World War I - Sample Essay

After the end of World War I, many Americans were left with a feeling of distrust toward foreigners, liberal reform movements, and organized labor. The Russian Revolution of 1917, and the founding of the communists’ Third International in 1919 added negative conceptions. Series of bombings and strikes were often rumored to be communist-inspired. During the ensuing Red Scare, civil liberties were sometimes grossly violated and many innocent aliens were deported.

The scare was over within a year, but political analysts viewed that the landslide victory of Warren Harding in 1920 is repudiation of Woodrow Wilson’s internationalism and of the reforms of the Progressive era. Harding was in-charged of restoring “normalcy”, as citizens aspire peace and prosperity to put the reminders of the past behind. Pro-business policies were mandated and disputes over unions, minimum wage laws, child labor were resolved. Secretary of Treasury Andrew Mellon, one of the nation’s richest men, drastically cut taxes, especially on the wealthy; he also cut federal spending to reduce national debt.

Congress gave in to the protests of organized labor, which believed immigrants were taking jobs away from American citizens, and to the objections of business leaders, and to the objections of business leaders and patriotic organizations, which feared that some of the immigrants might be radicals. The emergency restriction bill of 1924, the National Origins Act, reversed traditional policy and set a quota limiting the number of immigrants to 164, 000 annually (150,000 after July 1927). It discriminated against immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and barred Asians completely.

However, the quota did not pertain to North Americans. Calvin Coolidge, Harding’s vice president and successor, followed previous policies, and prosperity continued for most of the decade. From 1922 to 1929, stick dividends rose by 108 percent, corporate profits by 76 percent, and wages by 33 percent. In 1929, 4, 455, 100 passenger cars were sold by American factories, one for every 27 citizens. The wealthy benefited the most, whereas agriculture, textiles, and bituminous coal mining were seriously depressed. Many young and women rebelled against prewar conventions and attitudes.

Women who were forced to work outside the home because of labor shortages during the war were unwilling to give up their social and economic independence. Having won the right to vote when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920, demanded to be recognized as man’s equal in all areas. She adopted a masculine look, bobbing her hair and abandoning her corsets; she drank and smoked in public; and she was more open to sex. New consumer goods—radios, telephones, refrigerators, and above all the motor car—brought a modest level of comfort, which are easier to buy through the expanded consumer card system.

Rapid growth of tabloid newspapers, magazines, movies, and radios enabled millions to share in the exciting world of speakeasies, flappers, and jazz music. However, anti-foreign sentiment led to the revival of the racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan, especially in rural areas. The movement grew steadily until 1925, when John Scopes, a biology teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, was tried for violating a law common to many Southern states prohibiting the teaching of the theory of evolution.

He was found guilty, but the law itself and fundamentalist beliefs were ridiculed during the course of the trial, creating public agenda. In October 1929, only months after Hoover took office, the stock market crashed, and the average value of 50 leading stocks falling by almost half on two months. Industrial production soon followed the stock market, giving rise to the worst unemployment the country had ever seen. The Great depression was inevitable since stock prices were much in excess of real value, greatly accelerated every bad tendency, destroying confidence of investors and consumer alike.