Populist Movement The Populist movement of the late nineteenth century was largely due to the discontentment of rural America. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats addressed the rural distress sufficiently enough to encourage the farmers of the West and South to join their party. If the strangling grip of the railroads and manufacturers was to be broken, many felt that a new party was necessary. As a result, a convention was held in Omaha, Nebraska in February 1892. Many members of the powerful farmers’ alliances were present, and the name “populist” (from the Latin populus, meaning people) stuck after being borrowed from a state political organization in Kansas. The free coinage of silver struck many Populists as a cure-all, due to the agrarian cry for inflation. William Hope Harvey’s, Coin’s Financial School, and numerous other pamphlets by fiery prophets helped to trumpet the Populist cause. The Populist convention nominated a truly national ticket, with James B. Weaver of Iowa, a former Greenback candidate and Union general, for president and James G. Field of Virginia, a former Confederate general, for vice president. The Populists ran a surprisingly successful campaign in 1892, polling more than one million popular votes and winning several congressional seats. The panic of 1839 and the severe ensuing depression strengthened the Populists’ argument, and resulted in many republican and democratic political allies. Of all of the marchers protesting their plight, the most famous marcher was Jacob S. Coxey, who although rallied quite a group, ended up being arrested for walking on the grass in Washington DC. The long-suffering farmers and depression-plagued laborers played a decisive role in the election of 1896. However with the Democratic majority appropriating the populists’ main plank, the bulk of them, fearing a hard-money McKinley victory, fused with the democrats and therefore lost their identity. With the dep…
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