The late 1880s farmers in the South began to face new competition from cotton grown in India and Egypt. In addition, the share-cropping model of farming that grew up in the South led to massive overproduction, since it was only by planting huge crops that sharecroppers could hope to get out of debt. These two new forces lowered cotton prices dramatically. Together, the farmers of the plains and the South formed the backbone of a new political movement: the Populists (The People's Party). Populism's two big issues were Free Silver and railroad regulation. Also, the Populists pushed for a Sub treasury Plan to help provide low- interest loans to farmers. This was defiantly the rebellion against industry.
In 1892, the Populists, feeling alienated by the Democrat and anti-tariff President Grover Cleveland, developed a set of policies known as the "Omaha Platform." This platform demanded inflationary measures such as the coinage of Free Silver, and argued for regulation of rails, or even public takeover of the rails, as well as other monopolies. The Populist Sub treasury Plan called for the government to provide warehouses for farmers' crops, upon which farmers could draw low-interest loans. The Omaha platform also held some vague land reform policies. Under the Omaha Platform, the Populists supported their own candidate for president in the 1892 election, James Weaver.
The farmers who formed the backbone of the Populist movement were largely dependent on credit in order to run their farms. Because they needed loans, and the deflation typical in the Gilded Age made loans harder to pay back, they wanted more money to go into circulation to cause mild inflation. Inflation would make loans easier to pay off. Populists supported increases in "fiat" money (known as "Greenbackism"), but their biggest push was for Free Silver coinage at a 16:1 ratio (16 ounces of silver for an ounce of gold, or "Bimetalism"). With both gold and silver backing f... Continue Reading