What were some of the major problems facing farmers during the Gilded Age ??
Farmer Problems • Railroads were charging higher rates to ship their products – RRs showing favoritism to their rich friends • Had gone into debt to buy the newest and latest inventions to enable them to produce more • More machinery meant they could buy more land to plant • In the Panic of 1893 many of them could not pay their debts and were losing their farms • When they appealed to the federal government they were largely ignored
They began to organize into The Grange and the Farmer’s Alliance • These groups would become the foundation of the Populist Party • The focus of these groups initially was to get government to regulate railroad rates • Led to the Interstate Commerce Act
The Farmers Alliances • Begun in the late 1880s (Texas first theSouthern Alliance; then in the Midwest the Northern Alliance). • Built upon the ashes of the Grange. • More political and less social than the Grange. • Ran candidates for office. • Controlled 8 state legislatures & had 47representatives in Congress during the 1890s.
The Grange Movement • First organized in the 1870s in the Midwest, the south, and Texas. • Set up cooperative associations. • Social and educational components. • Succeeded in lobbying for “Granger Laws.” laws to set maximum freight and passenger rates on railroads at the state level • Rapidly declined by the late 1870s.
United We Stand, Divided We Fall • In 1889 both the Northern andSouthern Alliancesmerged into one—the Farmers’ Alliance.
How did the Government Respond? • At first the Supreme Court said the regulation was legal (Munn v Illinois) • The railroad tycoons argued that since the railroads crossed state lines it was not a state issue • In the E C Knight case of 1886 involving rates the Supreme Court ruled once again that only Congress had the power to regulate interstate commerce • Based on this ruling, the Congress enacted the Interstate Commerce Act – this will eventually lead to the formation of the Populist Party to fight for the common man
Populism: An Agrarian Revolt
Supreme Court Decisions • Munn vs. Illinois (1877) • Wabash, St. Louis, & Pacific Railroad Company vs. Illinois (1886) • E C Knight Case – Freight cases that limited the effectiveness of the Interstate Commerce Act
The Populist (Peoples’) Party • 1890 Bi-Election: • So. Alliance wanted to gain control of the Democratic Party. • No. Alliance ran 3rd Party candidates. • 1892 800 met in St. Louis, MO • majority were Alliance members. • over 100 were African Americans. • reps. of labor organizations & other reformers (Grange, Greenback Party).
The Populist (Peoples’) Party • Founded by James B. Weaverand Tom Watson. • Omaha, NE Convention in July,1892. • Got almost 1 million popularvotes. • Several Congressional seatswon. James B. Weaver, Presidential Candidate &James G. Field, VP
Omaha Platform of 1892 Abolition of the National Bank. Direct election of Senators. Govt. ownership of RRs, telephone & telegraph companies. Restriction of undesirable immigration. 8-hour work day for government employees. Australian secret ballot. Initiative, referendum, and recall A single term for President & Vice President. Coin more money (silver standard)
Direct Election of Senators • Meant that the Constitution would have to be changed • At this time the senators sent to Congress were selected by the state legislature not the people • If this change took place the farmers would have a say as to who represented them more and could get the legislation to benefit them passed
Initiative, Referendum and Recall • Initiative – they could propose legislation themselves through their representatives and senators • Referendum – would send legislation passed by Congress to the people for approval • Recalll- would allow voters to remove someone they had put in office if they didn’t think they were voting as they should to support the interests of the people
Secret Ballot • Would make all ballots alike so their votes were private • This would have eliminated the political machines from being able to tell who you voted for • It would eliminate the pressure they could put on you - no more buying votes in return for political favors – jobs, housing, etc.
Coining of Money • Putting more money in circulation to help the farmers – there would be more money for loans • Problem was that just putting more money into circulation would cause devaluing of the money as it had done when the states did it during colonial times
Why Did Populism Decline? The economy experienced rapid change. The era of small producers and farmers was fading away. Race divided the Populist Party, especially in the South. The Populists were not able to breakexisting party loyalties. Most of their agenda was co-opted bythe Democratic Party.