History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.
destined to play a large role in the partisan contests of the succeeding decades.  This society, which organized local lodges or “granges” on principles of secrecy and fraternity, was originally designed to promote in a general way the interests of the farmers.  Its political bearings were apparently not grasped at first by its promoters.  Yet, appealing as it did to the most active and independent spirits among the farmers and gathering to itself the strength that always comes from organization, it soon found itself in the hands of leaders more or less involved in politics.  Where a few votes are marshaled together in a democracy, there is power.

=The Greenback Party.=—­The first extensive activity of the Grangers was connected with the attack on the railways in the Middle West which forced several state legislatures to reduce freight and passenger rates by law.  At the same time, some leaders in the movement, no doubt emboldened by this success, launched in 1876 a new political party, popularly known as the Greenbackers, favoring a continued re-issue of the legal tenders.  The beginnings were disappointing; but two years later, in the congressional elections, the Greenbackers swept whole sections of the country.  Their candidates polled more than a million votes and fourteen of them were returned to the House of Representatives.  To all outward signs a new and formidable party had entered the lists.

The sanguine hopes of the leaders proved to be illusory.  The quiet operations of the resumption act the following year, a revival of industry from a severe panic which had set in during 1873, the Silver Purchase Act, and the re-issue of Greenbacks cut away some of the grounds of agitation.  There was also a diversion of forces to the silver faction which had a substantial support in the silver mine owners of the West.  At all events the Greenback vote fell to about 300,000 in the election of 1880.  A still greater drop came four years later and the party gave up the ghost, its sponsors returning to their former allegiance or sulking in their tents.

=The Rise of the Populist Party.=—­Those leaders of the old parties who now looked for a happy future unvexed by new factions were doomed to disappointment.  The funeral of the Greenback party was hardly over before there arose two other political specters in the agrarian sections:  the National Farmers’ Alliance and Industrial Union, particularly strong in the South and West; and the Farmers’ Alliance, operating in the North.  By 1890 the two orders claimed over three million members.  As in the case of the Grangers many years before, the leaders among them found an easy way into politics.  In 1892 they held a convention, nominated a candidate for President, and adopted the name of “People’s Party,” from which they were known as Populists.  Their platform, in every line, breathed a spirit of radicalism.  They declared that “the newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled; public opinion

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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