Agrarian Discontent In The Late 1800s

Agrarian Discontent In The Late 1800s

Length: 1400 words (4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
"Why the Farmers Were Wrong"

The period between 1880 and 1900 was a boom time for American
politics. The country was for once 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 bulwark of
agriculture, 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. Finally, years
of drought in the midwest and the downward spiral of business in the
1890's devastated many of the nation's farmers. As a result of the
agricultural depression, many farm groups, most notably the Populist
Party, arose to fight what farmers saw as the reasons for the decline in
agriculture. 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 demonetization of silver as threats to their
way of life, though in many cases their complaints were not valid.

The growth of the railroad was one of the most significant
elements in American economic growth. However, in many ways, the
railroads hurt small shippers and farmers. Extreme competition between
rail companies necessitated some way to win business. To do this, many
railroads offered rebates and drawbacks to larger shippers who used their
rails. However, this practice hurt smaller shippers, including farmers,
for often times railroad companies would charge more to ship products
short distances than they would for long trips. The rail companies
justified this practice by asserting that if they did not rebate, they
would not make enough profit to stay in business. In his testimony to
the Senate Cullom Committee, George W. Parker stated, "...the operating
expense of this road...requires a certain volume of business to meet
these fixed some seasons of the year, the local business
of the not sufficient to make the earnings...when we make up a
train of ten of fifteen cars of local freight...we can attach fifteen or
twenty cars...of strictly through business. We can take the latter at a
very low rate than go without it." Later, when asked the consequences of
charging local traffic the same rate as through freight, Mr.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Agrarian Discontent In The Late 1800s." 25 Feb 2020

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Agrarian Discontent in Late Nineteenth Century

- Agrarian Discontent in Late Nineteenth Century At the end of the nineteenth century the American farmers faced many problems. Industrialization of the farms caused many farm workers to loose their jobs. Many farmers began raising only one crop in large amounts, which led to deflation. This meant ruin for many farmers, since they had to pay back the debts they owed for land and machinery. The railroads, corporations and processors made the situation even worse by organizing together and regulating crop prices....   [tags: Agriculture Farming History USA Essays Papers]

Research Papers
712 words (2 pages)

Agrarian Woes in the Late 19th Century Essay

- ... Railroads allowed for enormous opportunities after the Civil War, land previously too far from eastern cities to profitable was now farmable. However, farmers now saw themselves at the whim of the railroads and other commercial interests, making them easy prey for business practices that exploited their product. Railroads inflicted policies that reciprocated more negative than positive onto small time shippers and farmers. Competition between rail lines made profit supersede the consumer. Small farmers and shippers received the short end of the stick when companies offered rebates and price cuts to larger shippers, and while this helped to stimulate big business, many farmers were left...   [tags: farmers, railroads, expansion]

Research Papers
855 words (2.4 pages)

Childhood Development During The Late 1800s Essay

- Childhood development in the late 1800’s and today differ greatly, all the way from birth to schooling. Rather we’re talking cognitive, behavioral, or physical there are clear and vast differences in all categories of childhood development. Some of these differences served as advantages for the children of that era, while some served as disadvantage. One major example of a difference in childhood development in the late 1800s is schooling. During the time there was a growth in public schools, and attendance became a requirement, which were huge changes at the time even though we think little about such things today....   [tags: Childhood, Developmental psychology, School]

Research Papers
1087 words (3.1 pages)

Agrarian Reform Law Of Guatemala Essay

- The Agrarian Reform Law Decree 900 was enacted in 1952 under President Jacobo Árbenz’s government. President Árbenz wanted Guatemala’s financial system to grow and he wanted to transform the rural population through land redistribution and by giving them agricultural privileges. However, these ideals for land reform were short-lived; coming to an end with his coup in 1954. This essay will explain what the Agrarian Reform law in Guatemala was as well as what were its effects on landowners and rural hacienda workers, while touching on why the reform failed despite its progressive ideals....   [tags: Land reform, Agrarian reform]

Research Papers
1390 words (4 pages)

Slavery in the Late 1700s and Early 1800s. Essay

- During the period of time between 1789 and 1840, there were a lot of major changes occurring on the issue of slavery such as the impact it had towards the economy and the status of slaves in general. There were two types of African Americans slaves during the era, either doing hard cheap labor in a plantation usually owned by a white and being enslaved, or free. Undoubtedly, the enslaved African Americans worked vigorously receiving minimal pay, while on the other hand, the free ones had quite a different lifestyle....   [tags: economy, status, enslaved, free, plantation]

Research Papers
820 words (2.3 pages)

Essay on European Influence On Native American Art From 1400- Late 1800s

- European Influence on Native American Art from 1400- late 1800s The introduction of of European materials and techniques made Native American art more effortless create, and new techniques and mediums were used. However, in many cases European encounter caused Native American artwork to become less culturally significant, while a greater emphasis of its economical importance emerged. Traditional symbolism in many crafts were lost, as each unique tribe obtained the same European materials rather than what was native to the land they lived on, and sacred icons became novelties in the aristocratic homes of Europe....   [tags: Native Americans in the United States]

Research Papers
1200 words (3.4 pages)

A Race for Rats in The Winter of Our Discontent Essay

- A Race for Rats in The Winter of Our Discontent Some runners look only to the finish line, choosing to ignore what they step on or who they pass along the way. In The Winter of Our Discontent, Steinbeck portrays the dawning of a selfish American society concerned solely with winning personal races. Set in a small New England town during the early sixties, the story focuses on the life of Ethan Allen Hawley, an intelligent man with prestigious family history who is employed as a grocer to the dismay of members of his family and the community....   [tags: Winter of Our Discontent Essays]

Research Papers
844 words (2.4 pages)

Why there was Discontent Amongst the Members of the Third Estates by the Late 1780's

- Why there was Discontent Amongst the Members of the Third Estates by the Late 1780's The Third Estate was a very mixed group of people, who were neither clerics nor nobility. By far the greatest proportion of this estate, comprising between 80 and 90% of the population as a whole, was peasantry. The remainder was made up of the bourgeoisie and the urban workers. The bourgeoisie (middle classes) is a rather vague term, which is often divided in turn to the haute bourgeoisie, such as the wealthy merchants and tradesmen, and the petite bourgeoisie, such as small shopkeepers and craftsmen (also known as urban workers)....   [tags: Papers]

Free Essays
1029 words (2.9 pages)

The Rise of Materialism Exposed in Winter of Our Discontent Essay

- The Rise of Materialism Exposed in Winter of Our Discontent John Steinbeck showed alarm and disapproval to the rise of materialism and the post-World War 2, capitalistic morals found in America during the 1960's. These views were expressed through various characters in his novel The Winter of Our Discontent . This book dealt with the downward spiral of a good man, Ethan Allen Hawley. Pressured on all sides by influences once considered immoral, but now accepted in the 1960's, Ethan, a grocery store clerk from a family of sea captains and wealthy businessmen, "...traded a habit of conduct and attitude for comfort and dignity and a cushion of security" (257)....   [tags: Winter Our Discontent]

Free Essays
911 words (2.6 pages)

Essay on The Winter of Our Discontent, by John Steinbeck, 1996 ed.

- The Winter of Our Discontent, by John Steinbeck, 1996 ed. Within each action, man places his own self-interest. The morals of this are continuously questioned, and throughout The Winter of Our Discontent, Steinbeck explores both the traditional, Christian view and the natural view of the world and its corruption. He shows how Ethan Allen's life was that of a Christian, when he followed his morals, was very passive and generous, and even suffered and was a victim of betrayal. However, Steinbeck also shows that nature can take hold of a man, when Ethan's animalistic instincts and moral conflicts arise....   [tags: Steinbeck Winter Discontent]

Free Essays
1927 words (5.5 pages)

Related Searches

responded, "Bankruptcy, inevitably and speedy...". 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.
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." (Doc. H). 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. As a result, many farmers, already
hurt by the downslide in agriculture, were ruined. Thus, the farmers of
the late nineteenth century had a valid complaint against railroad
shippers, for these farmers were hurt by the unfair practices of the

Near the end of the nineteenth century, business began to
centralize, leading to the rise of monopolies and trusts. Falling
prices, along with the need for better efficiency in industry, led to the
rise of such companies as Carnegie Steel and Standard Oil, which
controlled a majority of the nation's supply of raw steel and oil
respectively. The rise of these monopolies and trusts concerned many
farmers, for they felt that the disappearance of competition would lead
to erratic and unreasonable price rises that would hurt consumers. James
B. Weaver, the Populist party's presidential candidate in the 1892
election, summed up the feelings of many Americans of the period in his
work, A Call to Action: An Interpretation of the Great Uprising. He
wrote, "It is clear that trusts conflict with the Common law.
They are monopolies organized to destroy competition and restrain
trade.... Once they secure control of a given line, they are master of
the situation... They can limit the price of the raw material so as to
impoverish the producer, drive him to a single market, reduce the price
of every class of labor connected with the trade, throw out of employment
large numbers persons...and finally...they increase the price to the
consumer.... The main weapons of the trust are threats, intimidation,
bribery, fraud, wreck, and pillage." However, the facts refute many of
Weaver's charges against the monopolies. While it is true that many used
questionable means to achieve their monopoly, many were not out to crush
competitors. To the contrary, John D. Rockefeller, head of Standard Oil,
competed ruthlessly not to crush other refiners but to persuade them to
join Standard Oil and share the business so all could profit.
Furthermore, the fear that the monopolies would raise prices unreasonably
was never realized. Prices tended to fall during the latter part of the
1800's creating what some have called a "consumer's millennium". Thus,
the agrarian complaints against monopolies were not incredibly valid, for
the monopolies did very little harm to farmers of the time.

Finally, deflation and falling prices during the late 1800's led
to the most heated complaint of farmers and the Populist party that grew
out of agricultural discontent. Deflation had been running rampant
during the latter half of the 1800's, as evidenced by the drastic fall in
the value of wheat and cotton. To fight the deflationary trend, the
Populists demanded a reversal of the Coinage Act of 1873, which
demonetized silver. The Populist platform for the 1892 election called
for unlimited coinage of silver and an increase in the money supply "to
no less than $50 per capita.. Here again, the farmers are wrong in the
assessment of their problems. It is true that the countrys money supply
was not adequate. United States government data from 1961 shows that
though the countrys population between 1865 and 1875 increased by nearly
four million, the countrys money supply actually decreased. However,
many farmers used the money supply to explain problems that indeed had
very little to do with the money supply at all. This fact is best summed
up in a quote from J. Laurence Laughlins article, Causes of
Agricultural Unrest. He says, Feeling the coils of some mysterious
power about them, the farmers... have attributed their misfortunes to the
constriction in prices, caused, as they think, not by an increased
production of wheat throughout the world, but by the scarcity of gold..
Furthermore, history has shown that battle between gold and silver had
little real meaning. The real battle was not between gold or silver, but
instead what would be done to check deflation. William McKinley, in his
1896 acceptance speech, said, Free silver would not mean that silver
dollars were to be freely had without cost or labor... It would not make
labor easier, the hours shorter, or the pay better. It would not make
the farming less laborious or more profitable.... Many farmers saw
silver as a cure-all for their problems, failing to see that changes in
the world were to blame. Finally, the discovery of gold in Alaska and
improved methods of extracting gold from low-grade ore did much to
increase the nations money supply. These facts prove that the farmers
view of silver was not sound, thus invalidating their complaints about
the nations financial system.

The farmers of the late 1800s had many reasons for being
dissatisfied with their situation. Unfair railroad practices, such as
rebates and drawbacks, hurt them severely. However, in some cases, these
farmers complaints were not justified. Many of the fears that farmers
had about monopolies, such as the idea of unfair and unreasonable price
increases, happened in very few occasions; in fact, prices went down in
the latter part of the nineteenth century. Finally, history has proven
that their view of silver as a way to end deflation and the decrease in
crop values was inaccurate. The farmers of the period, though, used
these issues to change the shape of American politics and bring it face
to face with the problems the country was facing.
Return to