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1 A New World
2 Beginnings of English America, 1607–1660
3 Creating Anglo-America, 1660–1750
4 Slavery, Freedom, and the Struggle for Empire, to 1763
5 The American Revolution, 1763–1783
6 The Revolution Within
7 Founding a Nation, 1783–1789
8 Securing the Republic, 1790–1815
9 The Market Revolution, 1800–1840
10 Democracy in America, 1815–1840
11 The Peculiar Institution
12 An Age of Reform, 1820–1840
13 A House Divided, 1840–1861
14 A New Birth of Freedom: The Civil War, 1861–1865
15 “What Is Freedom?”: Reconstruction, 1865–1877
16 America’s Gilded Age, 1870–1890
17 Freedom’s Boundaries, at Home and Abroad, 1890–1900
18 The Progressive Era, 1900–1916
19 Safe for Democracy: The United States and World War I, 1916–1920
20 From Business Culture to Great Depression: The Twenties, 1920–1932
21 The New Deal, 1932–1940
22 Fighting for the Four Freedoms: World War II, 1941–1945
23 The United States and the Cold War, 1945–1953
24 An Affluent Society, 1953–1960
25 The Sixties, 1960–1968
26 The Triumph of Conservatism, 1969–1988
27 Globalization and Its Discontents, 1989–2000
28 September 11 and the Next American Century

Chapter 16: America's Gilded Age, 1870–1890

Sources of Freedom

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This chapter concentrates on the history of America's industrial revolution and the settlement of the West in the late nineteenth century. The chapter opens with the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, a national symbol for the freedom for which America stands. However, the Gilded Age revealed that the nation had not yet decided what role the government should play in guaranteeing those freedoms.

The industrial revolution brought tremendous urban growth, created a national market, and made captains of industry very rich while exploiting the working class. Farming was transformed too, and the settlement of the West after the Civil War resulted in the displacement of American Indians. Fighting to keep their land and freedom, the Indians fought the American cavalry in a series of wars culminating at Wounded Knee. Chief Joseph unsuccessfully led his people toward Canada, hoping to escape being placed on a reservation. His story is told in Voices of Freedom.

Next, the chapter discusses the politics of Gilded Age, a period of political stalemate, inaction, and corrupt city machines. Freedom in the Gilded Age is explored, looking closely at Social Darwinism, the concept of "liberty of contract," and the courts' participation in defining freedom during the industrial age. Responding to the hardships of industrialization were the Knights of Labor and various social critics such as Henry George, Edward Bellamy, and Walter Rauschenbusch. The chapter concludes with the Haymarket Affair and Henry George's run for New York City mayor, indicating that labor was attempting to become a permanent political force by the end of the Gilded Age.


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