Wikiquote:Transwiki/American History Primary Sources The Farmers Revolt and Populism


The Farmer’s Hard Life

c. 1886 Ours is a grand, a holy mission, to drive from our land and forever abolish the triune monopoly of land, money, and transportation. Mary E. Lease, also known for advising farmers to raise “less corn and more hell.”


We worked through spring and summer through winter and through fall;

But the mortgage worked the hardest and the steadiest of them all;

It worked on night and Sunday, it worked each holiday;

It settled down among us and it never went away.

Whatever we kept from it seemed almost as bad as theft;

It watched us every minute and ruled us right and left

The rust and blight was with us sometimes, and sometimes not;

The dark brown scowling mortgage was forever on the spot.

The weevil and the cut worm, they went as well they came;

The mortgage stayed forever, eating hearty all the same

It nailed up every window, stood guard at every door

And happiness and sunshine made their place with us no more.

Poem by a Georgia farmer.

The Grange


We heartily endorse the motto: ‘In essentials, Unity; in non-essentials, Liberty; in all things, Charity....

We shall endeavor to advance our cause by laboring to accomplish the following objects:

To develop better and higher manhood and womanhood among ourselves;

To enhance the efforts and attraction of our homes, and strengthen our attachment to our pursuits;

To foster mutual understanding and cooperation;

To maintain inviolate our laws, and to emulate each other to labor to hasten the good time coming;

To reduce our expenses, both individual and corporate;

To buy less and produce more in order to make our farms self-supporting;

To diversify our crops and plant no more than we can cultivate;...

To systematize our work...;

To discountenance the credit system... and every other system tending to prodigality and bankruptcy.

We propose meeting together, talking together, working together, buying together, selling together, and generally acting together for our mutual protection and advancement, as occasion may require....

We shall earnestly endeavor to suppress personal, local, sectional, and national prejudices, all unhealthy rivalry and all selfish ambition. Faithful adherence to these principles will ensure our mental and moral, social and material advancement....

In our noble Order there is no communism, no agrarianism. We are opposed to such spirit and management of any corporation or enterprise as tends to oppress people and rob them of their just profits.

We are not enemies to capital, but we oppose tyranny of monopolies. We long to see the antagonism between capital and labor removed by common consent and by enlightened statesmanship worthy of the nineteenth century....

We desire only self-protection and the protection of every true interest of our land by legitimate transactions, legitimate trade, and legitimate profits.

Declaration of Purpose of the National Grange (February 1874). Oliver H. Kelley founded the “Patrons of Husbandry” (or “Grange”) in 1867.

The National Farmers’ Alliance

1889 Agitation, education, and cooperation... [to overcome] the impoverishment and bondage of so many. Aims of the National Farmers’ Alliance and Industrial Union (the Farmers’ Alliance), established by Charles W. Macune and William Lamb.

The People’s (Populist) Party

1891 The rich, as a rule, hate the poor; and the poor are coming to hate the rich.... [S]ociety divides itself into two hostile camps.... They wait only for the drum beat and the trumpet to summon them to armed conflict. Populist writer Ignatius Donnelly, author of Caesar’s Column.

1892 We do not ask for sympathy or pity. We ask for justice. Banner outside a joint meeting in St. Louis of the Farmers’ Alliance, Knights of Labor, and the National Colored Farmers’ Alliance, at which the People’s (Populist) Party was formed. 1892

We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress....

We seek to restore the government of the Republic to the hands of the “plain people.”

Ignatius Donnelly, speech opening the Populist Party convention.

1892 We seek to restore the government of the Republic to the hands of ‘the plain people’ with which class it originated. From the platform of the Populist Party, written by Ignatius Donnelly.

1892 “Equal Rights to All, Special Privilege to None” Populist presidential election campaign slogan.

1896 It is better, infinitely better, that blood should flow to the horses’ riles rather than our national liberties should be destroyed. David Waite, Populist Governor of Colorado, predicting an advocating a violent revolution.

1900 [By 1900, Populism had] shaved its whiskers, washed its shirt, put on a derby, and moved up into the middle class. Kansas newspaper editor William Allen White

1914 The seeds we sowed out in Kansas did not fall on barren ground. Mary Elizabeth Lease

The Democrats

1894 I don’t know anything about fee silver, [but] the people of Nebraska are for free silver and I am for free silver. I will look up the arguments later. William Jennings Bryan.


Burn down your cities and leave our farms and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country....

[We]... answer their demand fora gold standard by saying...: You will not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

William Jennings Bryan, “Cross of Gold” speech at the 1896 Democratic Presidential Nominating Convention.

1892 We have made a fight that we are proud of and propose to continue it to the end. Striker at the copper mine at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

1892 [Jay Gould was] an incarnation of cupidity and sordidness [whose life was] idolatrous homage [to] the golden calf. The New York World, obituary for financier Jay Gould (1836-1892).