1 Aug 2022


Social Equality, Democracy, and Economic Opportunities in the United States between 1865 and 1900

Format: Other

Academic level: College

Paper type: Essay (Any Type)

Words: 1159

Pages: 4

Downloads: 0

Before the commencement of the Progressive Era in the early 20 th century, there was the perception that the United States was a place where economic opportunities existed and people were able to benefit from social equality. This is contrary to the fact that America encountered difficulties in utilizing economic opportunities, social inequalities, and lack of democracy in political activities. There was an uneven distribution of resources among the population of the United States with most of the resources owned by a few number of people and majority being poor ( Norris, 2011) . There are a number of studies showing that the United States experienced challenges in the utilization of its economic resources and the ability to achieve an organized political system. This paper presents an argument which opposes the view that there was a political democracy, economic opportunities, and social equality in the United States between 1965 and 1900 by presenting different obstacles that were encountered by the citizens of the United States in achieving these objectives. 

The perception that there were economic opportunities in the United States in between 1865 and 1900 is not the case since the economy was basically agricultural and there was a shortage of labor which also prevented the expansion of farming activities. In the years after the Panic of 1973, referred to as the Long Depression, there was a long duration of stagnation of the economy of the United States followed by a resumption of economic growth in 1896. There were high incidences of business bankruptcies, reduction of interest rates, and deflation. These changes were brought by changes in technology, the development of steam-powered ocean vessels and the replacement if telegraph system with steel ( Piketty & Saez, 2003) . There was a scarcity of capital which was necessary for the development of transport networks such as railroads which could contribute to economic capability of the United States. The processes through which different activities were done was manual and there was a low rate of work completion which affected the rate of economic development. Most railroad work activities were performed by the use of digging tools since there was no mechanization and the communities were not connected to one another, thus it was difficult to conduct trade. Most tasks were performed by the use of horses, mules, and oxen until the latter part of the 19 th century. The labor market was tight and workers were not able to maintain or increase their nominal wages in a period of deflation which resulted in a rise in the labor market in the 19 th century ( Omi & Winant, 2014) . Economic opportunities were not achieved until a high number of immigrants came to other parts of the United States and the growth of the steel and machinery industries which resulted in an increase in labor productivity by 26.5% in the early 20 th century. 

It’s time to jumpstart your paper!

Delegate your assignment to our experts and they will do the rest.

Get custom essay

There was no social equality in the United States between 1865 and 1900 as has been perceived in a number of views and opinions. This is due to a high number of practices and ways of life that promoted the superiority of the whites compared with other races such as Blacks and the Latinos. While slavery was only restricted to the South of the United States, the economy of the North was characterized by slavery activities in the ‘triangular trade’ with Africa. The northerners owned slaves who were laborers and did not have ownership of property while their owners possessed large areas of agricultural land and residential areas ( Gómez-Baggethun et al., 2010) . Slavery also posed deep cultural boundaries among the citizens of the United States since it prevented the slaves from acquiring property and improving their economic status. Social inequality was also contributed by second class citizenship. This is a situation where particular groups of people have fewer rights compared with others. For instance, there were laws that prohibited people who had been convicted of felonies from taking part in voting exercises, and police practices mainly focused on implementing strict sentences to citizens who were perceived to be of African-American origin. During the emancipation of slaves, there was the need to provide each slave as with a fort acre piece of land and a mule but the Federal government was reluctant to deprive private property owners of their land. This resulted in reduced ability of the former slaves to improve their social and economic status ( Altbach, Gum port & Berdahl, 2011) . Laws were also enacted that separated African-Americans from attending schools attended by white students. Non-citizen labor is another form of social inequality that existed in the United States in the period between 1865 and 1900 with the increased importation of Chinese laborers to provide cheap labor in the construction of railroads in the West and a number of infrastructural projects. This practice continued until the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act which prevented the use of Chinese immigrant labor in all construction projects. 

Besides, there was low political democracy in the United States between 1965 and 1900 contrary to the perception that the Americans were democratic. Most policies formed were against the minority groups. During voting in the South, most minority groups were not provided with the opportunity to vote unless one passed a literacy test which was not imposed on the whites. A number of extra-legal and violence acts were directed against the blacks by the whites without the intervention of the government ( King, 2011) . For instance, the Ku Klux Klan was involved in terrorizing black communities under the support of the state. Most violence acts against the blacks were not only tolerated by states, but they were incorporated in the state policies. 

Additionally, the status of women in the society was undervalued with their restriction to child bearing and taking care of the homes. They were not allowed to participate in political activities or voting exercises. It was until 1890 when the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was formed with the objective of advocating for the rights of women to take part in voting exercises. It also pushed for the amendment of the Constitution to guarantee for women to take part in voting ( Omi & Winant, 2014) . This prevented them from expressing their political opinions. Most industrial activities were unregulated with the increased use of child labor. There were no safety standards that ensured the safety of workers in the industrial activities which subjected them to high risks. Most people in political positions were not elected but appointed, especially the whites who were the most dominant. There were little opportunities for blacks to express their views about political matters, and corruption was high in government departments with little accountability. 

In conclusion, there were fewer economic opportunities, lack of democracy, and lack of social equality in the United States between 1865 and 1900. The main factors associated with lack of economic opportunities were a lack of labor supply, lack of mechanization, and Low depression period which resulted in economic stagnation. The main social factors that contributed to inequality included high rates of discrimination against the blacks and unequal wealth distribution between African-Americans. The main factors that contributed to the lack of democracy included a high number of whites in political positions, restriction of blacks to take part in voting exercises, and marginalization of women. 


Altbach, P. G., Gumport, P. J., & Berdahl, R. O. (Eds.). (2011).    American higher education in the twenty-first century: Social, political, and economic challenges . JHU Press. 

Gómez-Baggethun, E., De Groot, R., Lomas, P. L., & Montes, C. (2010). The history of ecosystem services in economic theory and practice: from early notions to markets and payment schemes.    Ecological economics , 69 (6), 1209-1218. 

King, W. (2011).    Stolen childhood: Slave youth in nineteenth-century America . Indiana University Press. 

Norris, P. (2011).    Democratic deficit: Critical citizens revisited . Cambridge University Press. 

Omi, M., & Winant, H. (2014).    Racial formation in the United States . Routledge. 

Piketty, T., & Saez, E. (2003). Income inequality in the United States, 1913–1998.    The Quarterly journal of economics ,    118 (1), 1-41. 

Cite this page

Select style:


StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). Social Equality, Democracy, and Economic Opportunities in the United States between 1865 and 1900.


Related essays

We post free essay examples for college on a regular basis. Stay in the know!

Tracing Nationalist Ideology across the Decades

Nationalism and national identity in Japan assert that Japan is a united nation and promotes the maintenance of Japanese culture and history by citizens. It is a set of ideas that the Japanese people hold, drawn from...

Words: 899

Pages: 3

Views: 373

Pectoral of Princess Sithathoryunet and Gold Bracteate

Introduction Jewelry has been in use for many years, and this can be proven from existing ancient objects and artifacts. The first piece to be analyzed is the Gold Bracteate which has its origins in the culture...

Words: 1986

Pages: 7

Views: 355

Plato and Pericles

Plato and Pericles Ancient Greece forms the basis of many civilizations in the world today. Greece influenced art, literature, mathematics, and democracy among other things. Through philosophy and leadership,...

Words: 513

Pages: 2

Views: 364

The Yalta Conference: What Happened and Why It Matters

Churchill and Roosevelt got into a gentle disagreement during the Yalta conference in opposition to Soviet plans to maintain Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia (Baltic states), and a vast eastern Poland section reinstating...

Words: 289

Pages: 1

Views: 95

Paganism in European Religion

Introduction In the ancient era around the fourth century, early Christians had widely spread their religion gaining a huge Christian population. Nevertheless, the Christian population never encapsulated...

Words: 1185

Pages: 5

Views: 89

The Louisiana Purchase: One of the Most Significant Achievements of President Thomas Jefferson

The Louisiana Purchase is among the most significant achievements of a presidency in the US. Executed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803, the project encompassed the acquisition of approximately 830 million square...

Words: 1253

Pages: 4

Views: 125


Running out of time?

Entrust your assignment to proficient writers and receive TOP-quality paper before the deadline is over.