Farmers RevoltThis print version free essay Farmers Revolt.
Category: American History
Autor: reviewessays 09 December 2010
Words: 938 | Pages: 4
From the early beginnings of America to well into the nineteenth century, America has been dominantly an agricultural country. Farming and the country life have always been a great part of the American culture. Thomas Jefferson even expressed his gratitude for the farming class by saying
Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God,
if ever He had a chosen people, whose breasts He,
has made His peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.
The American culture was built upon farming and agriculture but since the end of the civil war and the abolition of slaves, things have changed dramatically to the American lifestyle. This time brought on the Industrial Revolution which sparked many factories and new ways of transportation across America. There were many acts passed to encourage the agricultural lifestyle still such as the Homestead Act of 1862, the Timber Culture Act of 1873, the Desert Land Act of 1877, and the Timber and Stone Act passed in 1878. As a result of these acts, farm income dropped and new machines and methods or systems to farm such as sharecropping and tenant farming became available and made it much easier to increase crop yields. The people who had the smaller farms, uncultivated land, or limited resources could not compete against the farms who were bigger, better, and more modernized with the new technology. After many people failed on the farms, they were seen heading to the urban areas for employment in factories. In an effort to save rural America, the Populist Party was formed by mainly Southern and Western farmers. The main goal for this party was to try and solve the problems which plagued most of the farmers around the country. In the election of 1896, the Populists almost captured the seat in the oval office, but were unsuccessful. In the end they failed. The farmers in the late nineteenth century were plagued with many different problems which the Populist Party sought to resolve but in the end by not gaining control of the executive branch failed.
Many different things attributed to the plight in the late nineteenth century of the farmers. The American farmer faced many problems from the protective tariffs which caused great overproduction of foods such as corn, wheat, and cotton (docs 3,5), speculation in farm products, over-greedy middlemen, and exorbitant transportation rates. The farmers in the west were also losing money to banks in the east. The banks were giving the farmers a high interest rate which they could not easily pay. (doc 2) The transportation rates put the farmers in debt greatly. To find new markets to sell their goods, farmers needed to ship their food else where and find new customers. To do this, farmers needed to transport their food, usually by train. When they would do this the railroad companies would charge much more for the farmer than the big businessman because the businessmen would give donations to the railroad companies while the small farmers would not. To make up for the low rates the railroads were charging the businessmen, the farmers were made to pay more to make up for the price cut. The farmers had many problems which needed to be fixed. This brought the creation of the Populist Party which would try and win the election of 1896 and help the farmers in their time of need.
The Populist Party was formed around 1891-1892 when the Farmers' Alliance merged with the Knights of Labor. The Populist Party was out to battle with the railroads and banking interest all to help save the farmers. They nominated James Weaver to run for president in 1892. The Populist Party demanded a graduated income tax, which would later become the 16th amendment, and argued that transportation should become a means of trade exchange and a means of public transportation. The Populists felt that the railroads should be government owned and operated for the better interest of the people (docs 1,6), which was known as the Interstate Commerace Act. The populists also fought for silver coinage, secret ballots, 1 term presidency, direct election of senators, shorter work days and restriction on immigration. Weaver won over one million votes, in that election. In the election of 1896, William Jennings Bryan was the Populist nominee. "Boy Bryan" was a democrat but still had populist beliefs. Bryan delivered the famous "Cross of Gold Speech" where he praised farmers and denounced the bankers for trying to "crucify mankind on a Cross of Gold." Bryan won much support with this speech but lost the election. Many people felt that Bryan's loss, was the people's loss as in document 4. The defeat meant the "defeat of the young by the old and silly." The loss was mainly due to the fact that Bryan pushed for the coinage of silver, while his running mate, Tom E. Watson, didn't like the idea and knew it would keep them out of office, Watson was right.
The Populist Party, though it had its great swagger and was nicknamed the "people's party" failed for many reasons. One reason was because half of the party wanted to merge with the Democratic Party while the other half wanted to stay and retain their own identity. Another reason was that the party only looked to better the life of farmers and didn't really appeal to other people. These are the reasons why the Populist Party failed and later died out.