(The UNITED STATES, 1865-1900 – continued)

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The UNITED STATES, 1871-1900 (2 of 4)

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A few big-city politicians had been getting rich receiving payoffs from corporations, and some city officials had been swindling their city. Political reforms were attempted but with only minor success.

A reform movement among farmers in the 1870s had greater success. The movement was joined by farmers frustrated with the power of the railroads. This was the Grange movement, which was strong in Missouri and elsewhere in the Midwest. Its membership in 1875 was around 850,000. The railroads often controlled the grain elevators upon which farmers depended. The railroads were charging farmers for storage, and the farmers were frustrated by railroad shipping rates. They were frustrated also by the interest they had to pay when borrowing money, and to counter this the Grange movement formed its own banking cooperatives. Against the railroads, the Grange movement joined other farmers and merchants in demanding government regulation of shipping rates. In 1887 this resulted in passage of the Interstate Commerce Act. This law intended to give farmers and other small business persons equality in rates with what had been the railroad's favored customers, and the law established an Interstate Commerce Commission, a regulatory commission.

Another reform was the Pendleton Civil Service Act, passed by Congress in 1882. The winners of elections had been giving federal government jobs to their supporters regardless of their qualifications. The Pendleton Act created a federal Civil Service Commission which would oversee competitive examinations for government positions and would have jurisdiction over about 10 percent of the federal government jobs. The act prohibited senators, congressmen or delegate-elects or any officer or employee of either the Senate or the House, or "executive, judicial, military, or naval officer of the United States," or "clerk or employee of any department" from directly or indirectly soliciting or receiving "any assessment, subscription, or contribution for any political purpose whatever, from any officer, clerk, or employee of the United States, or any department, branch, or bureau thereof, or from any person receiving any salary or compensation from moneys derived from the Treasury of the United States."

Responding to experience, concerned citizens strengthened by their numbers and friendly political leadership were institutionalizing elements of fairness and remedies against corruption.


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