Agriarian Dbq Were The Farmer's Complaints Justified

969 words - 4 pages

The late 19th century, known as the Gilded Age, brought with it what can be termed an industrial revolution, and resulted in the advent of the suffering of the working class as money and power became concentrated in the hands of the elite upper class. Government policy during the time regarding business and the economy was much more lax, in accordance with Smith's laissez-faire capitalism. This capitalism became perverted as businesses turned into enormous monopolies and used their power and ill-gotten gains to exploit the working class. Farmers in the Gilded Age, many of them attempting to live out Jefferson's vision of an Agrarian Paradise, found it impossible to eke out a living. Circumstances beyond the farmers' control led to hard times and a conspiracy of the wealthy: the corrupt government and the quid pro quo policies of banks, businesses and legislators, resulted in an agrarian depression. The farmers were fully justified in their complaints against a system arbitrated by the very men who benefited in the exploitation and corruption.The Populist Party sprang up from the farmer's discontent with the political system of the time and the political ineffectiveness of farmer unions and alliances. The party proponed a more socialist government that could resist corruption and regulate business. However, the Populist Party, for example in its published platform in 1892 (Document A), also called for free-coinage of silver. In the late 19th century, as a result of industrialization and better transportation, the nation became much more open to the world-markets, rather than national or even regional ones. Because of this, product prices were now determined by the supply and demand of the product in the world-market, a new and somewhat unwelcome notion. As J. Laurence Laughlin notes in "Causes of Agricultural Unrest" (Document E), during the commercial depression, there was great overproduction, specifically in agriculture, while no increase in demand. Deflation caused the price of produce such as wheat and cotton to drop, severely hurting farmers. Farmers believed that this was caused by the shortage of gold, which backed all the currency in the country. This greatly increased the purchasing power of gold, and, by making the public debt backed by gold, exploits the common people who are taxed to pay it off. By allowing currency to be backed by silver, their problems would be solved. In this, the party was in error, as the falling prices were caused by deflation. William McKinley, Republican candidate and elected President in 1896, was correct in his rebuttal to the Populist Party (Document B). More currency would merely increase deflation, thereby hurting the farmers. In addition, there was, as of then, no real shortage in gold. The farmer's criticisms in this case were somewhat misdirected, but this does not change the fact that they were being exploited.Near the end of the 19th century, many businesses began to merge and form trusts and...

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