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Populism Farmer’s Blues •from 1860 to 1900 urban population doubled •farming was briefly profitable after the Civil War •favorable prices from grain led to a concentration of a single money crop grown in the Great Plains such as wheat or corn •farmer’s began mortgaging their property to put more land into cultivation and buy new equipment •new equipment was developed for farming in the late 1800s cornhuskers corn binders steam powered threshers •farming began to mechanize more capital needed machines needed up keep and repair added to financial risks •1870s, worsening conditions in rural America caused many farmers to abandon their farms •changes in farming practices and the agricultural marketplace made farmers more dependent on commercial decisions made by big city businessmen ba. the depression of 1873 caused a major decline in farm prices bb. supply exceeded demand •1886, drought hit the Midwest causing more problems for farmers c. farmers had little money and high debt •my mid-1880s, Midwestern farmers had the highest per capita debt in the US ca. many farmers suffered foreclosure Farm Problems 1 . Single Money Crop - farmers tied themselves to the production of single crop which was good if the price were high but led to many bankruptcies when the price was too low 2. Lack of Currency - growth of Big Business in the Northeast led to a scramble for available currency 3. High Interests Rates - With a short money supply, interest rates went as high as 40% charged by Eastern loan companies causing as many as 1/4 of the farms in the Midwest to be run by tenants rather than owners 4. High Property Taxes - over-valued land resulted in over-assessed local and state taxes 5. High Tariffs a. Eastern industry was benefited by the high tariffs of the era and burdened the farmers. b. Low-priced produce was sold in a competitive world market place while high priced manufacture goods were protected in the home markets. 6. Nature's Rampage (Acts of God) a. Insect infestation destroyed millions of acres of crops - grasshoppers in the Midwest, boll weevils in the South Enterprise, Alabama has a statue of a boll weevil b. Flooding and soil erosion followed by cycles of drought in the trans-Mississippi West after 1886, and Western Kansas 1887. c. At least 1/2 of Western Kansas migrated back to the East by 1891 - "In God We Trusted, In Kansas We Busted." 7. Storage and or Shipping Fees a. Farmers had to pay for the storage of their produce which reduced their profits. b. Railroads sometimes charged more in shipping fees than the produce was worth, making it cheaper to burn the grain sometimes as fuel than to ship it to market 8. No National Organization – Although by 1890 almost one-half of the population was engaged in farming, they remained poorly organized, being by nature individualistic and independent Tariff Policy tariffs helped lower farm prices but kept other prices high were good for industry, but bad for farmers protected against competition economic nationalism government's control of money supply was known as monetary policy more money=inflation=higher prices less money=deflation=lower prices farmers desired "cheap money" policies believed that rising prices for their crops would enable them to pay back their loans more easily g. Gold Bugs – 1873, Congress put U.S. on a gold standard ga. money supply would be limited by amount of gold held by the government h. Silverites wanted the free and unlimited coining of silver dollars ~ free silver ha. 1878, Bland-Allison Act required the government to purchase and coin more silver hb. 1890, Sherman Silver Purchase Act increased the amount of silver the govt. was required to purchase each month hba. fixed the government's monthly purchase of silver in weight rather than dollars hbb. repealed in 1893 i. Greenback Party formed to get government to increase circulation of paper money j. in the 1880s, American Presidents most often protected the interests of business and industry Organizing Farmer Protest a. Oliver H. Kelley founded the National Grange of Patrons of Husbandry, a.k.a. the Grange, to help farmers aa. set up cooperatives, warehouses, insurance companies, and worked for legislation to regulate business that farmer’s depended on ab. helped establish the first mail order business aba. Montgomery-Ward and Co. founded 1872 b. J.C. Penney opened "Golden Rule" stores in the West c. 1880s, many farmers joined Farmer’s Alliances d. Farmer’s Alliances worked for: regulation of railroads (lower rates), more money in circulation, creation of state departments of agriculture, antitrust laws, and farm credit da. its goals were outlined at its 1890 national convention in Ocala, Florida daa. the National Farmers Alliance adopted its Ocala Platform dab. led to creation of a third party, the People's Party e. Mary Elizabeth Lease gave fiery speeches on behalf of the Alliance and the Knights of Labor f. in the 1880s, American Presidents most often protected the interests of business and industry g. in every Presidential election from 1876 to 1892, no candidate won a majority of the popular vote h. the Interstate Commerce Act was designed to eliminate abuses by powerful railroad companies •Hatch Act funded agricultural experimental stations to be located in most states to study farming techniques, crop diseases, crop uses and abuses in order to reverse the trend of top-soil erosion, the result of poor land management and crude farming methods •February 1889, Department of Agriculture was elevated to a Cabinet level position as farming became big business The People’s Party b. People's Party formed in Kansas June 1890 c. Southern Alliance + Farmers' Mutual Benefit Association + Colored Farmers' Alliance met in Ocala Florida to draw up a list of grievances adopted the Ocala Platform Ocala Platform (1) Labor representatives called for the creation of a new party (2) Southern representatives resisted its formation, fearing a rise in Black power. 3. Those who favored a national effort were frustrated by the failure of agrarian efforts to liberalize the Democratic Party or get Republicans to listen to their demands and were encouraged by successes at the state level when unified, and therefore met to unite in 1892. 4. Issues raised a. Regulation and government ownership of railroads, telegraph and telephones b. Free Unlimited Coinage of Silver -- their major issue c. The issuance by the federal government of legal tender notes and the abolition of national banks as banks of currency issue d. A graduated income tax e. A "sub-treasury plan" (Southern innovation) to permit farmers to receive loans against their nonperishable produce when prices were low by storing the goods in government warehouses until prices went up and then selling the goods and repaying the loans. f. A parcel post to combat the express companies g. An 8 -hour day for wage earners h. Immigration restrictions of undesirables i. Popular election of US Senators j. Electoral innovations such as initiative, referendum and the secret ballot. k. Restricting land ownership to US citizens 1. At first calling for full civil rights for all citizens (Black members who could not vote were no good to the party), the People's Party met resistance to this in the South where it was feared that Blacks would gain political power Organization of the Populist Party a. A national meeting in Cincinnati 19 May 1891 with 1400 delegates from 32 states planned independent action from the major parties b. February 1892 - People's Party of the USA was formed in St. Louis with 800 delegates •People’s Party became the Populist Party The Populists 1892, met in Omaha, Troy adopted Omaha Platform a. Omaha Platform was the first platform of the Populist Party that evolved out of the 1892 national convention aa. supported increased circulation of money ab. free and unlimited silver coinage baa. believed that most of the United States economic problems would be solved by establishing currency reform ac. progressive income tax ad. government ownership of communication and transportation ae. 8 hr. work day (to attract urban votes) b. Populist Party was a coalition of farmers, laborers, and reformers •formed in reaction to abuse of power by banks and railroads c. Election of 1892 ca. Populist's candidate James B. Weaver was defeated by Grover Cleveland (Democrat) •polled over one million votes, carrying Colorado, Kansas. Idaho and Nevada with 22 electoral votes caa. Populists gained 14 seats in Congress and 2 governorships Bryan's "Cross of Gold" a. William Jennings Bryan won support of populists aa. supported the unlimited coinage of silver- “free silver” ab. believed more money in circulation would help poor farmers b. Bryan ran as a Populist and as Democrat in 1896 •to keep a separate identity, Populist nominated Tom Watson (GA) vice-president ba. won almost half of the popular vote bb. lost the election because he could not carry the urban and industrial centers c. Bryan delivered his famous Cross of Gold speech during the campaign ..You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold. Populism's Legacy a. Gold discovery in Alaska (1890s) meant more money and helped to end the money crisis b. by 1896, Populists had declined but their ideas entered the mainstream Wizard of Oz (1900) was based on a Populist theme Why Populism Failed as a Viable Third Party Effort (1) Southern farmers did not abandon the Democratic Party White supremacist feared 3rd party- “danger to unite the poor” (2) Nationally, Democrats embraced the key Populist issue, free coinage of silver, which spelled their doom as a serious political party effort (3) Farmers entered into a period of relative prosperity from 1897 - 1920, making money more plentiful and lessening the demands for extreme financial reforms a common characteristic of third political parties in the United States is that they tend to focus on one person or one issue