Friday, May 25, 2012

Wall Street: The Embodiment of Evil in the 1880s

The portrayal of Wall Street as the embodiment of an evil capitalist is as familiar to the reader of 2012, as to an American of the mid-west in the late nineteenth-century.  Russel B. Nye's Midwestern Progressive Politics (1959), notes that it did not take long for the alienated Midwest to strike back against the colonial pressures of "the triple alliance of railroads, banks and tariff-protected industry." (Nye, 12)  Nye noted that

 'Wall Street' became very real to the Midwest as a general term including the entire body of Eastern influence - the moneylender, the high-tariff manufacturer, the market speculator, the railroad king, the trust holder, the mortgage owner.  It might mean Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas city, St. Louis, or Boston as well as New York, but "Wall Street" was a living entity, a major influence in Midwestern thinking after 1865.


The evil Rockefeller depicted in"What a Funny Little Government" Horace Taylor 1899 Haley Ghiringhelli's Blog

One Granger writer wrote of the Midwestern concept of a meeting of the directors of one of these nefarious corporations.  The sinister meeting agenda would read thus:

"Order of Business:
bankrupt farmers,
form new monopoly,
rig market,
fix prices;

Resolutions Passed:
raise interest rates,
lower farm prices,
instruct business through interlocking directorates to raise prices on all goods sold to farmers,
order newspapers to support regular party candidates,
allot money to 'educate' legislatures,
declare dividend,
adjourn."


Nye notes that Midwestern Americans of the late nineteenth-century expressed, "the feeling that the average Midwesterner had entertained for some time, that something (he was not certain what) was riding him hard.  He called it variously the Money Power, the Rich, Invisible Government, Plutocracy, Wall Street, the Trusts, the Interests, or the Gold Bugs." (Nye, 106)

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