During the late 19th century in Kansas there was a movement among the general population called the Farmer’s Populist Movement. Today, Kansas is still by far a Republican state, but during this time the Populist Party engaged the Republican stronghold in a battle to win over the state, however, in the end the Republicans pulled through. William Allen White, at this time, had become a well known man in the journalism world and his political allegiance did not go unnoticed among either those within the political arena or those observing. William Allen White, aside from his personal political leanings towards the Republican side, was against the Populist movement that was stretching across Kansas and his forum for informing the community on why the Populist movement was wrong for Kansans became the Emporia Gazette. Through his editorials and interactions with political leaders of both the Populist and Republican Parties one can see that William Allen White hoped to persuade Kansans not to be won over by the Populist movement. Before someone can dive into William Allen White and what he did during the 1890’s, an understanding of the Farmer’s Populist Movement and the incumbent Republican Party of Kansas is essential.
Populism took hold amongst farm communities that had been shut out from the indirect benefits of railway construction. It took hold amongst less wealthy, unfenced farming townships in the early stages of economic development. And perhaps most importantly, it took hold amongst farm families that were experiencing a migration-induced devaluation of their human capital. Populism is interpreted as a movement rooted in the frustrating regional adjustments faced by individual farm families, rather than as simply a democratic, collective movement in American politics. Kansas Populism was prompted in 1890 because many native-born farmers found, when confronted by a years of infestation of agricultural pests and severe drought, that they lacked the skills necessary for profitable utilization of the sub-humid agricultural lands. And that is why farmers grew a more risky mix of corn and wheat on the eve of the Populist revolt; they had a fear of income losses from yield-reducing insect infestations. The suggested pest-management technique was to eliminate either wheat or corn altoget...
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So, his role in the 1896 presidential campaign came down to this. However credible or not, he arouse the senses and got the blood boiling of the people, first of Emporia, then of the nation. The affect that this had was important, it is only when someone speaks frankly and possibly even out of context that people will listen to what it is that you have to say, especially if it is against the common thread of beliefs.
Like many heroes of history, it wasn’t until after the election had passed and the results were in that William became notorious among Republicans though. “It was then, in their national victory, that the Republicans of our town rallied to me. As a national figure, I had their respect…” (White 286).
1- Diggs, Annie L. The Story of Jerry Simpson. Wichita: Hobson Printing, 1908.
2- White, William Allen. The Autobiography of William Allen White. New York: Macmillan, 1946.
3- Peffer, William A. Populism, Its Rise and Fall. Lawrence: Univ. of Kansas, 1992.
4- Argersinger, Peter H. The Limits of Agrarian Radicalism. Lawrence: Univ. of Kansas, 1995.
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