What important laws were passed at the national level during the Gilded Age?

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urthona eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Notable federal laws enacted during the Gilded Age (1870–90) include:

  • the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, which established federal regulation of the railroads. It outlawed collusion between railroads and prohibited many types of price discrimination. Wealthy business leaders in the Northeast opposed the legislation, but farmers and small business owners, particularly in the West, supported it.
  • the McKinley Tariff of 1890, which raised tariffs (taxes on goods that cross national borders). Tariffs were a controversial issue because many business leaders and citizens supported tariffs as a way to support American businesses and increase U.S. economic growth. Cotton and tobacco growers in the South, however, strongly opposed tariffs because other countries retaliated by placing tariffs on U.S. cotton and tobacco exports.
  • the silver coinage acts, the Bland-Allison Act of 1878 and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, which increased the federal government’s minting of silver coins. The resulting increase in the nation's money supply helped farmers and workers pay their debts, counteracting 30 years (1865-1895) of deflation (a decrease in the general price level). Wealthy business leaders feared the Act would lower faith in U.S. currency and harm the nation's economy.