Big Business vs. Labor, 1870-1925

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Reunited by the Union victory in the Civil War, America faced an era of reconstruction during which the value of the individual was reanalyzed and redefined in law. After the reconstruction, a sense of peace and prosperity calmed the American people. Given hope by their success in maintaining the Union, the Progressive Era ensued. The previously forgotten vision of Alexander Hamilton was reborn and finally implemented. America was no longer the land of the yeoman farmer. Denizens of rural areas moved to the city and sought to work in the gradually industrializing regions of the country. As big business gained power, the laborers sought to achieve the American Dream of economic prosperity through self-improvement in a laissez faire economy.…show more content…
There was an obvious and dangerous amount of corruption that allowed big business to control the federal government. "What a funny little government!" Fig. 3. Cartoon by Horace Taylor, The Verdict, Sept. 25, 1899 Horace Taylor puts his opinion into prospective with this political cartoon. Businesses became more powerful than the government itself, which was too afraid to interfere in the exploitation. One such exploitation was the creation of corporation. Corporations were designed to limit the liabilities of its shareholders and thusly minimize the loss of capital by criminalizing only the legal entity, rather than its underlying workers. Thusly, legal suits and such became nearly useless against the incorporated. Additionally, as corporations grew unchecked, they found other ways to control competition. The railroad industry, the first big business of America, used pools and rebates to maximize profit but decrease competition – a principal not part of capitalism. Progress was slowed by the lack of competition, but the pursuit of wealth helped maintain it or a time. The trust was similar to a pool, but trusts were far more hierarchal and were used by corporations rather than regions. Having all the power in the world, businesses could grow and do whatever they wanted without worrying about the government ceasing their progress. Big businesses were often unscrupulous and exploitative of the working class. Such exploitation occurred
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