Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900

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Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900

Author: Jack Beatty
Publisher: Knopf
Copyright: 2007
Pages: 512
Cover Price: $ 30.00

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A brilliant reconsideration of the Gilded Age in America, when an oligarchy of wealth triumphed over democracy, when dreams of freedom and equality died of their impossibility. Jay Gould, the “Mephisto of Wall Street,” never runs for office, but he rules. This was his time (and John D. Rockefeller’s and Andrew Carnegie’s), and this was his country.

At the end of the Civil War, with the rebellion put down and slavery ended, America belonged to Lincoln’s “plain people.” But “government of the people” and economic democracy were betrayed by political parties that fanned memories of the war to distract Americans from government of the corporation.

Synthesizing the research of a new generation of scholars, Jack Beatty gives us a fresh look at the “revolution from above” of industrialization that forged modern America. In Age of Betrayal, Supreme Court justices turn the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of “equal protection of the laws” to the freed slave into the shield of the corporate “person.” The presidents of the Pennsylvania and Southern Pacific railroads engage in a bidding war for congressmen. A depression brought on by railroad speculation throws millions out of work, the hungry riot for bread in Buffalo, the homeless sleep on Chicago’s streets, “tramps” are arrested, strikers are shot, and the nation’s presidents avert their eyes.

In the 1890s the Populist revolt from below challenges the revolution from above. Entrepreneurial capitalism ends in the early 1900s, as 1,800 giant firms are compacted into 157 behemoths. God instructs President McKinley to invade Cuba and seize the Philippines from Spain; turning from liberators to occupiers, U.A passionate, gripping, often shocking history of wealth over commonwealth thirty-five years of American history in which we see the reflection of today’s gilded age.

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Background Information

Jay Gould was a railroad investor and speculator during the Gilded Age and is sometimes regarded as the epitome of the immoral robber baron. The Populist Party was formed by those who felt that the major parties, whether Republican or Democrat, were run by big interests without regard for the common man. President William McKinley drew his inspiration for the US policy towards the Philippines during a nighttime revelation, which told him to bring them into the American sphere. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified after the Civil War in order to guarantee the rights of freed slaves against the state governments of the former Confederacy. The Southern Pacific Railroad was the transcontinental railroad following the southern route.