Populism Essay, Research Paper

The Populist platform for the 1892 election called for unlimited coinage of silver and an increase in the money supply “to no less than $50 per capita.”. Here again, the farmers are wrong in the assessment of their problems. It is true that the country’s money supply was not adequate. United States government data from 1961 shows that though the country’s population between 1865 and 1875 increased by nearly four million, the country’s money supply actually decreased. However, many farmers used the money supply to explain problems that indeed had very little to do with the money supply at all. This fact is best summed up in a quote from J. Laurence Laughlin’s article, “Causes of Agricultural Unrest”. He says, “Feeling the coils of some mysterious power about them, the farmers… have attributed their misfortunes to the “constriction” in prices, caused, as they think, not by an increased production of wheat throughout the world, but by the “scarcity of gold.”. Furthermore, history has shown that battle between gold and silver had little real meaning. The real battle was not between gold or silver, but instead what would be done to check deflation. William McKinley, in his 1896 acceptance speech, said, “Free silver would not mean that silver dollars were to be freely had without cost or labor… It would not make labor easier, the hours shorter, or the pay better. It would not make the farming less laborious or more profitable…”. Many farmers saw silver as a cure-all for their problems, failing to see that changes in the world were to blame. Finally, the discovery of gold in Alaska and improved methods of extracting gold from low-grade ore did much to increase the nation’s money supply. These facts prove that the farmers’ view of silver was not sound, thus invalidating their complaints about the nation’s financial system.

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