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Presidents Civil War to WWI


ANDREW JOHNSON (1865-1869) Democrat


  • Born in North Carolina then moved to Tennessee

  • Grew up poor

  • Illiterate as adult, but married the teacher who taught him to read

  • Became congressman and senator representing Tennessee

  • Had owned a few slaves

  • But hated secessionist cotton planters

  • Only southern to refuse to walk out of Senate in 1861

  • wanted harsh punishment for Confederate leaders

  • Was happy with Emancipation Proclamation

  • Not because it freed saves

  • But because it punished wealthy owners

  • Ran as Lincoln's VP (to get southern votes)


  • Johnson came to power after Lincoln was assassinated


  • Civil War

  • Johnson argued that since states could not legally secede, they never legally left the union

  • Didn't think there was a need for a process to let them reenter

  • Reconstruction

  • Johnson pardoned 13,000 Confederates

  • Restored their rights by end of 1865

  • Including 4 Confederate generals, 6 members from Jefferson Davis's cabinet and the Confederate Vice president, Alexander Stephens (all serve in Congress)


  • Alaska

  • In 1867, Sec. of State, William Seward, orchestrated the purchase of Alaska from Russia


  • Impeached by HOR for violating the Tenure of Office Act

  • After Johnson fired Radical Republican Sec. of War, Edwin Stanton

  • Senate acquitted him in exchange for Johnson keeping out of government business


ULYSSES S. GRANT (1869-1877) Republican


  • Union general during Civil War


  • Art and Literature

  • Around the World in Eighty Days (1872) by Jules Verne

  • Journalist Nellie Bly wrote about a trip in 72 days

  • Progress and Poverty (1879) by Henry George

  • Promoted a "single tax" on land

  • Economy

  • Returned economy to antebellum monetary standards

  • Replacing Civil War issued greenback notes with specie

  • And full return to gold standard

  • Panic of 1873

  • Railroads

  • Munn v. Illinois (1877)

  • Affirmed constitutionality of state regulation of private industries that affected public interests

  • Overturned by Wabash v. Illinois in 1886

  • Scandals

  • Whiskey Ring Scandal

  • Credit Mobilier Scandal

  • Although Grant was not directly involved, his presidency was tarnished by association

  • Political Machines

  • Boss Tweed, head of Tammany Hall, NY, was arrested in 1873

  • Indians

  • Battle of Little Bighorn 1876

  • Also known as Custer's Last Stand



(Reconstruction to 1900)


  • Presidents weak because of

  • Johnson's impeachment

  • Grant's scandals

  • Hayes's compromise of 1877


RUTHERFORD B. HAYES (1877-1881) Republican


  • Samuel Tilden (Dem) v. Hayes (Rep.)

  • Highly contested election

  • Ended with Compromise of 1877

  • Meant end of Reconstruction

  • Northern troops pulled out of South

  • Democrats (Redeemers) dominated Southern governments


  • Economy

  • Bland-Allison Act 1878

  • Required govt. to buy a certain amount of silver issued as silver dollars

  • Vetoed by Hayes, overridden by Congress

  • Labor

  • Great Railroad Strike of 1877

  • First major interstate strike

  • Signaled period of strikes (1880-1900 over 23,000 strikes)

  • Put down by local, state and federal troops


JAMES A. GARFIELD (1881) Republican

  • Garfield was assassinated 100 days after he was inaugurated.

  • By an angry office seeker (Charles Giteau)

  • Who didn't feel as if he received enough for his support

  • (See Pendleton Act 1881)


CHESTER ARTHUR (1881-1885) Republican


  • Was part of the New York political machine


  • Arthur was Garfield's VP


  • Acts

  • Passed the Pendleton Act (1881)

  • All potential civil service employees had to take exams to prove worthiness

  • No longer could political cronyism secure government postilions

  • Reformed corrupt patronage system.

  • But without patronage system, presidents needed to rely on financial help from big corporations.

  • Immigration

  • Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)

  • Restricted Chinese immigration to the U.S. (San Francisco, Angel's Island)

  • Nativists against new immigrants from southern and eastern Europe

  • Italian Catholics, Greeks, Jews escaping Russian pogroms

  • Indians

  • Helen Hunt Jackson wrote A Century of Dishonor (1881)

  • Sparked debate over treatment of Native American tribes

  • Led to attempts to assimilate Indians through boarding schools & Dawes Act (1887)


GROVER CLEVELAND (1885-1889) Democrat

(First Term, see Second Term below)


  • Leader of pro-business Bourbon Democrats

  • Wanted political reform (honest government, end patronage)

  • Proponent of classical liberalism and fiscal conservatism

  • First and only president to serve two non-consecutive terms

ELECTION of 1884

  • Very dirty election

  • James Blaine (R)

  • Republicans chose James Blaine instead of reelecting Arthur

  • But Blaine was tarnished by connection to Credit Mobilier and other scandals

  • Cleveland (D)

  • First Democrat to take office since before the Civil War


  • Art/Literature

  • Rev. Josiah Strong wrote Our Country (1885) deriding cities as menace to American morality and social order.

  • Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy

  • Main character Julian falls into a 100 year sleep.

  • In the 20th c. there is no private property, money is shared equally, all go to college, all retire at 45, there is no poverty or hunger

  • Nativist

  • American Protective Association (1887)

  • To oppose election of any Catholics to public office

  • Railroads

  • Wabash v. Illinois (1886)

  • Ruled state laws regulating interstate railroads were unconstitutional

  • Only federal government could regulate interstate trade (Commerce Clause)

  • Interstate Commerce Act (1887)

  • Law to regulate railroad industry

  • Required railroad rates to be "reasonable and just"

  • Required railroads to publicize rates

  • And end short/long haul fare discrimination

  • But didn't empower the government to fix the rates

  • Created the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC)

  • Labor

  • ​Haymarket Square Riot (Apr. 1886)

  • ​Labor protest because of violence at McCormick Reaper Plant that turned into a riot when someone threw a bomb.

  • Major setback for labor unions, caused decline of Knights of Labor

  • American Federation of Labor (AFL) (Dec. 1886)

  • Founded by Samuel Gompers, only white, skilled workers

  • Only pursued "bread and butter" issues (wages, hours, working conditions)

  • Indians

  • Dawes Severalty Act (1887)

  • Stripped tribes of official federal recognition and land rights

  • Reservation land sold

  • Indian families granted 160 acres and citizenship in 25 years if they "behaved"

  • Fund created to "civilize" Indians

  • Indian boarding schools created to teach Indian children how to be like whites.

  • Lasted until 1934


BENJAMIN HARRISON (1889-1893) Republican


  • Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of William Henry Harrison (Pres. in 1841)


  • Grover Cleveland (D)

  • Cleveland wasn't reelected because of his support for a lower tariff that benefited farmers

  • Benjamin Harrison (R)

  • Republicans got votes of northern business owners


  • Acts Passed

  • Sherman Antitrust Act (1890)

  • ​Act that was suppoesd to target and bring down monopolies

  • But used against labor nions instead

  • Sherman Silver Purchase Act (1890)

  • Increased the amount of silver the government was required to buy monthly

  • Second Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act (1890)

  • Aka Agricultural College Act - expanded Morrill Act of 1862

  • McKinley Tariff (1890)

  • Imposed protective trade rates up to 50%

  • Amended Land Revision Act (1891)

  • Created national forests

  • Economics

  • Because of surplus revenues from tariffs - federal spending reached $1 billion.

  • Labor

  • Homestead Strike (1892)

  • Carnegie hired Henry Frick to run Carnegie Steel

  • Frick wanted to dismantle union, Amalgamated Iron and Steel Workers

  • Pinkerton Detectives called in to defeat strike.

  • Indians

  • U.S. Army called in to stop Sioux from performing Wovoka-inspired Ghost Dance

  • Led to Battle of Wounded Knee (1890), 200 Indians killed

  • Progressivism

  • Jacob Riis -- "How the Other Half Lives" (photos on tenement life) 1890

  • Sierra Club founded by John Muir (1892)

  • Politics

  • Populist Party 1892

  • Morphed out of Farmers' Alliances

  • Omaha Platform (1892) - Decided at first Populist Convention

  • Free and unlimited coinage of silver

  • Graduated income tax (16th Amendment, 1913)

  • Public ownership of RR, telegraph and telephone

  • Govt. subsidies to help stabilize agricultural prices

  • No foreign ownership of land

  • Australian secret ballot

  • 8-hour workday

  • Direct election of senators (17th Amendment 1914)

  • Limit on presidential terms to one term

  • Increase in voter power through initiatives, referendums, recall.

  • Populists elected James Weaver to run in 1892 -- he lost.


GROVER CLEVELAND (1893-1897) Democrat

(Second Term, see above for First Term)


  • Candidates:

  • Cleveland (Dem) 277 (South)

  • Harrison (Rep) 145 (North and northeast)

  • Harrison lost re-election because of growing unpopularity of high tariff and high spending

  • James Weaver (People's Party/Populist) 22 (Midwest)


  • Economics

  • Panic of 1893

  • Investors trading silver for more valuable gold bars - depleting the supply

  • RR and over-speculation artificially inflated price of stocks which doubled.

  • Cleveland got loan from banker J.P. Morgan ($65 million)

  • Cleveland repealed Sherman Silver Purchase Act

  • Because gold being drained from govt.

  • Jacob Coxey's Army (1894)

  • Depression from Panic of 1893 brought "army" of jobless/homeless to DC

  • Wanted federally funded public works projects to employ jobless

  • Govt. arrested "army" for trespassing

  • Compare with Bonus Army march 1932

  • Labor

  • Pullman Strike (1894)

  • Because of Panic of 1893, wages at Pullman lowered

  • Eugene V. Debs got American Railway Union (ARU) to join strike

  • Cleveland intervened to "protect postal service

  • Race relations

  • Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

  • Invalidated Civil Rights Act of 1875

  • Homer Plessy, octoroon (1/8 black) rode in "whites-only" RR car

  • Decision: segregation is okay as long as it was "equal" ("separate but equal")

  • Overturned in 1954 with Brown v. Board of Education

  • Muckrakers

  • McClure's Magazine founded in June 1893


  • Hawaii

  • Queen Liliuokalani (r. 1891-1893) overthrown by a group of American-born businessmen on the island in 1893

  • Cleveland sent a group to see if Hawaiians wanted to join U.S.

  • Most didn't, Hawaii not annexed until Spanish-American War.


  • Depression and strikes overwhelmed Cleveland and ruined Democratic Party

  • Opened way for a Republican landslide in 1894

  • And for agrarian and silverite seizure of the Democratic party in 1896

  • Result: political realignment ended the Third Party System

  • Launched Fourth Party System as well as Progressive Era.





  • William Jennings Bryan (Dem) 176 electoral votes

  • Called "fusionist" party (Democrats and Populists)

  • Gave "Cross of Gold" Speech

  • In favor of "free silver" bimetallism

  • "you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold

  • Dems had adopted old Populist platform

  • William McKinley (Rep) 271 electoral votes

  • Friend to labor

  • Proponent of gold standard (eased trade with Britain whose currency based on gold)

  • Employed Mark Hanna as campaign manager while McKinley conducted campaign from his front porch.

  • Promised high tariffs would restore prosperity (he had designed McKinley Tariff 1890

  • McKinley defeated Bryan again in 1900 (when US formally adopted gold standard)

  • Election of 1896

  • Brought an end to stalemate among parties

  • Ended Populist Movement

  • Signaled victory of big business

  • McKinley entered international affairs


  • Arts and Literature

  • L. Frank Baum wrote Wizard of Oz, 1900

  • Economics

  • Passed Dingley Tariff (1897)

  • McKinley had designed 1890 McKinley Tariff as Rep. in Congress

  • Dingley raised tariffs to highest rate in history to promote US industries.

  • Gold Standard Act (1900)

  • Press

  • Yellow Journalism

  • William Randolph Hearst v. Joseph Pulitzer in bitter circulation war

  • Pulitzer

  • New York World

  • Hearst

  • San Francisco Examiner and New York Journal

  • On Sp-American War: "You provide the pictures, I'll provide the war"

  • Court Cases

  • Williams v. Mississippi (1898)

  • Court allowed poll taxes and literacy tests.


  • Spanish-American War (see link for Spanish American War)

  • De Lôme Letter

  • By Spanish Ambassador to US, Enrique Dupuy de Lôme

  • Called President McKinley weak, concerned with gaining favor of crowd.

  • USS Maine exploded off coast of Cuba (Feb. 18, 1898)

  • Ended with Treaty of Paris

  • US controls Guam, Puerto Rico, Philippines

  • Cuba

  • Teller Amendment (Apr. 20, 1898)- US agreed not to colonize Cuba

  • Platt Amendment (1901)- US controls Cuban foreign policy, Guantanamo Bay

  • Philippines

  • Filipinos under Emiliano Aguinaldo rebel against American presence

  • Hawaii

  • Annexed in 1898, became territory 1900

  • Sanfor Dole (who had helped in Queen Liliuokalani coup 1893) became 1st governor

  • China

  • John Hay

  • Open-Door Policy

  • Boxer Rebellion, 1900


  • McKinley was assassinated 1901

  • By Leon Czolgosz, second-generation Polish-American anarchist.

  • McKinley is succeeded by his VP, Theodore Roosevelt


PROGRESSIVE ERA (1890s to 1920s)


  • Main goals of the era:

  • To eliminate corruption in govt. by exposing and undercutting political machines and their bosses

  • Establishing direct democracy

  • Many supported Prohibition, women’s suffrage

  • Also building an Efficiency Movement in every sector that could identify old ways that need modernizing and bring scientific, medical and engineering solutions – scientific management or Taylorism.

  • Progressives were mostly white, middle-class Protestants

  • Muckrakers:

  • McClure’s and Collier’s magazine,

  • Ida Tarbell (History of Standard Oil, 1904),

  • Lincoln Steffens (Shame of the Cities 1904 about machines),

  • Jacob Riis (photojournalist, How the Other Half Lives 1890)

  • Upton Sinclair (Jungle)

  • Social Gospel (Walter Rauschenbusch)


THEODORE ROOSEVELT (1901-1909) Republican

  • Founder of the Progressive Party insurgency of 1912.


  • “Cowboy” persona, suffered from asthma, home-schooled, student of nature.

  • Rough Riders when war with Spain broke out in 1898 (wealthy E. and W. cowboys)


  • Inaugurated at 42 = youngest president,

  • Also first to have full-time Secret Service protection.


  • Policies

  • Three Cs

  • Conservation

  • John Muir (at right) = Preservationist

  • Corporations

  • Consumer protection.

  • Square Deal

  • promising a fair deal to the average citizen while breaking up monopolistic corporations, holding down RR rates and guaranteeing pure food and drugs.

  • Muckrakers (term coined by Roosevelt)

  • Ida Tarbell’s, "History of the Standard Oil Company" (1902)

  • Lincoln Steffens “Shame of the Cities” (1904)

  • Upton Sinclair "The Jungle" (1906)

  • Labor

  • Great Anthracite Coal Strike 1902

  • Public needed coal, Roosevelt threatened nationalize mines and operate with troops

  • First time troops for labor, company agreed to arbitration

  • Muller v. Oregon (1908)

  • Curt Muller challenged an Oregon law that limited his laundresses to working 10 hours a day. Brandeis defended the statue before the Supreme Court in 19088. Famous legal brief I. Muller contained 102 pages describing the damaging effects of long hours on working women.

  • Supreme Court upheld Oregon’s right to limit the working hours of women and legitimized the “Brandeis Brief.

  • Railroads

  • Elkins Act (1903)

  • Authorized ICC to impose heavy fines on RR that offered rebates

  • Hepburn Act (1906)

  • Allowed ICC to regulate maximum rates RR lines could charge ending long-haul/short-haul price gouging.

  • Regulation

  • Trust busting and increased business regulation

  • Sought to destroy harmful trusts such as Standard Oil

  • Attempted to break up the Northern Securities Company (a “harmful trust”)

  • Pure Food and Drug Act and Meat Inspection Act (1906)

  • After Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle which exposed filthy conditions in meatpacking plants (Roosevelt was aware of food-borne bacteria in Spanish-American War)

  • Pure Food and Drug Act forbade manufacture or sale of mislabeled or adulterated food and drugs

  • Conservation

  • First to speak out on conservation (Muir for preservation)

  • Greatly expanded system of national parks and national forests.

  • Hired Gifford Pinchot as forestry chief (1905-1910)

  • Coined term "conservation"

  • Favored conservation through planned use and renewal

  • Promoted scientific forestry to keep forests controlled and profitable


  • Roosevelt Corollary

  • “Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.”

  • Policy

  • Slogan “speak softly and carry a big stick

  • Expanded navy and sent the Great White Fleet on a world tour

  • Panama Canal (1903-1914)

  • Hay-Pauncefote Treaty of 1901 licensed US to build and manage the canal.

  • Sec. of State John Hay signed treaty with Colombian Foreign Minister to build it

  • But Colombia's congress rejected the offer.

  • Roosevelt sent warships to support Panamanian independence from Colombia

  • New Republic of Panama declared 1903

  • Hay Bunau-Varilla Treaty 1903 gave US a 10-mile wide strip of land for the canal

  • $10 million to Panama and annual annuity of $250,000.

  • Completed 1914

  • Negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War (won 1906 Nobel Peace Prize)


  • Endorsed Taft

  • At end of 2nd term Roosevelt supported his friend Taft for 1908 Republican nomination.

  • Africa

  • ​Retired as president after two terms, went to Africa where he hunted big game

  • Return

  • His friendship with Taft ended as a result of disputes (Pinchot etc.)

  • Roosevelt came back in 1912 to run for president again.

  • Republicans chose to back Taft for reelection

  • Roosevelt ran as candidate for new Progressive party (aka Bull Moose Party)


WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT (1909-1913) Republican


  • Unlike Taft, Roosevelt was obese (350 lbs)

  • Joked "I got up from my seat in the streetcar and gave it to three ladies."

  • Had a special bathtub built in White House.

  • Taft hated politics

  • He was reluctant to run for president

  • But his wife, Nellie, pushed him into it (to become "First Lady")

  • Nellie had a stroke right after Taft's inauguration and couldn't enjoy her position

  • Taft's real ambition was to become a supreme court justice

  • He became 10th Chief Justice after his presidency (1921-1930)

  • Appointed by Warrn harding

  • Delegated much of the work to his cabinet members, he made few decisions

  • Taft believed the president's job was simply to uphold the Constitution


  • Progressive

  • Like Roosevelt, Taft claimed to be progressive Republicans

  • Both tried to curb the power of big business and supported environmental issues

  • Big Business

  • Initiated 80 antitrust suits (two times more than Roosevelt)

  • Children

  • 1912 Children’s Bureau headed by Jane Addams (founder of Hull House)

  • 1916 Keating-Owen Act – forbidding goods manufactured by children from crossing state lines. (Struck down by Congress in 1918 as an improved regulation of local labor, but put more attention on abuses of child labor).

  • Railroads

  • Mann-Elkins Act (1910)

  • Gave ICC power to regulate telecommunications (telephone, telegraph)

  • 16th Amendment

  • Authorized federal government to collect an income tax

  • Pinchot-Ballinger Controversy

  • Taft appointed Richard Ballinger as Sec. of the Interior in 1909

  • As Secretary, Ballinger opened some tracts of reserved land to commercial users

  • For instance, opened Alaskan coal fields to private mining interests.

  • Caused friction with Gifford Pinchot, the Chief Forester and friend of Roosevelt.

  • Congress and Taft sided with Ballinger and fired Pinchot for insubordination

  • Because Pinchot criticized Ballinger and Taft

  • Caused the end of the friendship betwen Roosevelt and Taft

  • Other reforms:

  • Passed civil service reform

  • Improved performance of the postal service

  • Other Events:

  • 1912 Margaret Sanger began campaign for birth control

  • More than 400 settlement houses opened across the nation

  • Rivalry with Progressives and Roosevelt:

  • Taft angered Progressives because of support of higher tariff bill

  • And firing popular conservationist Gifford Pinchot after he criticized another cabinet member (Ballinger)

  • Angered Roosevelt by breaking up Rockefeller's Standard Oil in 1911 (Roosevelt considered it a "good" trust)


  • Dollar Diplomacy" in Latin America and Asia

  • Belief that private US financial investments would lead to stability and help American business interests.

  • Taft to Congress Dec. 1912: "the United States shall extend all proper support to every legitimate and beneficial American enterprise abroad"

  • Caused US to intervene in Nicaragua 1911/1912 to protect US investments

  • Lodge Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine

  • Proposed by Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge in 1912, rejected by Taft

  • Fear that Japan might be buying part of northern Mexico

  • Would have forbidden non-European powers (like Japan) from owning territory in Western Hemisphere

  • Showed restraint in response to revolution in Mexico

END - 1912 Election (see below)



WOODROW WILSON (1913-1921) Democrat


  • Taft (Rep.)

  • Eugene V. Debs (Socialist)

  • T. Roosevelt (Progressive/Bull Moose)

  • Platform: New Nationalism

  • Campaigned for larger government role in business regulation

  • Women's right to vote

  • Federal assistance programs to needy Americans

  • Didn't address issue of civil rights

  • Wilson (Democrat)

  • Platform: New Freedom

  • Smaller, reformed government

  • Less big business influence

  • Support for entrepreneurs and small businesses


  • Progressivsm

  • Wilson had won because of split in Republican party -- but most wanted progressivism

  • Federal Trade Commission Act

  • Regulatory agency to monitor interstate business activities and force companies who broke laws to comply with government's "cease and desist" orders

  • Clayton Antitrust Act (1914)

  • Gave teeth to weak and ineffective sherman Atnitrust Act of 1890

  • Strengthened provisions for breaking up trusts

  • And protected labor unions from prosecution under Sheman Act

  • Federal Farm Loan Act


  • Rejected Dollar Diplomacy, imperialism and "big-stick" diplomacy

  • Moral Diplomacy

  • With Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan

  • US would support countries that are democratic

  • Philippines - Jones Act 1916 (Philippine Autonomy Act)

  • US would withdraw from Philippines as soon as it had a stable government

  • Gave literate Filipino males the right to vote

  • Created a Bill of Rights for the Filipinos

  • Puerto Rico

  • 1917 gave US citizenship to all Puerto Ricans and limited self-government

  • Panama Canal

  • Opened August 1914

  • US ships would not be exempt from paying usage fees

  • Mexico

  • Wilson rejected the military dictatorship of General Victoriano Huerta

  • Huerto had killed democratically-elected Francisco Madero

  • Tampico Affair 1914 (See Wilson document)

  • Wilson helped revolutionaries fight Huerta by sending troops to Tampico

  • Soldiers were met by angry crowds, arrested and released

  • US Admiral Mayo demanded formal apology and salute to US flag, Mexico refused

  • Argentica, Brazil and Chile (ABC powers) mediated

  • Francisco "Pancho" Villa

  • Huerta was ousted July 15, 1914

  • Revolutionaries Venustiano Carranza and Pancho Villa competed to succeed Huerta - Carranza won and Pancho Villa was driven in

  • US supported Carranza

  • March 1916 Pancho Villa crossed US-Mexican border, killed 17 Americans in New Mexico

  • Wilson sent General John Pershing and 10,000 to capture Villa

  • Mexican government (Carranza) finally ordered the Americans to go home.

  • Zimmerman Telegram (Jan. 1917)

  • German Foreign Office sent message to Mexico proposing a military alliance if US entered WWI.

  • In exchange, Mexico would get Texas, Arizona and New Mexico

  • World War I



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