>>With all this going on, what is the impact on national politics? I haven’t said anything about national politics yet. And this period is one of political stalemate. Actually, sort of like today, in a way. Nothing can be accomplished at the national level. Almost never, between 1876 and 1896, does the same party control the White House and both houses of Congress. From 1874, the Democrats pretty much control the House of Representatives all the time; the Republicans pretty much control the Senate; and the Republicans control the White House most of the time, but not all, because Grover Cleveland, as a Democrat, is elected twice. But basically, there’s divided government, and it means that very little gets accomplished. The writer Thomas Wolfe long ago wrote a wonderful little essay called “The Four Lost Men,” about presidents of the Gilded Age. And let me just read you something from this wonderful little essay of Wolfe’s. He talks about his father. His father, you know, talked about the politics of that period. He spoke “with familiar memory of the lost Americans– the strange…time-far, dead Americans, the… voiceless, and bewhiskered faces of the great Americans, who were more lost to me than Egypt, more far…than the Tartarian coasts… or the lost faces of the first dynastic kings that built the Pyramids,” but he had heard, known, and found familiar, had seen them in the “passion and…glory of his youth… the proud, vacant…visages of Garfield, Arthur, Harrison, and Hayes.” Garfield, Arthur, Harrison and Hayes. Just putting those names together is a joke, right? [laughter] Who can tell me — these are four presidents. “Garfield, Arthur, Harrison, and Hayes–time of my father’s time… life of his life — [these] had been living, real, and actual people…. for me, they were the lost Americans: their gravely vacant and bewhiskered faces… melted…together,” as unknowable as a buried man. “Who had seen [them] in the streets of life? Who could believe [their] footfalls ever sounded on a…pavement? Who had heard the casual…tones of Chester Arthur? And where was Harrison? Where was Hayes? Which had the whiskers, which the burnsides?… Were they not lost?” [laughter] What is he saying here? The irrelevancy of national politics. Who are these guys? What did it matter whether it was Garfield, Arthur, Harrison or Hayes? In other words, fundamental social changes are taking place, and the political system is either irrelevant to them or incapable of, you know, gaining any cognizance of them. As I say, it’s the era of social Darwinism, of the notion that the government should not get involved in trying to reorder the society. It’s a period of the abdication of a federal role in terms of protecting the freed people in the South. But yet, at the same time, in the North, the Republican Party is a mass popular organization. It’s one of the major organizations in the nation. Loyalty to the party has been cemented by the Civil War. It will last down to the Great Depression, really, as the natural party of government. It’s firmly in the camp of the industrial elite, via its tariff policies and its adherence to the international gold standard. Civil War veterans are a major political constituency. The Grand Army of the Republic, the Civil War, the Union Civil War veterans’ organization, is one of the major institutions of this era, and a major adjunct of the Republican Party. And note the difference: we have veterans’ organizations today (the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars) but the Grand Army of the Republic is different. I believe it’s true that if you — any veteran can join the American Legion. You can be a veteran of Iraq, a veteran of World War II, a veteran of Korea, of Vietnam. Right. Any veteran can join these organizations. Not true of the Grand Army of the Republic. Only Civil War veterans were allowed in. Not Mexican War, not Indian War. In other words, it was premised on the idea that the Civil War was so unique that nobody else, nobody who hadn’t participated in that war could understand what it was all about. So it is the Civil War veterans’ organization, not the war veterans’ organization. Only Civil War veterans could join. And their political power meant that veterans’ benefits were a major part of the economy. In fact, by the 1890s, something like one-third of the entire federal budget was being paid out in veterans benefits, pensions to soldiers who had fought in the war, their widows, their orphaned children. This was the major expenditure of the federal government. Now, look at the implications of that, nationally. Only Union veterans got these benefits. Confederate veterans did not get national veterans’ benefits. Therefore, it’s just another example of national policy pouring money into the North and the West, right? Some people say this is the origin of a kind of welfare state in the United States, the first major effort to spend federal money on individual benefits to people, and yet it’s all in the North and the West — except for the black soldiers, and their relatives, in the South. They will get benefits, but there weren’t that many of them at this point. There were many more in the North. So it’s another example of how federal policy is funneling money into the North and West, and the South is being left behind. But the Democratic Party doesn’t offer any real alternative to Republican domination. When they get in, the policies remain, mostly. The only real issue between them is the tariff, whether it should be high or low. But the mainstream Democrats are pretty much controlled by financial capitalists in New York. If one wanted to be totally schematic, one could say, well, it’s industrial capitalists versus financial capitalists, but usually those guys figure out a way to get together and cooperate anyway. So in other words, until the 1890s, as we will see next time, national politics doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on what is going on in the country. So, not long ago, I got a call from a TV producer who wanted to do a show, I don’t know, a series, a kind of ridiculous idea, “What would have happened if…” you know? What would have happened if the South had won the Civil War. What would have happened if this or that, if Kennedy hadn’t been assassinated. You can imagine. You can play that game with anything, right? Well, he wanted to know — oh, it’s a great idea for a show: What difference would it have made if James G. Blaine had been elected president in 1884 instead of Grover Cleveland? So I said, “No difference whatsoever, frankly. [laughter] I don’t think you’ve got a big show there, frankly. I don’t think it made any difference at all.” So that’s what had happened to national politics — after a period when it made a tremendous amount of difference who was elected president, in the 1850s and ’60s. So just to conclude, and we will pick this up next time, but by the 1890s, the United States has reached a tremendous watershed in our history. The economic depression, as I said, the Great Depression of the 1890s, beginning in 1893, will lead to unprecedented labor strife and the rise of an agrarian insurgency, the populist movement, which we’ll mention a little next time. It’s a period of radical political realignment. In 1894, ’96, the political stalemate is broken and the Republican Party establishes itself as the majority party, which it is all the way down to the New Deal. Republican control of the national government is solidified in the 1890s. The 1890s is when the giant corporations really come into existence. The 1890s is when the United States enters the world scene as an empire, not only on the American continent, but in the Spanish-American War, acquiring the Philippines; an empire like European empires, with overseas possessions. It’s the decade of the final destruction of the Plains Indians, the end of the frontier, etc. And it is what is called the nadir, the low point, right? Nadir, low point. A very great book was published years ago, “The Nadir,” about black life after Reconstruction, 1890s being the nadir, that is, the period of the consolidation of a new racial system and racial ideology — in the South, but with at least the acquiescence, if not the active participation, of the North, as well. So all this is the context in which the legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction is finally going to be worked out in the South, and a new system of race relations is going to be put in place. Remember, slavery was a total system. And a new system had to be worked out at the time, of economics, of politics, race relations, social relations. It’s not really put into place until the 1890s. And that will be the subject of our next and final lecture, which is, what happens to the South in the aftermath of the failure of Reconstruction? And what are the consequences of that for the South and for national history?