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1983 Apush Dbq

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Most of the reasons concerning agrarian discontent in the late nineteenth century stem from supposed threats posed by monopolies and trusts, railroads, money shortages and the demonetization of silver, though in many cases their complaints were not valid. The American farmer at this time already had his fair share of problems, perhaps even perceived as unfair in regards to the success industrialized businessmen were experiencing. Nevertheless, crops such as cotton and wheat, which were once the staples of an agricultural society, were selling at such low prices that it was nearly impossible for farmers to make a profit off them, especially since some had invested a great deal of money in modern equipment that would allow them to produce twice as many goods. Furthermore, improvements in transportation allowed foreign competition to emerge, making it harder for American Farmers to not only dispose of surplus crop, but to transport crops period. Finally, years of drought in the Midwest and the degeneration of business in the 1890's devastated many of the nation's farmers, and as a result of this 'agricultural depression' many farm groups, most notably the Populist Party, arose to fight what farmers saw as the reasons for the decline of agriculture.

Near the end of the nineteenth century, business began to centralize, leading to the rise of monopolies and trusts. Falling prices, along with the need for better efficiency in industry, led to the rise of companies, the Carnegie Steel and Standard Oil company being a significant one. The rise of these monopolies and trusts concerned many farmers, for they felt that the disappearance of competition would lead to abnormaly unreasonable price raises that would hurt consumers and ultimately themselves. James B. Weaver, the Populist party's presidential candidate in the 1892 election, summed up the feelings of the many American Farmers of the period in his work, A Call to Action: An Interpretation of the Great Uprising [Document F]. His interpretations of the feelings of farmers during that time were head on, but the truth is that the facts refute many of Weaver's charges against the monopolies. While it is true that many used questionable methods to achieve their monopoly, there were also other businessmen out there that were not aiming to crush out the competition. In fact, John D. Rockefeller, head of Standard Oil and a very influential and powerful man of that time, competed ardently to not crush out his competitors but to persuade then to join Standard Oil and share the business so all could profit. Furthermore, the fear that the monopolies would raise prices unreasonably never truly happened. On the contrary, prices tended to fall during the latter part of the 1800's creating what some have called a "consumer's millennium". Thus, the agrarian complaints against monopolies were not incredibly valid, for the monopolies did very little harm to farmers of the time.

The improvements made in the transportation system, namely the railroads, was one of the most significant elements to the success of American industrialization. However, in some ways, the railroads hurt small shippers and farmers more than they helped them in the late nineteenth century. The acute competition between rail companies led to the need of ways to win business. As a result, many railroad companies offered rebated and drawbacks to larger shippers who used their rails, and while this helped the large shippers it undeniably hurt the smaller ones. Farmers were mostly small shippers, and they were often subject to rate increases, as the companies would end up charging more to ship products short distances than they would for long trips. The argument made by the railroads was that if they did not rebate, they would not make enough profit to stay in business. George W. Parker, vice president of the Cairo Short Line Railroad, as stated before the Senate Cullom Committee [Document G] reasserts all of the above mentioned, proving that the railroads did in fact end up charging farmers more, all in efforts to stay in business. While the railroads felt they needed to use this practice to make a profit, the farmers were justified in complaining, for they were very much injured by it. A perfect example of this fact can be found in a passage from The Octopus by Frank Norris [Document H]. A farmer named Dyke discovers that the railroad has increased their freight charges from two to five cents a pound, and realizes that such a change will ruin him. The railroads regularly used rebates and drawbacks to help win the business of large shippers, and made up this loss in profit by increasing the cost to smaller shippers (i.e. farmers). As a result, many farmers, already hurt by the decline in agriculture, were ruined. Thus, the farmers of the late nineteenth century had a valid complaint against railroad shippers, for these farmers were seriously hurt by the unfair practices of the railroads.

Finally, deflation



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