- Slides: 15
Economics, Race, and the Populist Party (1867 -1896)
Historical Background: Economic Turmoil of the 1870 s • The Panic of 1873 – Northern and Southern investors borrowed more and more money, betting the post-Civil War economy would continue to grow – But when the nation’s largest bank went bankrupt (could not pay debts for railroad construction), it triggered a financial panic • • • Smaller banks closed 89 railroads went bankrupt 18, 000 companies closed 5 -year depression 3 million unemployed workers • Currency Dispute – Roots in the Civil War/Fueled by the Panic of 1873 – During the Civil War the government printed “greenbacks” not backed by gold – After the War, northern bankers wanted to pull greenbacks out of circulation and return to the gold standard (less money in circulation) – Southern and Western farmers wanted more greenbacks in circulation (“easy money”) to help them pay off their debts
Farmers Unite to Address Common Problems Why were farmers angry? Economic Distress Problems with the Railroads • Crop prices fell = lower profits and little • Little competition among railroads = higher cash rates to transport crops to market • Farmers had to borrow money for seed and • Railroads charged different rates for supplies = higher interest rates and more different crops debt • There was no standard rate (regulation) • Paper money was being replaced (again) with gold and silver and money was worth less = harder to pay back loans • Lenders (banks) foreclosed on their mortgages
Farmers Unite to Address Common Problems • In order to affect change, farmers needed to organize The Grange • Formed by Oliver Hudson Kelley in 1867 • Organization of farmers • Formed in order to fight for government regulation of big business (specifically railroads) • Sponsored some state regulation of railroads The Farmers’ Alliances • Inspired by the Grange and included people who sympathized with farmers • Sent lecturers to towns to educate people about lower interest rates and regulation of railroads and banks • 250, 000 African Americans belonged to the Colored Farmers’ National Alliance (most organizations were segregated)
Grangers Begin to Make Progress • Munn v. Illinois (1876) – • Wabash v. Illinois (1886) – • Supreme Court ruled that states can regulate railroads and certain other businesses within their own borders Supreme Court rules states could not regulate rail lines between different states (interstate) Leads to development of the Interstate Commerce Commission (federal regulation)
The Omaha Platform • To take their fight to the national level, farmers needed more than just a fraternity – They needed a political party • Use the provided handout to examine the Omaha Platform, written by the Populist Party 1. 2. • • 3. • 4. • 5. Read the Background Information Highlight important facts or ideas. Read the Omaha Platform and Relevant Information Highlight important facts or ideas. In Part A, use the information you’ve gathered from the reading to determine which ideas the Populists would have supported or opposed. Use specific information from the Omaha Platform to support your findings. In Part B, use the information you’ve gathered to infer (make an educated guess about) which statements are probably true or false. Use specific information from the Omaha Platform to support your findings. In Part C, use the information you’ve gathered to explain the limited success of the Populist Party.
What in the world is Populism? Political Parties of the 1890 s Democratic Party Populist Party Republican Party • Political movement of farmers and laborers in the late 19 th century • Goals: 1. Regulate the railroads 2. Make more cash available (back the dollar with silver, not gold) 3. Direct election of senators and 1 year terms for presidents 4. Graduated income tax 5. Restrictions on immigration and 8 -hour workday “Fusion Coalition”
1892 Presidential Election: Populist candidate won over a million votes!
The Panic of 1893 Causes Results 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 1. 2. 3. 4. Railroads expanded faster than market Railroads went bankrupt Stock market collapsed Banks stopped loaning $ Farmers borrowed too much $ Businesses sold too much on credit 15, 000 businesses collapsed 156 railroad companies went bankrupt 600 banks closed Government funds and monetary reserves dropped 5. Gold value dropped severely
The Election of 1896 Political Parties of the 1890 s Democratic Party Populist Party Republican Party • Southerners • Political movement of • Northerners • Wealthy farmers and laborers in the • Wealthy businessmen • Supported low tariffs late 19 th century (connected to the railroad) (wanted other countries to • Goals: • Southern African 1. Regulate the railroads buy their crops) Americans (poor farmers) 2. Make more cash available party of Lincoln (back the dollar with silver, • Supported high tariffs not gold) (didn’t want to compete 3. Direct election of senators with other countries’ and 1 year terms for products) presidents 4. Graduated income tax 5. Restrictions on immigration and 8 -hour workday “Fusion Coalition”
The Election of 1896 Populists decide to improve their chances by supporting the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan, who agreed to support the silver -backed dollar
Gold Bugs v. Silverites Gold Bugs and Silverites Gold Bugs Silverites (Bimetallists) Who They Were Bankers and businessmen (Northerners/Republicans) Farmers and laborers (Southerners & Westerners/Democrats & Populists) What They Wanted Gold standard Less money in circulation Bimetallism (both gold AND silver) More money in circulation Why Loans would be repaid in stable money. Products would be sold at higher prices. Effects DEFLATION • Prices fall • Value of money increases • Fewer people have money William Mc. Kinley (Republican) INFLATION • Prices rise • Value of money decreases • More people have money William Jennings Bryan (Democrat/Populist)
The Election of 1896 Effects: 1. Period of Prosperity 2. Populists ideas were absorbed into the Progressive Party Bryan loses but carries most of the South and West
Central Historical Question Why did the Populist Party attract millions of supporters?
Using Primary Sources • Read Document A. In the margins, respond to the following: – Sourcing: Who wrote this? When? – Contextualization: What was going on for farmers at the time? Lease is a woman who is speaking to a group of women. What does this say about women’s involvement in politics in the 1890 s? – Close Reading: How is this document supposed to make you feel? • Read the first paragraph: How is this supposed to make the audience feel? Why might she use religious references? • Read the second and third paragraphs together: How was this supposed to make the audience feel? Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? What emotions does she appeal to? • Read the final paragraph: How was this supposed to make the audience feel? • Now read Document B. Use the handout to answer the questions about Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” Speech. • Do these themes resonate today? Which parts of these speeches could we expect to hear from today’s politicians? Which parts seem outdated?