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From the late 19th to the 20th century citizens saw reform movements as an ideal way to change America’s social, economic, and political systems for the better. The first to emerge were the Populists who were driven by farming competition. The Populist and Progressive movement were similar because supporters from both parties had been cheated by industrialization. Members of both parties wanted economic equality and equal opportunity. Their differences originate from the issues that created the movements and the class of supporters.
The Progressive principles emerged out of the Populists foundation in social and economic equality. The supporters of the People’s Party were small farmers whose farming became less viable in the face of commercialized agriculture. Their members were descendants from the Grange Movement and Farmers Alliances. These farmers were mostly westerns who were in large debts to railroads and banks that came joined forces to protect their occupation and their families. They were at the bottom of the social ladder and powerless, as individuals, to big business competition.
Many labors did not support the Populists but the “Free Silver” policy attracted miners from the Rocky Mountains. The Progressives were formed from middle class men and women who saw their interests being jeopardized by the interests of the rich and poor. They were brought together primarily by business and government corruption, hazardous working conditions, and women’s rights. A key element of support for this movement came from women’s clubs were women could play a role in remaking American society.
The most famous women are Carrie Catt, Ida Tarbell, and Jane Adams.
Each helped the Progressive movement tremendously. They no doubt supported women’s suffrage and Feminism. The Populist’s and Progressive’s supporters were similar because fought for the same goals and all members had economic problems. The occupation of a farmer in 1890 is equivalent to an industrial worker in the 1900’s. Industrial workers become the new American farmers. As a result of being on the lower rungs of the social ladder they were often taken advantage of. Many of the Populist’s ideals and goals, radical then, have worked their way into common nowaday laws.
The Populists wanted the election of US senators by direct election. Meaning the state legislatures could not elect senators with patronage. They urged for a secret ballet, so employers could not force workers to vote for a specific nominee. They wanted to destroy national banks. They sought for the government ownership of railroads. They advocated a graduated income tax which would make the wealthy pay higher taxes than the poor. Lastly they supported an increase in the amount of money circulating in the US and unrestricted coinage of silver.
The Progressives believed in the following: Stopping the monopolistic influence of the major business and banks in America. They wanted more representation in government at all the political levels in federal and state platforms. They advocated for an active government which would take the initiative in reform. They believed in the right of labor to unionize to get fair salaries and better working conditions. They promoted rights for women and restrictions on child labor. They also, like the Populists, supported the direct election of US Senators and graduated income tax.
The Progressive consisted of the evolved principles of populism to fit the middleclass. The main thing that differed with the two parties is their strategy to achieve their goals. Populism is more conservative and progressivism is more liberal. Populists concentrated on railroads, banks, and currency. On the other hand Progressives wanted to reform everything from democracy to labor rights. They experimented with new forms of government. The Commission Plan replaced the mayor and the council with nonpartisan commission. The City Manager Plan hired outside experts to run government.
This stopped corruption in politics. The Populists did not rely primarily on politics to make changes. In 1892 the Populists won seats in states and congress. They continued to be an influential third party until joining the democrats. The impacts of these movements are very similar. Each political platform was viewed radical in its day but many laws can be traced back to the Populists and Progressives. Direct election was incorporated in the 17th Amendment. Women were given the right to vote in 1920. Theses movements changed American society and improved equality.
The Populists and Progressives will have an everlasting effect on American individuals. Farmers formed the Grange and Alliances to protect them from being victims of big business. The Populists were formed from Grange movements. The Progressives took the farmers ideas and applied them to a more industrial setting. Both Populists and progressives were, farmers & industrial workers, were once at the heart of America. Once a new profession becomes popular America ignores the outdated profession. The Populist and progressive movements are the same movements performed by different people.
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