From the beginning of American colonization we were a mainly farming people. The basis of our society was built upon agriculture, and little else. The rise to corporate capitalism has had such a profound impact on American society, it is impossible to study any aspect of United States history post Civil War without a direct relation, on any level, to the industrial revolution. America would not be the superpower it is today had we not made the change from an agricultural society to an industrial one long ago. The rise of corporate capitalism radically changed the way Americans lived forever.
In the years previous to those following the Civil War, the American lifestyle was pretty much the same. People lived on the farm, and everybody contributed to the families well being. After the Civil War, the technological change in America was so great, it forced people to reconstruct the way the lived their lives. New inventions and technology bombarded every aspect of the American life. “Whereas only 276 inventions had been recorded during the Patent Office’s first decade in the 1790s, during the single year of the Columbian Exposition  22,000 patents were issued” (Martin 420).
The government’s role in the rise of corporate capitalism varies depending upon whom you asked the question to. Some said the government held to the laissez-fair policy, while some said that they favored the big business and disregarded the common worker as a non-issue. “Government’s proper role was to leave the economy alone, so as not to disrupt the operation of the natural forces that ordered the economy” (Martin 426). In a actuality, both are probably right. “To a large extent the industrialists got what they wanted- a laissez-fair policy that left them alone, except when they needed help” (Martin 426).
The government set out no regulatory rules to the large corporations until the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887. In 1886 the Supreme Court passed a ruling that allowed the 14th amendment to include a corporation as a “person. ” States could then not deny equal protection without due process of law, and the courts were now in charge of setting the limit of “reasonable” profits by corporations (Martin 428). This once again left the common laborer to be subject to the ruling of their superiors in the business world. Industrialism was growing so rapidly, business were having a hard time keeping their shops manned.
While the farming industry was struggling through economic depression, watching the prices of their crops fall, and watching themselves being forced into poverty, many young men and women sought out the big cities to test their luck at working in the big business industries of the city. In the beginning of the revolution, the working class was separated into four different levels, highly skilled, semiskilled, unskilled, and women and children. In the beginning, the highly skilled workers were taught a trade in its entirety. However, once the industries were booming, work became formalized and structured.
Where one man used to do one complete job, several men were given the job in individual sections to ensure increased productivity. The trade has been subdivided and those subdivisions have been again subdivided , so that a man never learns the machinist’s trade now. Ten years ago he learned, not the whole of the trade, but a fair portion of it. Also, there is more machinery used in the business, which again makes machinery the trade is so subdivided that a man is not considered a machinist at all, hence it is merely laborers’ work and it is laborers that work at that branch of our trade (Morrison 44).
This must have been terrible for the people who had to endure such a lifestyle. How much more humiliation could a man live through? Do be so greatly reduced in social ranks seemingly overnight. This was indeed a difficult time for those living through it. As time went on the farmers of America became increasingly frustrated with the big wigs of government and the industrial tycoons. They saw the people with money making more money, while they struggled to make ends meet on their own, “the rich got richer, and the poor got poorer.
In 1892, the Populist Party was formed to provide aid to the angry farmers, the struggling backbone of American society. They were set up to fight the immorality and deviants in government and business. Their goals were simple, to provide more money to the farmers, introduce silver into American coinage, graduated income tax, governmental ownership of banks and railroads, transmission media’s, and land owned buy big railroad companies be taken back by the government. Laborers working conditions were horrible at this time.
Long hours and low pay was not, however, the main cause of the working classes problems. For years they had working long days on the farms, it’s the nature of the work that was biggest issue. “Factory work tended to be monotonous, and machines made work more dangerouscareless or tired workers sacrificed their fingers, hands, arms, and sometimes even lives” (Martin 462). While on the farm, in the midst of the hard work, there was socializing and irregularity for the workers. Once in the shop, the workers had to deal with strict time schedules, and harsh working conditions.
Thrift, regularity, sobriety, orderliness, punctuality- hallmarks of an industrial society- were virtues not rigorously observed” (Martin 460). With a motto such as “Death to thieves, incendiaries, and murderers” (Roediger 36) some 8,000 – 10,000 workers started the first general strike in America. Struggling to make ends meet in a harsh economy, these laborers, tired physically and emotionally from the strain of the working environment, bonded together for an 8 hour work day, and an end to child labor.
While the only goal met was the promise for higher wages, things ended quickly when violence erupted. A total of 73 people were seized, and 49 of those were incarcerated (39). While the direct results of this strike are seemingly small and insignificant, the long-term effects were great. These people paved the way for those ahead of them to gain control of their working environment. While the 8-hour workday and end of child labor was a long way off, this strike helped to hasten the coming of these events.
The rise of corporate capitalism had such a profound positive impact on our nation as a whole, its nearly immeasurable. Without it, America would not have become the world superpower that it is today. The shift from and agricultural society into an industrial one may have been difficult for those in the immediate wake of it, however, it was a new situation to everybody. Such great technological advances had never been seen before in America or anywhere else at any time.
I believe it would be impossible for a nation to go through such tremendous changes without some misuse of power, and burden on the lower classes of people. After time, things were smoothed out and ran in an acceptable manner to everybody. The big bosses were still making their money, and the lower working class people were granted the 8 hour workday, as well as having conditions improved in the workplace. Overall, I believe this to be the most important time in US history. It has developed us as a nation, and set us apart as independents strong enough to provide for ourselves.