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Agrarian Woes in the Late 19th Century

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The end of the 19th century brought to farmers astringent policies enforced by railroad companies, once stable cash crops like cotton and wheat now selling at such low profit margins due to inflation that farmers continued to end up in the red, spikes in foreign competition due to leaps and bounds in transportation, and all of this in the wake of a devastating drought that brought with it the degradation of businesses throughout the west. This agricultural depression culminated into the Populist movement, founded on the premise of the politicalization of the farmers plight. However, much of the negative stigma put onto the precipitants of the industrial revolution by farmers was under false pretense, when the dry and arid conditions of the west, as well as the social isolation from the increase of farm size was to blame. The end of the nineteenth century brought with it a new age of monopolies and trusts, where competition evaporated while businesses centralized. Farmers felt threatened by monopolization, especially with railroads, because the lack of competition would leave profit driven corporations to raise rates, and put a strangle hold on farmers profits. As the presidential nominee of the Populist Party in the 1892 election, James B. Weaver spoke for the American farmer in his work, A Call to Action: An Interpretation of the Great Uprising [Document F]. His message may have been an accurate portrayal of the farmers woes, however, the fear that the monopolies would raise prices unreasonably never came to fruition. The late 19th century actually saw prices drop, spawning an era of consumerism. Therefore, farmers lost validity because monopolies inflicted little harm to the agrarian lifestyle in the late 19th century. Railr... ... middle of paper ... ... American agrarian empire was defeated by railroads issuing rebates and drawbacks, foreign competition, and a booming population that pushed the farmers west to a point that arid conditions strangled profits. However, in some cases, these farmers complaints were not justified. Many of the threats farmers thought monopolies posed to them, such as the idea of unfair and unreasonable price increases, rarely were a reality. The debate between silver and gold also proved to be unrelated to the farmers troubles, as silver couldn’t serve as the means to end deflation and lower crop values. Although the farmers did manage to bring politics closer to the people, and politicians face to face with the problems of the country, they failed to preserve their lifestyle, resulting in the world we live in today, where the distance from the farm to the dinner table continues to grow.
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