This chapter opens with the 1892 gathering of labor and farm leaders along with temperance and
woman suffrage advocates in St. Louis, Missouri, that marked the beginning of the Populist Party.
Despite their differences, each group looked to the Populist Party for justice within a system that
previously had ignored them. Their attempts at political unity and reform moved the United States
into a decade of political turbulence, with the Populist Party forcing the laissez-faire government
to become more active and involved.
The Farmers' Revolt, pp. 710-714
Hard times among farmers during the 1880s and 1890s created the groundswell that became an
agrarian revolt. Farmers protested government rules that favored big business, creating new
political alliances in the process.
The Farmers' Alliance
Farm prices dropped decade after decade, railroads charged more for the short haul than the
long haul, and southern farmers suffered under the crop lien system. The basic problem was the
American banking system, which benefited big business. Among the most important protests was
that mounted by the Farmers' Alliance movement. Formed to address growing farm problems,
farmers consolidated into two regional alliances—the Northwestern Alliance and the Southern
Alliance (which sponsored a separate Colored Farmers' Alliance). At the heart of their message
was the harm done to them by the railroads, trusts, and credit merchants. They advocated
farmer-owned cooperatives to escape the middlemen who cut into farmers' profits. When
cooperatives failed, the alliances realized that they had to make fundamental changes to the
American economic system.
The Populist Movement
Eventually, the Farmers' Alliance became politicized and launched the People's Party and the
Populist movement. The movement's supporters promoted ideas like C. W. Macune's subtreasury
plan, land reform, government ownership of the railroads, and a cheaper currency. They
attempted to draw labor into their ranks by backing the eight-hour workday. And they sought
political reforms, including the secret ballot, the direct election of senators, and the initiative and
referendum. Their movement presented an alternative vision of American economic democracy.
The Labor Wars, pp. 714-723
In the 1890s, industrial workers across the nation waged battle with industry for the right to
organize, better working conditions, higher wages, shorter hours, and greater control over the
workplace. The ferocity of the conflicts has led historians to call the conflicts the "labor wars."
The Homestead Lockout
The Homestead strike occurred in 1892 at Andrew Carnegie's Homestead, Pennsylvania, steel