2 Big Idea for the Populists: America was changing from a rural, agricultural nation to an industrial, urban nation. Change brings tension and conflict!
3 How did industrialization impact farmers? Benefits:Industrialization = mechanization of farming. Farmers could produce more crops with less laborMore markets for their crops: With the growth of the railroads, farmers could sell their crops in distant markets, hopefully, for better pricesDrawbacks:Overproduction: mechanization = increase in supply = falling prices!Monopolies: railroads would jack up prices on farmers (only one RR company would service a particular town)High taxes: with more people moving to cities, less people owned large amounts of land. Taxes were assessed on landownership (which farmers had a lot of)Debt: machinery was expensive; falling prices = inability to pay off loansPolitical corruption: monopolies used power of government to promote their own economic interest (at the expense of farmers and workers)
4 How does rural America respond? Gilded Age Politics 101: Rural America traditionally supported the Democratic Party BUT the increase of immigrants in big cities caused the Democratic Party to shift its focus. The policies that the Democrats promoted were often influenced not by what was in the interest of rural, farmers BUT what was in the best interest of urban, immigrants who worked in an industrial economy. The Republican Party was considered the party of Big Business. Farmers felt that they lacked a voice in national politics so they created the Populist Party, a third party.
5 What is a third party?Third Party: A party that addresses an issue or represents a group that the two major parties (Democrats and Republicans) are ignoring.Examples:Right to Life Party: abortionGreen Party: environmentKnow-Nothing Party: anti-immigrantPopulist Party: farming
6 The Populist Party Platform ProblemSolutionDescriptionRailroad monopolies were raising prices on farmers looking to ship their crops Interstate Commerce ActHave the government pass a law to take over or heavily control/regulate the railroad industry to prevent them from charging exorbitant rates.Overproduction: too many crops were being produced due to the mechanization of farmingTariff on European farm goods (not just on industrial goods) In order to reduce the supply of crops, place an import tax (a tariff) on European crops coming into America. This would make them more expensive and therefore discourage Europeans from exporting them.
7 The Populist Party Platform High taxes: in the days prior to the income tax, farmers bore a heavy tax burden due to the property (land) tax A graduated or progressive tax on income (later became the 16th Amendment)A tax on individual’s income (rather than just the property they own) would help to shift the tax burden to all the residents of cities who don’t own lots of land. The more money you make, the more you pay.Political corruption: monopolies and big business were bribing elected officials to promote their own interests Direct election of US Senators by the people (not states)In order to prevent businesses from bribing U.S. Senators, have the people directly elect the Senators (rather than have the state legislatures pick them).
8 The Populist Party Platform Too much debt! Farmers were in debt due to overproduction, the cost of machinery, and a restrictive money supply that benefited Wall Street banks and big corporationsBimetalism: paper money should be backed by both gold AND silver A shortage of gold caused a shortage of paper money, which made it hard for farmers to get loans and pay back their debts. Silver was more plentiful and if more silver was coined, more paper money would be available to help farmers pay down their debts.
9 The Populist Party Platform Big Idea: The Populists were the first political party to call for greater government regulation of the economy, meaning an end to Laissez-Faire Capitalism!
10 What Happened to the Populists? Prior to the presidential election of 1896, the Populist Party had so many followers that Democrats began to worry that they would lose the election if the Populist Party nominated their own presidential candidate. So the Democrats decided to run the candidate that the Populists wanted: William Jennings BryanBryan gave a very famous speech entitled “the Cross of Gold” speech at the Democratic Party’s nominating convention at which he announced the most important issue facing farmers: the value of money!“The Great Commoner”
11 The Value of MoneyFixed Currency v. Fiat Currency
12 The Value of Money Gold Standard Bimetallism (Gold + Silver) Monetary PolicyGold StandardBimetallism (Gold + Silver)What is it?The value of a dollar is fixed to a set amount of goldThe value of a dollar is fixed to a set amount of gold AND silver Conversion Rate1 oz of gold = $116 oz of silver = $1What does it mean for the money supply? LESS paper moneyMORE paper moneyWho supported it? Bankers and BusinessmenFarmers Explanation of why that group supported itThey control most of the nation’s gold supply. If more gold/silver is coined, their money loses value! More silver means more paper money (inflation). Farmers can pay off their debts and get higher prices for their crops!
15 What Happened to the Populists? In the end, the Republican Party candidate William McKinley defeated the Populist backed candidate William Jennings Bryan. McKinley convinced many immigrants and industrial workers that Bryan’s policies would hurt big business and put them out of a job. Those workers voted Republican on election day, leaving the Democratic Party with only the votes of farmers (a shrinking population). Even though the Populist movement failed to win the White House, the questions they raise about the Gilded Age and laissez-faire capitalism would be taken up in the early 1900s by the Progressives and many of their proposals would be made into law.
16 Big Idea for the Populists: America was changing from a rural, agricultural nation to an industrial, urban nation. Change brings tension and conflict!
17 The Wizard of Oz and the Populists Dorothy’s Slippers:Originally silver, not ruby. Symbol for pro-silver policy of Populist.Yellow Brick Road“Gold” road symbolizes danger – like the danger of the Gold Standard for the PopulistsOzAbbreviation for “ounce” – the measurement for gold and silver
18 The Wizard of Oz and the Populists DorothyTraditional, RURAL American valuesScarecrow (no brain)Symbol of farmers: uneducated foolsTin ManSymbol of industrial workersNote: Neither man is capable of achieving goals on their own until they team up (exactly what populists were trying to do)
19 The Wizard of Oz and the Populists Symbol for the Power of MoneyWicked Witch of the EastSymbol for Wall Street bankers and brokersThe Lion (a pacifist)Symbol for William Jennings Bryan (a pacifist)