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The Populist Movement Essay, Research Paper

The Failed Populist Movement of the 1890’s

Populism is best defined as the philosophy or movement that promotes the interests of the common people. The blue-collar workers, farmers, miners and other laborers headed the peoples’ party. This philosophy or movements’ flawed view of “producer” Ideology encouraged the failure of populism. Historian, Michael Kazin narrows the views of the populist down to: a language whose speakers conceive of ordinary people as a noble assemblage not bounded narrowly by class, view their elite opponents as self-serving and undemocratic, and seek to mobilize the former against the latter . The Populist movement would ultimately cancel itself out because of views on the monopolizing wealth of many and equal rights for all including women and blacks. The idea that the populist government should have control of the railroads and banks.

Progress and Proverty and Looking Backward were the idea that the elite people of society should be stopped from monopolizing finances in the nation and share the wealth. The financial views of the populist were demands of unlimited coinage both silver and gold, at the ratio of 16 to1. Also wanting the amount of circulation increased to $50 per person. This, in turn, would increase the rise of deflation. The populist also demanded a graduated income tax. Populist “producer” ideology led them to believe that if they could control the wealth and prosperity of the country that it would benefit all. There would be no social classes; everyone would be financially equal. Creditors and the wealthy would now have no binding over those who were in debt because of deflation. Credit and available money would contract. The general price level would fall causing recession.

Railroads, telephones, and telegraphs were vital for communication and travel in the nation. Populist demanded the government to own and operate these systems like the postal system. Regulating all travel and communication amongst the nation for the best interest of the people. The idea of the government having a hold on all the telephones and telegraph would make privacy an unknown factor. Rates of pay would not be varied on skill but one rate for all workers. This idea quickly failed.

The people’s party was not accepted because of its make-up of the lower class of the nation. Tramps or women with no husbands with matted hair and hideous appearances. Their nails dirty and snaggle- tooth with no lady-like feature or mannerisms. The men were no different with their hand-me- down suits and rank odor that trailed them as they spoke their evangelist tones. This was a dramatic change from the bureaucrats of the other parties. Dressed in their tailored suits, diamond emblems holding down silk ties. Men with fine facial features groomed and clean. The women though not a major part of the party were the same. This astonishing difference led people to think the populist were mere animal like beings that could not be taken serious. The rank of their gathering would often ward off onlookers because of the foul odor and appearance of the people.

Freed black men and the common worker had many things in common, such as their debt to the owners of their land, and the small and old living quarters. The lack of funds to pay creditors when the growing season ends; which caused outrageous prices in rent because of the mortgages. Populist believed that they could win the vote of these men by appealing to their weaknesses. Promising that the men whether black or white would have the means to support themselves and live a better life. Populism was in no way part of desegregation, but it brought the blacks and whites of the working class together because of their similarities. They both wanted to be debt free and be able to live a happy normal life. Eliminating prejudice among the groups, now driving them apart. “Producer” ideology led populist to believe that by ensuring secrecy in voting the people would be less prejudice and vote according to who they want and not who they were told to vote for. It would let the blacks and white of the common class have a sense of unity.

Populism purposed help for farmer’s debt from mortgaged homes by creditors rising interest rates. According to populist senator William Alfred Peffer the report of the Census Bureau did not include facts that would question the entire indebtedness of the nation’s people. Farmers were overwhelmed by the mortgages of creditors. Creditors were increasing the rates of interest so rapidly that the farmers were becoming more in debt. Farmers had no control of the rates and made less and less money each year to payoff the creditors. Populist demanded lower interest rates needed to be obtained, or on half of the farmers in the nation would become renters within the next ten years, and the remaining half would become renter’s ten years later. By the end of the century a few wealthy men would own all of the property of the nation. Populism “producer” ideology that lower interests rates would be in the best interest of the people. The government would reclaim all of the land and hold it for the settlers of the nation. The common people who were the first ground breakers of the nation. Taking the land of immigrants, railroads, corporations, and the wealthy giving it to the “producers”.

In conclusion, The “producer” ideology of the Populist movement of the 1890s failed because of inconsistency. Finance views of the populist would have cause deflation and lead the nation into debt. The currency would have very little or no value. This would cause prices to fall, credit and available money to be scarce. Leading the nation on into recession.

Populist also purposed that the government owns and operates railroads, telegraph, and telephones for the best interest of the people. The government would have control the production of railroads and regulate the pay of the workers. Telegraphs and telephone systems would be ran like the postal services; which would in turn take away the privacy of the people.

The populist was also outcast among the ranks because of their poor appearance and lack of cleanliness. Compared to the welled dressed and educated men of the other parties they were mocked.


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