2 Frustrated with the laissez-faire attitude of the federal government, the cycle of falling prices, scarce money, debt, drought, and skyrocketing railroad prices, farmers in the West organized the Populist party in 1890.
3 The prices of farm commodities fell between 1860 – 1890: corn sold at 63 cents a bushel in 1881 and 28 cents a bushel in 1890.
4 Overall, those farmers who had good land (not overused or drought-stricken) and lived close to railroad transportation did well; others did not.
5 Farmers joined the Alliance (Populist Party) at the rate of 1,000 per week; the Kansas Alliance claimed 130,000 members in 1890.
6 The Populists supported black and white farmers, and some Populists leaders in the South were threatened with lynching for their position on black farmers.
7 As the economy worsened in the 1890s, Populists gained strength As the economy worsened in the 1890s, Populists gained strength. Coxey’s Army (thousands of protestors) marched to Washington to demand government-sponsored jobs paid for with paper currency.
8 On July 4, 1892, the Populists Party convention in Omaha, Nebraska, demanded reforms to lift the burden of debt from farmers and other workers and to give the people a greater voice in their government.
9 The Goals of the Populist Party: Tariff reduction (tax on foreign goods imported into a country)Graduated income taxPublic ownership of railroadsPopular election of senators
10 Currency Reform:Since silver was removed as a currency in 1873, farmers had pushed for the unlimited coinage of silver in order to increase the money supply, which in turn would produce a rise in prices received for goods and services.
11 A federal loan program for farmers Single terms for the president and vice-presidentA secret ballotEight-hour workdayRestrictions on immigration
12 In 1892, the Populist Presidential candidate won more than one million votes; almost 10% of the total vote. The Populists elected five senators, three governors and about 1,500 state legislators.
13 The panic of 1893 made the economy worse for farmers: several railroads went bankrupt; the iron and steel industries collapsed, as did the stock market; banks stopped giving loans; gold reserves fell as people panicked and traded paper money for gold. By the end of the year, about 15,000 businesses and 600 banks had folded. Three million people lost their jobs.
14 In the 1896 presidential election, the two parties were deeply divided: the Republicans were businessmen and bankers and the farmers and workers of the South and West were Democrats.
15 The central issue was money: should money be based on the gold standard, or should it be based on silver, making the paper dollar more available. The free “silverists” believed if money was based on silver, more currency would stimulate the economy.
16 In the election of 1896, the Populists joined the Democrats in supporting William Jennings Bryan, a strong supporter of silver interests which he argued eloquently in his “Cross of Gold” speech.
17 Bryan was defeated by Republican William McKinley, a conservative supporter of business and high tariffs.
18 That farmers and workers could organize politically. With McKinley’s election, the Populists collapsed. But two powerful legacies remained:That farmers and workers could organize politically.Reforms were needed in the US – the Progressives would pick up where the Populists left off.