The People's Party -- more commonly known as the Populist Party -- arose in 1890 to promote the political interests of farmers and -- to a lesser extent -- industrial laborers on a national level. The party was initially formed as a conglomeration of the pro-union Knights of Labor, the Farmers' Alliance and several smaller agrarian political parties that had achieved local and statewide success throughout the American South and West.
Populist Party Platform
The Populist Party's national platform of 1892 demanded strict regulation of banks and a graduated income tax to address perceived unfairness to farmers, and nationalization of the railroads and telephone and telegraph systems as public necessities. The Populists also proposed limiting immigration, enforcement of an eight-hour workday and the abolition of state militias and large private security forces -- which were often used for busting unions -- in order to generate better wages for laborers. Additionally, the Populist Party supported women's suffrage, limiting presidents and vice presidents to a single term, use of silver as currency and changing the means of electing senators to a popular vote.
Populist Party Legacy
The Populist Party was successful in several southern and western states in the 1890s. It was particularly successful in Kansas, where it gained control of the state's legislature in 1890 and gave the party its first seat in the U.S. Senate. The party went into decline after 1896, when it made the hotly debated decision to support the Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan for president. The party was never a major force on the national level after 1896, but many of the reforms Populists advocated became law during the administrations of presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
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