Agrarian Discontent 1880 To 1900

analytical Essay
1453 words
1453 words

Agrarian Discontent 1880 to 1900 The period between 1880 and 1900 was a boom time for American Politics. The country was finally free of the threat of war, and many of its citizens were living comfortably. However, as these two decades went by, the American farmer found it harder and harder to live comfortably. Crops such as cotton and wheat, once the sustenance of the agriculture industry, were selling at prices so low that it was nearly impossible for farmers to make a profit off them. Furthermore, improvement in transportation allowed foreign competition to materialize, making it harder for American farmers to dispose of surplus crop. Mother Nature was also showing no mercy with grasshoppers, floods, and major droughts that led to a downward spiral of business that devastated many of the nation’s farmers. As a result of the agricultural depression, numerous farms groups, most notably the Populist Party, arose to fight what the farmers saw as the reasons for the decline in agriculture. During the final 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, all of which could be recognized as valid complaints. The growth of the railroad was one of the most significant elements in American economic growth, yet it hurt small shippers and farmers in many ways. Extreme competition between rail companies necessitated some way to win business. To do this, railroads would offer rebates and drawbacks to larger shippers who used their rails. This practice hurt smaller shippers, including farmers, because often times railroad companies would charge more to ship products short distances than they would for long trips. This was known as the “long haul, short haul evil”. The rail companies justified this practice by asserting that if they did not rebate, they would not make enough profit to stay in business. So 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. A perfect example of this fact can be found in The Octopus by Frank Norris. In The Octopus a farmer named Dyke discovers that the railroad has increased their freight charges from two to five cents a pound. This new rate, “…ate up every cent of his gains. He stood there ruined.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the period between 1880 and 1900 was a boom time for american politics. however, the american farmer found it hard to live comfortably.
  • Analyzes how the growth of the railroad hurt small shippers and farmers in many ways. the railroads used rebates and drawbacks to win business.
  • Explains how railroads tried to end competition by establishing pools to divide traffic equally and charge similar rates. the pool lacked legal status, while the trust centralized control over a number of different companies.
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