The Populist Movement emerged from the farmersí alliances of the
1870s and 1880s. In the 1890s the Populist Party appeared to represent
a viable third party independent of the Democrats and Republicans.
A response to the growth of industrialism, the Populists opposed the "concentrated
capital" of banks and big businesses and decried the many of the effects
that industrialism was having on American society. As you read, look
carefully at the Populistsí analysis of the ills of American society and
their proposed solutions. In what sense do the Populists represent
a reaction against many of the changes the United States underwent during
the Gilded Age?
The conditions which surround us best justify our co-operation; we meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box.... The people are demoralized;... public opinion silenced.... homes covered with mortgages, labor impoverished, and the land concentrating in the hands of capitalists. The urban workman are denied the right to organize for self-protection, imported pauperized labor beats down their wages... and [we] are rapidly degenerating into European conditions. The fruits of the toils of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind.... From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes tramps and millionaires.
The national power to create money is appropriated to enrich bond-holders....
Silver, which has been accepted as coin since the dawn of history, has been demonitized to add to the purchasing power of gold.... the supply of currency is purposely [limited] to fatten [creditors].... A vast conspiracy against mankind has been organized... if not met and overthrown at once it forebodes terrible social convulsions, the destruction of civilization....
Controlling influences dominating both... parties have permitted the existing dreadful conditions to develop without serious effort to prevent or restrain them. Neither do they now promise any substantial reform.... They propose to sacrifice our homes, lives, and children on the alter of mammon; to destroy the multitude in order to secure corruption funds from the millionaires....
We seek to restore the government of the Republic to the hands of the "plain people."
Our country finds itself confronted by conditions for which there is no precedence in the history of the world; our annual agricultural productions amount to billions of dollars in value, which must, within a few weeks or months, be exchanged for billions of dollars worth of commodities consumed in their production; the existing currency supply is wholly inadequate to make this exchange; the results are falling prices, the formation of combines and rings, the impoverishment of the producing class. We pledge ourselves that if given power we will labor to correct these evils....
We believe that the power of government in other words, of the people should be expanded... to the end that oppression, injustice, and poverty shall eventually cease in the land.
[We] will never cease to move forward until every wrong is righted and
equal rights and equal privileges securely established for all the men
and women of this country....
We declare, therefore
First That the union of the labor forces of the United States... shall be permanent and perpetual....
Second Wealth belongs to him who creates it, and every dollar taken from industry without an equivalent is robbery.... The interests of rural and civil labor are the same; their enemies identical....
Third We believe the time has come when the railroad corporations
will either own the people or the people must own the railroads.... The
government [should] enter upon the work of owning and managing all the
FINANCE We demand a national currency, safe, sound, and flexible issued by the general government....
1. We demand free and unlimited coinage of silver and gold at
the present legal ratio of 16 to 1.
2. We demand that the amount of circulating medium be speedily increased....
3. We demand a graduated income tax.
4. We believe that the money of the country should be kept as much as possible in the hands of the people, and hence we believe that all State and national revenues shall be limited to the necessary expenses of the government, economically and honestly administered....
5. We demand that postal savings banks be established by the government
for the safe deposit of the earnings of the people and to facilitate
TRANSPORTATION - Transportation being a means of exchange and a
public necessity, the government should own and operate the railroads in
the interest of the people. The telegraph and telephone... should
be owned and operated by the government in the interest of the people.
LAND The land, including all the natural sources of wealth, is
the heritage of the people, and should not be monopolized for speculative
purposes, and alien ownership of land should be prohibited. All land
now held by railroads and other corporations in excess of their actual
needs, and all lands now owned by aliens should be reclaimed by the government
and held for actual settlers only.
1. Resolved, That we demand a free ballot, and a fair count in all elections... without Federal intervention, through the adoption by the states of the... secret ballot system.
2. Resolved, That the revenue derived from a graduated income tax should be applied to the reduction of the burden of taxation now levied upon the domestic industries of this country.
3. Resolved, That we pledge our support to fair and liberal pensions to ex-Union soldiers and sailors.
4. Resolved, That we condemn the fallacy of protecting American labor under the present system which opens our ports to [immigrants including] the pauper and the criminal classes of the world and crowds out our [American] wage-earners... and [we] demand the further restriction of undesirable immigration
5. Resolved, That we cordially sympathize with the efforts of organized workingmen to shorten the hours of labor....
6. Resolved, That we regard the maintenance of a large standing army of mercenaries, known as the Pinkerton system as a menace to our liberties and we demand its abolition....
7. Resolved, That we commend to the favorable consideration of the people... the initiative and referendum.
8. Resolved, That we favor a constitutional provision limiting the office of President and Vice President to one term, and providing for the election of Senators of the United States by a direct vote of the people.
9. Resolved, That we oppose any subsidy or national aid to any private
corporation for any purpose.
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