Populist Party

Formation of the Party

During the Panic of 1873 agricultural prices in the United States began to fall. The farmers suffered economically. Many of them blamed the government's currency policy. Confederations called Farmers' Alliances were formed during the 1880s.

The Farmers' Alliances fought for railroad regulation, tax reform, and unlimited coinage of silver. When the Republican and Democratic parties didn’t take strong stands on the currency question in 1892, the Populist party was formed.


The Populist party platform called for the following changes:

  • free coinage of silver
  • abolition of national banks
  • a subtreasury scheme or some similar system
  • a graduated income tax
  • plenty of paper money
  • government ownership of all forms of transportation and communication
  • election of Senators by direct vote of the people
  • nonownership of land by foreigners
  • civil service reform
  • an 8-hour work day
  • postal banks
  • pensions
  • revision of the law of contracts
  • reform of immigration regulations

The Populists wanted to replace the Democratic party by forming an alliance between the farmers in the West and South and the industrial workers in the East. Their candidate for President received over 1,041,000 votes in the 1892 presidential election.


In 1896, the Democratic party platform called for free coinage of silver, and many of the former Populist supporters voted for the Democratic presidential candidate. Rapidly rising farm prices contributed to the end of the Populist party, and its platform never appealed to industrial workers in the East.

Source: Populist Party
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