a1 Oklahoma State University
I wish to thank the editors of the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era for giving me a chance to react to Richard Schneirov's engaging article on periodizing the Gilded Age. I tend to agree with his generalizations and approach to the subject, having only some small qualifications to offer, largely concerning the quest for periodization, the timing of the break from one type of society to another, and the role of the Civil War. It seems that modern historians have revised somewhat the comment of George III to Edward Gibbons, “Scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mr. Gibbons?” Now it has become, “Quibble, quibble, quibble, eh, Mr. Historian?” Well, such seems to be our fate. However, on one interpretation there is no quibbling at all: somewhere in the years called the Gilded Age came the mightiest transition that the society of the United States has ever experienced. The quote in the title of this short piece attests to the realization that such was the case: it is from the Brahmin historian, James Ford Rhodes writing about the Great Railroad Strike of 1877: “For we had hugged the delusion that such social uprisings belonged to Europe and had no reason of being in a free republic where there was plenty of room and an equal chance for all.” The political economy inherited from the Revolution had failed, and it was beginning to be recognized that a new political economy was emerging.
James L. Huston is Regents Professor of History at Oklahoma State University, where he has taught for twenty-six years. He has published several books, largely dealing with political economy, most recently Calculating the Value of the Union: Slavery, Property Rights, and the Economic Origins of the War (2003). Later in 2006, Rowman & Littlefield is scheduled to bring out his newest book, Stephen A. Douglas and the Dilemmas of Democratic Equality.