IN THE WAKE OF CIVIL WAR
American politics were racially charged and intensely sectionalist, with politicians waving the proverbial bloody shirt and encouraging their constituents-as Republicans did in 1868-to "vote as you shot." By the close of the century, however, burgeoning industrial development and the roller-coaster economy of the postwar decades had shifted the agenda to pocketbook concerns-the tariff, monetary policy, and business regulation-as evidenced by the enthusiastic campaign cries in 1900 of "Four more years of the full dinner pail!"
In From Bloody Shirt to Full Dinner Pail, Charles W. Calhoun provides a concise, elegant overview of the transformation of government in the Gilded Age. Sweeping from the election of Grant to the death of McKinley in 1901, the book vividly portrays the intense political world of the period, as well as the colorful characters who in habited it: the enigmatic and tragic Ulysses S. Grant; the flawed visionary James G. Blaine, at once the Plumed Knight and the Tattooed Man of American politics; Samuel J. "Slick Sammy" Tilden; the self-absorbed, self-righteous, and ultimately self-destructive Grover Cleveland; William Jennings Bryan, boy orator and godly tribune; and the genial but crafty William McKinley, who forged a national majority and launched the nation onto the world stage.