The Restless Decade of H W Brands is a book that lives up to its name Brands takes his readers for a trip although out America in the last decade of the nineteenth century Brands presents a nation
The Restless Decade of H.W. Brands is a book that lives up to its name. Brands takes his readers for a trip although out America in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Brands presents a nation that is on the edge, with the end of century that began with President John Adams and finished with William McKinley; saw the nation grow from the Appalachian Mountains to the Pacific Ocean; split in half and fight; and the saw the end of slavery and the beginning of Jim Crow, the American people were unsure of where they were going. The American frontier was closing and the people were unsure of where in the world they as people belonged and what their national destiny was.The book begins in what is had been the traditional American story which, in our history, was all too familiar. It was the story of settlers trying to stake their claim to the west by going out and trying to settle a plot of land. But this time honored tradition was coming to a rapid close and the way it was closing was odd. In the past, the government did not hand out land based on organized land races but that was how the frontier was closing in Oklahoma.Another sign that the frontier had seen its last was the end of armed organized Indian resistance. The Massacre at Wounded Knee, which the events surrounding are very elegantly explained making it easy for the reader to understand the tragic end to the last ounce of Indian resistance and the mysterious ghost dance, ends a long bloody chapter of history dating back to the fifteenth century. With the closing of the frontier and the end of Indian resistance things were changing at a rapid pace.Brands makes his readers familiar with Frederick Jackson Turner, an academic who grew up on the frontier and who saw its closing as an inevitable disaster for the country. To Turner, the frontier is what had protected the Americans from the corruptions of monarchical Europe. With the frontier disappearing American democracy was going to be headed in a not-so-pleasant direction."The frontier had been the fountainhead of American democracy, Turner declared. With each stage in the march of settlement westward, Americans had been required to reinvent government, and this continual reinvention precluded the congealing of a political system in which power begot privilege and privilege monopolized power. 'The peculiarity of American institutions is the fact that they have been compelled to adapt themselves to the changes of an expanding people, to the changes involved in crossing a continent, in winning a wilderness, and in developing at each area of this progress, out of the primitive economic and political conditions of the frontier, the complexity of city life.' Where land was abundant and cheap, no one needed to kowtow to land lords or employers. Economic independence begot political independence; democracy was the child of the frontier, the natural consequence of free land." (p.23)Brands does not stop at the vanishing frontier. He discusses the great industries that were rising up in this time period: oil, transportation, and steel. Brands describes the great industrialists that created these industries. These men were Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan. Although they could be ruthless in their business dealings they were not all bad. Not only did they employ a great many people, but they also were very charitable with their wealth giving mass sums of money for good causes. It is interesting now in modern times where we have the government bailing out big business, back then J.P. Morgan single handily bailed out the Federal government saving it from default.However, the Industrial Age also produced cities that were a living hell for the inhabitants. Brands quotes from the journalist Jacob Riis who wrote about the condition for the poor and the destitute who were struggling to survive. In addition, the conditions of the cities powered the fuel of the political machines, some of whom had been around since the beginning of the nineteenth century or earlier. The most famous was Tammany Hall, founded by Aaron Burr in end of the previous century. In 1890s, Tammany milked the spoils system to feed itself power, but that was not all, it also provided a huge social need for a great deal of the oppressed."'Politics are impossible without the spoils,' Croker answered. 'It is all very well to argue that it ought not to be so. But we have to deal with men as they are and with things as they are. Consider the problem which every democratic system has to solve. Government, we say, of the people, by the people, and for the people. The aim is to interest as many of the citizens as possible in the work--which is not an easy work, and had many difficulties and disappointments--of governing the state or the city. Of course, in an ideal world every citizen would be so dominated by patriotic or civic motives that from sheers unselfish love of his fellow men he would speed nights and days in laboring for their good. If you lived in such a world inhabited by such men, I admit there could be no question but that we could and would dispense with the spoils system. But where is that world to be found? Certainly not in the United States, and most certainly not in New York.'" (p.108)The Industrial Age created a new idea of employment and unemployment, now with most people working for wages the ability to survive on such wages and the conditions in which they had to work became major issues. Also since the interests large corporations were now very distant from their employees and moved with profits primarily in mind, workers' unions were necessary to get attention to their plight and gain the power to negotiate. Brands talks about both these power struggles and the rise of Eugene Debs."Arrests of other A.R.U. Leaders followed, making a continuation of the strike almost impossible. By its liberal--or rather, reactionary--use of the injunction, the government had rendered illegal many acts that formerly had been accepted part of the give and take of labor management relations. Simply by advocating that workers leave their jobs, union officials found themselves liable to criminal prosecution. Some unionist complained that it would have been more straightforward to outlaw strikes altogether--but that would have required approval of Congress, which despite the conservatism in the air wasn't willing to go quite so far. The Cleveland administrations approach had the advantage for conservatives of not requiring the assent of the people's representatives."(p.156)Race relations took a turn for the worst in this period. With the end of Reconstruction in 1877 rights that African Americans had gained had been steadily chipped away. If the Supreme Court had done its duty when confronted with the problem in Plessy v. Ferguson things could have turned for the better. They did not and the mass injustice of this decision was elegantly stated in Justice Harlan's dissent* in which every word of it came true."Although Justice Brown spoke for the court, he didn't speak for all the justices. Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan vehemently disapproved of the court's decision and delivered a blistering rebuke to the majority in a vigorously phrased dissent. Where Brown had contended that the slavery issue was not germane to the Plessy case, Harlan declared that slavery was absolutely germane. The Thirteenth Amendment he said, 'not only struck down the institution of slavery as previously existing in the United States, but prevents the imposition of any burdens or disabilities that constitute badges of slavery or servitude.' To strengthen the Thirteenth Amendment, Congress and the people of the states had approved the Fourteenth Amendment; together, the two amendments 'removed the race line from our governmental systems.' Quoting an earlier decision involving the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment, Harlan explained that the Supreme Court declared 'that the law in the States shall be the same for the black as for the white; that all persons, whether colored or white, shall stand equal before the law of the States, and, in regard to the colored race, for whose protection the amendment was primarily designed, that no discrimination shall be made against them by law because of their color.'" (p.230)In the African-American community two men competed in the market place of ideas for solutions to the problems facing black men and women for simply being black men and women. One was Booker T. Washington, a former slave, and was W.E.B. Du Bois, an African American intellectual."The difference between the two men consisted chiefly in emphasis. For Washington, the training of the masses took priority. Like an army general gathering his infantry for attack, Washington intended to overwhelm the fortifications of the Jim Crow system by an assault across a broad front. For Du Bois, the education of the elite demanded initial attention. 'To attempt to establish any sort of system of common and industrial school training,' he said, 'without first (and I say first advisedly)--without first providing the higher training of the very best teachers, is simply throwing your money to the winds.' Du Bois envisioned the assault on the racial status quo as being spearheaded by commando units of the talented tenth. The commandos would breach the segregationist front by the force of their intelligent gifts of leadership, and they would thereby open the way for the rank and file to follow." (p.250)Also the election of 1896 was a transformative election that would preview how elections were going to be run in the coming century. The issue of the day was money, and whether to have a gold standard or allow for duel metals with silver coined as well. Brands introduces William Harvey and his alter ego 'Coin' who rallies the populists with the cry of free silver leading to the eventual nomination of William Jennings Bryan. However, popular Bryan may have been, he was to lose to William McKinley, whose agent Mark Hanna was going to redefine the political landscape."At the same time, Hanna enlarged the scale of operations of the political manager. In much the same way that the great industrialists secured their markets and broadened their supply bases by expanding into adjacent regions and eventually across the country, so did Hanna. Even as he guided McKinley to election in Ohio, Hanna traveled neighboring states with a message that if Ohio fell to the forces of radicalism, Pennsylvania and Illinois and other states might fall too. In this fashion he forged a network that eventually spanned that nation. The network united, in a more orderly and effective way than before, the financial resources of American big business with the political resources of the Republican Party. It came together in the 1890s partly because of the same kinds of economies of scale and other centralization forces that produced corporate consolidation under Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Morgan, but equally because of the decentralizing forces that were producing the Populist revolt, the great labor strikes of the decade, and the outcry for free silver. The industrial lords and their political allies felt the need to band together against the anarchic tendencies they saw abroad in the land. To achieve their vision of America's future, they had to beat down the forces that wanted to take America's future, they had to beat down the forces that wanted to take America backward into a mythical past."(p.266)The world changed at an incredibly faced pace in the 1890s, H.W. Brands smooth narrative guides the reader on a journey to a world that is both very familiar at times and others unrecognizable. It is a book I highly recommend. The only real complaint I have is no visuals (photos, political cartoons, political election maps) which I think would have led to a richer experience.*It is ironic that it was a former slaveholder who had the only sense of justice on that court. Good The Reckless Decade: America in the 1890s By H.W. Brands go inside Book A period every bit as turbulent as our own age, the 1890s saw vast changes in the economy, politics, and society of the United States, while giving birth to a technological revolution that would profoundly alter the lives of all Americans Those who knew how to exploit this new world Carnegie, Morgan, Rockefeller prospered handsomely those who did not became icons ofA period every bit as turbulent as our own age, the 1890s saw vast changes in the economy, politics, and society of the United States, while giving birth to a technological revolution that would profoundly alter the lives of all Americans Those who knew how to exploit this new world Carnegie, Morgan, Rockefeller prospered handsomely those who did not became icons of how the other half lives The chilling violence of the Homestead steelworkers strike and other labor conflicts underscored the tension that such disparity produced The economic elite ensured that the currency of capital would remain gold and not free silver, yet technology transformed everyday life as alternating current began to light the nation That new frontier came just when the Western one on which America prided itself closed No longer could America expand internally imperialism was the way of the future But even as the United States became a colonial power, Jim Crow laws ensured that only whites could reap the harvest of empire In The Reckless Decade, Brands captures the essence whimsical, tragic, and intrinsically contradictory of the 1890s, when for the first time America turned its face outward to the world and geared up for the American Century Evocative and fascinating, this remarkable book looks back over that amazing time and, in the telling, teaches us much about ourselves and our own reckless decade.. Henry William Brands was born in Portland, Oregon, where he lived until he went to California for college He attended Stanford University and studied history and mathematics After graduating he became a traveling salesman, with a territory that spanned the West from the Pacific to Colorado His wanderlust diminished after several trips across the Great Basin, and he turned to sales of a different sort, namely teaching For nine years he taught mathematics and history in high school and community college Meanwhile he resumed his formal education, earning graduate degrees in mathematics and history, concluding with a doctorate in history from the University of Texas at Austin He worked as an oral historian at the University of Texas Law School for a year, then became a visiting professor of history at Vanderbilt University In 1987 he joined the history faculty at Texas AM University, where he taught for seventeen years In 2005 he returned to the University of Texas, where he is the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History and Professor of Government He has written twenty two books, coauthored or edited five others, and published dozens of articles and scores of reviews His books include Traitor to His Class, The Money Men, Andrew Jackson, The Age of Gold, The First American, TR, The Strange Death of American Liberalism, What America Owes the World, and The Devil We Knew His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Atlantic Monthly, the Smithsonian, the National Interest, the American Historical Review, the Journal of American History, the Political Science Quarterly, American History, and many other newspapers, magazines and journals His writings have received critical and popular acclaim The First American was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Prize, as well as a New York Times bestseller The Age of Gold was a Washington Post Best Book of 2002 and a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller Andrew Jackson was a Chicago Tribune Best Book of 2005 and a Washington Post bestseller What America Owes the World was a finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize in international affairs The Wages of Globalism was a Choice Outstanding Academic Book winner Lone Star Nation won the Deolece Parmelee Award He is a member of various honorary societies, including the Society of American Historians and the Philosophical Society of Texas He is a regular guest on national radio and television programs, and is frequently interviewed by the American and foreign press His writings have been published in several countries and translated into German, French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.. Bestseller Books The Reckless Decade: America in the 1890s This author has a great ability to bring cause and effect into light in a clear, down to earth manner that makes reading history not only enjoyable but also leaves you with clear understanding in a way no text book does. I haven't come across a book by this author that I didn't like. I also highly recommend his California gold rush book.
The Reckless Decade America in the s Mar , In The Reckless Decade, H W Brands demonstrates that we can learn a lot about the contradictions that lie at the heart of America today by looking at them through the lens of the s The s saw the closing of the American frontier and a shift toward imperialist ambitions Populists and muckrakers grappled with robber barons and gold bugs. The Reckless Decade America in the s by H.W Brands To reiterate, The Reckless Decade attempts to answer the questions of the s by looking back upon the s This would entail comparison of the two decades in addition to an overview of the s as that is the frame in which Brands is using to There are many ways in which a book can be critiqued. The Reckless Decade America in the s by H W Brands Mar , In The Reckless Decade, H W Brands demonstrates that we can learn a lot about the contradictions that lie at the heart of America today by looking at them through the lens of the s The s saw the closing of the American frontier and a shift toward imperialist ambitions Populists and muckrakers grappled with robber barons and gold bugs. The reckless decade America in the s One Book One May , The reckless decade America in the s One Book. The Reckless Decade America in the book by H.W Brands Mar , Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle Just as we do today, Americans of the s faced changes in economics, politics, society, and technology that led to wrenching and sometimes violent tensions between rich and poor, capital and labor, white and The reckless decade America in the s Brands, H W Oct , In The Reckless Decade, Brands captures the essence whimsical, tragic, and intrinsically contradictory of the s, when for the first time America turned its face outward to the world and geared up for the American Century.