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Farmer Discontent and Populism

by: Carina Sauter

Farmer Discontent and Populism HIST 2112

Marketplace > University of Georgia > History > HIST 2112 > Farmer Discontent and Populism
Carina Sauter
GPA 3.79

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About this Document

These notes discuss the actions western farmers take to protect their products and their actions against a laissez-faire government.
American History Since 1865
Dr. Rohrer
Class Notes
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Carina Sauter on Monday February 15, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to HIST 2112 at University of Georgia taught by Dr. Rohrer in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 21 views. For similar materials see American History Since 1865 in History at University of Georgia.


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Date Created: 02/15/16
Farmer Discontent and Populism I. Kansas in 2016 vs Kansas in 1896: A Tale of Two States • Key agricultural state • Today: o Conservative culturally, religiously, socially and politically § Not modern/ liberal/ progressive § Solid Republican state § Angelical Christian (pro-life, anti-gay) § Want small, laissez-faire government • Then o Aware of wealth in sectors o Famers are part of industrial system § Production – big market § Modern, industrialized America § Not opposed to idea of industrialization § Do not like how industrial world is organized and run • Think farmers are threatened by it • Exploited victims II. Farmers and the Threats of Industrialization • End of Independent, self-sufficient Yeoman Farmer o Believe industrialization is a threat to their agricultural way of life o Accustomed to being their own boss and a simple lifestyle o The “soddy” house – house made of sod § Not many trees – no lumber to build homes o American ideal for decades § Jefferson envisioned the country as a patchwork of self sufficient farmer families • Banks and Railroads o Thought institutions were only out there to exploit/ take advantage of farmers o Banks: § High interest rates for loans to build farms, buy tools, etc. § May only be one bank in small town – monopoly o Railroads: § Monopolistic railroads • Single rail line/ company § Charge outrageous rates to ship produce to population centers § Unfair and arbitrary • Overproduction: the REAL threat to farmers o Price of produce falls in 1890’s o 1870-1897 § wheat (huge crop): $1.06/ bushel à .60/bushel § corn: .43/ bushel à .30/bushel § cotton: .15/ pound à .06/pound o they blame and point to laissez-faire society but they should be blaming themselves § they overproduce § increase in acreage of farm land from homestead act of 1862 • federal government push to this type of lifestyle § increased yields/ acre because of efficient farming methods • agricultural colleges o Texas A&M, Kansas State, etc. o Young men learn scientific management § Ex. chemicals for crops o Learn about animals o Learn sophisticated techniques for crop rotation à lead to overproduction à supply > demand = price fall à bad for producer, good for consumer III. Farmers Take Action: Form Farming Alliances • “populists” o political view o highly democratic individuals valuing and promoting the “people” – everyday men/women over the elites tied to industry, banks and railroads o concentrated in Midwest, great plains; Kansas is emblematic o significant populist voice in the south o thought federal government should favor, promote and protect people like them § empathized with exploited industrial workers § NOT anti-industry § just want federal government to regulate industry § hate elites o populists are actually reactionary people because they oppose un- regulated present, but radial leading in politics because they are so assertive about de-concentrating wealth § almost socialism/communism § fiscally liberal – want large/active federal government • Two main alliances (like unions in NE) o Patrons of Husbandry (ex. The Grange) § Want political change § Goals: • Regulation of railroad rates • Regulation of grain houses for storage to hold until price increases • Farmer’s credit o Loans • Rural free delivery – do not have to go to post office • Direct election of senators • “silver standard” • women’s suffrage • prohibition § wide scale, national, social, agricultural organization founded in 1867 for farmers § 1870’s depression: farm products are low, shipping prices are high, interest rates are high • feel like they are losing political power to industrial business § > 850,000 members in 1870’s § > any single organization for workers § little success • greater regulation of railroads and shipping rates • but as economy improved, membership tanked o 1880’s: 150,000 people • 1890’s: social institution rather than political/economic o The National Farmer’s Alliance § Take place of The Grange § Precursor to the populist party § Goals: • Fight for government regulation of transportation • Fight for graduated income tax (like unions in East) • Adoption of silver standard o Wanted money supply to be based on silver, not gold o Because the silver standard led to inflation: rising prices – items will be more expensive o Allow in-debt farmers to pay off debts/mortgages to cheaper dollar § Directly lead to formation to national political party – strong and short lived IV. Populist Party rd • One of the most successful 3 party in US history • “People’s Party” • economic depressions (1870’s-1890’s) • drought • tenant farmers in debt • allies, like industrial workers, thought they needed more than a union à a new political party for the people • success in state legislature o ex. Kansas • 1892: national party was founded with merge of Knight of Labor and alliances • James Weaver: first populist runner o Held (2) meetings to discuss the concerns and goals of party • Populist demands: o Public Ownership of Railroads o Direct Election of Senators o Graduated Income Tax o No protective tarrifs for industry § Benefit domestic goods o “Subtreasury” System § provide farmers access to public owned grain elevators § access to low interest government loans o Free Coinage of Silver/Silver Standard • Election of 1896 – McKinley vs. Bryan o Died after election o Republican McKinley vs. Populist William Jennings Bryan o Bryan: nominated by democratic and populist parties BUT § Was it a fusion of party? No. • More populist than democratic ideas § Views, goals and campaign are populist run § Lost – population center in NE is repthlican • Populist ideas from 1870’s - 1890’s stay with us to 20 century o Party dies, ideas do not § Teddy Roosevelt (Republicans) resurrected populist planks and re- introduced them • Federal regulation of industry • Progressive party has many of same ideas • Direct election of senators • Graduated income tax


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