The Populist Movement Essay

Submitted By ashley16012
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The Populist movement was a revolt by farmers in the South and Midwest against the Democratic and Republican Parties for ignoring their interests and difficulties. For over a decade, farmers were suffering from crop failures, falling prices, poor marketing, and lack of credit facilities. Many farmers were in debt due to a drought that affected the Midwest in the 1880s. At the same time, prices for Southern cotton dropped. These disasters, combined with resentment against railroads, money-lenders, grain-elevator owners, and others with whom farmers did business, led farmers to organize.

As a result, two organizations came into existence during this period: the segregated National Farmers' Alliance and the Colored Farmers' Alliance. Although they came to win some significant regional victories, the alliances achieved little influence on a national scale. By the 1890s, agrarian reformers refocused their energies and organized the new Populist, or People's Party. The Party called upon the federal government to buffer economic depressions, regulate banks and corporations, and help farmers who were suffering hard times.

After 1880, the Grange gave way to regional farmers' alliances. The Colored Farmers Alliance organized black farmers, and a few white farmers, in the South. Other regional alliances organized white farmers in the South and farmers in other parts of the country. The farmers' alliances represented the people, not the moneyed interests. They were neither Democrats nor Republicans they were populists.

In 1890, politicians representing the farmers' alliances won control of many state legislatures and some governorships in the South and West. The various farmers' alliances met in Ocala, Florida in 1890 and backed candidates in the 1890 elections. They elected five U.S. senators, six governors, and 46 congressional representatives.
With that success, the alliances decided to work together. Meeting in Omaha in 1892, they agreed on six demands a permanent union of all working classes; wealth for the workers; government ownership of railroads; government ownership of all communications systems; more flexible and fair distribution of the national currency; and no more ownership of land by those who do not actually use it.

In 1892, farmer organizations and their leaders met in St. Louis and formed the People's Party. In that year's presidential election, the party ran James B. Weaver of Iowa as its candidate on an impressive platform that called for government ownership of railroads, a graduated income tax, and unlimited coinage of silver to increase the money supply. Weaver received more than 1 million popular votes and captured the electoral votes of four states, indicating to the major political parties that these issues were important to the public and therefore could not be ignored.

The People's Party, also known as the "Populists, was a lived in the political party in the United States established in 1891 during the Populist movement. It was most important in 1892-96, then rapidly faded away. Based among poor, white cotton farmers in the South especially in North Carolina, Alabama, and Texas and hard-pressed wheat farmers in the plains states…