Gilded Age and Coxey’s Army

The streets were bare, and the city of Washington DC was as silent as a mouse. The cherry blossoms were starting to open their buds for the new years bloom, and the blaring sun started to peak out from the clouds due to the harsh winter of 1994. From a distance, footsteps and yelling started to echo on the empty streets. “Give us our jobs back!” was chanted repeatedly by the mass. Smokey and tattered figures started to appear on Independence Avenue. The mass radiated violent energy that would soon start a protest by itself. This fleet was called Coxey’s Army. Coxey’s Army was successful at fulfilling the progressive goals because it brought awareness to the corruption of the government and empowered the working class.

Coxey’s Army brought awareness to the corruption the Gilded Age had caused. Previous to Coxey’s Army, the government was dominated by big businesses. Men like John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Andrew Carnegie would control the government to their benefit. However, in 1893, the country found itself in an economic depression, which was called the Panic of 1893. According to National Geographic, the Panic of 1893 was caused by the overfinancing of the railroads. Due to this Panic, many business owners were forced to sell their businesses just to make ends meet. WHich also meant that it affected the employment rate by decreasing it by 20%. One of these business owners at the time was Jacob S. Coxey. Jacob was a successful owner of a Sand Quarry in Massillon, OH, and was one of the many business owners who had to sell his business and was left with practically nothing. In his frustration, he formed a group of 100 men and started his march to Washington DC.

On the way, many men and women had joined the fleet, in search for the government to take action about the recent downfall. Coxey caused a commotion in DC when he and his fleet arrived. They protested in front of the Capitol Building in hopes of gaining President Grover Cleveland’s attention. Instead, he got himself arrested for trespassing. Besides that, he gained the public’s attention and publicized what the previous hierarchy of big business had caused. Some may say, that it did not fulfill the progressive goals because it did not cause immediate effects on the government, however, it did cause immediate effects. It changed the way the common man though. Coxey’s Army publicized the previous corruption the Gilded Age had caused.

This protest had also empowered the working class of America. The Gilded Age gave the owners of big businesses complete control over the worker’s lives. To the point, the business owners came to the conclusion that the business would still be competitive if one worker had decided to leave. Owners of businesses would act as if the workers were disposable to them. This was, at the end of the day, the workers needed the business owners more than the owners need them. Due to this monstrous cycle, many workers were in fear of getting fired, because their job was all they had. After the Panic of 1893, many workers were forced to be fired and be left homeless and jobless. However, Coxey’s Army gave them hope for a change. Coxey’s Army’s goal was to have the government create public jobs for the working class that had been affected by the recent downfall. Specifically, his goal was to help the people that the Gilded Age had ruined.

Therefore proving to fulfill the progressive goal, to reverse the majority of the damage the Gilded Age had left. Some may say that Coxey’s Army did not affect public policy and did not help the working class. Yes, this is true, but it did help empower the working class of America to speak up for what they deserved. According to Britannica, it had inspired other protest/marches and it was indicative of the unrest of the working class. Therefore meaning, that it empowered the working class to not live in fear of losing their jobs. The working class was left botched after the Gilded Age. However, Coxey’s Army was able to empower the working class to gain the courage to fight for their rights.

Coxey’s Army had benefited America in many different ways. It exposed the corruption the Gilded Age had left in the government and it empowered people to stand up for what they believed was right. Next time anyone is in fear to go against the “social norm”, go for it because it could cause a change, for not just you, but possibly the whole world. Just like what Jacob S. Coxey said: “who plead for the poor and the oppressed, that they should heed the voice of despair and distress”.