Sunday, October 30, 2011

Capitalism and the White Man's Burden

I)                   Pullman

A)    George Pullman – made his fortune hauling Chicago out of the muck; after the Great Fire of 1871, efforts were made to raise the remaining buildings as much of the swamp that the city was built on was filled. Pullman used this money to establish a company to build sleeping cars used on long trips by railroad companies.

B)     Town of Pullman – as the company grew, Pullman became concerned about the effect the radicals in Chicago were having upon his workers, so several miles south of the city he built a town (housing, stores, public buildings, a hotel he named after his daughter Florence, even churches) which he rented to workers, but which he retained title.

1)      “Model” town – Pullman the town was a great example of welfare capitalism—that is, subsidizing certain amenities for workers so they remain satisfied on the job.

2)      Depression of 1893 – the economic depression of 1893 cut deeply into the profits of the Pullman Company, and Pullman responded by cutting wages and laying off workers, as any good capitalist would do.

(a)    Pullman rents – Pullman refused to cut rents in the same manner, however, since that division of the business had to show a profit as well.

(b)   Pullman workers respond by going on strike in the spring of 1894.

C)    Eugene V. Debs – a former officer of the Brotherhood of Railway Firemen, Debs in early 1894 became president of an early industrial union for railway workers, the American Railway Union

1)      Railway “Brotherhoods” – each specialty in the railroad industry had its own union, The Brotherhood of Railway Engineers, Brakemen, Conductors, Firemen; problems arose when railway companies settled with one of the brotherhoods, and they crossed the picket line while others were still on strike. The ARU is meant to be a solution to this problem.

2)      1894 ARU convention – was held in Chicago; a delegation of workers from Pullman, who plead for the assistance of the ARU. Despite Debs opposition, convention delegates vote to assist Pullman workers, and vote to boycott all trains with Pullman cars. Despite the fact that the ARU represents a relatively small number of workers, traffic all over the country is interrupted.

3)      Government response – because there was little violence accompanying the strike the federal government was hamstrung; with a sympathetic John Peter Altgeld as Illinois governor, there was little chance that federal aid would be requested.

(a)    Richard Olney – the AG for the federal government was a railroad attorney, and it was he who suggested attaching Pullman cars to mail trains (interfering with the mail is, of course, a federal offense).

(b)   Troops from Fort Sheridan (and the Dakotas) are called in “to keep the peace,” which allowed the strike to be broken.

(c)    Debs and other union leaders were arrested and held incommunicado, which also helped break the strike; Debs spent a year in jail in Woodstock, Illinois, which he spent reading socialist tracts; he becomes the Socialist Party candidate for president in 1900, 1904, 1908, and 1912, when he polled the largest number of votes to that time in history for a third party candidate.

II.  Roosevelt and Washington Politics

A. On the Stump for McKinley--whole Theodore Roosevelt has a well-deserved reputation as a reformer, he was first and foremost a Republican Party partisan, and willingly went out on the stump to prove it.

1.  William Jennings Bryan--gained the1896 Democratic Party nomination largely on the strength of his "Cross of Gold" speech (reproduced in the YouTube clip above). Although Roosevelt was closer to Bryan's position on a  number of issues than to McKinley, he played the good political soldier and went out to harrangue the crowds  about the danger of class  warfare that Bryan's election posed.

2. McKinley's fundraising--the fear that the specter of a Bryan election posed for the business interests in the country  posed made Mark Hanna's fundraising problem easily  overcome; the "businesman's tax" provided the McKinley campaign with more than $3 million, while Bryan's campaign could only raise $300,000. The election became a forgone conclusion.

B. Undersecretary of the Navy--as a political reward for his work  on the  McKinley campaign, Roosevelt was given the post of Undersecretary of the Navy.

1. Alfred Thayer Mahan--the leading naval theorist of his time, Mahan argued that a nation could only achieve foreign policy success by building a strong navy. To achieve this objective, the nation would also have to obtain places for its large fleet to refuel--"coaling stations"--with the reliance upon steam for locomotion. This became the one of the excuses for the aggressive imperialism that became manifested in the foreign policy of the United States in the years just before the turn of the century.

2. Imperialist foreign policy--in many ways, 1890 is a pivotal year. In that year, the  Census Department determined that the frontier in the United States had ceased to exist. By 1892, the historian Frederick Jackson Turner had developed  a theory that the frontier had been the determining factor in the development of democracy in the United States. That same  year, Homer Plessy was arrested in New Orleans for violating the new segregated railroad car law in Louisiana; by 1896, the Supreme Court would institute the doctrine of "separate but equal," instituting legal segregation. Worries about having room to expand met racist presumptions about the ability of  non-white peoples of the earth to govern themselves in this new imperialist foreign policy.

III. Cuba Libre!

A. The "Yellow" Press--the  birth of the modern newspaper in the years just before the turn of the 20th century led many of the papers to promote lurid, sensationalist stories in an attempt to sell more  newspapers.

1. William Randolph Hearst

B. Remember the Maine

1. The USS Maine--in response to perceived "Spanish aggression," the USS Maine was dispatched to Havana Harbor to "show the flag." On the night of February 15,1898 the Maine suffered a catastrophic explosion, which an investigating committee concluded could only have happened from a mine placed  in the harbor (modern evidence points to spontaneous combustion in a coal bin).  As a result, pressure to declare war on Spain grows irresistible. When McKinley asks Congress to declare war (the Constitutional method  of doing so, by the way), Roosevelt resigns his position in the administration to join the Rough Riders he had been busy organizing.

1. Cuban rebels--had been fighting Spanish forces off and on for the previous thirty years, and at this point had nearly worn Spain into submission before the Americans even began their short voyage. Rebel forces, in fact, held off Spanish forces during the American invasion, which is the main reason why the American forces landed unscathed.

C. The Rough Riders--is really a manifestation of the multi-culturalism that Roosevelt learned from his association with Jacob Riis. The Rough Riders were a mixture of blue blood friends from New York (who made up much of the officer corps), with cowboys, Indians, Mexicans, and a smattering of other  ethnic groups--with one important exception--who all brought the "barbarian virtues" that Roosevelt felt  Anglo-Saxons had lost.

C. The Charge up Kettle Hill--this engagement, like the whole War With Spain, was a FUBAR mess. It took weeks to transport troops to Cuba, supplies were inadequate--as were preparations, medical attention, and just about everything else  about the operation.

1. The Role of the10th Cavalry--under the command of General John J. Pershing, the all African American 10th Cavalry actually bore much of the brunt of the fighting for both Kettle Hill  and  San Juan Hill. Their bravery under fire was remarked on by a number of officers,  including initially one Lt. Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. The 10th Cavalry did not have a personal war correspondent,  however, so none of them were awarded a Medal of Honor

I)                   Mexican Revolution

A)    Border raids

1)      Two Mexican governments – one in the north (led by Poncho Villa), and one in the south

2)      Anti-American sentiment – many people in Mexico resented the United States interference in political affairs previously in Mexico, as well as the way many of their relatives and former countrymen were being treated in the Southwest.

3)      Unstable business environment – for US businesses, anyway; fear of intervention by British or German forces which would conflict with US business interests.

(a)    Petroleum

(b)   Mining – particularly silver, lead, and copper mines

B)     Intervention – invoking the Monroe Doctrine, used as justification to interfere in affairs of Mexico.

1)      Tampico Affair – avenging US honor, or the humiliation of Mexico?  US sailors arrested, then quickly released with apology from Mexican government; naval commander insists Mexican officials salute US flag, which they refuse to do; Marines and sailors occupy Veracruz by force.

2)      Pursuit of Poncho Villa – Villa, looking to provoke US invasion, Villa’s forces raid Columbus, New Mexico, burn it to the ground, and kill sixteen US citizens; Wilson responds by sending Gen. John Pershing into Mexico to pursue Villa; Pershing is unable to capture Villa or his forces, however, and US forces are withdrawn, quietly, a year later (to be transported across the Atlantic).

C)    “Dollar Diplomacy” – interventions on the part of US government to protect the interests of American businesses, began in 1909 with personal appeal from Taft to Chinese leaders on behalf of US businesses; with Wilson, this “diplomacy” often took the force of arms

1)      Nicaragua

2)      Haiti

3)      Dominican Republic

4)      Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler, USMC

II)                 War in Europe

A)    Hyphenated Americans

1)      German-Americans – number 8.25 million of German parentage

2)      Irish-Americans – 4.5 Million of Irish parentage

(a)    Both groups either expressed opposition for English war aims (Irish), or support for German war aims (German-Americans)

(b)   Why support Allies? – Cultural affinity with Great Britain by politicians; the fact that Great Britain controlled US access to information about the war, so US only heard about “Hun atrocities.”

B)     “Preparedness” v. anti-militarism – US had long held suspicion of large standing army, and of militarism, but this was in the process of changing.

1)      Preparedness advocates

(a)    Theodore Roosevelt – felt the military was the great democratic leveler (unless you were black and relegated to a segregated unit), and would restore masculinity that was sorely lacking, particularly in the middle class (desk jobs)

2)      Anti-militarists

(a)    William Jennings Bryan

(b)   Women’s Peace Party (40,000 members)

(c)    Most Progressives

(d)   Socialist Party

(e)    IWW – latter two believed that this was a capitalist war, fought to control overseas colonies (and largely, it was)

C. War and the National Interest--nations fight wars because they see  them serving  a particular national interest. Democracies must also convince their people that fighting a particular war is in their national interest

1. Convincing the American People--the Wilson administration had to put a great deal of effort to sell the war to the American people, both with propaganda and with severe punishment for speaking against the war effort.

a. Government propaganda--the US government had to sell the war to the people when the "preparedness" contingent became more vociferous after the sinking of the Lusitania and the loss of American lives.

b.German bumbling--Germany mad a series of rather bumbling attempts to keep the Unites States neutral or to at least keep the country from providing substantial aid to the Allies. These attempts ranged from the purchase of the New York World by German investors to aid the spread of German propaganda to the destruction of the Toms River Arsenal in New Jersey, which shattered windows in skyscrapers across the river in New York City. Espionage efforts by the German government were fairly easily uncovered by the US government, and eventually led to the largest portion of the American people supporting the war effort of the government.

2. Preparedness--a number of influential Americans--most prominently, Theodore Roosevelt--called for the United States' government to make greater efforts to prepare for the war than the government was then engaged in--or, indeed, than a majority of the people of the United States were willing to engage  in. Much of Roosevelt's frustration was the realization that what he advocated was profoundly out of step with what most Americans wanted--and Woodrow Wilson was in step with the desires.

D. Peace and the National Interest--many other Americans saw the threat of war being contrary to the national interest--particularly those Americans who would be asked to fight it.

1. Socialists--argued that the war in Europe was being fought to line the pockets of capitalists, and to further their economic interests. Socialists argued that instead, workers should refuse to kill other workers in this war.

a. Eugene Victor Debs--Debs had won over 900,000 votes in the presidential election in 1912, the most ever for the party to that time. Debs was an outspoken critic of the war, and continued to be so until he was arrested in Canton, Ohio for making the above speech.

b. Debs,  William D. Haywood, other socialist (and IWW members) were arrested, tried, and convicted of sedition--of speaking out against the war

E. Feminism and Peace--women were very involved in the peace movement;  many women (among them Jane Addams) argued that the role that women played in society--the nurturing mother--made women suited for maintaining peace in the world.

1. Rosika (Rosa) Schwimmer--Hungarian feminist and peace activist, who helped to found the Women's Peace Party with  Jane Addams. Schwimmer was able to persuade Henry Ford to put up the money to pull together the first international conference, where she proposed that the women offer their services for continuous arbitration.

2. Addams' Role--Jane Addams, because of her prominence in the American political scene, was elected to head up this new organization--a role that she was very good at, and a position that she held for most of the next two decades.

D. Why the Peace Movement Fails--the Peace Movement in the  United States failed because of the inept actions of the German government, the success of the British government propaganda, and the shift in support among the majority of American people

1. Government take action--the United States government, in response to the subtle shift in public opinion over the cause of war, passed repressive legislation to be used against those who spoke out against the war; indeed, the government quashed all dissident political movements, arresting and jailing members of these organizations. "Foreigners" were deported to their home countries, as a matter of fact.

F)    Wilson’s position – shifting, depending upon the political climate

1)      1915 – recommends military build-up

2)      1916 – switches positions, promising to keep US from entangling alliances, because that position is more politically popular, and there was an election coming up.

3)      Peace tied to US economic expansion--the United States manufacturing industries were able to sell much of their production to Europe, because of the strictures the state of was had placed on European manufacturers. In addition, US bankers became the financiers of the war effort in Europe, particularly for France and Great Britain, and their  financial interest would be best served by a victory by the Triple Entente.

G.    Economic Effects of War on US

1)      1914 recession – US securities were held abroad and cashed in for gold, which depleted reserves; between $2.5 and $6 billion worth of US securities were dumped in the fall of 1914.

2)      1915 boom – with orders for war materials from Europe, US business booming; also, with immigration from Europe cut off, workers seeing wages rise for first time after a series of recessions; however, wages do not keep pace with inflation which soon hits the economy.

(a)    Wall Street Journal – praised war’s “tendency toward conservatism” in financial matters.

H)     Effect of Total War in Europe on US

1)      British blockade – Most of German fleet was locked up in ports along the Baltic Sea due to British blockade and naval superiority.

(a)    Contraband – anything enroute to German ports was seized as contraband by British war ships, and transported to British ports.

2)      German U-Boats (Unterseebooten)

(a)    War ship inferiority – German navy smaller, had to rely upon U-Boats as equalizer.

(b)   SS Lusitania – British passenger liner, which German u-boat sank; suspected of ferrying small arms; of the 1200 passengers killed when it sank were 124 Americans (May 7, 1915)

(i)                  Bryan, greatest voice for peace in Administration, resigns post over Administration handling of Lusitania, which leaves hawks in control.

(ii)                Germany agrees to give warning to passenger boats in the future before torpedoing

(c)    German peace proposal – demands cessation of Belgium Congo, as well as other colonies; rejected by Allies.

I.     Russian Revolution (1917)

1)      Socialist revolution – overthrew czar, support for entering the war on the side of the Allies was gained from Russian Jews, Poles, and Scandinavian immigrants, who had feared policies of czarist policies.

2)      Allied war effort – in trouble; French leader Aristide Briand’s government falls; Britain forced to use conscription (and considers conscripting the Irish)

3)      Germany resumes unrestricted submarine warfare – in the spring of 1917

4)      Zimmerman telegram – Germany tries to make an allied pact with Mexico in case US should enter the war on the side of the Allies

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Weekly Assignment 9

Much of the focus of the changes in work life concentrate upon men, but women began working outside of the home in larger numbers during the time after the American Civil War, as well. After reading the excerpt of the essay “Studies of Factory Life: Among the Women”  from volume 62 of the Atlantic Monthly (courtesy of Google Books), discuss what this account of female workers’ lives reveal about the lives of their children in a 2-3 page paper, double-spaced, with conventional 1 inch margins and a conventional 12-point font, due Friday, November 4.

Immigration in the United States

I)       Old immigration – historians in the past have used the designations “old immigration” and “new immigration” to distinguish between those people who came from northern and western Europe (the old immigrants) and southern and eastern Europe (the new immigrants). I purpose to use these old terms in new ways: to designate the old immigration as those immigrants who came before 1870; and those who came after. Technological innovations in travel, both sea and land, make this distinction viable because then we can highlight the real difference between immigrants, those who came to establish new homes, and those who came to earn enough money to improve their old homes.

A)    Irish as old immigrants – the Irish were a highly visible old immigration group, because they tended to be mainly Roman Catholic (and perceived as a threat to the freedoms of a profoundly Protestant—if avowedly secular—country), and because they immigrated in huge numbers.

1)      Changes in landholding – although we traditionally think of the number one cause for Irish immigration as the Great Famine, Black ’47, Irish immigration in large numbers actually began years before the Famine. In fact, changes in landholding patterns throughout Europe were the primary cause for the immigration of peasants to the western hemisphere.

(a)    Termination of serfdom – serfdom (a classification of station, of social order, similar to slavery) existed throughout Europe at the beginning of the modern era (for our purposes, 1600). Serfs were peasants who were tied to the land they worked for their lord (the owner of a manor). Serfs usually owed their lord a portion of the crop that they raised, and usually had to perform a fixed amount of labor for the lord on the manor, as well. Serfs were not completely propertyless, however; they usually owned a crude house, the adjoining land, and a small portion of plot that was worked in common. Serfdom was ended in England and the British Isles (including at this stage Ireland), in the 1600s; there were few serfs in France by the French Revolution in 1789. Serfdom did not completely disappear in Europe at this earlier time period, however; it existed in Prussian well into the 1800s, and Russian did not abolish serfdom until 1861. The termination of serfdom meant, however, that a large portion of the population in Europe was now free to roam around, and many peasants did so, seeking employment to supplement their subsistence from the land.

(b)   Termination of the commons – a portion of a manor was common land, or the commons—land which all members of the community had rights to use. Use of the commons continued to exists in western Europe after serfdom ended, which allowed the practice of subdividing land among all of the male heirs in a family, since they could use the commons to hunt, gather peat for fires (there were very few trees left in Europe, particularly in England and Ireland, by this time, and most of the trees that were left the monarch claimed for military use), and graze livestock. With the growing importance of raising commercial livestock, the former lords of the manor (who remained the largest landholders), began seizing the commons; to keep the livestock of villagers from using the former commons area, large hedges were grown around the perimeter to keep other livestock out. These hedges can still be seen in England and Ireland, even though free range (similar to the commons idea) has returned in Ireland.

(c)    Rise of primogeniture landholding – the amount of land to be divided became smaller, because of the practice of division among all male family members, and because much of the land was held be gentry class. This meant that individual landholdings got smaller, and had to be farmed more intensively—which became disastrous when the famine hit Europe.

2)      Rise of manufacturing – as landholding was changing in Europe (particularly in England and Ireland), manufacturing and industrialization were beginning to take off in England and the United States.

(a)    Manufacturing in England – the manufacturing of textiles in England—particularly in Liverpool and Manchester—as well as the manufacturing of iron and steel in Birmingham attracted workers from around the British Isles, who searched for ways to increase their incomes. Many agricultural workers and displaced farmers began to migrate to these developing industrial areas during lulls in the agricultural year to supplement their incomes; some stayed on permanently.

(b)   Manufacturing in the United States – opportunities in manufacturing in the United States—as well as jobs constructing a transportation infrastructure (canals and railroads) attracted a great number of these displaced peasants and agricultural workers, particularly during the 1820s and 1830s.

(i)     Because of the increased cost of migrating to the United States (as opposed, say, to Liverpool or Birmingham) meant that only immigrants with some means came to the United States—that is, they had some prior savings, or some skill that they hoped would transfer (many Irish immigrants had been cottagers in Ireland—that is, they worked as independent textile manufacturers. Most had to leave their looms behind, and upon arrival in the States found that most textile manufacturing was done in factories, anyway)

3)      Black ’47 – the potato blight affected much of Europe, and was part of the cause of the increased migration from Germany, as well as Ireland.

(a)    Reliance on the potato – because of the small amount of arable land available to most European (and especially Irish) farmers, they sought a crop that provided the greatest amount of calories per acre, which happened to be potatoes.

(b)   The potato blight – the first year of the blight was 1845, devastating much of the crop that year; 1846 the blight was less worse, and seemed less threatening; 1847 it devastated most of the potato crop, as well as much of the population.

(c)    Blight and immigration – the blight increased the urgency of immigration from Ireland, which was already occurring.

(i)     Immigration to England – the poorest immigrants immigrated across the Irish Sea to England; because of their dire condition, many did not complete even this short journey.

(ii)   Immigration to the United States – many Irish immigrants to the United States, while they arrived in the country destitute and often in ill health, were those who began the journey with the best chance of survival. Even so, about 10% died on the journey, a rate roughly comparable to slave ships.

B)    Transportation technology

1)      Sailing ships – the trip across the Atlantic took anywhere from three to six weeks, depending upon the weather and the port of departure. This length of time, and the conditions of travel in steerage, where most immigrants spent the trip, contributed to the mortality rate. The change of technology to screw-driven, steam-powered ships in the 1870s and 1880s had the double effect of decreasing the length of time the journey took, as well as dropping the price of the trip

C)    The “Immigration Problem”—the assimilation of immigrant groups has caused concern among political elites in the United States since before there was a United States; Benjamin Franklin was suspicious of the people he called the “Dutch” in the area around Philadelphia (largely because of their loyalty to the Penn family, with whom Franklin was in near constant dispute with) is one of the early examples.

1)      Local politics—new immigrant groups were viewed by political and economic elites as compliant tools of corrupt, big-city political “machines.” Immigrants could only make demands on these machines when they had votes to trade for services, however.

2)      Hull House—established by Jane Addams and Ellen Starr in Chicago in 1889, in one of the poorest immigrant neighborhoods in the nation. Before Hull House residents provided political organization (and lots of publicity), residents in the neighborhood received few city services.

II)    New Immigration

A)    Transportation technology -- the change in technology allowed peasants and workers to move back and forth between Europe and the United States, which both the eastern and southern European immigrant, as well as those from northern and western Europe, took advantage of.

1)      Screw-propeller steamships – the invention of the screw-propeller steamship cut down the length of travel from three to six weeks to one to three weeks, again dependent upon the port of departure (and arrival). This increase in speed allowed ships to make more trips; this led to the development of ships devoted to carrying passengers (to this point, the main income for a ship was cargo, rather than passengers), which allowed better accommodations for steerage passengers as well as cutting the cost of the trip to less than $10 one way.

2)      Sojourners/Remigrants – there had always been sojourners (people who intended only to be temporary residents of a country—also referred to as remigrants), but the price drop for the trip, and the growing assurance that one would survive the trip in relative comfort, made the trip to the United States increasingly attractive to large numbers of working-class Europeans.

(a)    Signaled a change in the nature of US immigration, because many of the people entering the country after 1870 did not intend to become permanent residents of the country, let alone become citizens.

(i)     Increased resentment and angry reaction on the part of native Americans, which contributed to the renewed nativist sentiment in the country (leading eventually to legislation being passed in 1924 to restrict the numbers of immigrants allowed in the country each year.

(b)   Attracted by high wages in US – the wages that a sojourner could obtain in US industry outpaced by far the wage they could command for agricultural and industrial work in Europe, and resulted in huge numbers of these workers, largely male, making their way to the United States.

(i)     The labor movement, which should have worked to organize these new immigrants to keep them from lowering the wage rates for all workers, instead attempted to restrict the number of immigrants allowed into the country each year

(ii)   Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) – at the instigation of labor in the West, particularly in California, but the entire labor movement eventually fell in line on this matter, including the Knights of Labor, which had practiced bi-racial unionism.

(iii) Because of immigrant interest in earning as much money as quickly as possible, most were uninterested in striking, or joining unions which often demanded union dues.

(i)     Few immigrants in the 1870-1920 time period came with skills, so were unattractive to unions within the AFL (the dominate organization for labor during this time period—although the founder of the AFL, Samuel Gompers, was himself a Jewish immigrant from England.

B)    Immigrant institutions

1)      Church – many immigrants came from countries were Roman Catholicism was the dominant religion; the Church in Europe was dominated generally by the ethnic group that dominated within the country; in the United States, the RC Church was dominated by Irish and German clergy.

(a)    Polish National Catholic Church – the response of a small part of the Polish population in the US was to establish their own church, which retained the practices of the RC Church except for recognition of the ecclesiastical authority.
(b)   Conversion to Protestant sects – some immigrants converted to a Protestant sect, which caused consternation when they returned home to establish new churches.

2)      Fraternal organizations – because of the high-risk jobs that immigrants tended to take (in return for what they thought were high wages), insurance became increasingly important (for burial, etc.)

3)      Saloons – one of the avenues for upward mobility for immigrants was to open a saloon. This became a social gathering place for members of ethnic groups, a place where they could read newspapers, carry on conversations in their native tongues, receive and send mail, and bank. The saloon also served as a center from which to gather information about job openings, because the saloon owner was usually well connected.

C)    20th Century changes in immigration

1)      Democratization of Europe – with the defeat of the Axis Powers in World War I, most monarchies on the Continent were done away with, and ethnic groups found themselves able to create their own governments; this not only tended to keep peasants home, but also drew back (initially) migrants already in the United States.

(a)    Poland – had been a part of three different countries since the late 1700s, and was able to establish its own government (until 1939, that is)

(b)   Czechoslovakia

(c)    Yugoslavia

(d)   Austria

(e)    Hungary

2)      Immigration restrictions – by 1924, when the euphoria for the new governments was wearing off, restrictions on immigration in the US became law, and took effect by 1927.

3)      Economic depression – by the beginning of the 1930s, the worldwide economic depression ended employment opportunities in the United States.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Frontier in American History

I.                    The New Settlement of the West

A.     Impediments to New Settlement

1.      Great American Desert – this was the name given previously to much of the land west of Missouri, which not inaccurately described the conditions found there—a large, semi-arid plain (similar to the steppes in Russia and the Ukraine).

2.      Permanent Indian Territory – much of the territory that we now think of as the Great Plains in the United States was known in the period just before the Civil War as the Permanent Indian Territory, to which Indian peoples had previously been removed to from the East—including those native peoples who had previously lived there.

B.      Factors that increased settlement

1.      New techniques of farming – the so-called “dry farming” technique, which utilized the sparse amount of rainfall to grow crops of wheat; ability to utilize available water in system of irrigation

2.      Expansion of railroad system – much of the livelihood of the newly opened West depended upon access to a rail line.

3.      Discovery of valuable minerals – the discovery of gold (especially, and earliest, in California, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and the Dakotas).

C.     Anglo settlers – the “untamed wilderness” that “pioneers” from the east “settled” was in fact an area that was already occupied by a sizable number of people, not only native peoples but earlier settlers who had migrated north from Mexico.

D.     Blacks in the West

1.      Buffalo Soldiers -- two cavalry units in the United States Army were made up of African American soldiers, who manned several of the forts that were built to maintain a system to “pacify” the native population—which the migrating white population expected to enforce their new “property rights.”

2.      Kansas Freedmen’s Relief Association – the “Exodusters.”  With the end of Reconstruction and the implementation of repression throughout the South, a small but substantial number of African Americans joined the migration west, with many settling in the land John Brown left before his raid on Harper’s Ferry.

II.                 Mining in the West

A.     The development of mining communities – largely male, with very few families, with very few females—except for prostitutes.  Most of the men who made money in these communities did so not from gold and strikes, but from selling supplies to miners.

1.      Placer mines – early mines (the traditional picture we have been presented of western miners—the 49ers).  Most men drawn west by the promise of gold (or silver) moved from working their own claims to working for wages on someone else’s claim.

2.      Mining technology – drove up costs of mining, which drove most who did not make an early strike into wage labor in mines.  Much of this technology, like hydraulic mining, was highly destructive of the environment.

B.      The gold and silver strikes

1.      California (1849)

2.      Nevada (1859) – the Comstock Lode, one of the largest deposits of silver in the world

3.      Colorado (1859) – Pike’s Peak

C.     Western states admitted to the Union – California (1849), Nevada (1864), and Colorado (1876) before the end of Reconstruction; after sweeping Republican victory in election of 1888, the Dakotas, Montana, and Washington were made states in 1889, and Idaho and Wyoming in 1890; Utah in 1896 after the Church of Latter-Day Saints agrees to give up the practice of polygamy; Oklahoma in 1907 following a “sooner” land rush onto more “permanent” Indian territory; Arizona and New Mexico in 1912.

III.               Indians in the West

A.     Indians forced to cede lands to the government – public lands were defined by most of the white people who moved onto these public lands as belonging to that part of the white public which got to the land “first.”

1.      Sporadic Indian wars – at the Treaty of Fort Laramie, group of Plains Indians agreed not to molest wagon trains of white settlers heading west on the Oregon Trail to Oregon; as these settlers began moving off the trail to settle in the area between St. Joseph Missouri and Oregon, however, conflicts between Indians and whites escalated.

2.      Chivington’s massacre of 150 Indians – at Sand Creek, Colorado, where a contingent of poorly trained militia murdered men, women, and children in an Indian camp there

3.      Decision to place Indians on reservations – to avoid future conflicts, decision was made in Washington to remove Indian people to “out of the way” pieces of land that seemed to be unappealing to whites; this not only turned over land that these peoples had previously been “granted” in perpetuity, but the restriction to a relatively small grant of land meant that many of these peoples became dependent upon government subsidies—which provided a market for the cattle that the whites who displaced them raised.

4.      Agreements at Medicine Creek Lodge and elsewhere – most native peoples agreed to these newest treaties, under coercion.

B.      George Custer and the Battle of Little Bighorn – Custer’s forces accompanied white miners looking for gold into the Dakota Sioux reservation in the Black Hills.

C.     Continued Indian resistance

1.      Chief Joseph

2.      Capture of Geronimo (1886) – effectively ended native resistance in the west.

3.      Slaughter of the buffalo

4.      “Battle” at Wounded Knee (1898)

D.     The Dawes Severalty Act

1.      Goal of the Dawes Act – to encourage Indians to own land individually and assimilate themselves into white society.

2.      Effect pf the Dawes Act – loss of more valuable land by Indians to whites

IV.              Cowboys in the West

A.     Early cattle raising in the West – introduced by Mexicans

B.      The great cattle drives – the romantic era of the cattle drive was extremely short-lived; not economically feasible to drive cattle several hundred miles to a railhead.

1.      Joseph McCoy and Abilene

2.      The decline of the long drives

C.     Barbed Wire and the open-range cattle industry – a cost-effective method of enclosing the open range ended that era.

D.     Range wars

V.                 Farmers in the West

A.     The problem of land

1.      Homestead Act of 1862

2.      Newlands Reclamation Act of 1901 – sale of public lands in sixteen western states created a fund for the construction of irrigation projects

B.      The problem of water – he who controlled access to water also controlled access to the land, because the arid climate made lack of access to water mean the same thing as lack of access to the land.

1.      Effect of the Newlands Act – allowed the settlement of much of the arid west

2.      Other solutions – dry farming

C.     The farmer’s life – isolated; it’s not called the Big Sky Country for nothing.

D.     Technological advances that aided farmers – new steel plows, railroads (allowed farmers to get crop to a market, and allowed them to get supplies for subsistence in return)

E.      Pioneer women – isolated and lonely, but often more involved in business decisions on the farm
VI.              A violent culture – isolated communities, lack of law enforcement

VII.            The “end” of the frontier

A.     “Frontier line” no longer existed after 1890 (?)

B.      Frederick Jackson Turner and “The Significance of the Frontier in American History