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The validity of the farmers’ complaints Essay

Documents A-H reveal some of the problems that many farmers in the late nineteenth century(1880-1900)saw as threats to their way of life.(a)explain the reasons for agrarian discontent and(b)evaluate the validity of the farmers’ complaints. In the late 1800s, many farmers were trapped in a vicious economic cycle. Crops prices began falling and farmers were often forced into mortgaging their farms so they could buy more land and produce more crops to break even. Good farming land was becoming scarce and the banks took over the mortgages of farmers who couldn’t make payments on their loans; the railroads, on the other end, took advantage of farmers by charging them excessive prices for shipping and storage–both equally frustrating the troubled farmer, who in a way resembled a larger economic problem that was affecting the entire nation. Banks controlled the farmer by the neck, casting their shadow on the farmer’s every step and relentlessly taking over the mortgages of farmers who couldn’t make payments on their loans(doc d). Generally speaking, the average farmer struggled during the period in part to the enormous increase of agriculture worldwide.

Due to various technological improvements, which in effect boosted competition not only nationwide but also worldwide, farmers came face to face with foreign competition, being forced to adjust the prices of their products to stay competitive. An increase of production repaid the farmer’s losses only temporarily, however, as many soon came to discover the limitations of available adequate farming land as well as the doom of their own over- production with the increasing availability of products–rendering their value below profitable(doc e). The troubles of a farmer were part of a larger economic problem that was affecting the entire nation. Deflation followed the Civil War, making the amount of money in circulation decreased and the value of the dollar therefore increased. The result was unfavorable for the farmer, as products took up a lower value. Loans to be repaid with dollars that were worth more than the ones they had borrowed, added great controversy as farmers lost money. A solution in the eyes of many farmers became the push for “cheap money” to reverse the effects of deflation.

Farmers demanded the increase in supply of greenbacks with the addition of unlimited coinage of silver(doc b). With the passage of the Bland-Allison Act in 1878, around two to four million was added to the silver supply each month, yet that only eased the pain and had not solved the core of the problem(docc) To add more fuel to the fire, railroad companies added more load on the farmer’s back by taking advantage with astronomical prices to transport grain. A lack of competition among the railroads accounted for high costs, sometimes making a shipment of grain nearly unprofitable(doc h). Moreover, railroads gained control over grain storage prices, enabling their influence over the market of price of crops. Justifying the transport prices became all to common and unchallengeable due to the lack of competition(doc g).

Reform had been inevitable at this rate, farmers got caught in a cycle of credit that meant longer hours and more debt with every year. Good farming land quickly became scarce and the banks took over the mortgages of farmers who couldn’t keep up with payments on their loans; the railroads, tugging the rope from the other end took advantage of farmers by charging them excessive prices for shipping and storage–both equally and effectively frustrating the troubled farmer, who in a way carried the load of a larger economic problem that was affecting the entire nation.

Due to various technological improvements, which in effect boosted competition not only nationwide but also worldwide, farmers came face to face with foreign competition, being forced to adjust the prices of their products to stay competitive–starting the cycle of a never ending indebtedness. As a solution, farmers demanded the increase in supply of greenbacks with the addition of unlimited coinage of silver, which was partly accepted with the passage of the Bland-Allison Act in 1878, adding two to four million to the silver supply each month. The issue of the farmer’s debt stuck around, however, as railroads took their bite accordingly, suffocating farmers with high transportation pricing. Reform had been inevitable at this rate as farmers had no way of rising from the vicious cycle.


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