American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900

American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900

H.W. Brands

Language: English

Pages: 704

ISBN: 0307386775

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In this grand-scale narrative history, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist H. W. Brands brilliantly portrays the emergence, in a remarkably short time, of a recognizably modern America.
American Colossus captures the decades between the Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century, when a few breathtakingly wealthy businessmen transformed the United States from an agrarian economy to a world power. From the first Pennsylvania oil gushers to the rise of Chicago skyscrapers, this spellbinding narrative shows how men like Morgan, Carnegie, and Rockefeller ushered in a new era of unbridled capitalism. In the end America achieved unimaginable wealth, but not without cost to its traditional democratic values.

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over Blaine. Roosevelt vehemently denied the report but then discredited his denial by saying that if he had said such a thing, he had done so in the heat of passion. “At midnight, two hours after the convention had adjourned, when I was savagely indignant at our defeat, and heated and excited with the sharpness of the struggle, I certainly felt bitterly angry at the result, and so expressed myself in private conversation.” To set the record straight, Roosevelt explained that he would vote for

no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street. The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master. The West and South are prostrate before the manufacturing East. Money rules.… Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us.… There are thirty men in the United States whose

to overrule evolution—as by alleviating the plight of the poor—were both immoral and imprudent. “Those whom humanitarians and philanthropists call the weak are the ones through whom the productive and conservative forces of society are wasted,” he declared. “They constantly neutralize and destroy the finest efforts of the wise and industrious, and are a dead-weight on the society in all its struggles to realize any better things.” The do-gooders had made a cottage industry of weeping for the

Free Press, 1999), 11. 2. H. W. Brands, The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream (New York: Doubleday, 2002), 471. 3. James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 442–50, 593–94; Paul Studenski and Herman E. Kroos, Financial History of the United States (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963), chs. 13–14; Bray Hammond, Sovereignty and an Empty Purse: Banks and Politics in the Civil War (Princeton: Princeton University

oasis. To the financial commanders it is an arsenal in which their arms and chariots are stored, the stronghold to be defended or besieged, the field for strategy, battles and plunder.6 The striking thing about the business of Wall Street—striking to those ordinary Americans who dealt in real goods, the actual produce of farm and shop and factory—was the degree to which the traders there dealt in ephemera. “All the principal values of commerce are in this mart represented by so many paper

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