Summer Reading for Advanced Placement US History II

The Jungle


Write an essay of 750 – 800 words in which you address how Sinclair’s The Jungle illustrates three of the following overriding themes of late 19th century America, often called The Gilded Age.



In your essay be sure to link specific incidents from the book to points made in the associated primary documents.


I.                    Social Darwinism


William Graham Sumner, Excerpts from What Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1903)

      On a New Philosophy: That Poverty Is the Best Policy

    It is commonly asserted that there are in the United States no classes, and any allusion to classes is resented. On the other hand, we constantly read and hear discussions of social topics in which the existence of social classes is assumed as a simple fact. "The poor," "the weak," "the laborers," are expressions which are used as if they had exact and well-understood definition. Discussions are made to bear upon the assumed rights, wrongs, and misfortunes of certain social classes; and all public speaking and writing consists, in a large measure, of the discussion of general plans for meeting the wishes of classes of people who have not been able to satisfy their own desires. These classes are sometimes discontented, and sometimes not. Sometimes they do not know that anything is amiss with them until the "friends of humanity" come to them with offers of aid. Sometimes they are discontented and envious. They do not take their achievements as a fair measure of their rights. They do not blame themselves or their parents for their lot, as compared with that of other people. Sometimes they claim that they have a right to everything of which they feel the need for their happiness on earth. To make such a claim against God or Nature would, of course, be only to say that we claim a right to live on earth if we can. But God and Nature have ordained the chances and conditions of life on earth once for all. The case cannot be reopened. We cannot get a revision of the laws of human life. We are absolutely shut up to the need and duty, if we would learn how to live happily, of investigating the laws of Nature, and deducing the rules of right living in the world as it is. These are very wearisome and commonplace tasks. They consist in labor and self-denial repeated over and over again in learning and doing. When the people whose claims we are considering are told to apply themselves to these tasks they become irritated and feel almost insulted. They formulate their claims as rights against society -- that is, against some other men. In their view they have a right, not only to pursue happiness, but to get it; and if they fail to get it, they think they have a claim to the aid of other men -- that is, to the labor and self-denial of other men -- to get it for them. They find orators and poets who tell them that they have grievances, so long as they have unsatisfied desires.

    Now, if there are groups of people who have a claim to other people's labor and self-denial, and if there are other people whose labor and self-denial are liable to be claimed by the first groups, then there certainly are "classes," and classes of the oldest and most vicious type. For a man who can command another man's labor and self-denial for the support of his own existence is a privileged person of the highest species conceivable on earth.... We shall find that all the schemes for producing equality and obliterating the organization of society produce a new differentiation based on the worst possible distinction -- the right to claim and the duty to give one man's effort for another man's satisfaction. We shall find that every effort to realize equality necessitates a sacrifice of liberty. …

    Certain ills belong to the hardships of human life. They are natural. They are part of the struggle with Nature for existence. We cannot blame our fellow-men for our share of these. My neighbor and I are both struggling to free ourselves from these ills. The fact that my neighbor has succeeded in this struggle better than I constitutes no grievance for me. Certain other ills are due to the malice of men, and to the imperfections or errors of civil institutions. These ills are an object of agitation, and a subject of discussion. The former class of ills is to be met only by manly effort and energy; the latter may be corrected by associated effort....

   ... A man who is present as a consumer, yet who does not contribute either by land, labor, or capital to the work of society, is a burden. On no sound political theory ought such a person to share in the political power of the State. He drops out of the ranks of workers and producers. Society must support him. It accepts the burden, but he must be cancelled from the ranks of the rulers likewise. So much for the pauper. About him no more need be said...

   ... Those whom humanitarians and philanthropists call the weak are the ones through whom the productive and conservative forces of society are wasted. They constantly neutralize and destroy the finest efforts of the wise and industrious, and are a dead-weight on the society in all its struggles to realize any better things. Whether the people who mean no harm, but are weak in the essential powers necessary to the performance of one's duties in life, or those who are malicious and vicious, do the more mischief, is a question not easy to answer.

    The humanitarians, philanthropists, and reformers, looking at the facts of life as they present themselves, find enough which is sad and unpromising in the condition of many members of society.... In their eagerness to recommend the less fortunate classes to pity and consideration they forget all about the rights of other classes; they gloss over all the faults of the classes in question, and they exaggerate their misfortunes and their virtues. They invent new theories of property, distorting rights and perpetrating injustice, as any one is sure to do who sets about the re-adjustment of social relations with the interests of one group distinctly before his mind, and the interests of all other groups thrown into the background. When I have read certain of these discussions I have thought that it must be quite disreputable to be respectable, quite dishonest to own property, quite unjust to go one's own way and earn one's own living, and that the only really admirable person was the good-for-nothing. The man who by his own effort raises himself above poverty appears, in these discussions, to be of no account. The man who has done nothing to raise himself above poverty finds that the social doctors flock about him, bringing the capital which they have collected from the other class, and promising him the aid of the State to give him what the other had to work for. In all these schemes and projects the organized intervention of society through the State is either planned or hoped for, and the State is thus made to become the protector and guardian of certain classes. The agents who are to direct the State action are, of course, the reformers and philanthropists.... Here it may suffice to observe that, on the theories of the social philosophers to whom I have referred, we should get a new maxim of judicious living: Poverty is the best policy. If you get wealth, you will have to support other people; if you do not get wealth, it will be the duty of other people to support you.  

On the Value, As a Sociological Principle, Of the Rule to Mind One's Own Business

     ...Every man and woman in society has one big duty. That is, to take care of his or her own self. This is a social duty. For, fortunately, the matter stands so that the duty of making the best of one's self individually is not a separate thing from the duty of filling one's place in society, but the two are one, and the latter is accomplished when the former is done. The common notion, however, seems to be that one has a duty to society, as a special and separate thing, and that this duty consists in considering and deciding what other people ought to do. Now, the man who can do anything for or about anybody else than himself is fit to be head of a family; and when he becomes head of a family he has duties to his wife and his children, in addition to the former big duty. Then, again, any man who can take care of himself and his family is in a very exceptional position, if he does not find in his immediate surroundings people who need his care and have some sort of a personal claim upon him. If, now, he is able to fulfil all this, and to take care of anybody outside his family and his dependents, he must have a surplus of energy, wisdom, and moral virtue beyond what he needs for his own business. No man has this; for a family is a charge which is capable of infinite development, and no man could suffice to the full measure of duty for which a family may draw upon him....

    The danger of minding other people's business is twofold. First, there is the danger that a man may leave his own business unattended to; and, second, there is the danger of an impertinent interference with another's affairs. The "friends of humanity" almost always run into both dangers. I am one of humanity, and I do not want any volunteer friends. I regard friendship as mutual, and I want to have my say about it. I suppose that other components of humanity feel in the same way about it. If so, they must regard any one who assumes the role of a friend of humanity as impertinent. The reference of the friend of humanity back to his own business is obviously the next step.

    Yet we are constantly annoyed, and the legislatures are kept constantly busy, by the people who have made up their minds that it is wise and conducive to happiness to live in a certain way, and who want to compel everybody else to live in their way. Some people have decided to spend Sunday in a certain way, and they want laws passed to make other people spend Sunday in the same way. Some people have resolved to be teetotalers, and they want a law passed to make everybody else a teetotaler. Some people have resolved to eschew luxury, and they want taxes laid to make others eschew luxury. The taxing power is especially something after which the reformer's finger always itches....

    The friends of humanity start out with certain benevolent feelings toward "the poor," "the weak," "the laborers," and others of whom they make pets. They generalize these classes, and render them impersonal, and so constitute the classes into social pets. They turn to other classes and appeal to sympathy and generosity, and to all the other noble sentiments of the human heart. Action in the line proposed consists in a transfer of capital from the better off to the worse off. Capital, however, as we have seen, is the force by which civilization is maintained and carried on. The same piece of capital cannot be used in two ways. Every bit of capital, therefore, which is given to a shiftless and inefficient member of society, who makes no return for it, is diverted from a reproductive use; but if it was put to reproductive use, it would have to be granted in wages to an efficient and productive laborer. Hence the real sufferer by that kind of benevolence which consists in an expenditure of capital to protect the good-for-nothing is the industrious laborer.... There is an almost invincible prejudice that a man who gives a dollar to a beggar is generous and kind-hearted, but that a man who refuses the beggar and puts the dollar in a savings-bank is stingy and mean. The former is putting capital where it is very sure to be wasted, and where it will be a kind of seed for a long succession of future dollars, which must be wasted to ward off a greater strain on the sympathies than would have been occasioned by a refusal in the first place. Inasmuch as the dollar might have been turned into capital and given to a laborer who, while earning it, would have reproduced it, it must be regarded as taken from the latter. When a millionnaire gives a dollar to a beggar the gain of utility to the beggar is enormous, and the loss of utility to the millionnaire is insignificant. Generally the discussion is allowed to rest there. But if the millionnaire makes capital of the dollar, it must go upon the labor market, as a demand for productive services. Hence there is another party in interest -- the person who supplies productive services. There always are two parties. The second one is always the Forgotten Man, and any one who wants to truly understand the matter in question must go and search for the Forgotten Man. He will be found to be worthy, industrious, independent, and self-supporting. He is not, technically, "poor" or "weak, he minds his own business, and makes no complaint. Consequently the philanthropists never think of him, and trample on him....

    ...The schemes for improving the condition of the working classes interfere in the competition of workmen with each other. The beneficiaries are selected by favoritism, and are apt to be those who have recommended themselves to the friends of humanity by language and conduct which does not betoken independence and energy. Those who suffer a corresponding depression by the interference are the independent and self-reliant, who once more are forgotten and passed over; and the friends of humanity once more appear, in their zeal to help somebody, to be trampling on those who are trying to help themselves....

II.                Industrialization’s effects on the worker


Preamble to the Knights of Labor Constitution (1878)


History of the American Working Classes

The recent alarming development and aggression of aggregated wealth, which, unless checked,  will invariably lead to the pauperization and hopeless degradation of the toiling masses, render it imperative, if we desire to enjoy the blessings of life, that a check should be placed upon its power and upon unjust accumulation, and a system adopted which will secure to the laborer the fruits of his toil; and as this much desired object can only be accomplished by the thorough unification of
labor, and the united effort of those who obey the divine injunction that "In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread," we have formed the * * * * * with a view of securing the organization and direction, by co-operative effort, of the power of the industrial classes; and we submit to the world the object sought to be accomplished by our organization, calling upon all who believe in securing "the greatest good to the greatest number" to aid and assist us:-

I. To bring within the folds of organization every department of productive industry, making knowledge a standpoint for action, and industrial and moral worth, not wealth, the true standard of individual and national greatness.

II.  To secure to the toilers a proper share of the wealth that they create; more of the leisure that rightfully belongs to them; more societary advantages; more of the benefits, privileges, and emoluments of the world, all those rights and privileges necessary to make them capable of enjoying, appreciating, defending, and perpetuating the blessings of good government.

III. To arrive at the true condition of the producing masses in their educational, moral, and financial condition, by demanding from the various governments the establishment of bureaus of Labor Statistics.

IV. The establishment of co-operative institutions, productive and distributive.

V. The reserving of the public lands--the heritage of the people--for the actual settler; not another acre for railroads or settlers.

VI. The abrogation of all laws that do not bear equally upon capital and labor, the removal of unjust technicalities, delays, and discriminations in the administration of justice, and the adopting of measures providing for the health and safety of those engaged in mining, manufacturing, or building pursuits.

VII. The enactment of laws to compel chartered corporations to pay their employees weekly, in full, for labor per-formed during the preceding week, in the lawful money of the country.

VIII. The enactment of laws giving mechanics and laborers a first lien on their work for their full wages.

IX. The abolishment of the contract system on national, state, and municipal work.

X. The substitution of arbitration for strikes, whenever and wherever employers and employees are willing to meet on equitable grounds.

XI. The prohibition of the employment of children in workshops, mines, and factories before attaining their fourteenth year.

XII. To abolish the system of letting out by contract labor of convicts in our prisons and reformatory institutions.

XIII. To secure for both sexes equal pay for equal work.

XIV. The reduction of the hours of labor to eight per day, so that the laborers may have more time for social enjoyment and intellectual improvement, and be enabled to reap the advantages conferred by the labor-saving machinery which their brains have created.

XV. To prevail upon governments to establish a purely national circulating medium, based upon the faith and resources of the nation, and issued directly to the people, without the intervention of any system of banking corporations, which money shall be a legal tender in payment of all debts, public or private.

III.             Industrialization and the Immigrant

Excerpt from: Grace Abbott, "The Immigrant and Industrial Democracy," Chapter VIII in The Immigrant and the Community (New York: The Century Co., 1917) 196-220.

THE possibility of taking advantage of the immigrant because he is ignorant of our language and unfamiliar with the agencies, both public and private, to which he might appeal for help is the opportunity which the unscrupulous agent, the irresponsible private banker, the land shark, or the shyster lawyer does not neglect. So, too, his employer is often able to take advantage of the immigrant solely because his ignorance of the language makes him unaware of the terms to which he is agreeing. For example, in the late spring of 1914, eight Bohemians came to the office of the Immigrants' Protective League. They were cold, hungry, and exhausted from a long walk back to Chicago. They had been sent out in February by a Chicago employment agency to work in excavating for railroad construction in a part of Wisconsin which the engineer described as "an uninhabited country with no roads to speak of except such trails as the contractors made to haul in their supplies." Five days after they began work, as a condition of their being supplied with the overshoes which they so greatly needed, the men were required to sign a contract which made them not employees but subcontractors. According to the agreement which they were thus forced to sign and the terms of which no one of them understood, they were not to be paid until the work of all of them had [end page 196] been approved by the engineers of the railroad. The contract also specified that the laborers were to pay rent for the cars, the trucks, and tools supplied them and that they were to bear the cost of constructing the camp and opening the roads which had been built in part before they arrived.

One of the men who acted as "straw boss" and who spoke some English had had several years' experience in railroad construction work. He was, however, unable to read and write English and would have been absolutely unable to comprehend the language of the formal contract even if it had been read to him. Three of the other men spoke a little English but could not read and write it. The others had been in the country only a very short time – and could speak no English at all. Several of the men had a good common school education and were of more than average intelligence. The rates of payment for earth, loose rock, or solid rock excavations which the contract specified and which the men regarded as a "piecework" basis of payment, had been made clear to them. At the end of eleven weeks they were dismissed, according to the men's story; according to the contractor's, they left their work voluntarily.

When they asked the company for their wages at the end of that time, the eight men who had worked for eleven weeks were told that no wages were coming to them, but that, on the contrary, they were in debt to the company $110.06. For this eleven weeks of work they had received, according to the contractor's statement, $11.69 worth of clothes and their board. The "board " was of very poor quality; for example, only $3 worth of [end page 197] meat of any sort was furnished the eight men during the month of April. How much in debt they would have been had they remained until they finished the job, the engineer did not estimate for them. The assistant engineer suggested that the men undoubtedly thought they would make at least day wages on this subcontract and that this was the reason for their dissatisfaction with the company. These facts were submitted to the Wisconsin Industrial Commission, but the Commission was unable to do anything for the men, and the suggestion was made that they give their case to a lawyer in a town near the camp. The lawyer, however, felt that it was useless to bring suit because, he said, "there had been a number of suits growing out of the contract in question and the workingmen had fared ill in every case." No lawyer could be found in the town who was willing to take the men's case.

Suit was therefore instituted in Chicago. This remedy involved the delays and the expensive appeals by which a company can usually, if it so desires, wear out the men. While in this case the men were able because of the interest of the Immigrants' Protective League to see the suit through and to collect their wages, their utter helplessness without such assistance was clearly apparent. They were convinced that this construction company deliberately took advantage of them. Such an experience could not fail to make them bitterly distrustful in their future relations with their employers. Moreover, the knowledge they gained of the expense and delay which is involved in an appeal to the law could not make them feel that a reasonably satisfactory way of de- [end page 198] termining the merits of such a dispute has, as yet, been worked out by society.

While instances of this sort are all too frequent, they cannot be said to be general or widespread. A degree of isolation, resulting from the place of work or the fact that the men affected have no compatriots in the community, is necessary for the success of this kind of gross exploitation.

Discussion of such injustice as this and the means of prevention would, therefore, come more appropriately under the general subject of the exploitation of the immigrant rather than the economic effects of immigration. In connection with the latter, the questions usually raised are: (I) whether or not the immigrant supplants the native-born workingmen to the disadvantage of the latter; (2) whether the immigrant is responsible for the evils of our present industrial system: the overemployment of those who work excessively long hours, the underemployment of those who are unwillingly idle many weeks or months during a year, the low wages, the insanitary workshops, and the lack of adequate protection for life and limb; (3) whether the immigrant has delayed the organization of the workingmen and women into trade or industrial unions; or (4), to put it in a much broader way, whether the immigrant has prevented or greatly delayed the coming of industrial democracy in the United States.

The importance of the immigrant in industry is indicated by the following table, which gives the total number of persons and the number and per cent. of the foreign-born white persons who were engaged in manufac- [end page 199] turing and mechanical industries each decade from 1870 to 1910.1

Census Year ... Total Number of Persons Employed…Number of Foreign-Born White Persons ... Per cent. of Total Persons Employed who are Foreign Born

1870 ... 2,541,149 ... 827,101* ... 32.5

1880 ... 3,587,715 ... 1,092,609* ... 30.5

1890 ... 5,091,293 ... 1,597,118 ... 31.4

1900 ... 7,112,304 ... 2,175,686 ... 30.6

1910 ... 10,875,223 ... 3,394,891 ... 31.2

IV.             Socialism as an alternative system


The Socialist party declares that the capitalist system has outgrown its historical function, and has become utterly incapable of meeting the problems now confronting society. We denounce this outgrown system as incompetent and corrupt and the source of unspeakable misery and suffering to the whole working class.

Under this system the industrial equipment of the nation has passed into the absolute control of a plutocracy which exacts an annual tribute of hundreds of millions of dollars from the producers. Unafraid of any organized resistance, it stretches out its greedy hands over the still undeveloped resources of the nation-the land, the mines, the forests and the water powers of every State of the Union.

In spite of the multiplication of laborsaving machines and improved methods in industry which cheapen the cost of production, the share of the producers grows ever less, and the prices of all the necessities of life steadily increase. The boasted prosperity of this nation is for the owning class alone. To the rest it means only greater hardship and misery. The high cost of living is felt in every home. Millions of wage-workers have seen the purchasing power of their wages decrease until life has become a desperate battle for mere existence.

Multitudes of unemployed walk the streets of our cities or trudge from State to State awaiting the will of the-masters to move the wheels of industry. The farmers in every state are plundered by the increasing prices exacted for tools and machinery and by extortionate rents, freight rates and storage charges.

Capitalist concentration is mercilessly crushing the class of small business men and driving its members into the ranks of propertyless wage-workers. The overwhelming majority of the people of America are being forced under a yoke of bondage by this soulless industrial despotism.

It is this capitalist system that is responsible for the increasing burden of armaments, the poverty, slums, child labor, most of the insanity, crime and prostitution, and much of the disease that afflicts mankind.

Under this system the working class is exposed to poisonous conditions, to frightful and needless perils to life and limb, is walled around with court decisions, injunctions and unjust laws, and is preyed upon incessantly for the benefit of the controlling oligarchy of wealth. Under it also, the children of the working class are doomed to ignorance, drudging toil and darkened lives.

In the face of these evils, so manifest that all thoughtful observers are appalled at them, the legislative representatives of the Republican and Democratic parties remain the faithful servants of the oppressors. Measures designed to secure to the wage-earners of this Nation as humane and just treatment as is already enjoyed by the wage-earners of all other civilized nations have been smothered in committee without debate, the laws ostensibly designed to bring relief to the farmers and general consumers are juggled and transformed into instruments for the exaction of further tribute. The growing unrest under oppression has driven these two old parties to the enactment of a variety of regulative measures, none of which has limited in any appreciable degree the power of the plutocracy, and some of which have been perverted into means of increasing that power. Anti-trust laws, railroad restrictions and regulations, with the prosecutions, indictments and investigations based upon such legislation, have proved to be utterly futile and ridiculous.

Nor has this plutocracy been seriously restrained or even threatened by any Republican or Democratic executive. It has continued to grow in power and insolence alike under the administration of Cleveland, McKinley, Roosevelt and Taft.

We declare, therefore, that the longer sufferance of these conditions is impossible, and we purpose to end them all. We declare them to be the product of the present system in which industry is carried on for private greed, instead of for the welfare of society. We declare, furthermore, that for these evils there will be and can be no remedy and no substantial relief except through Socialism under which industry will be carried on for the common good and every worker receive the full social value of the wealth he creates.

Society is divided into warring groups and classes, based upon material interests. Fundamentally, this struggle is a conflict between the two main classes, one of which, the capitalist class, owns the means of production, and the other, the working class, must use these means of production, on terms dictated by the owners.

The capitalist class, though few in numbers, absolutely controls the government, legislative, executive and judicial. This class owns the machinery of gathering and disseminating news through its organized press. It subsidizes seats of learning-the colleges and schools-and even religious and moral agencies. It has also the added prestige which established customs give to any order of society, right or wrong.

The working class, which includes all those who are forced to work for a living whether by hand or brain, in shop, mine or on the soil, vastly outnumbers the capitalist class. Lacking effective organization and class solidarity, this class is unable to enforce its will. Given such a class solidarity and effective organization, the workers will have the power to make all laws and control all industry in their own interest. All political parties are the expression of economic class interests. All other parties than the Socialist party represent one or another group of the ruling capitalist class. Their political conflicts reflect merely superficial rivalries between competing capitalist groups. However they result, these conflicts have no issue of real value to the workers. Whether the Democrats or Republicans win politically, it is the capitalist class that is victorious economically.

The Socialist party is the political expression of the economic interests of the workers. Its defeats have been their defeats and its victories their victories. It is a party founded on the science and laws of social development. It proposes that, since all social necessities to-day are socially produced, the means of their production and distribution shall be socially owned and democratically controlled.