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Mugwumps - Essay Example

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However, when referring to the gilded age of politics in the United States, Merriam Webster dictionary defines the term as, “a bolter from the Republican party in 1884” (Merriam Webster)…
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2 September Mugwumps and the gilded age The comes from the Algonquin word mugquomp meaning chief or important person. However, when referring to the gilded age of politics in the United States, Merriam Webster dictionary defines the term as, “a bolter from the Republican party in 1884” (Merriam Webster). Following the Civil War the nation saw a rapid expansion in economy and population which was termed the Gilded Age. This expansion however, had interesting side effects in the world of politics. The effects were based in reform movements within the major political parties; however, in this case the reforms had to do primarily with the Republican Party.
There were massive amounts of government corruption during the Grant administration and the resulting problems drove a wedge in the Republican Party, the Mugwumps supported Democratic reform candidates such as Grover Cleveland. According to Gerald W. McFarland, “Between 1870 and 1896, the Mugwumps, most of whom were members of the Republican party’s reform faction, frequently engaged in protests against “unsuitable” party candidates” (McFarland 40). These protests helped bolster the chances of those candidates running on a reform platform and partially assisted in the election of Grover Cleveland. However, the decision to go against ones political party was not taken lightly, as Allan Peskin writes, “To be a Republican or to be a Democrat-these were not lightly-made decisions but were shaped by self-interest, ethnicity, and, above all, history, most notably the polarizing trauma of the Civil War” (Peskin 703).
As a result of the election fraud and other types of corruption that caused the backlash and mugwumps to begin their attempts at reform. The infamous Tammany Society was extremely influential during this time period as well, primarily in New York which following the Civil War had an inordinate amount of influence on national elections and politics. This was in no small part due the large influx of immigrants through Ellis Island.
According to Peter Argersinger, “The highly competitive political system of the late nineteenth century, as Samuel T. McSeveny has written, “led to repeated charges, countercharges, and denials of corruption, coercion, bribery, and fraud-allegations that have been echoed by subsequent political biographers and historians. Taken at face value, these outcries would lead one to believe that the two parties alternated in cheating their opponents out of deserved victories” (Argersinger 669)
It is no small wonder then that so many individuals chose to attempt reform and bolted from their chosen political stance and party. The risk to one’s manhood aside, this seems the most appropriate response if one had any moral guidance system or ethical system in place. Though for many the bolting from the Republican Party may have been seen as an un-manly thing to do, Allen Peskin wrote that, “To a degree unmatched since, party loyalty was a test of manhood; partisan allegiance represented a means of self-identification” (Peskin 703).
The question can be asked if the mugwumps and their legacy of reform helped put a favorable light on the gilded age of reconstruction. For many the answer would be a quick and simple yes, and yet, there was much more to those age of advancing ideals and industrial feats. In the end however, the positive that came from this time in our nation’s history is in no small part due the political sacrifices the mugwumps made in attempting reform and in fact by winning the day in many political races.
Works Cited
Argersinger, Peter. "new perspectives
on election fraud in the gilded age." Political Science Quarterly. 100.4 (1985): 669. Print.
McFarland, Gerald. "the new york
mugwumps of 1884: a profile." Political Science Quarterly. 78.1 (1963): 40. Print.
Merriam Webster,. "Mugwump." Merriam
Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2011. Web. 6 Dec 2011. .
Peskin, Allen. "Who were the stalwarts?
Who were their rivals? Republican Factions in the Guilded Age." Political Science Quarterly. 99.4 (1984): 703. Print. Read More
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