The New International Encyclopædia/Populist Party

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POPULIST PARTY, or People's Party. A political party in the United States, organized at Cincinnati in May, 1891, by a national convention composed chiefly of representatives of the agricultural and industrial classes. The party grew out of the movements previously inaugurated by the “Grangers” and the “Farmers' Alliance” (q.v.). Its platform of principles demanded the free and unlimited coinage of silver; the abolition of the national banking system; the issue of fiat money in sufficient quantity to transact the business of the country on a cash basis, and the loan of such currency to the people at not more than two per cent. per annum on non-perishable agricultural products; national ownership of all means of public communication and transportation; a graduated income tax; popular election of United States Senators; the adoption of the initiative and referendum in legislation; and the prohibition of alien ownership of land. On July 2, 1892, a National Convention of the Populist Party met at Omaha, Neb., for the purpose of nominating candidates for President and Vice-President of the United States. It adopted a platform embodying the above mentioned views and nominated James B. Weaver of Iowa for President and James G. Field of Virginia for Vice-President. The Populist ticket received 22 electoral votes and a popular vote of 1,055,424. In the next Presidential campaign, that of 1896, the Populist Party nominated for President W. J. Bryan, who had already received the nomination of the Democratic Party, and for Vice-President Thomas E. Watson of Georgia. Most of the Populist Party supported Bryan and the Democratic candidate for Vice-President, Arthur Sewall, but a considerable portion of the party stood for the independence of their movement, and voted for Bryan and Watson. On account of their refusal to depart from the path marked out by themselves, the latter were called the “Middle-of-the-Road” Populists. In order to have the full Populist vote counted for Bryan, an arrangement was made between the two parties in twenty-eight States, by which each was to have a proportionate representation on the electoral ticket. As a result of this arrangement Bryan received 176 electoral votes, while Sewall received 149 and Watson 27. The Populist platform of 1896 differed but slightly from that of 1892. In the campaign of 1900 the Populist Party again nominated for President W. J. Bryan, who was also the Democratic nominee, but again refused to indorse the Democratic nominee for the Vice-Presidency (Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois). After a spirited contest, Charles A. Towne of Minnesota received the nomination for Vice-President, but he subsequently withdrew, and the National Executive Committee of the Populist Party substituted Stevenson. In addition to its old principles the party in 1900 denounced the imperialistic policy of the Government, expressed sympathy for the Boers in their struggle with Great Britain, advocated municipal ownership of public utilities, and condemned the practice of the courts in issuing injunctions in labor disputes between employers and employees. Consult: Hopkins, Political Parties in the United States (New York, 1900); McKee, National Conventions and Platforms (Baltimore, 1900); and Reynolds, National Platforms and Political History (Chicago, 1898).