Populism Power Point
Populism Power Point
• Due to overproduction caused by
numerous farms and better
methods farm prices plummeted.
• The price of wheat fell from
$2.00 a bushel in 1867 to $0.68
a bushel in 1887.
• Farmer’s incomes fell greatly.
• The removal of greenbacks (paper dollars not backed by gold or silver) from the
economy after the Civil War led to inflation.
• This meant that the money left in circulation (tied to the gold standard) became
• So why is that a problem?
• Debt – Farmers had mortgaged their farms to make ends meet when farm prices fell.
The removal of greenbacks meant that farm prices would fall even more and that the
farmers would have to pay their debts, dollar for dollar, using money that was far
more valuable than the money they originally borrowed.
• Railroads had a monopoly on the
shipment of farm products from the
west to markets in the east (where
most people lived).
• Railroads engaged in price gouging,
charging artificially high prices
because farmers had no other
• This forced farmers into even more
debt but made tremendous profits for
Oliver Hudson Kelley
• Farmers began work together to support one another.
• Kelley’s Patrons of Husbandry was founded to provide
a social outlet and educational forum for rural farmers.
• Over time, the Grange, became a political organization
that represented the interests of rural farmers in state
• Accomplishments of the Grange included the
passage of Granger Laws.
• These were state laws in the Midwest, West,
and Southeast that set maximum railroad
rates in those states.
• Railroad companies fought these laws in
court. They argued it was unconstitutional for
any government to regulate business
• In Munn v. Illinois (1877) the United States
Supreme Court ruled that granger laws were
in fact constitutional further establishing the
right of the government to regulate
The Populist Party
• By 1892 the economic troubles of farmers had become widely known. Industrial
laborers experienced similar struggles and a nationwide political movement began to
• This political uprising of common Americans became known as Populism and it led to
the creation of the Populist Party.
• The party was made of Western and Southeastern farmers and Northeastern and
Midwestern industrial workers.
• The parties candidates began to win state and local elections and soon candidates
started running for national offices (Congress).
Populist Party Platform
• Eight Hour Workday
• Federal Government Regulation of Railroads
• Increase in the money supply to create inflation (rise in farm prices).
• Immigration restrictions.
• Secret Ballot.
• Direct Election of U.S. Senators
• One term limit for President.
• Bankers and Businessmen.
• Wanted to keep U.S. on the gold standard
which would keep the value of the dollar high.
• Loans would be repaid in stable money.
• This would lead to less money in circulation
and deflation (falling prices).
• Fewer people would have money and the
wealth of those that did (bankers and
businessmen) would increase.
• Farmers and Laborers.
• Bimetallism – silver and gold coinage. This
would decrease the value of the dollar and
prices for farm goods would rise.
• Farmers profits would increase and they could
pay back loans with dollars that were actually
equal in value to the dollars they had originally
borrowed before greenbacks were taken out of
• Wealth would be more evenly distributed across
all tiers of society.
William Jennings Bryan
• Former Nebraska Congressman and editor of the
Omaha World-Herald newspaper.
• Considered the patron saint of lost causes due to
the fact that he let his beliefs, not politics, guide
• Bryan was a Democrat and won the parties
nomination for president in 1896.
• Bryan’s stance on the gold coinage issue led the
Populist Party to nominate him as their candidate
“Cross of Gold”
“Having behind us the producing masses of
this nation and the world, supported by the
commercial interests, the laboring interests,
and the toilers everywhere, we will answer
their demand for a gold standard by saying to
them: You shall not press down upon the
brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall
not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”
William Jennings Bryan, Democratic
Convention speech, Chicago, July 8, 1896.
• Former Congressman and Governor of Ohio.
• Civil War veteran.
• Republican nominee for president in 1896.
• Supporter of the gold standard.
• Very popular within the Republican Party and in
his home state of Ohio. Also popular in
• Had millions of dollars in his campaign fund.
Election of 1896
Election of 1896
The End of Populism?
• The election of 1896 did spell the end of the Populist Party but not necessarily the
end of the idea of populism.
• Two important legacies were left by the Populists.
1. A message that even the common man could organize and have a political impact.
2. An agenda of reforms (the Populist Party platform) that would become part of the
political debate in the United States. Many of these reforms would be put into law
in the 20th century.