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Farmers’ Grievances and the People’s Party Q: Did farmers respond effectively to the problems confronting them in the Gilded Age?

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Presentation on theme: "Farmers’ Grievances and the People’s Party Q: Did farmers respond effectively to the problems confronting them in the Gilded Age?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Farmers’ Grievances and the People’s Party Q: Did farmers respond effectively to the problems confronting them in the Gilded Age?

2 I. Overview: Agrarian Revolt Imp. theme late-19 th : organizations (workers, biz, farmers) based on belief that in complex industrial soc’y  individual has little power Imp. theme late-19 th : organizations (workers, biz, farmers) based on belief that in complex industrial soc’y  individual has little power Reaction to hardships of rural life + failure of Western dreams Reaction to hardships of rural life + failure of Western dreams Doc H Doc H Stages: Granges (early 1870s), White Hats + Farmers’ Alliances (1880s), Populists (1890s) Stages: Granges (early 1870s), White Hats + Farmers’ Alliances (1880s), Populists (1890s) People’s Party / Populists: People’s Party / Populists: primarily South + Midwest farmers primarily South + Midwest farmers Believed abandoned by 2 parties: toadies of industrial + commercial powers  most sig. 3 rd party challenge Believed abandoned by 2 parties: toadies of industrial + commercial powers  most sig. 3 rd party challenge Produce visions truly cooperative and democratic society Produce visions truly cooperative and democratic society

3 II. Farmers’ Alliances A. Organizing Discontent Began social org. late 1880s: venue for conversation, lectures, dances  made explicit complaints about industrialization/urbanization Began social org. late 1880s: venue for conversation, lectures, dances  made explicit complaints about industrialization/urbanization Sectional movements: Great Plains (2 million), South (1889: 2 million) Sectional movements: Great Plains (2 million), South (1889: 2 million) West (smaller, closer to labor radicals) West (smaller, closer to labor radicals) Division over tariff: North (R): high to keep out foreign grain; South (D): low to keep down cost ind. goods Division over tariff: North (R): high to keep out foreign grain; South (D): low to keep down cost ind. goods + Racial divide [Colored Farmers’ National Alliance (1+ million)] + Racial divide [Colored Farmers’ National Alliance (1+ million)] + Civil War Party loyalty (S: D= white supremacy; N: R= Union)  unable to unite effectively to solve problems before Civil War Party loyalty (S: D= white supremacy; N: R= Union)  unable to unite effectively to solve problems before 1892

4 B. Farmers’ Grievances 1) Monetary Policy + Debt Deflation (gold standard): economy rapid growth, gold supply not  value of $ up (good for creditors, bad for debtors) Deflation (gold standard): economy rapid growth, gold supply not  value of $ up (good for creditors, bad for debtors) 1865: $30/1,000 people1900: $27/1, : $30/1,000 people1900: $27/1,000 Hard money (biz/banks) vs. soft (farmers/debtors) Hard money (biz/banks) vs. soft (farmers/debtors) Crop lien system: unable borrow banks  merchants Crop lien system: unable borrow banks  merchants

5 2. Railroads Transport costs too high, esp. in remote areas Transport costs too high, esp. in remote areas RxRs had too much power: virtual monopoly over freight rates RxRs had too much power: virtual monopoly over freight rates High rates on short hauls to compensate for lower rates on more competitive long hauls  1887 Interstate Commerce Act (DOC B, C) High rates on short hauls to compensate for lower rates on more competitive long hauls  1887 Interstate Commerce Act (DOC B, C) But legal action against RxRs stymied by deep pockets of high-priced delay But legal action against RxRs stymied by deep pockets of high-priced delay [Still a common practice, esp. product liability (tobacco, asbestos, etc.)] [Still a common practice, esp. product liability (tobacco, asbestos, etc.)]

6 3. Decline in Prices Opening of West + new tech (DOC D)  overproduction  prices fall Opening of West + new tech (DOC D)  overproduction  prices fall Cost of goods + supplies stay high  farmers produce more  prices fall (DOC A, G, H) Cost of goods + supplies stay high  farmers produce more  prices fall (DOC A, G, H)

7 4. Middlemen Middlemen: stand between farmers and the market for their goods Middlemen: stand between farmers and the market for their goods Farmers had little power in market negotiations: charged too much for necessary equipment, seed, etc. Farmers had little power in market negotiations: charged too much for necessary equipment, seed, etc. 5. Tariffs High tariffs raised prices for consumers & hurt farmers  tariffs as tool of privileged business High tariffs raised prices for consumers & hurt farmers  tariffs as tool of privileged business Main source of revenue for Fed Gov’t before income tax Main source of revenue for Fed Gov’t before income tax

8 III. Rise of Populism Rising membership + political gains (esp. Kansas) + disappointment major parties  1892 form national party: People’s Party Rising membership + political gains (esp. Kansas) + disappointment major parties  1892 form national party: People’s Party Not just another special interest: farmers backbone society— William Jennings Bryan: tear down the cities and leave the farms, and the cities will revive; tear down the farms and all collapses Not just another special interest: farmers backbone society— William Jennings Bryan: tear down the cities and leave the farms, and the cities will revive; tear down the farms and all collapses Doc J Doc J Producer Ethic: those who produce things social needs should be respected and rewarded Producer Ethic: those who produce things social needs should be respected and rewarded those who benefited most seemed to be doing the least: bankers just shuffle paper, investors make unearned profits those who benefited most seemed to be doing the least: bankers just shuffle paper, investors make unearned profits  moral issue: cities corrupting US  moral issue: cities corrupting US

9 IV. Populist Rhetoric and Goals A. Radicals or Reactionaries? Mary Elizabeth Lease: raise “less corn and more Hell!” (DOC G) Mary Elizabeth Lease: raise “less corn and more Hell!” (DOC G) Preamble to People Party’s platform, 1892: Preamble to People Party’s platform, 1892: “…The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind, and the possessors of these in turn despise the Republic and endanger liberty.” “…The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind, and the possessors of these in turn despise the Republic and endanger liberty.” “…A vast conspiracy against mankind has been organized on two continents, and it is rapidly taking possession of the world. If not met and overthrown at once it forebodes terrible social convulsions, the destruction of civilization, and or the establishment of an absolute despotism.” “…A vast conspiracy against mankind has been organized on two continents, and it is rapidly taking possession of the world. If not met and overthrown at once it forebodes terrible social convulsions, the destruction of civilization, and or the establishment of an absolute despotism.” Wanted nation of small capitalists; object not to capitalism per se, but only abuse by big capitalists Wanted nation of small capitalists; object not to capitalism per se, but only abuse by big capitalists

10 B. Goals 1. Gov’t ownership of RxR (Wabash  Interstate Commerce Act, 1887: later undermined) 1. Gov’t ownership of RxR (Wabash  Interstate Commerce Act, 1887: later undermined) 2. Progressive income tax: shift burden from farmers to bankers (16 th Amend., 1913) 2. Progressive income tax: shift burden from farmers to bankers (16 th Amend., 1913) 3. “Free Silver”: unlimited minting inflate currency— Bryan: Cross of Gold Speech in 1896 convention (DOC J) 3. “Free Silver”: unlimited minting inflate currency— Bryan: Cross of Gold Speech in 1896 convention (DOC J) 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act (repealed in 1893 depression) 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act (repealed in 1893 depression) 4. Immigration restrictions (1920s) 4. Immigration restrictions (1920s) 5. Reform political process: secret ballots, initiatives, referendums, direct election US Senators (17 th, 1913) 5. Reform political process: secret ballots, initiatives, referendums, direct election US Senators (17 th, 1913)

11 6. Creation of the Subtreasury Subtreasury: gov’t owned and operated warehouse: farmers deposit crop and are able to take a loan of 80% of value and low interest (1%) Subtreasury: gov’t owned and operated warehouse: farmers deposit crop and are able to take a loan of 80% of value and low interest (1%) Farmers could wait out low prices Farmers could wait out low prices Designed to protect farmers from dramatic drop in prices Designed to protect farmers from dramatic drop in prices Gov’t loans to farmers to buy land Gov’t loans to farmers to buy land  $ into economy  inflation to raise crop prices w/o other prices up  $ into economy  inflation to raise crop prices w/o other prices up Gov’t subsidizes other biz, why not farmers? Gov’t subsidizes other biz, why not farmers? Sort of Agriculture Adjustment Act Sort of Agriculture Adjustment Act

12 V. Election of 1896 and the Decline of Populism Populists never found a viable presidential candidate: W.J. Bryan perennial “also ran” Populists never found a viable presidential candidate: W.J. Bryan perennial “also ran” Attempted an alliance with other groups: northern workers, but: Attempted an alliance with other groups: northern workers, but: 1) Workers opposed soft money: wanted wages to be worth something 1) Workers opposed soft money: wanted wages to be worth something 2) Workers objected to high costs of agricultural products (food) 2) Workers objected to high costs of agricultural products (food)

13 3) Many farmers were in fact employers and capitalists: didn’t necessarily want fair deal for farm workers 3) Many farmers were in fact employers and capitalists: didn’t necessarily want fair deal for farm workers Samuel Gompers: could never be a lasting alliance between employing farmers and employed farmer workers Samuel Gompers: could never be a lasting alliance between employing farmers and employed farmer workers Farmers were basically capitalists (despite anti- capitalist rhetoric): investment in land, equipment, labor Farmers were basically capitalists (despite anti- capitalist rhetoric): investment in land, equipment, labor

14 Populists tried to form an alliance with Democrats: W.J. Bryan and Tom Watson run on the Democratic ticket in 1896 Populists tried to form an alliance with Democrats: W.J. Bryan and Tom Watson run on the Democratic ticket in 1896 Bryan wins parts of the Midwest and South, but nowhere else Bryan wins parts of the Midwest and South, but nowhere else Republicans succeed in painting WJB as a financial radical, workers turned away, and some turned off by WJB’s strong evangelical style (seen as a redneck preacher) Republicans succeed in painting WJB as a financial radical, workers turned away, and some turned off by WJB’s strong evangelical style (seen as a redneck preacher)

15 1897: Pres. McKinley raises tariff to new high 1897: Pres. McKinley raises tariff to new high 1900: gold discoveries  return gold standard 1900: gold discoveries  return gold standard Crop prices slow rise  death silver movement + Populists Crop prices slow rise  death silver movement + Populists However: many reforms completed by Progressives However: many reforms completed by Progressives

16 Cultural Legacy “The Wizard of Oz” The dangerous Yellow Brick Road (Gold) The dangerous Yellow Brick Road (Gold) Dorothy’s Silver Slippers (only made ruby in the film) save her Dorothy’s Silver Slippers (only made ruby in the film) save her Tin-Man: dehumanized industrial workers (needs a heart) Tin-Man: dehumanized industrial workers (needs a heart) Scarecrow: confused farmers (needs a brain) Scarecrow: confused farmers (needs a brain) Lion: Bryan (needs courage to fight the power) Lion: Bryan (needs courage to fight the power) Wicked Witch of the East: Wall Street Bankers Wicked Witch of the East: Wall Street Bankers Munchkins: the people controlled by the Witch Munchkins: the people controlled by the Witch The Wizard: the President The Wizard: the President Flying monkeys: ? Possibly blacks Flying monkeys: ? Possibly blacks


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