The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America

By Lawrence Goodwyn | Go to book overview

Introduction

This book is about the flowering of the largest democratic mass movement in American history. It is also necessarily a book about democracy itself. Finally it is about why Americans have far less democracy than they like to think and what would have to happen to alter that situation.

The passionate events that are the subject of this book had their origins in the social circumstances of a hundred years ago when the American population contained huge masses of farmers. A large number of people in the United States discovered that the economic premises of their society were working against them. These premises were reputed to be democratic -- America after all was a democratic society in the eyes of most of its own citizens and in the eyes of the world -- but farmers by the millions found that this claim was not supported by the events governing their lives.

The nation's agriculturalists had worried and grumbled about "the new rules of commerce" ever since the prosperity that accompanied the Civil War had turned into widespread distress soon after the war ended. During the 1870's they did the kinds of things that concerned people generally do in an effort to cope with "hard times." In an occupation noted for hard work they worked even harder. When this failed to change things millions of families migrated westward in an effort to enlist nature's help. They were driven by the thought that through

-VII-

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