in the early trade union development. In the nineteenth century, trade unionism was principally a movement of skilled workers. Knights of Labor and AFL (American Federation of Labor) are different labor unions that were present within the United States. The AFL was a proper federation of labor unions whereas the Knights of Labor was far more a secretive type. One of the main variations between the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor is that the previous one was more radical. The formation of Knights of Labor can be charted back to the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor, a secret union founded in 1869 by Uriah Smith Stephens and James L. Wright. Once Terence V. Powderly came to the leadership after Stephens, the organization got national recognition. This union became common among the coal miners of Pennsylvania throughout the 1870’s economic depression. It was after this event that the Knights of Labor had established itself as a leading labor union. They had their greatest victory within the Union Pacific Railroad strike (1884) and the Wabash Railroad Strike (1885). The Knights of Labor had put forth several demands like legislation for ending convict labor and child labor. Doctors, bankers, stockholders, Asians, Chinese, and lawyers weren’t enclosed within the Knights of Labor as they were considered unproductive members within the society. Though the union flourished as a leading labor union, its membership declined because of mismanagement, autocratic structure, and unsuccessful strikes. It was after the decline of the Knights of Labor that the American Federation of Labor gained extreme popularity. The AFL was launched in Columbus, Ohio in 1886. Socialists like Peter J. McGuire and Gompers were behind the forming of the AFL. But in the later years, the union saw a policy shift towards conservative politics. The American Federation of Labor adopted the philosophy of “business unionism,” that emphasized the contribution to profit and national economic growth.

The evident causes of World War I included politics, secret alliances, imperialism, and nationalistic pride. However, there was one single event, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, which started a chain of events resulting in war. The first events that led to the United States declaration of war against Germany were the Zimmerman Telegram and Germany’s proclaimed intention to resume unrestricted submarine warfare. American sentiment had leaned toward the Allies and against the alliance for a few time. Americans felt a standard affinity toward the British because of the common language. Also, Woodrow Wilson made no attempt to hide his hatred for persons of German descent. He once referred to German Americans as ‘hyphenated Americans.’ Sentiment against the Germans was conjointly intense once the sinking of RMS Lusitania in 1915; but this wasn’t the reason behind the U.S. entry into the war. After that event President Wilson magnificently commented ‘there is such a factor as being too proud to fight.’ Following the sinking of the Lusitania Germany had issued its Arabic Pledge (sometimes called the Sussex Pledge) during which the High Command promised it would not sink Allied ships without first giving appropriate warning. Many things modified this: The British often few the flags of neutral countries on their ships, and also rammed German U-boats while pretending to allow boarding. Then too the war was at a stalemate, and therefore the Germans had to try and do something to maneuver the war effort. This led to their regard on January 31, 1917 that Germany would resume unrestricted submarine warfare the next day. On February 25, 1917, President Wilson received a hijacked German telegram to the German Embassy in Mexico City that extended to Mexico the ‘lost territory’ of Arizona, New Mexico, etc. (land lost by Mexico to the U.S. in the Mexican American War of 1848) if Mexico declared war on the U.S. The British had intercepted the telegram and delivered it to the U.S. in a clear plan to secure U.S. entry into the war on the Allied aspect. On March 17, 1917, Germany capsized five U.S. merchant vessels, and President Wilson transported a war message to Congress on April 2. War was declared on April 6, 1917. In 1919, for the primary time, the Senate denied a peace treaty. By a vote of 39 to 55, far short of the required two-thirds majority, the Senate rejected consent to the Treaty of Versailles. President Woodrow Wilson personally negotiated the treaty following World War I, promoting his vision for a system of peace enforced by a League of Nations. Once the treaty arrived within the Senate in July, Democrats largely supported the treaty, however, Republicans were divided. The “Reservationists,” led by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, drawn up for approval of the treaty only if certain reservations, or alterations, were adopted. The “Irreconcilables” rejected the treaty in any form. In November Lodge sent the treaty with 14 reservations to the Senate floor, causing an angry Wilson to coaxing Democrats to reject Lodge’s plan. On November 19, 1919, a group of Democratic senators joined the Irreconcilables to defeat the treaty. The United States never ratified the Treaty of Versailles, nor was it a part of the League of Nations. In 1921 Congress approved resolutions formally ending hostilities with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian government.

During the Red Scare of 1919-1920, many within the United States feared recent immigrants and dissidents, particularly those who embraced communist, socialist, or anarchist ideology. The causes of the Red Scare included: World War I, which led many to embrace robust nationalistic and anti-immigrant sympathies. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which led others to fear that immigrants, notably from Russia, southern Europe, and eastern Europe, supposed to overthrow the United States government; The end of World War I, which caused production must decline and unemployment to rise. Several workers joined labor unions. Labor strikes, including the Boston Police Strike in September 1919, contributed to fears that radicals intended to spark a revolution; Self-proclaimed anarchists’ mailing bombs to prominent Americans, together with United States Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Furious by the bombings, the United States government responded by raiding the headquarters of radical organizations and apprehending thousands of suspected radicals. Several thousand who were illegals were deported. The biggest raids occurred on January 2, 1920 when over 4000 suspected radicals were taken nationwide. Over 800 were arrested in New England from areas such as Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Fitchburg, Lawrence, and Lynn. On April 29, 1920, days before the arrests of Sacco and Vanzetti, Attorney General Palmer warned the nation that the Department of Justice had uncovered plots against the lives of over twenty federal and state officials as part of May Day (May 1st) celebrations. May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, was celebrated by many socialists, communists, anarchists, and unionists. The failure of these plots to materialize, coupled with increased criticism of the Palmer Raids, brought these raids to an end. he ACLU, or American Civil Liberties Union, could be a noncommercial legal organization whose goal is to guard the constitutional rights of Americans through litigation and lobbying. Founded in 1920, their stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” They have been at work on a number of recent affairs, including approving actions, gay rights, and safeguards to immigrants and internet users. The ACLU takes roughly 6,000 court cases annually and counts more than 1.6 million members, including 300 staff attorneys. The ACLU is a vocal opponent of mass surveillance under the Patriot Act. In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Act gave the government expanded authority to monitor the phone and internet activities of United States citizens. In 2017, the organization challenged the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s controversial attempts to ban travel from several Muslim-majority nations. In the two-day period following Trump’s executive order, the ACLU received more than 350,000 online donations totaling roughly $24 million. The non-profit regularly raises about $4 million a year online.

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