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Populism United States History II. Deflation  Prices for crops declined precipitously, 1866-1900  Experts blamed overproduction  Farmers sold at harvest,

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Presentation on theme: "Populism United States History II. Deflation  Prices for crops declined precipitously, 1866-1900  Experts blamed overproduction  Farmers sold at harvest,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Populism United States History II

2 Deflation  Prices for crops declined precipitously,  Experts blamed overproduction  Farmers sold at harvest, when prices were low; processors sold in winter, when prices were higher  Appreciating currency exacerbated problem  GNP increased from $9.1 billion to 35.4 billion,  Amount of currency in circulation per capita declined from $30.20 in 1865 to $27.06 in 1890  “Crime of 1873” – Congress ended coinage of silver  Resumption Act of 1879 – greenbacks brought to parity with gold dollars

3 Railroads  Large shippers got rebates & discounts  Charged more for short hauls than long hauls  Stock watered down to benefit Eastern creditors

4 Other Grievances  Trusts fixed prices on commodities farmers bought  Farmers heavily mortgaged to Eastern banks  Land, houses and equipment often mortgaged  Kansas: over 11,000 foreclosures,  Farmers bore brunt of taxation – couldn’t hide or undervalue assets like corporations

5 The Grange  Patrons of Husbandry (Grange) had 1.5 million members by 1874  Lobbied state governments successfully:  Munn v. Illinois (1877) - Supreme Court upheld right of state gov’ts to regulate private property when clothed with a public interest  Wabash Railroad v. Illinois (1886) - Supreme Court ruled states couldn’t regulate railroads  Congress created Interstate Commerce Commission (1887) in response  Regulated railroad rates & outlawed rebates & pools  Only limited effectiveness, however

6 The Farmers’ Alliance  Farmers’ Alliance had 1.5 million members, Colored Alliance 1 million members by 1890  Sherman Silver Purchase Act (1890):  Treasury required to buy 4.5 million ounces of silver each month  Issued certificates redeemable in silver or gold at 16:1 ratio  Sub-Treasury Plan:  Farmers could store harvested crops in gov’t warehouses  Would get gov’t loans for up to 80% of value at 1% interest in new legal-tender notes

7 Populist Hymn My Party Led Me, by S. T. Johnson Tune: “All The Way My Saviour Leads Me” All the way my party led me. And they robbed me ev'ry day. But I did not see my folly Till my home was took away. Mortgaged farmers, wives and children, Rally to the Alliance call, For, if you should longer tarry, Money kings will have it all. For if you should longer tarry, Money kings will have it all. Source: Irwin Silber, Songs America Voted By

8 The People’s Party  Founded at Omaha Convention in 1892  Leader & platform writer was Ignatius Donnelly  Candidate James B. Weaver had been Greenbacks’ candidate in 1880 election  Tried to appeal to all reformers, urban and rural: called for free silver, greenbacks, gov’t ownership of railroads & communication, graduated income tax, direct election of U.S. Senators, 8-hour day, & immigration restriction  Reached out to blacks & labor, esp. Western miners

9 The Omaha Platform (1892) Copyright 2000, Bedford/St. Martin’s

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11 The Democratic-Populist Fusion, 1896  Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan & platform called for “Free Silver”  Populists nominated Bryan, too  “Gold Bug” Democrats joined Republicans in voting for William McKinley Bryan addressing the Democratic Convention

12 1896 Political Cartoon

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14 Copyright 2000, Bedford/St. Martin’s

15 Why the Populists Failed  Despite 1896 fusion with Democrats, southern states ran Populist-Republican fusion tickets: led to confusion  Attacked by opponents as cranks & hicks  Too naive and too diverse - constituencies easily picked off, as with all third parties  However, many of the reforms they advocated were adopted within 20 years


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