Historical Roots of Populism

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Essay ? 1

Describe the historical roots of populism. What actions did farmers take to try improve their economic situation? What political demands and actions did populist pursue? Do you consider the populist movement to be a success or failure and why?

In the 1890’s disaster struck for farmers economically. First there were dry years and poor harvest along with the competition from overseas farmers who took advantage of the improved transportation system. This caused the price of wheat to fall below 6 cents. The tariff on manufactured goods, the domestic marketing system, and the shortage of credit were all contributing factors to the devastating downward swing in the business cycle. The debt of postbellum farmers in the south occurred because of the credit exploitation of northern merchant stores and high freight rates charged by the Railroads.

This triggered a new outburst of farm radicalism. The Farmers Alliance was established in Lampasas, Texas in 1877 to try and improve their economic situation. The alliance was designed to promote higher commodity prices through collective action by groups of farmers. The farmers developed co-ops to help each other out. The Farmers Alliance spread throughout the Midwest and South. Despite their efforts to market crops cooperatively at fair prices they discovered problems in the American financial and monetary system. They became aware that the furnishing man was holding them down. They wanted a sub treasury in order to get loans from the government instead of the furnishing man. They also had a plan that would permit farmers to keep nonperishable crops when the prices were low and receive a loan from the government in which they would repay when the market prices rose and they sold the crops they had in storage.

The Farmer’s Alliance held their first formal convention in Cleburne, Texas in 1886 and made the Cleburne demands. They demanded that the government regulate commerce and create a...
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