Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Political Science


The importance of the People's Party of the 1890's is not to be found in the record of the party itself, but the effect which the existence of the party had on the two major political organizations, and the significant contributions made by ex-Populists who returned to the old parties after obtaining a liberal education in Populism. Beginning with the election of 1890, and continuing through the election of 1896, the Populist party became progressively more important in American politics as the agent of the dissatisfied American farmer unwilling to realize and unable to adjust to the new conditions of economic life at the end of the nineteenth century. The movement represents, at bottom, the last of a series of post-Civil War protest movements against the growing power of Urban America; but its most important contribution lies in its educational significance, for the Populists were the first group actively to campaign for political reforms through legislation. Unlike most third party groups in this country, the Populists lived to see their goals attained and their platform legislated into statute, although theirs was not the party to accomplish these things. That the reforms were accomplished, by one-time enemies of the People's party, is the most important single facet of Populism.

The study begins with a survey of the background of the movement, then deals with the elections of 1892, when Populists fused with Republicans and Democrats to gain power tor their organization. The rise of the free-silver movement is examined, and its effect on the Democratic party. The position of the Populists, and their resultant dilemma regarding acceptance of the Democratic candidate and platform is discussed, together with the effects of the 1896 election. The study is concluded with a critique of Populism, and an evaluation of how these influences came about.

Most of the material was gathered from contemporary periodicals, of which Porter Library has a significant collection, which gave an insight into the thoughts and positions of many of the most important figures of the time, both supporters and opponents of the Populist movement, and from pertinent secondary materials, primarily John B. Hicks’ The Populist Revolt, which was utilized in the first two chapters as a basic reference, due to a paucity of available primary sources during that period when Populism was thought of as too unimportant to occupy space in periodicals. Especially valuable have been the publications, North American Review, Arena and Forum, and the analytical monthly, Review of Reviews. Pertinent secondary sources, when applicable, have been utilized when primary materials were unavailable; but where secondary sources have been cited, clues to the availability of primary materials will be found in the citations noted.


Copy of typewritten thesis, viii, 136 leaves; 28 cm.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.