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Kansas farmers


William Allen White
William Allen White

Kansas farmers battled declining prices for agricultural products through most of the late 19th century, and paid what they considered to be excessive prices for storing and shipping their produce. Many went heavily into debt and, when they were unable to repay, lost their houses, their land, or both. As a result, Kansas farmers and those in related industries supported major political and economic reforms advocated by a number of organizations, including the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry (called the National Grange), the Farmers’ Alliance, and the Populist Party, which was the strongest political reform organization in Kansas.

The Populist Party called for the unlimited, or free, coinage of silver dollars and wanted the government to put larger amounts of paper money in circulation. The party hoped that these measures would make it easier for farmers to repay their debts. The party also wanted other reforms: an end to the national banking system; government-run railroads; a tax on income; the direct, popular election of U.S. senators; and the referendum, with which voters could approve or reject the laws their legislators made.

In 1892 and 1896 Kansas elected governors who received the support of both the Populist and the Democratic parties. In addition, the Populists gained control of the state legislature for a time, and a number of Populist candidates were elected to the U.S. Congress. Despite these electoral successes, however, the Populists managed to pass only limited reforms, and when farm prices began to rise in the last few years of the 19th century, the strength of the Populist Party declined.

Republicans who believed that government should play a larger role in economic affairs, called Progressives, later took on many Populist causes. Between 1904 and 1912 Kansas strengthened its child labor laws, enacted compensation for injured workers, strengthened state regulation of railroad rates, and passed a law authorizing the state to examine and approve all sales of business securities in Kansas. William Allen White, an editor from Emporia, was an important member of this group, most of whom supported President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) in his attempts to reform the government. "Kansas" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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