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Political life at the end of the 19th century


Image of Nebraska
Image of Nebraska

Dissatisfied with the Republican Party, which had dominated state government since 1867, and having no confidence in the Democrats, the Farmers' Alliance created a new political organization, the Populist, or People’s Party. Populists achieved notable victories in Nebraska and in other Great Plains states, and in 1892 the party held its first national convention at Omaha, nominating James B. Weaver of Iowa for president. Although the Populists continued to be a force in Nebraska politics throughout the 1890s, their lack of national success led them in 1896 to support the Democratic presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan, a Lincoln lawyer and from 1891 to 1895 a representative in the U.S. Congress from Nebraska. Bryan was defeated by the Republican candidate, Ohio Governor William McKinley.

The Democrats again nominated Bryan for president in 1900 and 1908, but on both occasions he was defeated. In 1901 Bryan founded the Commoner, an influential weekly paper, in Lincoln, and later as secretary of state for President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921), Bryan negotiated 30 treaties of arbitration with foreign countries before resigning in 1915 to protest what he considered was the administration’s bias against Germany.

If unsuccessful as a nationwide party, however, the Populist Party was largely responsible for the adoption in Nebraska of the secret ballot; the initiative, which allowed citizens to enact laws through the ballot box; the referendum, which allowed citizens to vote on laws the legislature had passed; laws regulating public utilities; and other reforms. Agrarian reformers, however, failed to override Democratic Governor James Boyd’s veto of a bill to lower railroad rates in 1892. "Nebraska" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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