Essay on Populist's Movement

Submitted By arod093
Words: 689
Pages: 3

Populists' Movement Failed Effort for Empowerment Farmers and Industrial workers alike faced tough times after the Civil War when the depression of the 1890s hit. This economic downturn devastated working people, many of whom lost their jobs as factories closed down, leading to a new wave of community-based activism on behalf of ordinary people. For example, "Industrial armies" were organized, bringing together hundreds of unemployed people who together set out for Washington in order to gain public support and to demand public works jobs. But by far the most influential reaction to the depression was the formation of the rapidly rising People's Party, one of the largest and most powerful third parties ever in American history. Unfortunately, none of these working class efforts succeeded in gaining empowerment in a country dominated by white supremacy. With absolutely no jobs available throughout the depression and with people and their families starving, many unemployed workers demanded the federal government help create jobs by funding public works. In 1894, Ohio businessman Jacob S. Coxey organized a march to Washington in order to do just that. Coxey’s “industrial army" of a few hundred marched all the way to Washington with thousands cheering them on. Thorstein Veblen, a young sociologist, saw the march as more significant than its size suggested. Veblen argued, “Coxey's appeal to the federal government for relief asserted that government had a basic responsibility for the people's welfare” (page ###). This was an extremely radical notion at the time, and one that the federal government did not agree with, and eventually took actions to suppress. When Coxey's "army" finally made it to Washington they were met by 1,500 federal troops, where Coxey and a few others were arrested and the rest of the marchers disbanded. Despite Coxey's failed march, his movement inspired dozens of other "industrial armies" to set out for Washington. None of these marching protests to the capital were ever successful thanks to federal troops and court injunctions, both of which were used as a powerful anti-labor weapon in the struggles of the 1890s. The federal government did not only use federal troops and injunctions to stop "industrial armies", but also to quell a major strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company, but this time, a violent confrontation erupted. The Pullman strike began after George Pullman fired one-third of his employees, cut the wages of the rest by 25 to 40 percent, and refused to reduce rents or food prices at the company store causing Pullman workers to walk off the job in May 11, 1894. The American Railway Union (ARU), one of the fastest-growing unions in the United States, called for a boycott and a strike against all trains hauling Pullman cars. The federal government responded by sending out troops and state militia to put…