The term of The Gilded Age comes from writer Mark Twain’s novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. This era is between the Civil War and the Progressive era, and it is probably from 1877 to 1893. This is a period of rapid economic growth in the United States which was called the golden age of American development history and the era of American external expansion. During this time, millions of immigrants came to the United States from Europe, and a large number of heavy industries, including railways, factories, and mining, have developed rapidly, and most of their wealth has gathered in the north and west of the United States. The Gilded Age has greatly promoted the development of social productive forces, it is a period of social transformation in the United States and has a major impact on the politics and economy of the United States.
In the Gilded Age, the United States pursued a laissez-faire social and economic policy and adopted high-tariff measures to exclude competitors from the country, it greatly mobilized the entrepreneurial enthusiasm of the bourgeoisie and created a favorable environment for the free development of domestic capitalism.This policy has adapted to the objective requirements of the United States economic development and promoted the rapid development of the its economy.At the same time, the United States has achieved a transition from an agricultural country to an industrial country.
The industrial proportion has surpassed agriculture for the first time in the gross domestic product, and the steel industry and machinery manufacturing have become important pillars of the economy. This laissez-faire idea advocates the supremacy of personal interests. The activities of countless individuals pursuing their own interests gradually merge into a flood of capital accumulation. The efficiency of individuals and the organization under the big environment promoting the rapid development of economy.
However, this laissez-faire social and economic policy of the United States has had adverse consequences. Disordered competition is a catalyzer to the law of jungle, and the interests of consumers are seriously damaged. For example: Trusts, through unscrupulous competition, seriously harms the interests of the small and middle-class bourgeoisie and consumers, in 1890, in the voice of majority of workers, SMEs and peasants, Congress enacted the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, but Roosevelt declared that “Sherman Anti-Trust Act as a weapon against the Trust is simply a broken rod” (Samuel,91), so that people think the anti-Trust campaign is just a scam. At the same time, the municipal administration is backward and the social order is chaotic. Urban waste, sewage, industrial waste, waste gas and waste water have caused serious damage to the environment, seriously endangering people’s health and even threatening human life.
In the Gilded Age, the United States not only transitioned from the stage of liberal capitalism to the stage of monopoly capitalism, but also the most serious period of political corruption in the United States. In 1905, the American Digest Magazine published a map of American politics drawn by the French, distinguishing between political corruption in 45 states: only 6 of them were “no corruption”, 25 were “completely corruption”, and 13 were “special corruption”.
Party separatism is a major feature of the Gilded Age, especially during the presidency of Grant, political corruption has become something unique to the government(Bobert,15). Under the party branching system, officials are often appointed with the loyalty of the candidate to the party, not the talents and characters. Similarly, urban political corruption is also very serious. Urban affairs are managed by “city bosses” who spend their days in the streets, familiar with urban affairs, partying and smuggling, relying on a political party to obtain official positions and promotion, and arbitrarily arranging fraternity by manipulating elections between parties, Andrew D. White once said, the worst city governments in the Christian country are extremely costly, incompetents and corrupt, with few exceptions(Hofstadter,176).