Реферат: Untitled Essay Research Paper Why the Farmers

Untitled Essay, Research Paper

Why the Farmers Were Wrong The period between 1880 and 1900 was a boom time

for American politics. The country was for once free of the threat of war,

and many of its citizens were living comfortably. However, as these two decades

went by, the American farmer found it harder and harder to live comfortably.

Crops such as cotton and wheat, once the bulwark of agriculture, were selling

at prices so low that it was nearly impossible for farmers to make a profit

off them. Furthermore, improvement in transportation allowed foreign competition

to materialize, making it harder for American farmers to dispose of surplus

crop. Finally, years of drought in the midwest and the downward spiral of

business in the 1890’s devastated many of the nation’s farmers. As a result

of the agricultural depression, many farm groups, most notably the Populist

Party, arose to fight what farmers saw as the reasons for the decline in

agriculture. During the last twenty years of the nineteenth century, many

farmers in the United States saw monopolies and trusts, railroads, and money

shortages and the demonetization of silver as threats to their way of life,

though in many cases their complaints were not valid.

The growth of the railroad was one of the most significant elements in American

economic growth. However, in many ways, the railroads hurt small shippers

and farmers. Extreme competition between rail companies necessitated some

way to win business. To do this, many railroads offered rebates and drawbacks

to larger shippers who used their rails. However, this practice hurt smaller

shippers, including farmers, for often times railroad companies would charge

more to ship products short distances than they would for long trips. The

rail companies justified this practice by asserting that if they did not

rebate, they would not make enough profit to stay in business. In his testimony

to the Senate Cullom Committee, George W. Parker stated, …the operating

expense of this road…requires a certain volume of business to meet these

fixed expenses….in some seasons of the year, the local business of the

road…is not sufficient to make the earnings…when we make up a train of

ten of fifteen cars of local freight…we can attach fifteen or twenty cars…of

strictly through business. We can take the latter at a very low rate than

go without it. Later, when asked the consequences of charging local traffic

the same rate as through freight, Mr. Parker responded, Bankruptcy, inevitably

and speedy…. While the railroads felt that they must use this practice

to make a profit, the farmers were justified in complaining, for they were

seriously injured by it. A perfect example of this fact can be found in The

Octopus by Frank Norris.

A farmer named Dyke discovers that the railroad has increased their freight

charges from two to five cents a pound. This new rate, …ate up every cent

of his gains. Hestood there ruined. (Doc. H). The railroads regularly used

rebates and drawbacks to help win the business of large shippers, and made

up this loss in profit by increasing the cost to smaller shippers such as

farmers. As a result, many farmers, already hurt by the downslide in agriculture,

were ruined. Thus, the farmers of the late nineteenth century had a valid

complaint against railroad shippers, for these farmers were hurt by the unfair

practices of the railroads.

Near the end of the nineteenth century, business began to centralize, leading

to the rise of monopolies and trusts. Falling prices, along with the need

for better efficiency in industry, led to the rise of such companies as Carnegie

Steel and Standard Oil, which controlled a majority of the nation’s supply

of raw steel and oil respectively. The rise of these monopolies and trusts

concerned many farmers, for they felt that the disappearance of

competition would lead to erratic and unreasonable price rises that would

hurt consumers. James B. Weaver, the Populist party’s presidential candidate

in the 1892 election, summed up the feelings of many Americans of the

period in his work, A Call to Action: An Interpretation of the Great Uprising.

He wrote, It is clear that trusts are…in conflict with the Common law.

They are monopolies organized to destroy competition and restrain trade….

Once they secure control of a given line, they are master of the situation…

They can limit the price of the raw material so as to impoverish the producer,

drive him to a single market, reduce the price of every class of labor connected

with the trade, throw out of employment large numbers persons…and

finally…they increase the price to the consumer…. The main weapons of

the trust are threats, intimidation, bribery, fraud, wreck, and pillage.

However, the facts refute many of Weaver’s charges against the monopolies.

While it is true that many used questionable means to achieve their monopoly,

many were not out to crush competitors. To the contrary, John D. Rockefeller,

head of Standard Oil, competed ruthlessly not to crush other refiners but

to persuade them to join Standard Oil and share the business so all could

profit. Furthermore, the fear that the monopolies would raise prices unreasonably

was never realized. Prices tended to fall during the latter part of the 1800’s

creating what some have called a consumer’s millennium. Thus, the agrarian

complaints against monopolies were not incredibly valid, for the monopolies

did very little harm to farmers of the time.

Finally, deflation and falling prices during the late 1800’s led to the most

heated complaint of farmers and the Populist party that grew out of agricultural

discontent. Deflation had been running rampant during the latter half of

the 1800’s, as evidenced by the drastic fall in the value of wheat and cotton.

To fight the deflationary trend, the Populists demanded a reversal of the

Coinage Act of 1873, which demonetized silver. The Populist platform for

the 1892 election called for unlimited coinage of silver and an increase

in the money supply to no less than $50 per capita… Here again, the farmers

are wrong in the assessment of their problems. It is true that the country’s

money supply was not adequate. United States government data from 1961 shows

that though the country’s population between 1865 and 1875 increased by nearly

four million, the country’s money supply actually decreased. However, many

farmers used the money supply to explain problems that indeed had very little

to do with the money supply at all. This fact is best summed up in a quote

from J. Laurence Laughlin’s article, Causes of Agricultural Unrest. He says,

Feeling the coils of some mysterious power about them, the farmers… have

attributed their misfortunes to the constriction in prices, caused, as they

think, not by an increased production of wheat throughout the world, but

by the scarcity of gold… Furthermore, history has shown that battle between

gold and silver had little real meaning. The real battle was not between

gold or silver, but instead what would be done to check deflation. William

McKinley, in his 1896 acceptance speech, said, Free silver would not mean

that silver dollars were to be freely had without cost or labor… It would

not make labor easier, the hours shorter, or the pay better. It would not

make the farming less laborious or more profitable…. Many farmers saw silver

as a cure-all for their problems, failing to see that changes in the world

were to blame. Finally, the discovery of gold in Alaska and improved methods

of extracting gold from low-grade ore did much to increase the nation’s money

supply. These facts prove that the farmers’ view of silver was not sound,

thus invalidating their complaint.

еще рефераты
Еще работы по на английском языке