Populist Party

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Populist Party

The Populist Party, a third political party that originated in America in the latter part of the nineteenth century, derived as a result of farmer discontent and economic distress. This was caused by the country's shift from an agricultural American life to one in which industrialists dominated the nation's development. The public felt as if they were being cheated by these "robber barons," a term given to those who took advantage of the middle and lower classes by "boldly stealing the fruits of their toils" (Morgan, 30). These corporate tycoons' conduct was legal, however ethically dubious it was. Cornelius Vanderbilt, a well-known railroad baron, reportedly once said, "Law! What do I care about the law? Hain't I got the power?" (Morgan, 30) The change from agrarian to industrial had a profound effect on everyone's life. Ignatius Donnelly, a leader in the Populist Party wrote, "We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench . . . A vast conspiracy against mankind has been organized" (Tindall, 957). As a result of this significant transformation, along with several different perspectives of peoples' mores, several reform movements were commenced, such as prohibition, socialism, and the Greenback Labor Party. Each of these movements was launched by different coalitions in hopes of making a difference either for themselves or for the good of the country. The farmers, specifically, were unhappy for four particular reasons: physical problems, social and intellectual concerns, economic difficulties, and political frustrations. The physical concerns the climate of the time period. Following 1885, there was a large drought on the American prairie, thus causing this land to become known as the "Dust Bowl." Furthermore, there were extreme blizzards resulting in innumerable deaths of cattle and livestock. Also, farms were very isolated causing the women and children to lead a life of solitude and boredom. They demanded change. In fact, the women were the ones to start libraries and other meeting places for themselves and their children. This isolation made schooling for children quite difficult. Most kids who lived on the farm did not receive a proper education, or one of any kind for that matter. Farmers' economic problems are more intricate. Events baffled the farmer. They believed that deflation was the cause of their problem.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the populist party originated as a result of farmer discontent and economic distress. the change from an agricultural american life to one in which industrialists dominated the nation's development.
  • Explains how the drought and blizzards caused the "dust bowl" on the american prairie. the women and children demanded change, and the railroads overcharged farmers.
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