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Eamon D. OrmsethFollow

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Presentation

Abstract

The United States boasts a rich and varied history of political dissent. Over the past three centuries, men and women have created innovative ways to challenge the injustices of the social and economic orders they lived under. However, in the 19th century, political dissent was largely confined to specific issues of more localized concerns and national political movements oriented around a societal issue were relatively uncommon. Then, the Financial Panic of 1893 happened, causing the greatest economic depression the United States had ever faced. Out of this collective societal chaos arose Coxey’s Army, a group of unemployed men led by Jacob Coxey, a wealthy Ohio businessman and Carl Browne, a jack of all trades man with a talent for public spectacle. In late March, the army set out to march on Washington, D.C. to publicly petition Congress to pass two bills, the Coxey Good Roads Bill and the Coxey Non-Interest Bearing Bonds Bill. This research examines the economic and social philosophy of Coxey’s underlying the bills and the temperament of the marchers.

From the ashes of the calamitous financial implosion, Coxey’s Army lent popular legitimacy to his ideas for a more equitable economic system (which drew on prior Socialist thought and Populist and Greenback party politics). Foremost among these was the right to work, and implicit in it the idea that government was responsible to provide a job given the power it wielded over the economy. Through a new, novel form of political dissent, Coxey’s army altered the societal discourse regarding laissez-faire economic ideals and the government’s role in the economy. The Army legitimized the notion of popular dissent by providing a vehicle for the common man to become involved and voice his concerns and inaugurated the American practice of marching on the Capitol.

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Humanities

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Apr 11th, 4:40 PM Apr 11th, 5:00 PM

Coxey’s Army, Corporate Interests, and Competing Conceptions of Public Welfare in the Gilded Age: The Evolution of Political Dissent in the 1894 March on Washington

The United States boasts a rich and varied history of political dissent. Over the past three centuries, men and women have created innovative ways to challenge the injustices of the social and economic orders they lived under. However, in the 19th century, political dissent was largely confined to specific issues of more localized concerns and national political movements oriented around a societal issue were relatively uncommon. Then, the Financial Panic of 1893 happened, causing the greatest economic depression the United States had ever faced. Out of this collective societal chaos arose Coxey’s Army, a group of unemployed men led by Jacob Coxey, a wealthy Ohio businessman and Carl Browne, a jack of all trades man with a talent for public spectacle. In late March, the army set out to march on Washington, D.C. to publicly petition Congress to pass two bills, the Coxey Good Roads Bill and the Coxey Non-Interest Bearing Bonds Bill. This research examines the economic and social philosophy of Coxey’s underlying the bills and the temperament of the marchers.

From the ashes of the calamitous financial implosion, Coxey’s Army lent popular legitimacy to his ideas for a more equitable economic system (which drew on prior Socialist thought and Populist and Greenback party politics). Foremost among these was the right to work, and implicit in it the idea that government was responsible to provide a job given the power it wielded over the economy. Through a new, novel form of political dissent, Coxey’s army altered the societal discourse regarding laissez-faire economic ideals and the government’s role in the economy. The Army legitimized the notion of popular dissent by providing a vehicle for the common man to become involved and voice his concerns and inaugurated the American practice of marching on the Capitol.