The People's Party (also known as the Populist Party or the Populists) was a left-wing, agrarian political party in the United States. The Populist Party emerged in the early 1890s as an important force in the Southern United States and the Western United States, but the party collapsed after it nominated Democrat William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 United States presidential election. A rump faction of the party continued to operate into the first decade of the 20th century, but never matched the popularity of the party in the early 1890s.
The roots of the Populist Party lay in Farmers' Alliance, an agrarian movement that promoted collective economic action by farmers, as well as the Greenback Party, an earlier third party that had advocated for fiat money. The success of Farmers' Alliance candidates in the 1890 elections, along with the conservatism of both major parties, encouraged leaders of the Farmers' Alliance to establish a full-fledged third party prior to the 1892 elections. The Ocala Demands laid out the Populist platform, calling for collective bargaining, federal regulation of railroad rates, an expansionary monetary policy, and a Sub-Treasury Plan that required the establishment of federally-controlled warehouses to aid farmers. Other Populist-endorsed measures included bimetallism, a graduated income tax, direct election of Senators, a shorter workweek, and the establishment of a postal savings system. These measures were collectively designed to curb the influence of corporate and financial interests and empower small farmers and laborers.
In the 1892 presidential election, the Populist ticket of James B. Weaver and James G. Field won 8.5 percent of the national popular vote and carried four Western states, becoming the first third party since the end of the American Civil War to win electoral votes. Despite the support of labor organizers like Eugene V. Debs and Terence V. Powderly, the party largely failed to win the vote of urban laborers in the Midwest and the Northeast. Over the next four years, the party continued to run state and federal candidates, building up powerful organizations in several Southern and Western states. Prior to the 1896 presidential election, the Populists became increasingly polarized between "fusionists," who wanted to nominate a joint presidential ticket with the Democratic Party, and "mid-roaders," who favored the continuation of the Populists as an independent third party. After the 1896 Democratic National Convention nominated Bryan, a prominent bimetallist, the Populists nominated Bryan but rejected the Democratic vice presidential nominee in favor of party leader Thomas E. Watson. In the 1896 election, Bryan won much of the South and West, but was defeated by Republican William McKinley.
After the 1896 presidential election, the Populist Party suffered a nationwide collapse. The party nominated presidential candidates in the three presidential elections following 1896, but none of those candidates came close to matching Weaver's performance in the 1892 election. Former Populist voters joined the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Socialist Party, but other than Debs and Bryan, few politicians associated with the Populists retained national prominence. Historians see the Populists as a reaction to the power of corporate interests in the Gilded Age, but they debate the degree to which the Populists were anti-modern and nativist. Scholars also continue to debate the influence of the Populists on later organizations and movements such as the progressives of the early 20th century, New Deal liberals, and right-wing Republicans like Joseph McCarthy. In the United States, the term "populist" was originally associated with the Populist Party and related left-wing movements, but in the 1950s it began to take on a more generic meaning that describes any anti-establishment movement regardless of its position on the left–right political spectrum.
|Leader||James B. Weaver|
William Jennings Bryan
Thomas E. Watson
|Preceded by||Farmers' Alliance|
Union Labor Party
|Succeeded by||Democratic Party|
Ideologically, the Populist Party originated in the debate over monetary policy in the aftermath of the American Civil War. In order to fund that war, the U.S. government had left the gold standard by issuing fiat paper currency known as Greenbacks. After the war, the Eastern financial establishment strongly favored a return to the gold standard for both ideological reasons (they believed that money must be backed by gold which, they argued, had intrinsic value) and economic gain (a return to the gold standard would make their government bonds more valuable). As part of their efforts to restore the gold standard, these "hard money" financial interests pressured the government to prevent an expansion of the country's money supply, causing deflation and rising interest rates. As part of an effort to prevent inflation, these same interests also won passage of the Coinage Act of 1873, which barred the coinage of silver, thereby ending a policy of bimetallism. The deflation caused by these policies affected farmers especially strongly, since deflation made it more difficult to pay debts and led to lower prices for agricultural products.
Angered by these developments, some farmers and other groups began calling for the government to permanently adopt fiat currency. These advocates of "soft money" were influenced by economist Edward Kellogg and Alexander Campbell, both of whom advocated for fiat money issued by a central bank. During the difficult economic conditions of the Panic of 1873, advocates of soft money formed the Greenback Party. Greenback nominee James B. Weaver won over three percent of the vote in the 1880 presidential election, but the Greenback Party was unable to build a durable base of support, and it collapsed in the 1880s. Many former Greenback Party supporters joined the Union Labor Party, but it also failed to win widespread support.
Though soft money forces were able to win some support in the West, launching a third party proved difficult in the rest of the country. The United States was deeply polarized by the sectional politics of the post-Civil War era; most Northerners remained firmly attached to the Republican Party, while most Southerners identified with the Democratic Party. Despite fierce partisan rivalries, the two major parties were both closely allied with business interests and supported largely similar economic policies, including the gold standard.
A group of farmers formed the Farmers' Alliance in Lampasas, Texas in 1877, and the organization quickly spread to surrounding counties. The Farmers' Alliance promoted collective economic action by farmers in order to cope with the crop-lien system, which left economic power in the hands of a mercantile elite that furnished goods on credit. The movement became increasingly popular throughout Texas in the mid-1880s, and membership in the organization grew from 10,000 in 1884 to 50,000 at the end of 1885. At the same time, the Farmer's Alliance became increasingly politicized, with members attacking the "money trust" as the source and beneficiary of both the crop lien system and deflation. In the hopes of cementing an alliance with labor groups, the Farmer's Alliance supported the Knights of Labor in the Great Southwest railroad strike of 1886. Later that year, a Farmer's Alliance convention issued the Cleburne Demands, a series of resolutions that called for, among other things, collective bargaining, federal regulation of railroad rates, an expansionary monetary policy, and a national banking system administered by the federal government. In 1887, the Farmer's Alliance merged with the Louisiana Farmers Union and expanded into the South and the Great Plains. In 1889, Charles Macune launched the National Economist, which became the national paper of the Farmer's Alliance.
Macune and other Farmer's Alliance leaders helped organize a December 1889 convention in St. Louis; the convention met with the goal of forming a confederation of the major farm and labor organizations. Though a full merger was not achieved, the Farmer's Alliance and the Knights of Labor jointly endorsed the St. Louis Platform, which included many of the long-standing demands of the Farmer's Alliance. The Platform added a call for Macune's "Sub-Treasury Plan," under which the federal government would establish warehouses in agricultural counties; farmers would be allowed to store their crops in these warehouses and borrow up to 80 percent of the value of their crops. The movement began to expand into the Northeast and the Great Lakes region, while Macune led the establishment of the National Reform Press Association, a network of newspapers sympathetic to the Farmer's Alliance.
The People's party, more commonly known as the Populist party, was organized in St. Louis in 1892 to represent the common folk—especially farmers—against the entrenched interests of railroads, bankers, processors, corporations, and the politicians in league with such interests.
The Farmer's Alliance had initially sought to work within the two-party system, but by 1891 many party leaders had become convinced of the need for a third party that could challenge the conservatism of both major parties. In the 1890 elections, the Farmer's Alliance elected several individuals to the 52nd United States Congress and won numerous state-level elections. Many of these individuals were elected in coalition with Democrats; Nebraska, the Farmer's Alliance forged an alliance with newly-elected Congressman William Jennings Bryan, while in Tennessee, local Farmer's Alliance leader John P. Buchanan was elected governor on the Democratic ticket. As most leading Democrats refused to endorse the Sub-Treasury, many leaders of the Farmer's Alliance remained dissatisfied with both major parties. In December 1890, a Farmer's Alliance convention re-stated the organization's platform with the Ocala Demands; Farmer's Alliance leaders also agreed to hold another convention in early 1892 to discuss the possibility of establishing a third party if Democrats failed to adopt their policy goals. Among those who favored the establishment of a third party were Farmer's Alliance president Leonidas L. Polk, Georgia newspaper editor Thomas E. Watson, and former Congressman Ignatius L. Donnelly of Minnesota.
The February 1892 Farmer's Alliance convention was attended by current and former members of the Greenback Party, Prohibition Party, Anti-Monopoly Party, Labor Reform Party, Union Labor Party, United Labor Party, Workingmen Party, and dozens of other minor parties. Delivering the final speech of the convention, Ignatius L. Donnelly, stated, "We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. ... We seek to restore the government of the republic to the hands of the 'plain people' with whom it originated. Our doors are open to all points of the compass. ... The interests of rural and urban labor are the same; their enemies are identical." Following Donnelly's speech, delegates agreed to establish the People's Party and hold a presidential nominating convention on July 4 in Omaha, Nebraska. Journalists covering the fledgling party began referring to it as the "Populist Party," and that term quickly became widely popular.
The initial front-runner for the Populist Party's presidential nomination was Leonidas Polk, who had served as the chairman of the convention in St. Louis. However, Polk died of an illness weeks before the Populist national convention. The party instead turned to former Union General and 1880 Greenback presidential nominee James B. Weaver of Iowa, nominating him on a ticket with former Confederate army officer James G. Field of Virginia. The convention agreed to a party platform known as the Omaha Platform, which proposed the implementation of the Sub-Treasury and other long-time Farmer's Alliance goals. The platform also called for a graduated income tax, direct election of Senators, a shorter workweek, the establishment of a postal savings system, and government control of railroads and communication lines.
The Populists appealed most strongly to voters in the South, the Great Plains, and the Rocky Mountains. In the Rocky Mountains, Populist voters were motivated by support for free silver (bimetallism), opposition to the power of railroads, and clashes with large landowners over water rights. In the South and the Great Plains, Populists had a broad appeal among farmers, but they had relatively little support in cities and towns. Businessmen and, to a lesser extent, skilled craftsmen were appalled by the perceived radicalism of Populist proposals. Even in rural areas, many voters resisted casting aside their long-standing partisan allegiances. Turner concludes that Populism appealed most strongly to economically distressed farmers who were isolated from urban centers.
One of the central goals of the Populist Party was the creation of a coalition between farmers in the South and West and urban laborers in the Midwest and Northeast. In the latter regions, the Populists received the support of union officials like Knights of Labor leader Terrence Powderly and railroad organizer Eugene V. Debs, as well as influential author Edward Bellamy's Nationalist Clubs. However, the Populists lacked compelling campaign planks that appealed specifically to urban laborers, and the party was largely unable to mobilize support in urban areas. Corporate leaders had largely been successful in preventing labor from organizing politically and economically, and union membership did not rival that of the Farmer's Alliance. Some unions, including the fledgling American Federation of Labor, refused to endorse any political party. Populists were also largely unable to win the support of farmers in the Northeast and the more developed parts of the Midwest.
In the 1892 presidential election, Democratic nominee Grover Cleveland, a strong supporter of the gold standard, defeated incumbent Republican President Benjamin Harrison. Weaver won over one million votes, carried Colorado, Kansas, Idaho, and Nevada, and received electoral votes from Oregon and North Dakota. Weaver was the first third party candidate since the Civil War to win electoral votes, while Field was first Southern candidate to win electoral votes since the 1872 election. The Populists performed strongly in the West, but many party leaders were disappointed by election outcomes in parts of the South and the entire Great Lakes Region.
Shortly after Cleveland took office, the country fell into a deep recession known as the Panic of 1893. The Populists denounced the Cleveland administration's continued adherence to the gold standard, and they angrily attacked the administration's decision to purchase gold from a syndicate led by J. P. Morgan. Millions fell into unemployment and poverty, and groups like Coxey's Army organized protest marches in Washington, D.C. Party membership grew in several states; historian Lawrence Goodwyn estimates that in the mid-1890s the party had "a following of anywhere from 25 to 45 percent of the electorate in twenty-odd states." The Populists faced challenges from both the established major parties and the "Silverites," who generally disregarded the Omaha Platform in favor of bimetallism. These Silverites, who formed groups like the Silver Party and the Silver Republican Party, became particularly strong in Western mining states like Nevada and Colorado. In Colorado, Populists elected Davis Hanson Waite as governor, but the party divided over the Waite's refusal to break the Cripple Creek miners' strike of 1894. Silverites were also strong in Nebraska, where Democratic Congressman William Jennings Bryan continued to enjoy the support of many Nebraska Populists. A coalition of Democrats and Populists elected Populist William V. Allen to the Senate.
The 1894 elections were a massive defeat for the Democratic Party throughout the country, and a mixed result for Populists. The party performed poorly in the West and Midwest, where Republicans dominated, but they won elections in Alabama and other states. In the aftermath of the elections, some party leaders, particularly those outside of the South, became convinced of the need to fuse with Democrats and adopt bimetallism as the party's key issue. Herman Taubeneck, the chairman of the Populist Party, declared that the party should abandon the Omaha Platform and "unite the reform forces of the nation" behind bimetallism. Meanwhile, leading Democrats increasingly distanced themselves from President Cleveland's gold standard policies in the aftermath of the party's disastrous performance in the 1894 elections.
The Populists became increasingly polarized between moderate "fusionists" like Taubeneck and radical "mid-roaders" (named for their desire to take a middle road between Democrats and Republicans) like Tom Watson. Fusionists believed that the perceived radicalism of the Omaha Platform limited the party's appeal, whereas a platform based on free silver would resonate with a wide array of groups. The mid-roaders believed that free silver did not represent serious economic reform, and they continued to call for government ownership of railroads, major changes to the financial system, and resistance to the influence of large corporations. One Texas Populist wrote that free silver would "leave undisturbed all the conditions which give rise to the undue concentration of wealth. The so-called silver party may prove a veritable Trojan Horse if we are not careful." In an attempt to get the party to repudiate the Omaha Platform in favor of free silver, Taubeneck called a party convention in December 1894. Rather than repudiating the Omaha Platform, the convention expanded it to include a call for the municipal ownership of public utilities.
In 1894-96 the Populist wave of agrarian unrest swept through the cotton and tobacco regions of the South. The most dramatic impact came in North Carolina, where the poor white farmers who comprised the Populist party formed a working coalition with the Republican Party, then largely controlled by blacks in the low country, and poor whites in the mountain districts. They took control of the state legislature in both 1894 and 1896, and the governorship in 1896. Restrictive rules on voting were repealed. In 1895 the legislature rewarded its black allies with patronage, naming 300 black magistrates in eastern districts, as well as deputy sheriffs and city policemen. They also received some federal patronage from the coalition congressman, and state patronage from the governor.
Due to the prevailing racist attitudes of the late 19th century, any political allianece of Southern blacks and Southern whites was difficult to construct, but shared economic concerns allowed some cross-racial coalition building. After 1886, black farmers started organizing local agricultural groups along the lines advocated by the Farmer's Alliance, and in 1888 the national Colored Alliance was established. Some southern Populists, including Thomas E. Watson of Georgia, openly talked of the need for poor blacks and poor whites to set aside their racial differences in the name of shared economic self-interest. The Populists followed the Prohibition Party in actively including women in their affairs. Regardless of these rhetoric appeals, however, racism did not evade the People's Party. Prominent Populist Party leaders such as Marion Butler at least partially demonstrated a dedication to the cause of white supremacy, and there appears to have been some support for this viewpoint among the rank-and-file of the party's membership. After 1900 Watson himself became an outspoken white supremacist.
Historians continue to debate the degree to which the Populists were bigoted against foreigners and Jews. Populists saw the Panic of 1893 as confirmation that evil global conspiracies and big city villains were to blame. Historian Hasia Diner says:
In the lead-up to the 1896 presidential election, mid-roaders, fusionists, and free silver Democrats all maneuvered to put their favored candidates in the best position to win. Mid-roaders sought to ensure that the Populists would hold their national convention before that of the Democratic Party, thereby ensuring that they could not be accused of dividing "reform" forces. Defying those hopes, Taubeneck arranged for the 1896 Populist National Convention to take place one week after the 1896 Democratic National Convention. Mid-roaders mobilized to defeat the fusionists; the Southern Mercury urged readers to nominate convention delegates who would "support the Omaha Platform in its entirety." As most of the party's high-ranking officeholders were fusionists, the mid-roaders faced difficulty in uniting around a candidate.
The 1896 Republican National Convention nominated William McKinley, who defended the gold standard. Meeting later in the year, the Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan for president after Bryan's Cross of Gold speech galvanized the party behind free silver. For vice president, the party nominated conservative shipping magnate Arthur Sewall. When the Populist convention met, fusionists proposed that the Populists nominate the Democratic ticket, while mid-roaders organized to defeat fusionist efforts. As Sewall was objectionable to many within the party, the mid-roaders successfully moved a motion to nominate the vice president first. Despite a telegram from Bryan indicating that he would not accept the Populist nomination if the party did not also nominate Sewall, the convention chose Tom Watson as the party's vice presidential nominee. The convention also reaffirmed the major planks of the 1892 platform and added support for initiatives and referendums.
When the convention's presidential ballot began, it was still unclear whether Bryan would be nominated for president and whether Bryan would accept the nomination if offered. Mid-roaders put forward their own candidate, obscure newspaper editor S. F. Norton, but Norton was unable to win the support of many delegates. After a long and contentious series of roll call votes, Bryan won the Populist presidential nomination, taking 1042 votes to Norton's 321 votes. Despite his earlier proclamation, Bryan accepted the Populist nomination. After the convention, Marion Butler, the newly-elected party chairman, ran the Populist campaign on a tiny budget. Watson, ostensibly Bryan's running mate, campaigned on a platform of "Straight Populism" and frequently attacked Sewall as an agent for "the banks and railroads." He delivered several speeches in Texas and the Midwest before returning to his home in Georgia for the remainder of the election.
Bryan's strength was based on the traditional Democratic vote (minus the middle class and German Catholics); he swept the old Populist strongholds in the West and South, and added the silverite states in the West, but did poorly in the industrial heartland. He lost to McKinley by a margin of 600,000 votes. Historians believe this was partly attributable to the tactics Bryan used; he had aggressively "run" for president, while traditional candidates would use "front porch campaigns."  Bryan also faced a massive financial and organizational disadvantage.
The Populist movement never recovered from the failure of 1896, and national fusion with the Democrats proved disastrous to the party. In the Midwest, the Populist Party essentially merged into the Democratic Party before the end of the 1890s. In the South, the National alliance with the Democrats sapped the ability of the Populists to remain independent. Tennessee's Populist Party was demoralized by a diminishing membership, and puzzled and split by the dilemma of whether to fight the state-level enemy (the Democrats) or the national foe (the Republicans and Wall Street). By 1900 the People's Party of Tennessee was a shadow of what it once was. A similar pattern was repeated elsewhere throughout the South, where the Populist Party had previously sought alliances with the Republican Party against the dominant state Democrats, including in Watson's Georgia.
In North Carolina, the state Democratic-party orchestrated propaganda campaign in newspapers across the state, and created a brutal and violent white supremacy election campaign to defeat the North Carolina Populists and GOP, the Fusionist revolt in North Carolina collapsed in 1898, and white Democrats returned to power. The gravity of the crisis was underscored by a major race riot in Wilmington, in 1898, two days after the election. Knowing they had just retaken control of the state legislature, the Democrats were confident they could not be overcome. They attacked and overcame the Fusionists; mobs roamed the black neighborhoods, shooting, killing, burning buildings, and making a special target of the black newspaper. There were no further insurgencies in any Southern states involving a successful black coalition at the state level. By 1900, the gains of the populist-Republican coalition were reversed, and the Democrats ushered in disfranchisement: practically all blacks lost their vote, and the Populist-Republican alliance fell apart.
In 1900, while many Populist voters supported Bryan again, the weakened party nominated a separate ticket of Wharton Barker and Ignatius L. Donnelly, and disbanded afterwards. Populist activists either retired from politics, joined a major party, or followed Eugene Debs into the Socialist Party.
In A Preface to Politics, published in 1913, Walter Lippmann wrote, "As I write, a convention of the Populist Party has just taken place. Eight delegates attended the meeting, which was held in a parlor." This may record the last gasp of the party organization.
Since the 1890s historians have vigorously debated the nature of Populism. Some historians see the populists as forward-looking liberal reformers. Others view them as reactionaries trying to recapture an idyllic and utopian past. For some they were radicals out to restructure American life, and for others they were economically hard-pressed agrarians seeking government relief. Much recent scholarship emphasizes Populism's debt to early American republicanism. Clanton (1991) stresses that Populism was "the last significant expression of an old radical tradition that derived from Enlightenment sources that had been filtered through a political tradition that bore the distinct imprint of Jeffersonian, Jacksonian, and Lincolnian democracy." This tradition emphasized human rights over the cash nexus of the Gilded Age's dominant ideology.
Frederick Jackson Turner and a succession of western historians depicted the Populist as responding to the closure of the frontier. Turner explained:
The most influential Turner student of Populism was John D. Hicks, who emphasized economic pragmatism over ideals, presenting Populism as interest group politics, with have-nots demanding their fair share of America's wealth which was being leeched off by nonproductive speculators. Hicks emphasized the drought that ruined so many Kansas farmers, but also pointed to financial manipulations, deflation in prices caused by the gold standard, high interest rates, mortgage foreclosures, and high railroad rates. Corruption accounted for such outrages and Populists presented popular control of government as the solution, a point that later students of republicanism emphasized.
In the 1930s C. Vann Woodward stressed the southern base, seeing the possibility of a black-and-white coalition of poor against the overbearing rich. Georgia politician Tom Watson served as Woodward's hero.
In the 1950s, however, scholars such as Richard Hofstadter portrayed the Populist movement as an irrational response of backward-looking farmers to the challenges of modernity. Though Hofstadter wrote that the Populists were the "first modern political movement of practical importance in the United States to insist that the federal government had some responsibility for the common weal," he criticized the movement as anti-Semitic, conspiracy-minded, nativist, and grievance-based. The antithesis of anti-modern Populism was modernizing Progressivism according to Hofstadter's model, with such leading progressives as Theodore Roosevelt, Robert La Follette Sr., George Norris and Woodrow Wilson pointed as having been vehement enemies of Populism, though William Jennings Bryan did cooperate with them and accepted the Populist nomination in 1896.
Goodwyn (1976) and Postel (2007) reject the notion that the Populists were traditionalistic and anti-modern. Quite the reverse, they argue, the Populists aggressively sought self-consciously progressive goals. Goodwyn criticizes Hofstadter's reliance on secondary sources to characterize the Populists, working instead with the material generated by the Populists themselves. Goodwyn determined that the farmers' cooperatives gave rise to a Populist culture, and their efforts to free farmers from lien merchants revealed to them the political structure of the economy, which propelled them into politics. The Populists sought diffusion of scientific and technical knowledge, formed highly centralized organizations, launched large-scale incorporated businesses, and pressed for an array of state-centered reforms. Hundreds of thousands of women committed to Populism seeking a more modern life, education, and employment in schools and offices. A large section of the labor movement looked to Populism for answers, forging a political coalition with farmers that gave impetus to the regulatory state. Progress, however, was also menacing and inhumane, Postel notes. White Populists embraced social-Darwinist notions of racial improvement, Chinese exclusion and separate-but-equal.
Populist voters remained active in the electorate long after 1896, but historians continue to debate which party, if any, absorbed the largest share of these voters. In a case study of California Populists, historian Michael Magliari found that Populist voters influenced reform movements in California's Democratic Party and the Socialist Party, but had a smaller impact on California's Republican Party. Writing in 1990, historian William F. Holmes wrote that "an earlier generation of historians viewed Populism as the initiator of twentieth-century liberalism as manifested in Progressivism, but over the past two decades we have learned that fundamental differences separated the two movements." Most of the leading progressives (except Bryan himself) fiercely opposed Populism. For example, Theodore Roosevelt, George W. Norris, Robert La Follette Sr., William Allen White and Woodrow Wilson all strongly opposed Populism. It is debated whether any Populist ideas made their way into the Democratic party during the New Deal era. The New Deal farm programs were designed by experts (like Henry Wallace) who had nothing to do with Populism. Michael Kazin's The Populist Persuasion (1995) argued that Populism reflected a rhetorical style that manifested itself in spokesmen like Father Charles Coughlin in the 1930s and Governor George Wallace in the 1960s.
Long after the dissolution of the Populist Party, other third parties, including a People's Party founded in 1971 and a Populist Party founded in 1984, took on similar names. These parties were not directly related to the Populist Party.
In the United States, the term "populist" originally referred to the Populist Party and related left-wing movements of the late nineteenth century that wanted to curtail the power of the corporate and financial establishment. Beginning in the 1950s, populism took on a more generic meaning, as scholars such as Richard Hofstadter traced the anti-elitism and "paranoid style" of conservative Republicans like Joseph McCarthy to the Populist Party. Although not all historians accepted that comparison, the term "populist" began to apply to any anti-establishment movement. One definition of the term describes populists as "a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people." In the 21st century, politicians as diverse as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have been labeled as populists.
|Year||Presidential nominee||Home state||Previous positions||Vice presidential nominee||Home state||Previous positions||Votes||Notes|
James B. Weaver
|Iowa||Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa's 6th congressional district
Greenback Party nominee for President of the United States
James G. Field
|Virginia||Attorney General of Virginia
William Jennings Bryan
|Nebraska||Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Nebraska's 1st congressional district
Thomas E. Watson
|Georgia||Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia's 10th congressional district
Ignatius L. Donnelly
|Minnesota||Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota's 2nd congressional district
Member of the Minnesota Senate
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
Thomas E. Watson
Thomas E. Watson
Members of Congress
Approximately forty-five members of the party served in the U.S. Congress between 1891 and 1902. These included six United States Senators:
The following were Populist members of the U.S. House of Representatives:
Party publications and materials
Bimetallism is the economic term for a monetary standard in which the value of the monetary unit is defined as equivalent to certain quantities of two metals, typically gold and silver, creating a fixed rate of exchange between them.For scholarly purposes, "proper" bimetallism is sometimes distinguished as permitting that both gold and silver money are legal tender in unlimited amounts and that gold and silver may be taken to be coined by the government mints in unlimited quantities. This distinguishes it from "limping standard" bimetallism, where both gold and silver are legal tender but only one is freely coined (e.g. the moneys of France, Germany, and the United States after 1873), and from "trade" bimetallism, where both metals are freely coined but only one is legal tender and the other is used as "trade money" (e.g. most moneys in western Europe from the 13th to 18th centuries). Economists also distinguish legal bimetallism, where the law guarantees these conditions, and de facto bimetallism, where gold and silver coins circulate at a fixed rate.
In the 19th century, there was a great deal of scholarly debate and political controversy regarding the use of bimetallism in place of a gold or silver standard (monometallism). Bimetallism was intended to increase the supply of money, stabilize prices, and facilitate setting exchange rates. Some scholars argued that bimetallism was inherently unstable owing to Gresham's law, and that its replacement by a monometallic standard was inevitable. Other scholars claimed that in practice bimetallism had a stabilizing effect on economies. The controversy became largely moot after technological progress and the South African and Klondike Gold Rushes increased the supply of gold in circulation at the end of the century, ending most of the political pressure for greater use of silver. It became completely academic after the 1971 Nixon shock, since when all of the world's currencies have operated as more or less freely floating fiat money, unconnected to the value of silver or gold. Nonetheless, academics continue to inconclusively debate the relative use of the metallic standards.David H. Nichols
David Hopkinson Nichols (March 16, 1826 – December 17, 1900) was the eighth Lieutenant Governor of Colorado, United States, serving from 1893 to 1895 under Davis Hanson Waite.
Nichols was born in Hardwick, Vermont in 1826. He served in the Mexican–American War and later moved to Colorado, living there beginning in 1859. He was elected sheriff of Boulder in 1863, but absented himself from office in order to take a captain's commission with the Third Colorado Volunteer Cavalry, called upon by Territorial Governor John Evans in 1864 to suppress Indian uprisings. In his capacity as Captain of Company D, Nichols participated in the infamous Sand Creek Massacre on November 29, 1864.
Following his return to Boulder, Nichols was elected to the territorial Legislature and gave up his position as Sheriff. He served two non-consecutive terms in the Legislature. A member of Columbia Lodge #14 he and his masonic brothers were instrumental in bringing the University of Colorado to Boulder.
Nichols served as lieutenant governor of Colorado from 1893 to 1895 and was a member of the Board of Commissioners for the Colorado State Penitentiary for 19 years. Nichols died at his home near Boulder on the night of December 17, 1900.Francis Patrick Carney
Francis Patrick Carney (September 20, 1846 – May 4, 1902) was the tenth Lieutenant Governor of Colorado, United States. He was a member of the Populist party and served from 1899 to 1901 under Governor Charles Spalding Thomas.He was born September 20, 1846 in County Fermanagh, Ireland. His family emigrated to New York City in 1859 and moved to Ouray, Colorado in 1877. He became a mason and worked as a contractor and miner as well as an organizer of labor unions. He served as a Colorado Assemblyman from 1893 to 1895 and state senator 1895 to 1899. He died May 4, 1902 in Ouray.George Hewston
George Hewston (September 11, 1826 – September 4, 1891) was appointed the 16th Mayor of San Francisco upon the death of James Otis. He was sworn in on November 4, 1875 and served until December 5, 1875.
Hewston was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He apprenticed himself to a physician and then took a medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania. He moved with his family to San Francisco to escape the Civil War.
Hewston established a new medical practice upon his arrival, supplementing his income by lecturing at the Toland College of Medicine (later UCSF). His skill at lecturing brought him to the attention of the People's Party, which nominated him for Supervisor. He was appointed mayor to finish James Otis's unfinished term.
During his brief term, Hewston sat in on an investigation into charges against six policemen. He also refused to make inflated payments for unspecified repairs. He was known for making a speech condemning the Chinese for bringing opium into the city.
After his term, he served on the commission to plan California's celebration of America's centennial. His final political activity was as chair of the Anti-Monopoly Party, which sought to stop the transfer of federal lands for the railroads.
Hewston then returned to the lecture circuit and travelled along the East Coast, collecting many books along the way. He eventually amassed some 2000 volumes for his private library.
He died in San Francisco of Bright's disease.Henry Heitfeld
Henry Heitfeld (January 12, 1859 – October 21, 1938) was an American politician. A Populist, he served as a United States Senator from Idaho.James H. Kyle
James Henderson Kyle (February 24, 1854 – July 1, 1901) was an American politician. One of the most successful members of the Populist Party, he served for 10 years as a member of the United States Senate from South Dakota from 1891 until his death. Kyle, South Dakota was named after him.Julius Hobson
Julius Wilson Hobson (May 29, 1922 – March 23, 1977) was an activist and politician who served on the Council of the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia Board of Education.Margaret Wright (American politician)
Margaret Wright (c. 1922/1923 — May 11, 1996) was a third-party candidate for President of the United States and a community activist in Los Angeles, California.
Wright was a shipyard worker during World War II, and one of the principals of the film The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter. In the United States presidential election, 1976, Wright represented the People's Party, and her running mate was Benjamin Spock, who had been their presidential candidate in 1972. Their ticket was also endorsed by the Peace and Freedom Party. Bumper stickers advertised her as a "Socialist for President." The ticket received 49,016 votes (0.06%) Wright was also a founder and activist of Women against Racism in the Watts section of Los Angeles.Marion Butler
Marion Butler (May 20, 1863 – June 3, 1938) was an American politician, farmer, and lawyer. He represented North Carolina in the United States Senate for one term, serving between 1895 and 1901. At the time, he was a leader of the North Carolina Populist Party. At other times, he also affiliated with the Democratic Party and the Republican Party at different points in his career. He was the older brother of George Edwin Butler.
Born in Sampson County, North Carolina, Butler took over his family's farm after graduating from the University of North Carolina. He became a leader of the Farmers' Alliance and won election to the North Carolina Senate as a member of the Democratic Party. During the 1892 election, he led a group of North Carolina Democrats opposed to Grover Cleveland into the Populist Party. As a leader of the Populists, Butler advocated "Fusion" with the Republican Party, and the Populists and Republicans together won control of the state legislature in the 1894 elections. The new legislature elected Butler to the United States Senate.
In the Senate, Butler advocated for Populist reforms like the institution of bimetallism and the nationalization of railroads. In the 1896 presidential election, Butler helped orchestrate a compromise with the national Democratic Party whereby both parties nominated William Jennings Bryan. Butler stood for re-election in 1900, but Democrats had regained control of the state legislature and he was defeated. After his defeat, Butler practiced law in Washington, D.C. He died in 1938 in Takoma Park, Maryland, a nearby suburb.Omaha Platform
The Omaha Platform was the party program adopted at the formative convention of the Populist (or People's) Party held in Omaha, Nebraska on July 4, 1892.People's Party (Indiana)
The Indiana People's Party was a short-lived American political party in the state of Indiana. It participated in the United States House of Representatives election of 1854, and continued to function until 1860, when it merged into the Republican Party. The party attracted former Democrats and Whigs who were opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which extended slavery in the United States.People's Party (United States, 1971)
The People's Party was a political party in the United States, founded in 1971 by various individuals and state and local political parties, including the Peace and Freedom Party, Commongood People's Party, Country People's Caucus, Human Rights Party, Liberty Union, New American Party, New Party (Arizona), and No Party. The party's goal was to present a united anti-war platform for the coming election.
The People's Party ran for the presidency two times. First in U.S. presidential election, 1972 with Dr. Benjamin Spock (an American pediatrician and author of parenting books) as their candidate. The party also contested the U.S. presidential election, 1976. The presidential candidate this time was Margaret Wright. Dr. Spock was the Party's candidate for vice president.
After the election, the party moved to become a loose coalition, but was soon defunct, with most of its founding parties also dissolved.
The party's papers are now in the Western Historical Manuscript Collection of the University of Missouri–St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, having been where the party had held its conventions.Populist Party
Populist Party may refer to:
American Populist Party (2009–2010), a libertarian constitutionalist party
Croatian Popular Party (1919), a Croatian right-wing party also known as Croatian Populist Party
Indonesian National Populist Fortress Party, an Indonesian populist party supportive of Pancasila ideology
Narodnik, a movement in late Tsarist Russia, whose name can be translated as "Populist" and whose ideology has been referenced as "Populism", in scholarly literature
Parti populiste (French Populist Party), a nationalist and eurosceptic organization in France
People's Party (Greece) (Λαїκό Κομμα, Laiko Komma or Laikon Komma), a conservative-monarchist early 20th century Greek party, whose name can be translated as Populist Party
People's Party (Spain) (Partido Popular), a conservative party in Spain
People's Party of Georgia (US) (a.k.a. Populist Party of Georgia), the Georgia chapter of the 19th and early 20th century American Populist Party
Populist Party (Northern Cyprus), a defunct party in Northern Cyprus
Populist Party (Turkey) (Halkçı Parti), a former kemalist socialist Turkish party translated both as People's Party and as Populist Party
Populist Party (UK)
People's Party (United States) (1887–1908), a radical agrarian-oriented American political party commonly called "the Populists"
People's Party (United States, 1971) (1973–1976), sometimes also called Populist Party; inspired by the People's Party of the 1887-1908 period
Populist Party (United States, 1984) (1984–1996), a far-right political party
Populist Party of Maryland, a vehicle for the Ralph Nader presidential campaign of 2004
Social Democratic Populist Party (Turkey), a former kemalist social democratic Turkish party
Vietnam Populist Party, a pro-democracy party in Vietnam, called For The Vietnamese People Party by the state mediaSherman Silver Purchase Act
The Sherman Silver Purchase Act was a United States federal law
enacted on July 14, 1890.The measure did not authorize the free and unlimited coinage of silver that the Free Silver supporters wanted; however, it increased the amount of silver the government was required to purchase on a recurrent monthly basis to 4.5 million ounces. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act had been passed in response to the growing complaints of farmers' and miners' interests. Farmers had immense debts that could not be paid off due to deflation, and they urged the government to pass the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in order to boost the economy and cause inflation, allowing them to pay their debts with cheaper dollars. Mining companies, meanwhile, had extracted vast quantities of silver from western mines; the resulting oversupply drove down the price of their product, often to below the point at which the silver could be profitably extracted. They hoped to enlist the government to increase the demand for silver.Originally, the bill was simply known as the Silver Purchase Act of 1890. Only after the bill was signed into law, did it become the "Sherman Silver Purchase Act." Senator John Sherman, an Ohio Republican and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee was not the author of the bill, but once both houses of Congress had passed the Act and the Act had been sent to a Senate/House conference committee to iron out differences between the Senate and House versions of the Act, Senator John Sherman was instrumental in getting the conference committee to reach agreement on a final draft of the Act. Nonetheless, once agreement on the final version was reached in the conference committee, Sherman found that he disagreed with many sections of the act. So tepid was Sherman's support that when he was asked his opinion of the act by President Benjamin Harrison, Sherman ventured only that the bill was "safe" and would cause no harm if the President signed it.The act was enacted in tandem with the McKinley Tariff of 1890. William McKinley, an Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee worked with John Sherman to create a package that could both pass the Senate and receive the President's approval.
Under the Act, the federal government purchased millions of ounces of silver, with issues of paper currency. It became the second-largest buyer in the world, after the British Crown in India, where the Indian rupee was backed by silver rather than gold. In addition to the $2 million to $4 million that had been required by the Bland–Allison Act of 1878, the US government was now required to purchase an additional 4.5 million ounces of silver bullion every month. The law required the Treasury to buy the silver with a special issue of Treasury (Coin) Notes that could be redeemed for either silver or gold. Gresham's law then took over. The artificially overvalued currency (silver) drove the artificially undervalued currency (gold) out of circulation. In the metals markets, silver was worth less than the government's legal exchange rate for silver vs. gold. So, investors bought silver, exchanged it at the Treasury for gold dollars, and then sold these gold dollars in the metals market for more than they had paid for the silver. They took the profits on this transaction and bought more silver. They did this over and over. This would continue until the Treasury ran out of gold. After the Panic of 1893 broke, President Grover Cleveland oversaw the repeal of the act to prevent the depletion of the government's gold reserves.
In 1890, the price of silver dipped to $1.16 per ounce. By the end of the year, it had fallen to $0.69. By December 1894, the price had dropped to $0.60. On November 1, 1895, US mints halted production of silver coins, and the government closed the Carson City Mint. Banks discouraged the use of silver dollars. In fact, the years 1893-95 had the lowest productions of Morgan dollars for the entire series, creating several scarce coins.Thurston Daniels
Thurston Edward Daniels (October 10, 1859 – December 8, 1926) was a Populist politician from the U.S. state of Washington. He served as the third Lieutenant Governor of Washington.William A. Peffer
William Alfred Peffer (September 10, 1831 – October 6, 1912) was a United States Senator from Kansas, notable for being the first of six Populists (two of whom, more than any other state, were from Kansas) elected to the United States Senate. In the Senate he was recognizable by his enormous flowing beard. His name was also raised as a possible third-party presidential candidate in 1896.William Alexander Harris (Kansas)
William Alexander Harris (October 29, 1841 – December 20, 1909) was a United States Representative and Senator from Kansas.William Simon U'Ren
William Simon U'Ren (January 10, 1859 – March 5, 1949) was an American lawyer and political activist. U'Ren promoted and helped pass a corrupt practices act, the presidential primary, and direct election of U.S. senators. As a progressive activist, U'Ren championed the initiative, referendum, and recall systems in an effort to bring about a Georgist "Single Tax" on the unimproved value of land, but these measures were also designed to promote democracy and weaken the power of backstage elites. His reforms in Oregon were widely copied in other states. He supported numerous other reforms, such as the interactive model of proportional representation, which was not enacted.William V. Allen
William Vincent Allen (January 28, 1847 – January 12, 1924) was an American jurist and twice a U.S. Senator from Nebraska.
won at least
one percent of