Why did the farmers' express discontent during the period 1870-1900, and what impact did their new attitudes and actions have on national politics?
Agriculture has been an essential part of human civilizations for well over 10,000 years. Agriculture was and to this day is important in providing food as well as many kinds of goods depending on the geographical region. Agriculture wouldn't be possible without the work of the farmer. The farmer is essential in maintain the agriculture workings of the farm and growing the many crops and goods that come out of it. The farmer should not be taken for granted as had happened in the late 1800's in America. Farmers are indirectly essential in feeding the population.
As America had continued to expand west following the ideology of manifest destiny, they needed to begin harvesting the land for agricultural purposes. Many farmers were asked to move west for without them, agriculture could not be possible. As people had began migrating to the west, new technologies had been developed along the way such as the twine binder and combined reaper-thresher. The reaper-thresher was drawn by forty horses and both reaped and begged the grain. The twine-binder cut the small grain crop and also tied the stems into small bundles or sheaves.
Mother Nature was unforgiving on agriculture in the west, grasshoppers destroyed crops, and the cotton boll weevil also wreaked havoc on the extremely vulnerable crops. Constant flooding took its toll on the land and added to the waste of erosion. Beginning in the summer of 1887, long successions of droughts occurred. The government also took great advantage of the western farmers, their lands were highly over assessed, and they had paid high local taxes and bonds in safe-deposit boxes. The tariffs at the times were extremely high and the manufacturers gained huge profits from them. Farmers had to sell their low-priced products in the dangerously competitive world market and at the same time bought high-priced manufactured goods in a protected home market.
Farmers were also affected by the corporations and the processors. They had to suffer under the harvester trust, the barbed-wire trust, and the fertilizer trust. All of these controlled output and raised prices to extremely high levels. Farmers made up one-half of the population but were too disorganized to come together and take a stand. In 1868, prices had lowered and agrarians demanded inflation of the currency, they were denied. In 1867, the National Grange of the Husbandry, or the Grange was started. Their objectives were at first to enhance the lives of isolated farmers by organizing social, fraternal, and education activities. The grange spread across the Midwest and the south and by 1875, they boasted a whopping 800,000 members.
The grangers developed from improving farmer's self-improvement to improvement of the farmers' collective plight. Grangers also began to involve themselves in politics enjoying success in states such as Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. Through state legislation, they strove to regulate railway rates and the storage fees charged by railroads and by the operators of warehouses. Though, many state courts were meant to recognize the principle of public control over private business for the general welfare. Many of the "granger laws" were opposed by well paid lawyers serving in the high courts. Following the Wabash decision in the Supreme court in 1886, the Grangers slowly began to lose their influence in politics. Their organization has lived on as a vocal protester for the welfare and rights of the farmers and their interests.
Document a "The Farmers Grievances" shows a perfect example of what the farmers had been appealing for. That all aspects of life were affected by agriculture and that the farmer essential feeds the American population. Document C is a criticism of the national government and is appealing for major reforms, many of these reforms are similar to what the agrarians had been appealing for. In the late 1870's, the farmers alliance had formed in rural Texas. Their goals were to break the railroads and manufacturers powerful grip on the cooperative buying and selling. Chapters spread across the United States and by 1890, members numbered close to a million.
Document F shows a perfect example of how the railroads are taking control of its interests and casting the farmers aside. This document is criticizing the railroads freight rates and how they have "retarded its growth as much as they first hastened it". It shows how these freight rates are negatively affecting the farmers who are very far from their buying and selling markets. The farmers depend on the railroads for their business.
The Farmers Alliance began to slowly weaken in the late 1890s for ignoring the plight of landless tenant farmers and its exclusion of blacks. After the farmer's alliance collapsed, the Populists party emerged. The populists fiercely criticized Wall Street and the "money trust". The populists appealed for nationalized railroads, telephone, and telegraph, instituting a graduated income tax, and creating a new federal "sub treasury", a scheme that would provide farmers with loans for crops stored in government owned warehouses where they could be held until market prices rose. In 1892, the populists won many congressional seats and polling more than 1 million votes for their presidential candidate, James B. Weaver. The agricultural revolution sparked a sense of unity among American farmers in the United States. They began to involve themselves in politics and left a lasting impression after their revolution ended. The national government began to recognize the interests of the farmers.