Farmer’s Problems -weather problems Drought and storms cause crops to fail – lose money -falling prices -increasing debt Farmers cannot pay for loans; banks foreclosing -dependant upon railroads Railroads over-charging farmers; no stopping -need for cheaper money deflation and inflation “What you farmers need to do is raise less corn and more hell!” ~Mary Elizabeth Lease
Railroad Abuses -construction graft Railroads making secret deals -bribes RR agents take money to allow for cheap shipment -stock watering Livestock drink water to make weight increase -unfair pricing long haul: cheaper short haul: more expensive -use of rebates for large customers (get money back) “There are three great crops raised in Nebraska. One is a crop of corn, one is a crop of freight rates, and one is a crop of interest. One is produced by farmers who sweat and toil the land. The other two are produced by men who sit in their offices…and farm the farmers.” ~ Nebraska Newspaper Editorial
The Grange -also called the Patrons of Husbandry -began as social group that evolved into political group -called for regulation of railroads -“Granger Laws”- mid-western state laws that regulated railroad abuses - Granger laws ruled unconstitutional in Wabash v. Illinois, 1887 -ICC- Interstate Commerce Act -Federal law regulates commerce -Grangers push for currency reform: Want to increase amount of money in circulation (gold and silver) “We believe that the time has come when the railroad corporations will either own the people or the people must own the railroads.” ~Omaha Platform, 1892
Populism – People’s Party -took the place of the Grange Influenced Democrats -strong mid-west support -reform based party Want changes -Omaha Platform, 1892 increase $ supply: gold AND silver money income tax (graduated) secret ballots 8 hour workday Immigration control “That we oppose any subsidy or national aid to any private corporation for any purpose.” ~Omaha Platform, 1892
Free Silver Crusade -Panic of 1893 Farmers in deep debt -nation enters a recession -many promote silver and gold standard for currency (bimetallism) -would create larger money supply -”greenbacks” issued based on silver and gold bullion reserves -Gold standard only would limit money supply as gold reserves were limited: everyone would have less money, but each dollar worth more Populists promoted “free silver,” in which money would be backed by gold and silver rather than gold alone. This would increase the money supply and lead to inflation, the rise of prices, which would allow them to charge more for their farm products. However, each dollar would be worth less than if backed by gold alone.
End of the Populists -1896 election -William McKinley-Rep. Gold Standard Using only gold to back all money (worth more) -William Jennings Bryan-Dem./Pop. Free Silver/bimetallism “Cross of Gold Speech” -McKinley wins election People fear inflation and not being able to afford goods and services -Populism dies William Jennings Bryan delivering the “Cross of Gold” speech in Omaha
“We reply that the great cities rest upon our broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country…” “Having behind us the producing mass of this nation…we answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify man upon a cross of Gold.” William Jennings Bryan, Democratic Convention Speech, 1896