Interpretations Of The Progressive Movement

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Interpretations of the Progressive Movement

Interpretations of the Progressive Movement

Elizabeth in her article Agarian Politics and Parties after 1896 interprted the thigs as the Gilded Age Republicans were notorious for attacking their Democratic opponents by waving the bloody shirt, a campaign tactic designed to activate the historical remembrance of the Civil War among Northern voters. Carefully selected, the wartime memories used by bloody-shirt Republicans became as familiar as the scriptures: GOP candidates reminded Northern voters of the party of Lincoln's firmness in the face of secession and portrayed the wartime Democratic party as treasonous, hijacked by Southern fire-eaters during the secession crisis, and closely associated with Northern Copperheads during the fighting itself: They also dramatically recalled the suffering of Union soldiers, especially prisoners-of-war, in the struggle to save the nation. Speaking directly to the North's enormous cohort of Union veterans, GOP candidates exhorted, "Vote as you shot." The tactic of waving the bloody shirt, always controversial within the GOP--many in the party thought its heated rhetoric needlessly inflamed sectional tensions between North and South--became even more contested in the 1880s, when the rhetorical focus shifted toward memories of the GOP's role in emancipation and in securing African Americans the right to vote. The last stand of bloody-shirt Republicans came in January 1891 with the defeat in Congress of the Force Bill, legislation designed to use Federal police power to enforce black suffrage in the South. By 1896, then, the day when Republican party candidates could marshal remembrance of the Civil War to win elections seemingly had become a thing of the past.

In restructuring the public remembrance of the Civil War to further its nationalist message, the McKinley campaign mobilized a potent but racially neutral historical memory, the secession crisis of 1861. In comment typical of GOP rhetoric Henry Cabot Lodge wrote shortly after Bryan's nomination that those aligned against the Democratic candidate were "fighting to save the country from a disaster which would be only second to 1861." A Bryan presidency posed a renewed threat to national solidarity in two ways. First, his pro-silver monetary policies promised once more to tear the nation apart along sectional lines. Writing in The North American Review, Republican senator William Chandler argued that the Democratic convention "deliberately, in the year 1896, undertook to organize the solid South with a few states of the West.

In " Progressivism Arrives," Robert Wiebe provides perhaps the first unifying overview of the American Progressive period. Beginning with the Reconstruction era, Wiebe presents the United States as "a nation of loosely connected islands." The economic panic of 1873 began what Wiebe describes as as a "soul searching" period for these homogenous, stable, primarily Protestant "island communities." America was noticeably changing from simple, locally-oriented communities guided by small town ethics to complex, interdependent societies seemingly controlled by distant and impersonal forces. Wiebe explains the ways in which Americans sought to regain some sense of order as this rapidly changing nation rumbled through the first decades of the twentieth ...
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