AP United States History
7 January 2013
Example Document Based Question
Nearly all of the reasons for agrarian discontent in the late 19th century stem from three areas: land, transportation, and money. The farmers were fighting the perceived threats posed by monopolies and trusts, railroads, and the demonetization of silver. The American farmer during this period already had his fair share of problems which, compared to the success of the industrialized businessmen, resulted in much of the animosity between the two groups. The fact of the matter was farmers had entered a viscous cycle. Wheat and cotton, once the staples of American agriculture were selling at such low prices that it was almost impossible for a farmer to make any profit off of them. This was only made worse by the modern equipment many farmers had invested huge sums of money into that would double or even triple the amount of crops produced each season. Farmers were finding it impossible to compete in this new global market that was helping America’s budding industry so much. Finally, the panic of 1893 devastated many of the nation’s farmers already struggling to hold on. As a result, many farm groups, most notably the Populist Party, arose to fight what farmers saw as the reasons for the decline of agriculture. The decline of agriculture was caused by these factors, not the banks, the railroads, or the government. However, the first two preyed on the weak farmers while the latter stood by. Therefore, most of the farmer’s complaints were valid.
As the farmers struggled to survive, the railroad monopolies were thriving. They saw weakness in the farmers, and pounced on it, raising prices for transportation and holding of all of the crops that the farmer had worked so hard to raise. The government threw out a lifeline to the farmers in the form of the Interstate commerce Act of 1887. This created the Interstate commerce commission which was supposed to regulate...