A big thing that's happening here at the end of the 19th century is there's a
new confrontational style that's emerging in politics. It's emerging in the
Labor Movement. It's emerging on the race front with the emergence of W. E. B.
Dubois. People are not just sitting back and accepting these problems and
there's a new sense of pugnaciousness, in a sense, about the way these problems
are being presented to the nation. "Yeah, they've got to be solved or the
republic's in danger." |
There's a beginning of a mass movement against large-scale consolidate
corporations. Many people feel they have a strangle hold on the country and
they're starting to -- they'd always been a problem for the laborer, for the
common laborer, but now, large-scale monopolies and the trust movement, that
whole movement is beginning to affect the middle class as well through the
pricing policies of the corporations. And William Jennings Bryan is running
for the Presidency in 1900, and he's running hard on this anti-monopoly
campaign. And, of course, McKinley is seen as the epitomization of this
movement represented by and supported by large-scale industrial capitalists
like Morgan, who's connected with Mark Hannah and what-not.
There had always been large gaps between the rich and the poor, but they were
dramatically highlighted in 1900 by a series of reporters and novelists and
muckrakers who put a searching light on these problems and problems that had
begun to affect also the middle class as well. The huge slums in cities begin
to spread and with them, a whole series of diseases. A whole series of social
diseases and social problems begin to afflict the entire city, and the very
question arises at this time, for the first time, are American cities livable
places? Can they be improved? Can they be transformed? Can they be changed?
And so this mood of unease and crisis is co-mingled with a mood of optimism. I
think Theodore Roosevelt best represents that. He's concerned and brings
attention as a President to these social problems, the first President to do
this literally in the 19th century.
back to Interview Transcripts