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The Farmers’ Movement, 1870-1900 DBQ

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Farming around the thirty year period of 1870 to 1900 was not a fair or successful one. One demographic that suffered immensely was the black population. Fresh out of the civil war, African Americans tried to acquire land, but had a difficult time paying off loans, which had high interest rates and took property as collateral. Black land owners were then forced to take out more loans, which thrust them into a spiraling debt (Document B). As seen in The Farmers Grievances, a skillful farmer, compared to his physicist or tailor counterparts would never terminate his financial troubles; and in contrast to other professions, advancements and pioneering in the farming field only dug the financial pit deeper (Document A).

Many of the financial troubles faced by farmers portrayed them to be not the indispensible feeding hand of America, but perhaps just the opposite, as stated by Mary E. Lease: The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master. The West and South are bound and prostrate before the manufacturing East. (Document C) Lease provides a vital historical aspect of farming, comparing farmers to common people, rather than the agricultural giants that they are today. It thus becomes apparent why a worker putting so much effort into his business but getting so little out would wish to revolt. Railroad companies that charged four times as much as on the East gave farmers incentive to band together in order to combat outrages rates politically (Document D). Freight rates especially hurt farmers, who were far from both buying and selling markets, a clever extortion trick by the railroad companies to force farmers into paying at every occasion (Document F).

With over a twenty percent decline in agriculture economy over fifty years, the farming community grew smaller and less organized by the day an easy target for abusive monopolies to pick on (Document G). The national political scene was impacted by the farmers movements; however the majority of changes came later. The Interstate Commerce Commission, formed due to unrest of the Granger movement, was formed somewhat early, with the goal of regulating astronomical rates (Document E). Another immediate change was that farming territories would take Republican votes from the Republican Midwest for the Populist Party (Document D). The Populist Party suggested many reforms in favor of the farmers, but only a fraction took effect fast. Eventually the Populists joined the Democratic Party when their candidate, Weaver, garnered over a million votes, but failed to gain election. Many of the populist ideas were embraced and set into motion by the Progressive party. Farmers had many valid reasons to only be discontent but to demand proper treatment, and after long periods of consolidation, they managed to have an impact on national politics.

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