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LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
from 5000 to 40,000 acres each, and have 50,000 head of cattle or sheep. There are single wheat fields of 13,000 acres, and single farms which extend for many miles, -- covered as far as the eye can see, with one mass of grain rolling in golden waves. These are the kind of farms on which thirty-three horse harvesters, steam plows, and steam harvesters are in use (§ 303).
372. Completion of Reconstruction; the Weather Bureau; Great Fires; the "Boss" Tweed "Ring." The reconstruction of the southern states was completed in 1870; and in January of the
Copyright, Underwood & Underwood
A THIRTY-THREE HORSE HARVESTER
following year (1871) all the states "were represented in Congress for the first time since December, 1860." The disastrous effects of negro voting in South Carolina and some other states where the "freedmen" were in the majority (§ 365) caused violent resistance on the part of the white inhabitants. A secret society known as the Ku Klux Klan was organized in various parts of the South to prevent the negroes from voting. Congress passed the "Force Bill" (1871) to give military protection to the black
"RINGS" AND THEIR WORK
man1 (repealed, 1894). Experience has since proved that the negro can protect himself best by advancing in education and in habits of industry. It has already been mentioned (§ 366) that a number of southern states have practically abolished the African American's right to vote, but the fact remains that the negro, like the white man, still has the liberty to make himself what he chooses. That noted colored educator, Booker T. Washington, once said that he would rather be an "American negro" than a white man.2
Another important work accomplished by Congress (1870) was the establishment of the Weather Bureau. This department has its headquarters at Washington, with branches in all the principal cities.
Its object is to give information of approaching storms and changes of weather. It has been the means of saving the country from heavy losses both by land and sea.
The next autumn (1871) a great fire broke out in Chicago, which destroyed about 18,000 buildings valued at $200,000,000. During the same season terrible forest fires caused great destruction in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The year following (1872) a conflagration consumed business property in Boston worth about $80,000,000. These losses greatly aggravated the panic which followed soon afterward (1873) (§ 373). Our losses by fire now average more than $600,000 a day for every day in the year.
In New York City it was discovered that "Boss" Tweed, one of the commissioners of public works, had been guilty, in connection with other city officers, of a series of stupendous frauds. In the course of years this "ring," as it was called, robbed the city of many millions, -- so many, in fact, that it would have been cheaper to have had a great fire like that of Chicago or Boston than to have kept these men in power. Eventually the "ring" was broken up, and Tweed died in Ludlow Street Jail.
373. New Coinage Act; Business Panic, 1873; Centennial Exhibition; the Telephone; Remarkable Electrical Progress. During the Civil War, and for many years afterward, paper money
1 See W. Macdonald's "Select Statutes" (1861-1898), p. 249.
2 See Booker T. Washington's "The American Negro of To-day," in Putnam's Monthly, October, 1907, p. 70.
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
was the only kind generally in use throughout the country (§ 324). Silver dollars had practically disappeared largely because people found dollar bills more convenient to carry than the heavier money, and although smaller silver coins were common, they, of course, could only be used for making trifling purchases and for "change."
For these reasons Congress passed a new Coinage Act (1873) which dropped "the silver dollar of our fathers" (§ 202) and ordered the United States mints not to issue any money for use at home1 but gold pieces, small silver, and coppers.
The Coinage Act attracted hardly any attention at the time, but a few years later a great outcry was raised against the measure and Congress was forced to restore the silver dollar (§ 379).
The year 1873 was also memorable as the date of the beginning of a great business panic which ruined a multitude of people. One reason for the outbreak of the trouble was that the success of the first Pacific Railway (§ 371) led to the building of more western railways than the country then needed.
Thousands of men believed that by speculation they could get rich at locomotive speed, but their plans ended (as in 1837 and 1857) (§§ 275, 312) in a terrible crash. Even the United States government felt so pinched for money that it stopped making payments on the war debt for a time, and all work on public buildings came to a standstill. The country did not fully recover from the "hard times" for five or six years.
A leading feature of the celebration of the anniversary of the One Hundredth Year of the Independence of the United States was the opening of the Centennial Exhibition in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia (1876). The principal buildings covered a total space of about seventy-five acres. All the nations of the world sent products of their industry or their art to be exhibited; but, as in the World's Fair of 1853 (§ 303), our own country again took the lead in the display of useful inventions. The Exhibition showed what a great change had taken place in the mode of doing most kinds of work. In Washington's day, and for many
1 The new Coinage Act provided, however, for the coinage of "trade dollars" to be employed in our commerce with China where silver was the only currency generally in use.
THE ELECTRIC LIGHT AND TELEPHONE
years later, nearly everything was done by hand; but by the time we had reached our hundredth birthday an industrial revolution had taken place. Arms of iron and fingers of steel now performed the labor. The duty of the workman since that period has, been mainly to guide and superintend a machine which is his willing, tireless servant. One such machine, for instance, an electric printing press (§ 303), can often do more in a single hour than a man, working with his hands alone, could do in a week or in a number of weeks.
Three of the most remarkable novelties shown at the Exhibition were the electric light, the first practical typewriter, and an instrument invented by Professor A. G. Bell of Boston, which we know to-day as the telephone. Professor Morse enabled men to send written messages to each other by electricity (§ 284); Professor Bell, going a step farther, enabled them to talk together in the same way. To-day cities separated by the entire breadth of the American continent are brought within speaking distance of each other.
More wonderful still, persons many miles apart have telephoned to each other without using any conducting wires. They simply speak through the air. In time this new method promises to become a practical success like wireless telegraphy (§ 428).
But during the long period of years extending from 1876 to the present time the use of electricity has made immense progress in other ways. It not only propels trolley cars over thousands of miles of street and country railways, but it is beginning to take the place of steam on many railroads (§ 435), and on the ocean
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
it drives some of our largest battleships. Because of these things we have named the twentieth century the "Electric Age." 1
But, not satisfied with speeding over the astonished earth in automobiles or rushing through the water in motor-boats, we shoot through the sky in aëroplanes,2 first invented by the Wright brothers of Ohio, in 1903. On May 27, 1919, Commander A. C. Read, an officer in our navy,, did what no man had ever done before. He, with four other Americans, finished his flight across the Atlantic from Long Island to Lisbon, in an airship built to swim as well as fly.3
374. International Progress; Indian Wars; Colorado. Meanwhile we made very important political progress. A number of persons chosen by us and by Great Britain4 met in Switzerland (1871) to decide an old dispute. They decreed that England should pay the United States $15,500,000 for damages done by the Alabama and other Confederate warships built in England (§ 329). That peaceable settlement was an honor to both England and America.
At home we had disputes with bands of Western Indians, which were not settled so easily. Our government wanted to buy the hunting grounds held by the Modocs in Oregon and by the Sioux in Dakota, and to give them land in the Indian Territory. But these tribes had little faith in the promises of white men. They resolved to fight rather than move. General Custer, one of the bravest of our officers, was sent to deal with the Sioux warriors. The Indians had about ten men to his one. Custer fought desperately, but he and every one of his force were killed on the spot (1876). Later, the government made peace with the Indians.
In the same year (1876) Colorado entered the Union as the "Centennial State."
1 In 1879 Edison invented his electric lamp and in 1895 his moving-picture machine, lighted and operated by electricity.
2 The electric-gasoline engine (in which an electric spark explodes gasoline vapor) has given the automobile, the motor-boat, and the aëroplane their world-wide success.
3 Commander Read flew from Rockaway Beach, near Brooklyn, New York, to Halifax, then to Newfoundland, then to the Azores, and then to Lisbon. The total distance was 3470 miles. His flying time was 49 hours. (See cut, p. 411
4 They formed a Court of Arbitration.
THE ELECTRIC LIGHT AND TELEPHONE
375. The Disputed Presidential Election (1876). In the Presidential election (1876) Mr. Hayes, the Republican candidate, received a majority of one of the electoral votes1 over his opponent, Samuel J. Tilden, the Democratic candidate. The Democrats maintained that the election had not been fairly conducted and that Mr. Tilden had really received a majority of the votes for President. No such dispute had ever arisen before, and it filled the whole country with alarm. In order to settle this dangerous controversy Congress appointed an Electoral Commission to decide the matter. It was composed of ten members of Congress and five justices of the United States Supreme Court. The Commission finally decided in favor of Mr. Hayes by a vote of 8 to 7.
376. Summary. President Grant's administration was marked (1) by the completion of the first railway across the continent; (2) by the admission to Congress of representatives of all the seceded states; (3) by a very important treaty with England; (4) by terrible fires West and East, which destroyed property worth many millions of dollars; (5) by a new coinage act which dropped the silver dollar from our coins; (6) by a severe business panic; (7) by the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, and by the disputed presidential election of 1876.
RUTHERFORD B. HAYES (REPUBLICAN)
377. Hayes' Administration (Nineteenth President, One Term, 1877-1881); Withdrawal of Troops from the South; the First Great Labor Strike. President Hayes2 believed that there would never be permanent peace at the South until the people of that section were allowed to manage their own affairs without the interference of the national government. He therefore withdrew the
1 See the Constitution, Article II, Section I, Paragraphs 1-4.
2 Rutherford B. Hayes was born in Ohio in 1822. He studied law, and settled in Cincinnati. During the Civil War he became a brigadier general in the Union army. After the war he was twice elected governor of Ohio. In 1876 he was elected President by the Republicans (William A. Wheeler of New York, Vice President) over Samuel J. Tilden of New York and Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana, the Democratic candidates. Mr. Hayes had but one more of the electoral votes than his opponent. On the dispute which followed see § 375.
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
United States troops from that part of the country, trusting that the whites and the blacks would come to an understanding between themselves. From that time forward the "solid South" -- that is, the solid white vote of the South -- got the control, and the negro ceased to govern (§ 365). The whole country was glad that the strife was over, and although many Republicans condemned the President's action, the majority of the people heartily approved it.
In the summer (1877), the first great historic labor strike in America occurred. The employees of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway refused to work on account of a threatened reduction of wages. The strike spread to several states and more than 100,000 railway men went out. At Pittsburg serious riots occurred. A mob set fire to railway freight houses, machine shops, and other buildings, thereby destroying property worth many millions. Order was not finally restored until the President sent troops to Pittsburg to prevent further destruction.1
378. Deepening the Chief Mouth of the Mississippi. During President Hayes' administration the attention of Congress was particularly called to the condition of the Mississippi below New Orleans. That great river is constantly bringing down vast quantities of sand and mud, which gradually fill up the mouths of the stream.
These sand bars finally blocked the passage to such an extent that large and heavily loaded ships could pass over them only with the greatest difficulty. On one occasion more than fifty vessels were seen waiting for an opportunity to get to sea. Sometimes they were delayed there for days, or weeks, even, and had at last to hire tugboats, at great expense, to tow them through.
Finally (1875), Captain Eads of St. Louis, the builder of the great steel arch bridge across the Mississippi at that point, undertook to open the "South Pass," which is one of the five mouths of the great river. His plan, though not new, was most ingenious. He had noticed that where the river was narrow the current was strong, and so deposited but little mud to fill up the channel. He said to himself, By building new banks on each side, near the
1 See Carroll D. Wright on Historic Strikes, in the North American Review, June, 1902. and E. 13. Andrews' "The United States in Our Time."
"DOLLAR OF OUR FATHERS" RESTORED
mouth of the river, I can narrow the channel and increase the force of the current to such a degree that it will carry all the sand and mud out to sea. Then when the bar is dredged through it will never form again.
Congress gave him-permission to try the experiment. He set to work, and in four years proved the truth of his idea (1879). Since then, the Mississippi, like a well-behaved river, has swept out its own channel, and large ocean steamers can pass up to New Orleans, or out to sea, without difficulty or expense. Captain Eads' great work has been of immense benefit, for the export commerce of New Orleans is the largest of any city in America except New York.1
379. The Government restores the "Dollar of our Fathers"; "Greenbacks" become as Good as Gold. We have seen (§ 373) that Congress dropped the silver dollar from our coins (1873). Many people, especially Western and Southern farmers who were pressed for money, demanded that the government should restore "the dollar of our fathers." The Western silver-mine owners joined in the cry for "the free and unlimited coinage of silver." Congress would not grant that, but passed a bill restoring the silver dollar (1878).2 President Hayes promptly vetoed it. He said that the market value, by weight, of a standard silver dollar was then only about ninety-two cents. On this account he held that it would be a dishonest act for the government to issue such a coin. But a majority in Congress believed that silver would rise in value and they passed the bill over his veto.3 The Treasury Department then began buying silver by the car load, and the mint began turning out silver dollars by the ton.
The paper money called "greenbacks,"4 which the government first issued during the Civil War, and with which it paid part
1 For an interesting account of Captain Eads' work, see Scribner's Magazine, Vol. XIX, "The Mississippi Jetties" (illustrated). In 1908 the Southwest Pass was deepened.
2 This was the BIand-Allison Silver Purchase and Coinage Act. It required the Secretary of the Treasury to purchase from $2,000,000 to $4,000,000 worth of silver every month and coin it into standard dollars. This act continued in force for twelve years, during which time nearly $400,000,000 in silver dollars were coined and stored in the Treasury vaults at Washington.
3 See the Constitution, Article 1, Section 7, Paragraph 2.
4 A name derived from the color of the backs of the bills (§ 324).
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
of its enormous expenses, was worth less than gold. At one time (summer of 1864) it took nearly three dollars in "greenbacks" to purchase as much as a single dollar in gold would buy. That meant that the people then had so little confidence in the power of the government to do as it agreed that its paper promise of payment stamped "one dollar" was worth only about thirty-five cents.
But after the war, when the government began to pay off its debt, the feeling changed. Then this paper money rose in value, until at last a "greenback" dollar would buy quite as much as a gold dollar.
Finally, on New Year's Day (1879), the Treasurer of the United States stood ready to give gold coin in exchange for "greenbacks." This strengthened the credit of the government and enabled it to borrow all the money it wanted (to meet the debt as it fell due) at very low rates of interest.
380. Summary. The four most important events of Mr. Hayes' presidency were (1) his withdrawal of troops from the South; (2) the great railway and coal strikes; (3) the deepening of the mouth of the Mississippi; (4) the purchase of large quantities of silver which was coined into dollars; (5) the redemption of "greenbacks" in gold and the reduction of the expenses of the governmerit in paying interest on its debt.
JAMES A. GARFIELD AND CHESTER A. ARTHUR (REPUBLICAN)
381. Garfield's and Arthur's Administrations (Twentieth and Twenty-first Presidents, One Term, 1881-1885); Assassination of the President; Civil Service Reform. In the summer following his inauguration President Garfield1 was shot by a disappointed office seeker named Guiteau.2 He died in the autumn
1 James A. Garfield was born in Ohio, 1831; died, 1881. His early life was passed in hardship and poverty. By dint of hard work he fitted himself for college, and graduated at Williams College, Massachusetts. He entered the Union army, and was promoted to the rank of major general. In 1863 he was elected to Congress, and later was chosen United States senator. In 1880 he was elected President (Chester A. Arthur of New York, Vice President) over General W. S. Hancock of Pennsylvania and William H. English of Indiana, the Democratic candidates.
2 Guiteau was convicted of the murder and hanged.
THE ELECTRIC LIGHT AND TELEPHONE
from the effects of the wound, and Vice President Arthur became President.1
The murder of Garfield led to an attempt on the part of Congress to relieve the President from the necessity of appointing thousands2 of persons to government offices merely as a reward for their having worked, or spent money, to get him elected.
A law called the Civil Service Reform Act was passed in 1883. It gave the President power to appoint commissioners to examine persons applying for certain grades of government offices known as the civil service, that is, all outside of the military or naval service. These commissioners recommend those who show themselves best fitted to do the work. Out of the list they furnish, the President can then make his selection.
This method takes off the President's hands a vast amount of very laborious work. It also saves his time, and spares him the vexation of having to listen to that class -- found even among office seekers -- who cry night and day, like professional beggars, "Give!" "Give!"
Since then the operation of this act has been greatly extended. To-day about two thirds of the whole number of civil offices and positions under the government are subject to its rules.
Once the applicants for such places sought them as a personal favor, but now under the "merit system" all have an equal opportunity to attain government employment. Those who get places have the right to keep them so long as they show themselves faithful and capable.
382. The East River Suspension Bridge; Cheap Postage; the Alien Contract Labor Act. An illustration of our steadily growing prosperity and enterprise was given in the completion of the great East River Suspension Bridge3 connecting New York City with
1 See the Constitution, Article II, section I, Paragraph 6.
2 At present there are more than 420,000 persons employed in the civil service of the government. This number includes all who are employed in the post-office service, but not those in the diplomatic and consular departments. The total number of clerks and others employed by the government in the District of Columbia is over 25,000.
3 The bridge was begun by John A. Roebling of Trenton, New Jersey, the inventor of wire suspension bridges. Mr. Roebling only lived to complete the plan of the great structure. He was succeeded by his son, W. A, Roebling, who finished the work.