People's Party (United States)

The Populist Party, a short-lived political party in the United States in the late 19th century (1891 to 1908), was also known as the People's Party. Particularly well received, she found at farmers in the western U.S., which is largely due to their opposition to the gold standard. Although the party did not remain a constant part of the political landscape, many of their positions were taken over the course of the following decades by others. The term " populist", since a generic term used in the U.S. policies and describes a policy that is aimed in opposition to the established interests of the common people. He has in American usage not the negative connotation that often has the concept in the German language.



The " Populist Party" grew out of the peasant revolt which was formed from the 1870's. The collapse of the prices of agricultural products and the general deflation big problems especially for small farmers have. Despite the large population growth is not increased as a result of the gold standard (de facto claims, not de jure ) the money supply. This shortage of money could use their oligopoly position for high transport fees for high lending rates and the railway undertakings bankers. The farmers could not afford the necessary loans for the modernization of agriculture ( new equipment by the industrial revolution ) is because of that. At the same time among the peasants there was a distancing from the government, which held, contrary to the suggestions of the farmers at the recent monetary policy and oligopolies / monopolies did not dissolve. It thus came to an extensive organization of farmers in the Farmers' Alliance with nation-wide in 1889 approximately 400,000 members, and after initial racist struggles, increasingly, the bad situation of the black farm workers was discussed.

The Farmers' Alliance, formed in 1876 in Lampasas, supported collective economic action by farmers and achieved widespread popularity in the South and the Great Plains. Through the Farmers' Alliance was found for the farmers a stronger position in relation to the Zuliefern and the banks. However, the Farmers' Alliance was due to their very limited finances ultimately not able to reach their far-reaching economic goal of collective economic action against brokers, railway and dealers, and many in the movement made ​​for changes in national policy strongly. Until the late 1880s, the Alliance had a political agenda designed to regulate and reform in national politics demanded, most notably the opposition to the gold standard to the deflation in agricultural prices to counteract.

The drive out of the movement to found a new political party emerged from the rejection forth by both the Democrats and the Republicans to take up the policy advocated by the alliance and support, especially in view of the reputation of the populists by temporally unlimited coinage of silver coins. The promotion of silver as legal tender was particularly favored by farmers as a means to counteract the deflation of agricultural prices and to enable the easier path of loans in the rural banking system.

The populist party was formed in 1889-1890 by members of the alliance, together with the Knights of Labor. The movement reached its peak in 1892 when the party was a meeting in Omaha, Nebraska held and nominated candidates for the national election.

Program and career

The party platform called for the abolition of national banks, a graduated income tax, the direct election of senators (17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States), public administration reform, and an 8- hour workday. In the 1892 presidential election, James B. Weaver reached 1,027,329 votes. Weaver won four states (Colorado, Kansas, Idaho, and Nevada ), and also got votes from Oregon and North Dakota.

The party flourished most among farmers in the Southwest and the Great Plains and made significant gains in the south, where they turned a laborious struggle against the entrenched monopoly of the Democrats. The resistance to the gold standard was particularly strong among the farmers of the West, the inherent lack of gold (and its slow movement through the banking system ) as an instrument of banking interests from the East, which, under by instigating of "credit crunches ", mass bankruptcies the farmers could cause in the West. Many farmers gathered under the leadership of the populists in the view that " easy money " that is not supported by a hard mineral standard would be free to flow through rural regions. The "free silver " program received widespread support class lines border in the mountain states where the economy is heavily depended on silver mining. The populists were the first political party in the United States, the women einbezog active in their affairs. In many southern states, they sought to include African Americans. At a time when penetrated as cultural attitudes of white supremacy all aspects of American life spoke a number of populists from the south, especially Thomas E. Watson, of the need for poor blacks and poor whites their " racial differences " in the name of shared economic self-interest to set it aside.


1896 took over the Democrats, many of the demands of the populists at the national level and the party started at national Popularity losing. As proved problematic for the populists and the widespread racism in the country, through which reservations about the Populist Party ( also in the Black leader cooperate ) arose, which was able to use the Democratic Party to the enticement of the farmers. In the U.S. presidential election in 1896 supported the Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan, the resistance of the populists to the gold standard in his famous "Cross of Gold" speech. The populists were themselves not to move further Bryans prosperous vice presidential candidates to nominate and nominated Thomas E. Watson instead for the office of Vice-President. Bryan lost to William McKinley at a distance of 600,000 votes. In the presidential elections in 1900 nominated the party weakened, while many voters from the ranks of the Populists supported Bryan again, a candidate list of Wharton Barker and Ignatius Donnelly for the presidency. Thomas E. Watson was the candidate of the populists for the presidency in elections in 1904 and 1908, after which the party ceased to exist effectively.

Approximately 45 members of the party were 1891-1902 in Congress. These included six U.S. Senators: William A. Peffer and William A. Harris of Kansas, Marion Butler of North Carolina, James H. Kyle of South Dakota, Henry Heitfeld of Idaho, and William V. Allen of Nebraska.


The nation retained the gold standard until 1973, a fact that some (but certainly not all) made ​​economic historians for the banking crisis during the " Great Depression " responsible. In addition, the reputation of the Populist Party for a direct election Senator in 1913 was reacted with the ratification of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The reputation of the party for a reform of the public administration would be part of the program of the Progressive Party.

After assessment by the historian Lawrence Goodwyn the movement of the populists created at that time a "culture of cooperation, self-respect and economic analysis " in the country, but it was not possible to spread this movement in the urban areas ( which is one reason for the decline was ). Although the political power of the populists was short-lived, enacted and carried them important political practices, such as term limits and the secret ballot. The populists were also responsible for their support of grassroots political movements, of initiative, referendum and recall.