14 August 2016

The Bosses of the Senate

"This cartoon by Joseph Keppler, who was the, both the editor and main cartoonist for Puck, which became one of, a very popular satirical weeklies in the post-Civil War period, expresses a general public discontent and concern about the growing impact and power of large businesses in the United States in the Gilded Age, particularly as this indicates, by businesses that have become monopolies in one way or another, and their control over the political process.

This is the period of time when the Senate is beginning to be conceived of as a millionaire’s club, it’s not quite called that yet, but it’s getting there, and certainly the sort of power and influence of business has become palatable.

And this is a wonderful snapshot, if you will, of the relationship between the two, with the bloated figures, having squeezed their way through the door saying, 'Entrance for Monopolists,' and surrounding the Senate with the Lilliputian figures of the different senators, all of whom would be recognized by, by viewers because their faces are, you know, are quite realistic, and the influence is quite clear between the monopolists and their impact on the legislators who are either going to be manipulated by or intimidated by these figures.

The quote from the Gettysburg Address referred to the democracy, 'the government by the people and for the people' as opposed to, in this case, the corruption of it, which is, 'by the monopolists and for the monopolists.'"

Josh Brown, American Social History Project, City University of New York

No limits on political campaign contributions and the direct appointment of Senators by State Legislatures, which was ended by the 17th amendment, created a climate of political corruption during the 'Gilded Age.'  

Large corporate combines called 'Trusts' created monopolies using predatory pricing, anti-competitive mergers, and exclusive dealings and business arrangements.  They used the power of their enormous profits to buy key State legislatures and thereby control the Senators appointed by them.

The progessives were able to promote both the 17th Amendment in 1913 and the Clayton Anti-Trust Act in 1914, which made great strides to break up the power of the 'Trusts' and put more political power back in the hands of ordinary voters.