AP Chapter 19
The Agrarian Revolt
The American people were starting to rubble
and become frustrated over concerns such as
the tariff, the trusts and monopolies and the
unfair practices of the railroads and the
Federal government was doing nothing.
Change was coming and it would upset the
political equilibrium of the Gilded Age
Written by a farmer in the late 19c
• When the banker says he's broke
And the merchant’s up in smoke,
They forget that it's the farmer
who feeds them all.
It would put them to the test
If the farmer took a rest;
Then they'd know that it's the farmer
feeds them all.
The result of their discontent was the
emergence of one of the first grass
roots political protest movements—
Populism—what is populism??
It evolved in stages—starting at the
local level and moving to the
New inventions and efficient techniques
Lack of competition among RR
Prices for crops deceases
Over production of crops
“supply and demand”?
Local and State Levels
Founded in response to farmers isolation
1867 Oliver H. Kelley
Social and educational
Formed over 400 enterprises—stores,
creameries, warehouses, etc.
• Worked to elect state legislators—gained
control of the legislatures in most of the
• Any laws or regulations gained were soon
destroyed by the courts.
• In the late 1870’s, decline in the power of the
organization and membership
The Farmers’ Alliances
• Similar to the Grange movement, in their
concerns with local problems and the like,
they differed in terms of their vision.
• Wanted to build a society based on
cooperation, not economic competition—
wanted a sense of mutual neighborly
“ Raise less corn and more Hell”
• Another way the Farmers’ Alliances was different
was the role of women in it.
• Full voting members
• Emphasizing issues of particular
concern to women
• Mary E. Lease—a fiery orator
who made over 160 speeches-denouncing the role of banks, RR,
Blacks allowed but separated-Colored Farmers’ Alliances
• The Farmers’ Alliance grew-- across local to
state levels- more widespread than the
Grange but suffered from similar problems.
• But as a result of the frustrations –a new push
towards a national level grew.
• The creation of a national political
organization—a 3rd political party—The
Peoples’ Party, AKA: The Populist
The Populist Constituency
Farmers—small farmers-western and southern
• Some unskilled Labor Unions
• Populists were especially concerned about the
high cost of money
• demand lower railroad rates.
• Populist leaders called on the people to rise up,
seize the reins of government, and tame the
power of the wealthy and privileged.
• accused the Democrats of sacrificing "the liberty
and prosperity of the country..
• and the Republicans of doing the wishes of
"monopolists, gamblers, gigantic corporations,
bondholders, [and] bankers”
• The party's platform endorsed labor unions,
decried long work hours, and championed the
graduated income tax as a way to redistribute
wealth from business to farmers and laborers
• The Populists also called for a secret ballot;
women's suffrage; an eight-hour workday, direct
election of U.S. Senators and the President and
Vice President; and initiative and recall to make
the political system more responsive to the
• The Populists embraced government
regulation to get out from the domination of
unregulated big business. The platform
demanded government ownership of
railroads, natural resources, and telephone
and telegraph systems.
• A new banking system controlled by the
• $$$ be increased in circulation-by $50 for
every man, women and child as opposed to $5
• Demonstrated power in the election-James
Weaver, Presidential candidate—won 1 million
votes—22 electoral votes
• 1500 Populists candidates won election to
state legislatures, 3 governors, 5 state
senators and 10 congressmen
• Populist rhetoric still plays an important role in
American politics today. Politicians speak the
language of populism whenever they defend
ordinary people against entrenched elites and a
government dominated by special interests.
• The movement burned brightly from 1889 to
1896, before fading out. Nevertheless, this
movement fundamentally changed American
The Panic of 1893
• The worst economic depression until 1930’s
• At the worst over 1 million workers out of work—
about 20% of the labor force
• Rarely in American history had conditions seemed so
unsettled. The financial panic of 1893 was followed
by four years of high unemployment and business
bankruptcies. The panic led Jacob Coxey, a
businessman from Massillon, Ohio, to organize the
first mass march on Washington. Coxey's army
demanded a federal public works program. As
rumors of revolution swept Washington, the
government responded by jailing the march's
• There were many signs of union unrest as well
during the decade
• The Homestead Steel Strike
• The Pullman Strike
• Many targeted their anger at President
Cleveland who took a laissez-faire approach to
resolving the depression
The Silver Question
• Cleveland believed that the instability of the
currency was the primary cause of the
depression—therefore the “money question”
became the most pressing issue of the time.
• What would form the basis of the Dollar??
What would back the dollar??
•Silver in Circulation
•--expands the $$ supply
Silver out of Circulation
--tightens the $$ supply
•Who would want this?
•-people starting a business
Who would want this?
-Creditors and Investors
--this would allow currency to
hold its value—gold backed
money is less likely to inflate
• --borrow at a lower interest
•--pay off loans with inflated
•Have increase prices for the
commodities they produce
Gold would increase in value
• Supporters of Gold considered its survival
essential to honor and stability of the nation.
• Supporters of silver considered the gold
standard an instrument of tyranny –money of
oppression and exploitation.
• “Free Silver” became to them a symbol of
liberation—the people’s money
The Election of 1896
• William Jennings Bryan—36 years old, well
known as an effective orator
• Incorporated the silver
• Changed the way candidates ran for office—
he traveled 18,000 miles and spoke to over 5
million. He was revivalist and a camp meeting
• Argued the “real” business men” were
farmers, agricultural workers,
miners and small town merchants.
• Demonstrated the true "pioneer spirit"
• These workers were all but ignored by
a government that served the interests
of big cities and large corporate
“They tell us that the
great cities are in
favor of the gold
standard. We reply
that our great cities
rest upon our broad
and great prairies”.
“Burn down your cities
and leave our farms, and
your cities will spring
up again as if by magic;
but destroy our farms,
and the grass will grow
in the streets of every
city of the country”.
“You shall not press
down upon the brow
of labor this crown of
thorns; you shall not
crucify mankind upon
a cross of gold”
•Using images from
the Bible, he stood
with his head bowed
•So impressive was
his speech that both
him for President.
William McKinley (1843-1901)
Born in Ohio on January 29, 1843.
Private during the Civil War and
earned the rank of major in 1865.
Served in Congress from 1876 to
1890 and became a supporter of
Elected governor of Ohio in 1891,
serving a second term in 1893.
1896, the Republican Party
nominated him for president.
stressed protective tariffs
supported the gold standard.
• Conducted a dignified “front porch” campaign
• Spent $7 million on his campaign
• Big business supported his run for presidency
Gold Triumphs Over Silver
Bryan in the
1900 Gold Standard Act
Confirmed the nation’s commitment
to the gold standard.
A victory for the forces of
Why Did Bryan Loose?
His focus on silver undermined
efforts to build bridges to urban
He did not form alliances with
McKinley’s campaign was well-
organized and highly funded.
Why Did Populism Decline?
1. The economy experienced rapid change.
2. The era of small producers and
farmers was fading away.
3. Race divided the Populist Party,
especially in the South.
4. The Populists were not able to break
existing party loyalties.
5. Most of their agenda was co-opted by
the Democratic Party.