Agrarian Discontent in the Late 19th Century

1475 Words6 Pages
During the last thirty years of the nineteenth century, the United States’ large farmer population was growing increasingly discontent with the state of political affairs. Deflation, debts, mortgage foreclosures, high tariffs, and unfair railroad freight rates contributed to the farmers’ unrest and desire for political reform. Farmers sought immediate and radical change through political means. The establishment of the Farmer’s Alliance and the Populist Party had drastic repercussions in national politics including the introduction of new ideas regarding monetary policy and government’s role in the economy. Before 1870, the global economy was performing poorly because of widespread crop failures in other countries. American farmers took advantage of this and began growing large quantities of wheat, which they could sell for a high profit. However, by 1890 the global economy had rebounded causing wheat prices in the global market to plummet. Consequently, American farmers were hit hard and forced to sell their crop at lower prices. Similar to the “King Cotton” economy of the Civil War South, the nineteenth century Midwest economy was also “single crop” and thus prone to the effects of global market swings. The sudden increase of wheat quantities available in the world market caused a deflationary effect in the Midwest. There was simply not enough money to go around. Farmers were forced to mortgage their property and their crop in order to make ends meet. Many farmers lost their land to the “evils” of the “mortgage system” (Doc. B). As mortgage foreclosures increased, so did the number of farmers forced into tenancy. By 1900, the majority of Midwest farmers were tenants—unable to afford their own land. However, Midwest farmers were faced with other, more severe atrocities that eventually impacted national politics. Government corruption also contributed greatly
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