The Rise of Populism

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  • Created by: Lily
  • Created on: 05-05-13 16:15

Why were farmers so angry before 1890?

  • Life was hard, lonely and only made worse by climatic threats, e.g severe droughts
  • Dramatic falls in prices, e.g wheat (per bushel) 1870 - $1.06, 1897 - 63c
  • Overseas competition - high tariffs
  • Increase in domestic production due to mechanisation
  • Railroads - high charges to use (higher than big businesses)
  • Credit was tight/low commodity prices = difficult to obtain loans
  • Hard to get a good price for their crops
  • Gold standard favoured big business
  • "Bonanza Farms" -owned by companies
  • Government hostile to the interests of farmers
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The rise of the Populist Party

  • National Farmers Alliance, Southern Alliance & Patrons of Husbandry set up to voice the concerns of the farmers.
  • By working with existing political parties, by 1890 they were able to field several candidates for state/national office.
  • In 1892 the Populist Party was born with James Weaver as candidate
  • DEMANDS - government ownership and operation of the railroad/telephone/telegraph.
  • Appealed to "fellow producers" in the cities and work togetehr against Big Business.
  • Terrified the businessmen/conservative politicians

1892 ELECTION - LITTLE TO FEAR - Made very little headway against industrial workers, despite winning a million votes. In the South, even amongst farmers, the Democratic party ruled supreme.

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Clevelands Second Term

  • Dominated by financial issues
  • "Panic of 1893" - economic depression caused by a drain on gold reserves
  • Cleveland "government interference would only make things worse, careful money supply managment would help rather than high spending"
  • Silver Purchase Act 1890 (increased the amount of silver to back currency) was then repealed by Cleveland and he then negotiated with JP Morgan, a deal for a $62 million loan and refused to alter the tariff. 
  • Overall it was thought that Cleveland did very little

These measures by Cleveland convinced people that the President was just a tool of big business and did not care about ordinary citizens.

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The 1896 Campaign

  • The Republicans chose William Mckinley - a friend of big business who was closely associated with the 1890 Tariff and called for an increase in the tariff and a deflationary economic policy.
  • The Democrats chose William Jennings Bryan - stood for lower tariffs, free unlimited coinage of gold & silver, enlargment of the powers of the Interstate Commerce. (split the party as many who favoured the gold standard would not support him)
  • The Populists - Democrats were too similar!! If they supported the Democrats they'd only achieve some of their aims but if they had an individual candiate they'd split the vote! 
  • In the end they put forward Tom Watson for Vice and supported Bryan.

THE END - Mckinley won every state east of the Mississippi/north of the Ohio whilst Bryan won the south and most of the west. McKinley triumphed.

The Democrats & Populists had won the rural vote but failed to convince enough people from the urban areas.

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What ever happened to the Populists?

  • 1896 election - highest tide of Populist influence
  • McKinleys Administration continued to support business
  • 1897 Tariff - highest ever, 1900 Currency Act put USA firmly on Gold Standard
  • From the 1896 Election followed a period of prosperity and a run of Republican dominance.
  • Gold discovery meant the Gold Standard was no longer deflationary
  • Agricultural problems somewhere else helped farmers
  • The Populist were gradually absorbed by other parties and new ideas
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