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Chapter 17: Politics in the Gilded Age

Chapter 17: Politics in the Gilded Age. Section 3: The Populist Movement. Pages: 531-537. The Populist Movement. The Farmers’ Plight: (531)

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Chapter 17: Politics in the Gilded Age

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  1. Chapter 17: Politics in the Gilded Age Section 3: The Populist Movement Pages: 531-537

  2. The Populist Movement • The Farmers’ Plight: (531) • The surge in industrialization during the late 1800s changed farmers’ lives significantly. The rapidly growing population in the urban centers needed to be fed • Farmers responded by planting more crops and raising more animals each year • Farmers in other countries were also planting more crops and raising more animals so supply was greater than demand so prices dropped – good for us bad for farmers • At the same time, expenses such as railroad freight charges and the price of new machinery, continued to rise. • As farmers’ profits plunged, many farmers bought more land and increased production. This greater production pushed prices even lower

  3. The Populist Movement • The Farmers’ Plight: (531) • To make matters worse, most farm families had borrowed money to pay for their land or to buy new equipment. They often put their farms up as security for their loans • Those who could not repay their loans lost their farms

  4. The Populist Movement • The Farmers’ Plight: (531) • To farmers, the situation seemed terribly unfair. • Merchants who sold farm equipment were making money. Bankers who lent farmers money and railroads that hauled the farmers’ grain and livestock to market were also prospering • All farmers had to show for their long days of backbreaking labor were rising debts.

  5. The Populist Movement • Farmers Organize: (532-534) • Farmers began to organize in an attempt to improve their situation. • They joined organizations that committed to assisting the farmers in their day-to-day struggles • These organizations soon merged to form a nationwide movement. • Many farmers supported these national organizations

  6. The Populist Movement • Farmers Organize: (532-534) • The Grange Movement: (532) • The first major farm organization, The National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, or the National Grange, was founded by Oliver Hudson Kelley in 1867. • Kelley created the Grange primarily as a social organization • As membership increased and farmers’ financial problems grew, the Grange began tackling economic and political issues • To lower costs, some Grange members formed cooperatives, or organizations in which groups of farmers pool their resources to buy and sell goods • The Grange’s main focus, however, was one forcing states to regulate railroad and grain-storage rates • Some states passed “Granger laws” that created state commissions to standard railroad and grain-storage rates

  7. The Populist Movement • Farmers Organize: (532-534) • The Grange Movement: (532) • Many railroad companies challenged the Granger laws in the courts. • The United States Supreme Court in, Munn v. Illinois, decided that state legislatures had the right to regulated businesses such as railroads that involved the public interest. • However, the Supreme Court modified its decision nine years later, in Wabash v. Illinois, ruling that state governments had no power to regulate traffic that moved across state borders. Only the federal government had the right to do that

  8. The Populist Movement • Farmers Organize: (532-534) • The Grange Movement: (532) • Interstate Commerce Act: established in 1887 the act prohibited railroads from giving secret rebates, or refunds, to large shippers or charging more for short hauls that for long hauls over the same line • The Act also stated that railroad rates had to be “reasonable and just.” • To monitor railroad activities, the act created the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC): This commission was given little power to enforce its rulings • When the ICC charged railroads with violating the law, the courts almost always ruled in the railroads’ favor

  9. The Populist Movement • Farmers Organize: (532-534) • The Alliance Movement: (532-533) • The Farmers’ Alliance: began in Texas in the 1870s, the Alliance movement spread quickly. Debt ridden farm families eagerly embraced the Alliance message of unity and hope. • The Alliance organized cooperatives to buy equipment and market farm products • The Alliance offered farmers low-cost insurance • The Alliance also lobbied for tougher bank regulations, government ownership of railroads, and a graduated income tax: would tax higher incomes at a higher rate • By 1890, the Alliance movement claimed more than 1 million members

  10. The Populist Movement • Farmers Organize: (532-534) • The Alliance Movement: (532-533) • Alliance leader Mary Elizabeth Lease from Kansas Traveled the country urging people to take action • The Alliance movement consisted of THREE organizations • National Farmers’ Alliance • The all-white Southern Alliance • The Colored Farmers’ Alliance • Each organization pushed for the same legislative goals and helped their members in times of hardships

  11. The Populist Movement • Farmers Organize: (532-534) • African American Farmers: (533-534) • Despite common goals, the Southern and Colored Farmers’ Alliance remained separate, segregated institutions • Racial divisions in southern society prevented farmers from forming a tight coalition • The racial divisions within the Alliance movement brought about the end of the Colored Farmers’ Alliance • In 1891, Colored Farmers’ Alliance leader R.M. Humphrey organized a strike of cotton pickers who demanded to be paid $1 for every 100 pounds picked • The strike led to a series of violent confrontations in Arkansas between white and African American cotton pickers • The violence in Arkansas discouraged many African Americans from joining the Colored Farmers’ Alliance. This led to the end of the Colored Farmers’ Alliance

  12. The Populist Movement • The Money Question: (534-535) • One of the most important issues for farmers in the Alliance movement was the expansion of the money supply. They favored printing more greenbacks – the paper money used during the Civil War • The farmers hoped that an increase in the amount of money in circulation would allow them to charge more for their farm products and pay off their bank loans • Before the war, greenbacks were redeemable for either gold or silver coins. • In 1873, Congress voted to stop coining silver and to convert the money supply to the gold standard: under this system, each dollar was equal to and redeemable for a set amount of gold • The amount of money in circulation was limited by the amount of gold held in the U.S. Treasury

  13. The Populist Movement • The Money Question: (534-535) • The conversion to the gold standard resulted in a decrease in the amount of money in circulation and lowering prices • Many farmers demanded that the government back the money supply with silver. Silver was plentiful in the West. • Bowing to the pressure from the farmers, Congress passed the Bland-Allison Act of 1878 and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1890. Both acts required the government to buy silver each month and mint it into coins. • Because the government bought so little silver, however, the money supply did not increase enough to satisfy silver supporters

  14. The Populist Movement • The Money Question: (534-535) • Disappointed Alliance members threw themselves into the 1890 elections, supporting any candidate who backed their pro-farmer platform. • Alliance-backed candidates won more than 40 seats in Congress, four southern governorships, and numerous other political offices

  15. The Populist Movement • A Decade of Populist Politics: (535-536) • Pleased by their successes in the 1890 election, Alliance movement leaders sought to build on their popular support by forming a new political party – The Populist Party also called the People’s Party • The People’s Party was founded at a convention in St. Louis in February 1892 • This coalition of Alliance members, farmers, labor leaders, and reformers became more commonly known as the Populist Party

  16. The Populist Movement • A Decade of Populist Politics: (535-536) • The Populist Party: (535) • The party platform echoed National Grange and Alliance demands. • It called for a graduated income tax, bank regulation, government ownership of railroad and telegraph companies, and the free, or unlimited, coinage of silver • The platform also called for restrictions on immigration, a shorter workday, and voting reforms

  17. The Populist Movement • A Decade of Populist Politics: (535-536) • The Populist Party: (535) • The Populists nominated James B. Weaver to run in the 1892 presidential election against Republican incumbent Benjamin Harrison and Democrat Grover Cleveland • Grover Cleveland, Democrat, won the 1892 presidential election but the Populist Party elected more than 10 party members to Congress as a well as numerous state leaders

  18. The Populist Movement • A Decade of Populist Politics: (535-536) • Economic Depression: (535-536) • In may 1893 one of the nation’s leading railroad companies failed. This failure triggered the Panic of 1893, a financial panic that sent stock prices plunging • The country quickly slid into an economic depression. • By the end of 1893, some 3 million people were unemployed – 100,000 in Chicago alone.

  19. The Populist Movement • A Decade of Populist Politics: (535-536) • Economic Depression: (535-536) • Causes of the Panic of 1893: • The Sherman Silver Purchase Act: this law required the government to pay for silver purchases with Treasury notes redeemable in either gold or silver • New discoveries of silver decreased silver’s value, and people rushed to exchanger their notes for gold • The situation put a terrible strain on the Treasury’s gold reserves • To protect the gold standard and to restore confidence in the economy, Grover Cleveland called for Congress to repeal the Sherman Purchase Act. Congress did so in October of 1893

  20. The Populist Movement • The Election of 1896: (536-537) • Silver became the central issue in the 1896 election. • The Republicans chose Ohio governor William McKinley as their presidential candidate and adopted a conservative platform upholding the gold standard • Democrats nominated free-silver supporter William Jennings Bryan, a two-term representative from Nebraska. The Populist Party threw its support behind Bryan because of his free-silver platform. This caused the Populist Party to disappear. • William Jennings Bryan’s youth, charisma, and strong support of silver-backed currency gained him broad support among populists within the Democratic party • At the Democratic Convention Byran gave his “Cross of Gold” speech: he stressed the importance of the silver issue to farmers and less-fortunate people all over the United States • William McKinley wins the presidential election of 1896

  21. The Populist Movement • The End of Populism: (537) • The election defeat of William Jennings Bryan and improvement in farmers’ economic conditions brought an end to the power of the Populist Party

  22. THE END

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