Essay on Student: Famed Populist Leaders

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The People’s Party: The Rise of Populism

Alexandra Crespo

American History, Project 1 Tiffany Royal February 24, 2009 The Populist Party, established in the 1890’s, was also known as the People’s Party. The Populist Party was an emerging, political group whose objectives were maintaining unfair rights of the agrarian industry and urban workers. Because of their philosophy, supporting the struggling nation against the privileged elite, I believe the Populist Party should be considered a major political party in American history. During the Gilded Age, issues that the Populist Party focused on included intensifying debt, declining prices, and big business. Throughout the 1870’s and 1890’s economic welfare of farmers suffered unbearably. With little control of the political system and receiving low payment, cultivators owed a large amount of funds to the government. Also, expenses for farm equipment demanded large expenses. Thus, crops were being sold at lower prices than it cost to produce them. Finally, railroads and banks were yet another major issue of this political era. Farmers felt that railroads were a major monopoly, which caused farmer’s transportation costs to be unregulated. They also believed that national banks set unreasonably high interest rates. In response to certain political issues, the Populist Party stated their goals in hopes of conquering them. The party’s aspirations were the coinage of silver and claiming government ownership of railroads. The coinage of silver or “free silver” was a preferential economic plan for the Populist. Free silver was a movement in which silver was brought to the mint and constructed into gold coins, without being charged by the government. The Populist hoped that this advancement would help farmers, laborers, and industrial workers pay off their debt with inexpensive, and readily accessible money. Another goal of the Populist Party included alleviating farmers of railroad owners. The Populists strived to make the government the exclusive owner and operator of the railroads. In doing so, farmers might find relief in not having to pay excessively high freight and rail rates. Although refused by the Democrat and the Republican parties, policies the Populist Party supported were woman’s suffrage and unity between cultures. The women’s suffrage was looked upon as a cause to support. Mary Elizabeth Lease, a representative for the Populist Party, was responsible for the advancement of woman’s right to vote. Lease and many other associates of the People’s Party hoped that the enactment of this cause would allow women to elect some of their members into political office. With the votes of women a political change may occur and farmer’s rights would be supported. In charge of setting aside racial discrimination was Tom Watson, a Senator in 1891 and one of the most famed Populist leaders in Georgia. His ideas were focused on setting aside their racial differences and integrating a political coalition between black and white people, on account of shared economic egotism. To become a political party, the populist had to compute strategies in order to gain support. Strategies used were the education of the farmers, Farmers Alliance, and gaining seats in Congress and the Senate. The Grange, created by Oliver H. Kelley, an employee in the