Goldbugs and Greenbacks: The Antimonopoly Tradition and the Politics of Finance in America, 1865-1896

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Overview

In Goldbugs and Greenbacks, Gretchen Ritter considers the great financial debate of the late nineteenth-century in which farmers and workers fought to redirect economic policy. Ritter argues that both groups believed money and banking were key to continued economic opportunity for all. Beyond the discussion about gold and silver was a broader dialogue about sectionalism, race relations, and the changing class structure. The farmer-labor groups that promoted anti-monopolism contended that without a fair financial system, the country would degenerate into a two-class society of the very rich and the very poor in which democracy would wither. The antimonopolist movement failed, but the nature and fate of this distinctive and neglected political tradition, examined in depth in Goldbugs and Greenbacks, tells us a great deal about the possibilities for political change in America.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is an important study that raises significant questions about the role of the financial system in influencing political and economic change....Goldbugs and Greenbacks is an important book for historians, economists, and political scientists concerned with developments in American society." Choice

"This is a provocative book, and a good contribution to the debate..." Larry Schweikart, H-Net Reviews

"Ritter has made a major contribution to the history of late-nineteenth century America. Her integration of the national party structure with economic reform and her detailed discussion of the monetary and national banking systems across a thirty-year period provide historians with a needed overview." Bruce Palmer, Reviews in American History 25

"Ritter's book might be described as a gold mine of late nineteenth century ideas regarding contemporary economic problems, banking and the nature of money. It should be of great interest to all scholars working on this period." Wilbur Devereux Jones, Perspectives on Political Science

"Goldbugs and Greenbacks is an important work that clearly explains the substance of the antimonopoly position....Historians of nineteenth-century politics, including historians of North Carolina, will find this book to be rewarding reading." James L. Hunt, North Carolina Historical Review

"In addition to educating readers about a transformative period in American political history, Ritter's book will remind them of the fullness of economic contradictions, political conflicts, cultural meanings, and sociological richness that is wrapped up in a dollar bill." Bruce G. Carruthers, American Journal of Sociology

"...Ritter has presented the best single account of the tradition. Readers who want to understand greenback currency, the national banking system, the pyramid reserve structure, gold, and free silver will find her book invaluable. ...Ritter has treated the money question as well as anyone." William F. Holmes, Georgia Historical Quarterly

"...a valuable contribution to the subject..." Samuel T. McSeveney, The Journal of Southern History

"The book will serve as a nice introduction for graduate students and precocious undergraduatesto the debates surrounding finance after Civil War...Her book will serve those not familiar with the antimonopoly tradition well, and it will ultimately stir the blood of those who still embrace that tradition." The Annals of Iowa

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521561679
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2004
  • Pages: 317
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface and acknowledgments
1 The money debate and American political development 1
I Antimonopolism and the money debate 3
II History, political development, and the financial debate 9
III Antimonopolism and economic development 16
IV Goldbugs and greenbacks: The culture of money 19
V Organization of the book 26
2 Party politics and the financial debate, 1865-1896 28
I Perspectives on nineteenth-century party politics 31
II The Republicans 34
III The Democrats 41
IV The antimonopolists 47
V The election of 1896 as a critical moment in American politics 58
3 Greenbacks versus gold: The contest over finance in the 1870s 62
I The National Banking System 66
II The financial standard: Greenbacks or gold? 73
III The financial conservative position on banking 78
IV The financial conservatives' defense of the gold standard 83
V The Greenback critique of the NBS 90
VI Greenbacks: A monetary alternative 95
VII Financial philosophies as competing visions of the public good 104
4 The "people's money": Greenbackism in North Carolina, Illinois, and Massachusetts 110
I North Carolina: Financial reform but little greenbackism 113
II Illinois: A center for farmer-labor radicalism 123
III Massachusetts: An early labor reform state 136
IV Greenbackism and American political development in the 1870s 148
5 The battle of the standards: The financial debate of the 1890s 152
I Financial conservatism's defense of the gold standard 158
II Financial conservatism's defense of the NBS 172
III Monetary reform: Bimetallism, greenbackism, and opposition to the gold standard 178
IV The financial reformers' critique of the banking system 194
V Academic findings 200
VI The victory of financial conservatism 206
6 Populism and the politics of finance in North Carolina, Illinois, and Massachusetts in the 1890s 208
I North Carolina: An emerging "New South" state 210
II Illinois and the labor-Populist alliance 226
III Massachusetts: Home of liberal orthodoxy 241
IV Conclusion 253
7 Money, history, and American political development 258
I Evaluating the antimonopoly tradition 260
II Banking and economic development in Denmark 273
III The legacy of antimonopolism 276
App. A Financial terms used between the Civil War and 1896 283
App. B Major banking and currency legislation, 1860 to 1900 286
App. C An antimonopolist reading of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 288
Index 291
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