THE MINOR PARTIES AND UNREST
=The Demands of Dissenting Parties.=—From the election of 1872, when Horace Greeley made his ill-fated excursion into politics, onward, there appeared in each presidential campaign one, and sometimes two or more parties, stressing issues that appealed mainly to wage-earners and farmers. Whether they chose to call themselves Labor Reformers, Greenbackers, or Anti-monopolists, their slogans and their platforms all pointed in one direction. Even the Prohibitionists, who in 1872 started on their career with a single issue, the abolition of the liquor traffic, found themselves making declarations of faith on other matters and hopelessly split over the money question in 1896.
A composite view of the platforms put forth by the dissenting parties from the administration of Grant to the close of Cleveland’s second term reveals certain notions common to them all. These included among many others: the earliest possible payment of the national debt; regulation of the rates of railways and telegraph companies; repeal of the specie resumption act of 1875; the issue of legal tender notes by the government convertible into interest-bearing obligations on demand; unlimited coinage of silver as well as gold; a graduated inheritance tax; legislation to take from “land, railroad, money, and other gigantic corporate monopolies ... the powers they have so corruptly and unjustly usurped”; popular or direct election of United States Senators; woman suffrage; and a graduated income tax, “placing the burden of government on those who can best afford to pay instead of laying it on the farmers and producers.”
=Criticism of the Old Parties.=—To this long program of measures the reformers added harsh and acrid criticism of the old parties and sometimes, it must be said, of established institutions of government. “We denounce,” exclaimed the Labor party in 1888, “the Democratic and Republican parties as hopelessly and shamelessly corrupt and by reason of their affiliation with monopolies equally unworthy of the suffrages of those who do not live upon public plunder.” “The United States Senate,” insisted the Greenbackers, “is a body composed largely of aristocratic millionaires who according to their own party papers generally purchased their elections in order to protect the great monopolies which they represent.” Indeed, if their platforms are to be accepted at face value, the Greenbackers believed that the entire government had passed out of the hands of the people.
=The Grangers.=—This unsparing, not to say revolutionary, criticism of American political life, appealed, it seems, mainly to farmers in the Middle West. Always active in politics, they had, before the Civil War, cast their lot as a rule with one or the other of the leading parties. In 1867, however, there grew up among them an association known as the “Patrons of Husbandry,” which was