The Triumph of New England Industrialism
Truly, the War Between the States was fought to ensure the political supremacy of the New England industrial elite over the agricultural South—the same South that presided over the republic’s "classic years" and defended its political conservatism. Once the South was in ruins, those monied and industrial interests with unlimited funds and government patronage had won that second American revolution—and social chaos followed.
Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
The Triumph of New England Industrialism:
"What Charles Beard has called "the second American Revolution—the revolution that assured the triumph of the business enterprise—had been fought and largely won by 1877. In four great lines of endeavor—manufacturing, extractive industries, transportation and finance—business marched from one swift triumph to another. In 1860 about a billion dollars was invested in manufacturing plants which employed 1,500,000 workers; but in less than fifty years the investment had risen to 12 billions and the number of workers to 5,000,000.
A bloody and riotous year, violence was everywhere evident in the America of 1877. The great railroad strike of that year was the first significant industrial clash in American society. "Class hatred," writes Denis Tilden Lynch, "was a new note in American life where all men were equal before the law. The South was in the turmoil of reconstruction, sand-lot rioters ruled in San Francisco; and 100,000 strikers and 4,000,000 unemployed surged in the streets of Northern cities. At a cabinet meeting on July 22, 1877, the suggestion was advanced that a number of States should be placed under martial law.
Once triumphant, the industrial tycoons discovered that they could not function within the framework of the social and political ideals of the early Republic. To insure their triumph, a new social order had to be established; a new set of institutions had to be created of which the modern corporation was, perhaps, the most important…(and) With the Industrial machine came the political machine. Dating from 1870, the "boss system" had become so thoroughly entrenched in American politics by 1877 that public life was everywhere discredited by the conduct of high officials. The simplicity of taste which had characterized the "classic" years of the early Republic gave way to a wild, garish, and irresponsible eclecticism. "The emergence of the millionaire," writes Talbot Hamlin, "was as fatal to the artistic ideals of the Greek Revival as were the speed, the speculation and the exploitation that produced him." In one field after another, the wealth of the new millionaire was used to corrupt the tastes, the standards, and the traditions of the American people.
(A Mask for Privelge, Carey McWilliams, Little, Brown & Company, 1948, pp 8-10)