American Pageant

7 July 2016

Farming in the late 19th century was financially binding; most farming families relied on merchants to supply them with food, with interest being added for every dollar’s worth of provisions. Over the course of the year, the total added up to amounts that couldn’t possibly be paid with the amount of income farmers had. Essentially, farming families would “take one step forward and two steps backward”, causing farmers to contend with their poor financial situations, which in turn, changed national politics. Farmers, lawyers, and authors were all affected and changed by this difficult situation.

Farmers, for example, argued that although the farmers did what they were told to, their hard work was laughed at when crops were selling for little to nothing. Lastly, authors were responsible for conveying the farmers’ opinions and viewpoints for others to see. These groups of people played key roles in the politics of the time, causing controversy and change to politics and farming. At this time period, farming was not only a profession, but a way of life. Farmers would work from dawn till dusk, while other members of the household helped with tasks around the farm as well.

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The men who continued to farm adapted themselves to the market’s economy or perished. Only those farmers who had money to invest in their operations and who were willing to adjust to changing market demands thrived. Farmers argued that they provided life for everyone else, keeping the cities alive. (Document A) Farmers wanted to change the political system in hopes of bringing change to the ways they lived their lives based on how much money they make, which created the Populist Party. The Populist Party, also known as the “People’s Party”, was a short lived agrarian oriented political party.

Populists were concentrated in the semiarid farming regions of the western parts of the country, as shown in Document D. Although farmers at the time were put through several trial and tribulations, they were essentially what made America function in the 19th century. At this time, rail roads were a controversial topic, often times calling for attorneys and lawyers. Lawyers would each fight for different things depending on what their client hired them for. Some would argue against rail roads while some supported them by saying that they were beneficial.

Attorneys also had cases where they were fighting the low pricing of farmers’ crops, as shown in Document C. Mary Lease states that the farmers did what the government asked of them, which was to grow a bountiful harvest, but they did not keep their promise of fair prices for their products. Corn was selling for eight cents, beef for two cents and bread and eggs were worth nothing at all, which enraged farmers. Farmers argued that the rail roads were the reason for their demise. Richard Olney believed that they should utilize their resources, which was the rail road, instead of griping about it.

(Document E) Attorneys and lawyers were especially useful during this time, helping to settle hundreds of rail road cases. Authors in the 19th century were very politically involved and were often times biased. For example, if the author were African American, they would most likely discuss the unfair treatment of colored people at the time. F. B. Tracy explains why the farmers rebelled in Document F. Tracy states that the rail road rates had financially disabled those farmers that needed to ship their crops a long distance. Booker T.

Washington said that colored people had a very small of money after the Civil War, when they started their own farm, they could not afford to buy groceries. The merchant gave the man the food he wanted if he paid it back in full with interest. (Document B) Writers were responsible for sharing the opinions of the common people. As America began to industrialize, the farmers had to adjust to the constantly changing environment around the, such as rail roads and factories. Farming families would work together to get the job done. These industrial changes in America not only led to political change, but urbanization and growth as a nation.

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