Farmers everywhere in the United States during the late nineteenth century had valid reasons to complaint against the economy because the farmers were constantly being taken advantage of by the railroad companies and banks. All farmers faced similar problems and for one thing, farmers were starting to become a minority within the American society. In the late nineteenth
century, industrialization was in the spotlight creating big businesses and capitals. The success of industrialization put agriculture and farmers on the down low, allowing the corporations to overtake the farmers. Since the government itself; such as the Republican Party was also pro-business during this time, they could have cared less about the farmers.
Knowing the fact that industrialization had been really successful during this time, allowed farmers to modernize their techniques. Farmers began to use new farming
machinery such as the thresher and reaper, which made the growing of wheat much faster and efficient. However since these tools were too expensive to buy, farmers went to the banks to borrow money. Banks in turn would take advantage of the naïve farmers and raise the interest rates
. This would cause the farmers to fall into debt because they would still take the loan from the bank and thought that they would be able to pay them back from their crop profit. Farmers were suffering losses year after year and were forced to have their mortgages foreclosed on, as they saw it, by their Eastern Master. Eventually farmers became the slaves to the Easter Master who ended up taking away everything the farmers had owned. (Doc. D) The complaint of farmers is absolutely valid because the bankers were doing unjust to the farmers. Bankers would let them fall into debt through their high interest rates and then seize everything they owned in court.
Just like the bank, railroad companies also scammed the farmers. The railroads regularly used rebates and drawbacks to help win the business of large shippers, and made up this loss in profit by increasing the cost to smaller shippers such as farmers. However, in many ways, the railroads hurt small shippers and farmers because in some cases the railroad company has promised the farmer a set amount of price. Like in Frank Norris' The Octopus, a farmer is promised a two-cent rate for shipping and then is demanded to give five cents (Doc. H). This is not a justified action because the farmer was lied to and taken advantage of. The loss of those three cents will affect the farmer's money circulation and might cause him to fall into debt.
After ripping-off the farmers, the railroad company tries to justify their actions. Such as George W. Parker, the vice-president of the Cairo Short Line Railroad testified that if local and cross-country shippers are not charged the same amount, the company will go bankrupt. (Doc. G) The rail companies justified this practice by asserting that if they did not give rebates, they would not make enough profit to stay in business. While the railroads felt that they must use this practice to make a profit, the farmers were justified in complaining, for they were seriously injured by it. Despite the fact, the company might go into bankrupt, it is still not acceptable for anyone cheat for money because even if there was a minor shortage of money, the person being conned can fall into debt, which most of the farmers did.
Besides being swindled by the banks and railroad companies, the money circulation in United Stated from 1865-1895 was also in shortage. The circulation of money throughout those years had been like a roller-caster ride. The money in circulation started out with thirty dollars per person in 1865, then fell to nineteen dollars per person and finally went up to twenty-three dollars per person. (Doc. C) However the circulation of money never reached its original value. These statistics show that the population had increased throughout the years but the money in circulation had only increased to a minor extent.
During the last twenty years of the nineteenth century, many farmers in the United States saw monopolies and trusts, railroads, and money shortages and the loss in value of silver as threats to their way of life. As a result of this agricultural depression, many farm groups, such as the Populist Party, arose to fight what farmers saw as the reasons for the decline in agriculture. The Populist Party believed that, in order to prevent agrarian discontent, some changes were needed. They believed that the current situations in the government and economy have led to the corruption of many farmers and in order to make things better, they would like to make a few changes, such as bank and railroad regulations, direct election of senators, secret ballots, and free silver. (Doc. A) Populist Part also believed that the supply of money had been purposely cut back to make bankers rich and because of this farmers wanted silver to be a basis for money as well as gold. The formation of the third party and their goals such as free silver was justified because if the corporations were not willing to compromise nor was the government willing to help them, then they would need to take a step forward themselves.
The populist idea about free silver did not satisfy many people in the government and the economy, such as William McKinley. In his acceptance speech, McKinley states that free silver would not change anything. He believed that if the currency was based on silver; the hours, nor the pay or labor would become easier. It would not make farming more successful nor more of a failure. In short, he said that free silver would not be the solution to any of the farmer's problems. (Doc. B) However this opinion by William McKinley is not justified because it's just an excuse to cover up the downfall that would be caused to big businesses if free silver would be used. Also since McKinley was a Republican and the Republican Party was pro-business and supported the currency of gold, they wouldn't want to hurt the big businesses and instead help the farmers be released from debt.
As time went by, the American farmers found it harder and harder to live comfortably. Crops such as cotton and wheat, were selling at prices so low that it was nearly impossible for farmers to make a profit off them. Furthermore, improvement in transportation made it easier for foreign competition to gain the upper hand, making it harder for American farmers to dispose of extra crops that had accumulated. To do this, many railroads offered rebates and drawbacks to larger shippers who used their rails. Banks also increased their interest rates and took advantage of the farmers. Finally the high railroad freight rates and high bank interest rates caused the reason for agrarian discontent which led the farmers to complaint with their valid points.