The Climax of Populism

The Climax of Populism: The Election of 1896

Copyright Date: 1965
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Climax of Populism
    Book Description:

    Rarely has a third political party in the United States exerted a force upon national events comparable to that of the Populists during the 1890s. This force reached its climax in the presidential race of 1896, when the national reforms epitomized in the cry for free silver were at issue. Yet despite a number of recent studies, confusion and error regarding the Populists in the crucial election of 1896 still persist.

    Robert F. Durden, by extensive use of the papers of Marion Butler, Populist senator from North Carolina and national chairman of the party during the campaign, sheds new light upon many points -- the conduct of the St. Louis convention, the role of Tom Watson, and the fusion strategy. Durden's work is not only valuable for its clarification of the Populist campaign, but also for the example it offers of the practical working of American politics with the baffling balances among regions and groups.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6265-2
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Robert F. Durden
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. 1 The Crisis for Populism
    (pp. 1-22)

    Although some historians disparage both William Jennings Bryan and the demand for free silver, few deny the significance of the election of 1896. The cry for reform, raised sporadically since the late 1860’s, had grown into a massive roar. Instead of continuing the duet about the tariff that economic conservatives had sung meaninglessly at every election for a generation, the new elements which had captured the Democratic party clamorously advocated change. Frightened friends of the status quo rallied behind the comfortable conservatism of William McKinley and his astute manager, Marcus A. Hanna. The mere possibility of the changes threatened by...

  5. 2 The St. Louis Convention
    (pp. 23-44)

    Several prominent western Populists announced shortly after Bryan’s nomination that they favored Populist endorsement of the Democratic national ticket. Butler, Taubeneck, and some of the Silver Republican leaders, however, still favored Senator Teller as the candidate for the Populists and for the National Silver party, whose convention was also to begin in St. Louis on July 22. Butler’s newspaper continued to attack the Democratic party on the state and national levels, though the Tarheel Populist leader carefully refrained from attacking Bryan himself.

    As Butler saw the situation on the eve of the Populist convention and described his views to Senator...

  6. 3 The Campaign: First Phase
    (pp. 45-85)

    As the Populist delegates returned to their homes from the St. Louis convention, there was much confusion as to whether a genuine union of the silver forces had or had not been made possible. True, the Populists had nominated William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic standard bearer, as their own candidate for the presidency. But they had also rebelled, in order to prevent the threatened bolt of a large faction from the South and to preserve the independent organization of the party, and had named Tom Watson of Georgia as their own vice-presidential candidate to run with Bryan.

    Under the presidential...

  7. 4 The Campaign: Final Phase
    (pp. 86-125)

    Despite the initial confusion about notification caused by Butler’s ambiguous statement to the press, the Populists did notify their candidates in 1896 by letters, as had been done in 1892. Bryan and Watson, each in his own fashion, also accepted the nominations by letter.¹

    Senator William V. Allen of Nebraska, as permanent chairman of the Populists’ St. Louis convention, headed the committee to notify Bryan. Butler insisted that the letters of notification be sent not later than September 15 and that the one to Bryan precede or at least go simultaneously with the one to Watson. “Our people have gotten...

  8. 5 Defeat and Aftermath
    (pp. 126-170)

    Although the claim was small comfort in the face of McKinley’s victory in the election, the national Populist leaders were able to say with truth that Bryan’s defeat was not to be attributed to any failure on the part of the People’s party. The leading Populist states—Texas, North Carolina, Kansas—all went for Bryan, despite the failure of Democratic-Populist electoral fusion in the first of those. In fact, Bryan carried all of the southern states except Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and West Virginia; and there was fusion in the last two. In all of the deep South, where the failure...

  9. Note on Sources
    (pp. 171-182)
  10. Index
    (pp. 183-190)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-193)