4. The Revolt of the Farmers



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Aim: Why did the farmers revolt during the late 1800s?
4. The Revolt of the Farmers

  • Hurt by falling prices and heavy debts, farmers were the first to feel the effects of economic change.

  • Because of these changes, the farmers were also the first group to actively organize for reform.

4.1 The Plight of the Farmer

  • In the late 1800s, the plight of the farmer was a serious one.

  • During this period of time, farmers were producing more than ever before.

1. Number of farms increase from two million to six million.

2. Wheat production increased from 200 million bushels to over 665 million bushels a year.

3. Corn production increased from less than one million bushels to two-and-a-half billion bushels a year.

  • The prices that farmers received for their crops dropped because of competition from other nations of the world.

  • As farm prices were dropping, farm costs were rising.

  • Farmers began to blame manufacturers and bankers for their problems. They felt the banks were offering farmers made mortgages and set prices of goods and the railroads.

  • Farmers disliked the railroads because they controlled the warehouses and grain elevators that farmers used in the Midwest.

  • Farmers also disliked the railroads because they were forced to pay high prices to ship their goods. Since railroads were the only form of transportation, farmers had no choice but to pay the costs.

1) What problems did farmers face in the late 1800s?


2) Who did farmers blame for their troubles? Why?
3) Why were farmers angry with the railroads?
4.2 The Grange Movement

  • This movement allowed farmers to learn that they were not alone in their problems.

  • The first group which helped the plight of the farmer was the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry. This group was formed in 1867 by Oliver Kelley.

  • By 1875, the Grange Movement had nearly 800,000 members.

4) What is a cooperative?




  • Cooperatives were established with the hope of selling farm machinery, insurance and warehousing at far cheaper costs than those in big business.

5) What was the purpose of farmer cooperatives?



  • As problem became worse for farmers, members of the Grange became more active in politics. Members of the Grange controlled the state legislatures in the Midwest, including Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

6) How did farmers attempt to regulate the railroads?




  • The railroad companies were very much against the Granger Laws. They believed that the states had no right to regulate trade, the only group who could regulate trade is Congress.

  • The railroad companies said that states, by regulating trade, were taking away the income of the railroad without the due process of law. This went against the 14th Amendment.

  • The Supreme Court helped to bring about the decline of the Grange Movement.

1. Munn v. Illinois (1877): stated that the states could set grain elevator rates.

2. Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railroad Company v. Illinois (1886): stated that Illinois could not regulate the rates because the railroad company carried freight across state borders. The Supreme Court also stated that the Congress regulates the rates.

3. The United States Supreme Court also stated that the 14th Amendment could protect businesses.
7) How did the United States Supreme Court view towards the Granger Laws?
4.3 Farmers’ Alliances

  • Were started in the 1890s in an attempt at reform.

  • In Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas formed the Northwest Alliance.

  • In the South, white farmers joined the Southern Alliance, while Blacks formed the Colored Farmers’ Alliance.

  • These alliances won control of a number of state legislatures in the south and west and more than 50 members were elected to Congress.

8) What were some of the farmers’ alliances?


4.4 A New Political Party

  • After the elections of 1890, farm leaders decided to form a new political party to protect their own interests. This party became known as the Populist Party.

9) What reforms did the Populists favor?




  • The reforms included:

1. Reforms which returned power to the citizens.

2. The secret ballot.

3. Direct elections of United States Senators.

4. The initiative.

5. The referendum.

6. The recall.


10) What is an initiative?

11) What is a recall?

12) What is a referendum?


  • The Populists also wanted to take over the railroad companies, telegraph companies and steamships.

  • The Populists also favored a graduated income tax.


13) What is a graduated income tax?


  • In 1892, James Weaver was the Populist candidate for President.

  • In 1894, Populist candidates received 1,500,000 votes.

  • Most of the Populist support came from the Midwest, the South and the Rocky Mountains.

  • When push came to shove, many people saw the decline of the Populist Party.


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