Populism And The Wizard Of Oz

916 words - 4 pages

Populism had incredible appeal in the southern states where poverty and hatred seemed the greatest. The people felt trapped between the republican bankers of the North and the new1y freed slaves, against whom they had to compete in the open labor market. Populist politicians found that they could do relatively little to control the bankers and the wealthy privileged, but in the newly freed slaves they found a scapegoat for all their problems and complaints. They also promoted a totally new system of racial segregation. Even though they lost all national elections, the Populists managed to win control of all of the southern states and several western ones.Populist programs had a tremendous impact on the lives of African-Americans, but they had comparatively little on the bankers or on the monetary system of the country, which became even more gold-oriented. During most the remainder of the nineteenth century, different political factions fought over whether the United States should have only the gold standard or both the gold and the silver standard. Populist senator William Jennings Bryan from the farm state of Nebraska campaigned tirelessly for the use of both silver and gold as a monetary standard. In his famous acceptance speech after receiving the presidential nomination at the 1896 Democratic convention, Bryan aimed carefully at the bankers, financiers, Republicans, and all the greedy. Despite the thunderous applause of the Democrats, he suffered a crucial defeat by the Republican nominee, William McKinley, in 1896 and again in 1900.In 1878, the U.S. Congress passes the Bland- Allison Act to provide for freer coinage of silver. The act as adopted required the U.S. Treasury to purchase between $2 million and $4 million worth of silver bullion each month at market prices; this was to be coined into silver dollars, which were made legal tender for all debts. It remained law until replaced by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890. This act required the U.S. government to purchase nearly twice as much silver as before, but also added substantially to the amount of money already in circulation. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act threatened, when put into operation, to undermine the U.S. Treasury's gold reserves. After the panic of 1893 broke, President Cleveland called a special session of Congress and secured the repeal of the act.The most memorable work of literature to come from the debate over gold and silver in the United States was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, who supported a bimetallic dollar. I believe that this novel was written as an allegorical tale of the populist movement. The main character in this story...

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