THE POPULIST MOVEMENT

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THE POPULIST MOVEMENT
THE PLIGHT OF THE FARMERS
1870s-1880s
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Farmers were
becoming a minority in
the USA.
The numbers of
farmers declined from
60% of the population
in 1860 to less than
37% in 1900.
They experienced
falling prices.
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The emergence of
commercial farming
and specialized
farming.
A rise in the costs of
farm machinery and
freight costs.
They experienced a
heavy tax burden.
THE GRANGE MOVEMENT
THE GRANGE MOVEMENT

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Founded in 1867, by Oliver
H. Kelley.
It was primarily a social
and educational
organization for farmers
and their families.
By the mid-1870s, the
Movement claimed over
700,000 members.
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Its members called on
state governments to
establish fair freight rates
and warehouse charges.
In several states, the
Grange succeeded in
having commissions
established to investigate
– and in some cases,
regulate – railroad
practices.
THE GRANGE MOVEMENT
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Its greatest strength
was in the Midwest.
By late 1870s, there
were Granges in every
state.
The Grange Movement
established
cooperatives –
businesses owned by
farmers.

Advocated:
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Reduced storage rates
Reduced freight rates
Improved living
conditions of the farmers.
Improvements in health
and safety conditions.
THE GRANGE MOVEMENT

Succeeded in the
passage of Granger
Laws:
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Laws regulating storage
and freight rates.
Some laws made it illegal
for railroads to fix prices
by means of pools and
rebates to privileged
customers.
THE POPULIST CHALLENGE:
THE FARMERS’ REVOLT
THE FARMERS’ REVOLT


A different kind of
uprising was ripening in
the South and transMississippi West.
A farmers’ revolt grew
in response to falling
agricultural prices and
growing economic
dependency in rural
areas.

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Small farmers faced
increasing economic
insecurity.
In the South, the
sharecropping system
locked millions of
farmers, white and
black, into perpetual
poverty.
THE FARMERS’ REVOLT

The glut of cotton on
the world market led to
declining prices (11
cents a pound in 1881
to 4.6 cents in 1894),
throwing millions of
small farmers deep into
debt and threatening
them with the loss of
their land.

In the West, farmers
who had mortgaged
their property to
purchase seed,
fertilizer, and equipment
faced the prospect of
losing their farms when
unable to repay their
bank loans.
THE FARMERS’ REVOLT
THE FARMERS’ ALLIANCE
THE FARMERS’ ALLIANCE

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Through the Farmers’
Alliance, the largest citizens’
movement in the 19th
century, farmers’ sought to
remedy their condition.
Founded in TX in the late
1870s, the Alliance spread
to 43 states by 1890.
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At first, the Alliance
remained aloof from politics,
attempting to improve rural
conditions by cooperative
financing and marketing of
crops.
Alliance “exchanges” would
loan money to farmers and
sell their
But farmers’ could not
finance this plan, and banks
refused to extend loans.
THE FARMERS’ ALLIANCE
THE PEOPLE’S PARTY
THE PEOPLE’S PARTY
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In the early 1890s, the
Alliance evolved into
the People’s Party (or
Populists), the era’s
greatest political
insurgency.
The party did not just
attract farmers.
It sought to speak for
all the “producing
classes.”
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It achieved some of its
greatest successes in
states like Colorado and
Idaho, where it won the
support of miners and
industrial workers.
It attracted veterans of the
Knights of Labor by
condemning the use of
injunctions and private
forces in breaking up
strikes.
THE PEOPLE’S PARTY
THE PEOPLE’S PARTY

The Populist Movement
was the greatest political
expression of America as a
commonwealth of small
producers whose freedom
rested the ownership of
productive property and the
respect for the dignity of
labor.

The People’s Party
Paper of Georgia
declared in 1893:

“Day by day the power of
the individual sinks. Day
by day the power of the
classes, or the
corporations, rises … In
all essential respects, the
republic of fathers is
dead.”
THE POPULIST COALITION
THE POPULIST COALITION

In some southern states, the Populists made
remarkable efforts to unite black and white farmers
on a common political and economic program.

The obstacles to such an alliance were immense –
not merely the heritage of racism and the political
legacy of the Civil War, but the fact that many white
Populists were landowning farmers while most
blacks were tenants and agricultural workers.
THE POPULIST COALITION
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Unwelcome in the southern
branches of the Farmers’
Alliance, black farmers formed
their own organization – the
Colored Farmers’ Alliance.
In 1891, it tried to organize a
strike of cotton pickers on
plantations in SC, AK, and Tx.
The strikes were violently
suppressed by local
authorities.
THE POPULIST COALITIONS
THE POPULIST COALITION
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Some blacks refused to abandon the party of
Lincoln, but others were attracted by the
Populist appeal.
1894: A coalition of white Populists and black
Republicans won control of NC, bringing to
the state a “second Reconstruction” complete
with increased spending for education and a
revival of black officeholding.
THE POPULIST COALITION

In most of the South, however, Democrats
fended off the Populist challenge by resorting
to the tactics they had used since the 1870s:
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Mobilizing whites with warnings about “Negro
supremacy.”
Intimidating black voters.
Stuffing ballot boxes on election day.
THE POPULIST COALITION
THE ELECTION OF 1892
THE ELECTION OF 1892
The Populist Party marked its entrance
into national politics in the Election of
1892.
 Delegates from several states met in
Omaha, Nebraska, in 1892, to draft a
political platform and nominate
candidates for president and vice
president.

THE OMAHA PLATFORM OF
1892
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Provisions/Blanks:
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Direct popular election of US Senators.
Enact state laws through initiatives and referendums.
Unlimited coinage of silver (increase $ supply)
A graduated income tax
Public ownership of railroads, telegraph, and telephone
systems.
Loans and warehouses for farmers to stabilize prices.
8 hour work day for industrial workers.
THE ELECTION OF 1892
BENJAMIN HARRISON
GROVER CLEVELAND
JAMES B. WEAVER
THE ELECTION OF 1892
POPULIST STRENGTH 1892
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Weaver received over a
million votes.
The party carried 5
Western states.
22 electoral votes.
Elected 3 governors
and 15 members of
Congress.
THE CLEVELAND
PRESIDENCY
THE CLEVELAND
PRESIDENCY
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Cleveland won a solid victory in both the
popular and electoral vote.
Cleveland became the first and only former
president thus far to return to the White
House after having left it.
No sooner had Cleveland entered the office
than the country entered into one of its worst
and longest depressions.
THE PANIC OF 1893
THE PANIC OF 1893
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In the spring and
summer of 1893, the
stock crashed as a
result of
overspeculation, and
dozens of railroads
went into bankruptcy as
a result of overbuilding.
The depression
continued for almost 4
years.
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Farm foreclosures
reached new heights,
and unemployment
reached 20% of the
workforce.
Many people ended up
relying on soup
kitchens and riding the
rails as hoboes.
THE PANIC OF 1893

Cleveland, more
conservative than he
had been in the 1880s,
dealt with the crisis by
championing the gold
standard and otherwise
adopting a hands-off
policy toward the
economy.
THE GOLD RESERVE AND
TARIFF
THE GOLD RESERVE AND
TARIFF
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A decline in silver prices encouraged
investors to trade their silver dollars for gold
dollars.
The gold reserve feel to a dangerously low
level.
Pres. Cleveland saw no alternative but to
repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of
1890.
This failed to stop the gold drain.
THE GOLD RESERVE AND
TARIFF
THE GOLD RESERVE AND
TARIFF

This deal convinced many Americans that the
government in Washington was only a tool of
rich eastern bankers.

Workers became further disenchanted with
Cleveland when he used court injunctions to
crush the Pullman Strike of 1894.
WILSON-GORMAN TARIFF
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The Democrats did enact one measure that
was somewhat popular.
The Tariff: (1) provided a moderate reduction
in the tariff rates and (2) included a 2%
income tax on incomes of more than $2,000.
Within a year after passage, the Supreme
Court declared an income tax
unconstitutional.
COXEY’S ARMY
COXEY’S ARMY
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March led by Jacob
Coxey a Populist from
Ohio..
A march to Washington
in 1894.
Thousands of
unemployed marched.
COXEY’S ARMY
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The “army” demanded that
the federal govt., spend
$500 million on public works
programs to create jobs.
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Coxey and other protest
leaders were arrested for
trespassing, and the
dejected “army” then left for
home.
COIN’S FINANCIAL SCHOOL
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Book written in 1894 by
William H. Harvey.
Seemed to offer easy
answers for ending the
depression.
Taught millions of
Americans that their
troubles were caused by a
conspiracy of rich bankers.
Prosperity would return if
only the govt., coined silver
in unlimited quantities.
THE ELECTION OF 1896 AND THE
END OF POPULISM
THE ELECTION OF 1896 AND THE
END OF POPULISM
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The Election of 1896 was one of the most emotional
in U.S. history.
Cleveland’s handling of the depression thoroughly
discredited the Democrats.
The Republicans buried the Democrats in the
congressional elections of 1894.
The Populists continued to gain both votes and
legislative seats.
The stage was set for a major reshaping of party
politics in 1896.
THE ELECTION OF 1896 AND THE
END OF POPULISM
THE ELECTION OF 1896 AND THE
END OF POPULISM
THE ELECTION OF 1896 AND THE
END OF POPULISM
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Many Populists were
initially cool to Bryan’s
campaign.
Their party had been
defrauded many times
by the Democrats in the
South.
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Veteran Populists
feared that their broad
program was in danger
of being reduced to
“free silver.”
But realizing that they
could not secure victory
alone, the party leaders
endorsed Bryan.
THE ELECTION OF 1896 AND THE
END OF POPULISM
THE ELECTION OF 1896 AND THE
END OF POPULISM

This election is sometimes
called the first modern
presidential campaign
because of the money
spent by the Republicans
and the efficiency of their
national organization.
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McKinley’s campaign raised
some $10 million.
Bryan’s campaign raised
around $300,000.
McKinley remained at home
– “the front porch”
campaign.
Bryan embarked on a
nation wide speaking tour.
THE ELECTION OF 1896 AND THE
END OF POPULISM
THE ELECTION OF 1896 AND THE
END OF POPULISM
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The results revealed a
nation as divided along
regional lines as in
1860.
Bryan carried the South
and West and received
6.5 million votes.
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McKinley swept the
more populous
industrial states of the
Northeast and Midwest.
He received 7.1 votes.
His electoral margin
was 271 to 176.
THE ELECTION OF 1896 AND THE
END OF POPULISM
THE ELECTION OF 1896 AND THE
END OF POPULISM
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The era’s bitter labor
strife did not carry over
into the electoral arena.
Party politics seemed to
mute class conflict
rather than reinforce it.
Prosperity returned in
1897.
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Industrial America now
voted solidly
Republican.
The Populist ceased to
be a viable party.
Many of the more
liberal/progressive
ideas of the Populist
were absorbed by the
two major parties.
THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
AND THE ELECTION OF 1896
THE WIZARD OF OZ
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The Emerald City,
where everything is
colored green,
represents Washington,
D.C.
THE WIZARD OF OZ
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The Wizard of Oz, who
remains invisible,
represents President
William McKinley.
THE WIZARD OF OZ
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The only way to get to
the Emerald City is via
a Yellow Brick Road,
the color of gold.
THE WIZARD OF OZ
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The Wicked Witches of
the East and West
represent oppressive
industrialists and mine
owners.
THE WIZARD OF OZ
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In the much-beloved film
version made in the 1930s,
Dorothy, the all-American
girl from the heartland of
Kansas, wears ruby
slippers.
But in the book, her slippers
are silver, supposedly
representing the money
preferred by ordinary
people.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE
ELECTION OF 1896

Whatever Baum’s
symbolism, McKinley’s
election shattered the
political stalemate that
had persisted since
1876 and created one
of the most enduring
political majorities in
American history.

During McKinley’s
presidency, the
Republicans put their
stamp on economic
policy by passing:
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The Dingley Tariff of
1897.
The Standard Gold Act of
1900.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE
ELECTION OF 1896
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Not until 1932, in the
midst of another
depression, would the
Democrats become the
nation’s majority party.
The election also
proved to be the last
presidential election
with extremely high
voter turnout.
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From then on, with the
South solidly
Democratic and the
North overwhelmingly
Republican, few states
witnessed vigorous
two-party campaigns.
The election marked
the end of the Populist
Party.
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