Discontent and Refo14

Discontent and Refo14 - allowing debts to be paid with...

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Discontent and Reform Late-19th century American farmers experienced recurring periods of hardship The pragmatic portion of their platform called for the nationalization of the railroads; a  low tariff; loans secured by non-perishable crops stored in government-owned  warehouses; and, most explosively, currency inflation through Treasury purchase and  the unlimited coinage of silver at the “traditional” ratio of 16 ounces of silver to one  ounce of gold. The Populists showed impressive strength in the West and South, and their candidate  for president polled more than a million votes. But the currency question soon  overshadowed all other issues. Agrarian spokesmen, convinced that their troubles  stemmed from a shortage of money in circulation, argued that increasing the volume of  money would indirectly raise prices for farm products and drive up industrial wages, thus 
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Unformatted text preview: allowing debts to be paid with inflated currency. Conservative groups and the financial classes, on the other hand, responded that the 16:1 price ratio was nearly twice the market price for silver. A policy of unlimited purchase would denude the U.S. Treasury of all its gold holdings, sharply devalue the dollar, and destroy the purchasing power of the working and middle classes. Only the gold standard, they said, offered stability. The financial panic of 1893 heightened the tension of this debate. Bank failures abounded in the South and Midwest; unemployment soared and crop prices fell badly. The crisis and President Grover Cleveland's defense of the gold standard sharply divided the Democratic Party. Democrats who were silver supporters went over to the Populists as the presidential elections of 1896 neared....
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