Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/376

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Political Writing Since 1850

Impending Crisis in 1860. A reply to his arguments, in imitative style, was made by Horace White in Coin's Financial Fool.

In the meantime, whatever complacency the average man of business between 1875 and 1890 possessed was rudely shaken by three phenomena: the rapid organization of labour, the trust movement, and the disfranchisement of the negro. The Knights of Labour, the first extensive labour organization in the United States, disturbed the balance of American temper. Said Francis Walker,[1] the economist: "Rarely has the sceptical, practical, compromising spirit of our people, which leads them to avoid extremes, to distrust large expectations and to take all they can get, 'down', for anything they have in hand, however promising, so far lost control of our acts and thoughts and feelings." The nascent consciousness of labour was well reflected in Powderley's Thirty Years of Labour, the author being official head of the Knights.

The tendency towards combination in industry was the subject of many investigations by Congress and state legislatures. These disclosed notorious methods of competition and sinister activities in politics. Here was the subject matter of Henry Demorest Lloyd's Wealth vs. Commonwealth (1894), a popular presentation of the methods and policies of the Standard Oil Company. Startling facts concealed in the masses of legislative documents and court proceedings were dramatically marshalled. In shaping public opinion the book has a place not unsimilar to that of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Finally, in spite of the guarantees of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, negroes in the South endured discrimination in "Jim Crow car laws" and police regulations, and in 1890 and after they were practically disfranchised in seven of the Southern states. Convictions born of race proved superior to the mandates of government.

Contemporary with political agitation went a transformation in economic thought and the philosophy of government. Its immediate cause was a remarkable growth of industrialism with its attendant concentration of wealth, poverty, and in equality in the enjoyment of luxuries.

Criticism was started by Henry George[2] in his Progress and Poverty (1879):

  1. See Book III, Chap. XXIV.
  2. Ibid.