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Reform Populism In The 1890s

Reform Populism In The 1890s
Populism emerged in the 19th century in order to reform the system from within. Creating the Populist Party with James Weaver as their presidential candidate, the Populists strove to bring their reforms into the political limelight. Although they did not succeed in electing their candidate to the presidency, many of their reforms were later enacted.

Granger Movement: During the decade of the 1870s, U.S. farmers were beset with problems of high costs, debts, and small profits. the farmers made their grievances known through the Granger Movement. Membership peaked in the mid-1870s. There was little the farmers could do concerning prices. Only in 1877 did the Supreme Court rule that states could regulate businesses of a public nature. To counteract unjust business practices, the farmers were urged to start cooperatives such as grain elevators, creameries, and stores.

Granger Laws:
The Grangers in various states lobbied state legislatures in 1874 to pass maximum rate laws for freight shipment. The railroads appealed to the Supreme Court to declare the "Granger laws" unconstitutional. Instead, the Court ruled against the railroad’s objections in Munn v. Illinois.

Farmers’ Alliance:
This alliance was a political organization created to help fight railroad abuses and to lower interest rates. It called for government regulation of the economy in order to redress their greivanes. It was founded in New York in 1873, and consisted of the Northwest Farmers' Alliance in the north and the National Farmers' Alliance and Independent Union in the south. They failed to unite, however, and in 1892 gave way to the Populist party.

Populist Party Platform, Omaha Platform, 1892:
The Populist party, or people's party, was a party that represented the "common man." It was created towards the end of the nineteenth century. Some of their goals included creating postal savings banks, enacting immigration restriction, setting a graduated income tax and limiting the presidency to a single six-year term. The Populist platform represented views of farmers in the West. The Omaha platform of 1892 nominated James Weaver of Iowa for president.

"Crime of 1873": This is the term given to a federal law of 1873, which adopted the gold standard over the silver standard. This dropped silver coinage in favor of gold coinage, by advocating free silver. This "Crime of 1873" was one of the motivating forces behind the beginning of the Free Silver movement.

Bland-Allison Act: This act was passed over the presidential veto in 1878 and required the secretary of the treasury to buy at least 2 million dollars of silver each month and coin it into dollars. Because of its weight and bulk and the fact that it had not been coined since 1806, most of the silver did not circulate; rather, remained in the treasury.

Sherman Silver Purchase Act: This act forced the treasury to buy 4.5 million ounces of silver each month.. However, the price of silver did not rise and precious gold was being drained away from the treasury while cheap silver piled up. This act, therefore, helped to precipitate the panic of 1893, and it caused a decrease in foreign investments in the U.S. economy.

Bimetallism: Bimetallism is the use of both silver and gold as the basis of an economy as opposed to the use of one or the other or none. During the gold and free silver campaigns of the early 1900s, the Republicans believed in a money system based on the single gold standard, while the democrats believed in bimetallism.

"Coin" Harvey: The silverites’ most influential piece of propaganda was William H. Harvey's Coin’s Financial School, published in 1894. It explained the monetary issue in simplified partisan terms, denounced "the conspiracy of the Goldbugs," and insisted that the free coinage of silver would eliminate the debt.

Free silver: This was a chiefly unsuccessful campaign in the late 19th-century U.S. for the unlimited coinage of silver. Major supporters of this movement were owners of silver mines, farmers, and debtors, for whom silver production would be economically favorable. William Jennings Bryan led the democratic party to support free silver during the 1890s.

16 to 1: During the Panic of 1873 the world market ratio of silver to gold fell below the ratio of 16:1 for the first time in world history. This coincided with the opening of rich silver mines in the Western united States and also with post-Civil War deflation. It resulted in the movement in favor of free silver and bimetallism of the populists

Depression of 1893:
This panic swept the country two months after the second inauguration of President Grover Cleveland. Banks closed their doors, railroads went bankrupt, and farm mortgages were foreclosed. People hoarded gold, and the treasury’s gold reserve was depleting. A notable cause was the struggle between the free silver and gold advocates.

Coxey's Army, 1894:
This was actually a band of unemployed people who marched to Washington DC during the depression of 1894 under the leadership of Jacob S. Coxey, a quarry operator. They urged the enactment of laws which would provide money without interest for public improvements, which would create work for the unemployed.

Repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, 1893: In 1893 President Grover Cleveland, who stood for the gold standard, succeeded in having the Sherman Silver Purchase Act repealed over the strong objections of William Jennings Bryan. However, little gold was in the treasury; thus, the panic of 1893 could not be avoided and the crisis remained until 1896.

Ocala Demands, 1890:
These demands were essentially a platform of the Democratic/ Populist party for the 1892 election created at a gathering in Ocala, Florida in 1890. Northern leaders generally favored a third party candidate, while Southerners feared that it would weaken the southern Democratic Party.

Tom Watson:
An U.S. journalist, legislator, and a southern alliance leader from Georgia, he urged southern farmers to recognize their common plight and act together. He was also the Populist party’s presidential candidate in 1904 and 1908, served as a senator from 1921 to 1922, and edited The Weekly Jeffersonian, a populist magazine.

James B. Weaver: An United States legislator and prominent figure during the Populist movement, he served as a congressman from 1879 to 1781 and 1885 to 1889. He was the presidential candidate of the Greenback and People’s parties in 1892. Weaver was also a former civil war general.

"Pitchfork" Ben Tillman: An U.S. Populist party leader born in South Carolina, he was elected governor of South Carolina in 1890 and 1892, and he served on the U.S. Senate from 1894 to 1912. Very progressively minded, Tillman promoted many reform programs in South Carolina, including better public education.

Mary Ellen Lease: She was a fiery lawyer from Wichita, Kansas who was very active in the movements for agrarian and labor reform. She burst out on to the scene in the 1890's as a spellbinding Southern alliance orator vehemently crying that the farmers needed to "raise less corn and more hell."

"Sockless" Jerry Simpson:
He was an intelligent rancher from Kansas who lost his stock in the hard winter of 1886 to 1887, and he became a major Southern Alliance leader. When he mentioned the expensive silk stockings of a conservative politician and remarked that he could afford no such fineries a hostile newspaper editor named him "Sockless Jerry."

Ignatius Donnelly:
A noted United States writer and a champion of the Populist Party, Donnelly served as an U.S. Congressman from Minnesota from 1863 to 1869. He also wrote Great Cryptogram in an attempt to prove that Francis Bacon wrote William Shakespeare's works.

William Jennings Bryan: Despite the fact that he was defeated three times for the presidency of the United States, William Jennings Bryan, the principal figure of the Populist party, molded public opinion as few leaders have done. A surprise to the public, he polled many votes during the 1896 election, which may have been a direct result of his "Cross of Gold Speech." For many years he was the leader of the Democratic party, and it was his influence that won the Democratic presidential nomination for Wilson in 1912.

"Cross of Gold Speech": William Jennings Bryan won the national Democratic convention's nomination for the presidency in 1896 through a vigorous appeal for free coinage of silver known as the "Cross of Gold" speech. Turning to those who wanted only gold as the monetary standard, he exclaimed: "You shall not crucify mankind upon this cross of gold." As a Populist, he did not support the gold standard since it would deflate the currency, which would make it more difficult for citizens to repay debts.

Election of 1896, Candidates, Issues:
The presidential candidates were the Republican William McKinley from Pennsylvania, and the Democrat William J. Bryan. The Populists also supported Bryan for the presidency, but chose Tom Watson for the vice presidency. The Republicans believed in the gold standard, while the Democrats believed in bimetallism and the unlimited coinage of silver. McKinley won the election. The Populism collapsed after 1896, but Progressivism emerged in its wake.

Marcus Hanna:
He was an industrialist who became convinced that the welfare of industry, and therefore the nation, was bound by the fortunes of the Republican party. To further his goals he waged the most expensive political campaign the nation had ever seen to get William McKinley elected president in 1896. He also served in the Senate.

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