The Populist Movement
In the late 1880s, there was a crisis for plains farmers when a drought damaged their crops. Meanwhile, farmers in the South began to face new competition from cotton grown in India and Egypt. In addition, the sharecropping model of farming that grew up in the South led to overproduction, since it was only by planting huge crops that sharecroppers could conceive 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. Populism's two big issues were free Silver and railroad regulation. Also, the Populists pushed for Sub treasuries plan to help provide low- interest loans to farmers.
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, where farmers could have 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.
In the 1892 election, the Populists seemed to be doing well in the South. Here, poor black farmers as well as poor white farmers would have benefited from the Free Silver policies of the Omaha Platform. Some Populists, such as Tom Watson, tried to unify poor of both races since they had similar economic interests. The Republicans had done nothing for blacks in a long while, and many blacks were...