In general, what are the political beliefs of cattle ranchers in the 1870s? Are those different than cattle ranchers in the Nebraska territory during this same period?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In general, cattle ranchers during the 1870s, including in Nebraska, were politically conservative, especially the larger, more prosperous ranchers.  Cattle herding and ranching exploded as an industry following the Civil War, as war veterans, former slaves and others sought to escape the increasingly claustrophobic environment of the East and the repressive atmosphere of the South.  The political conservatism of cattle ranchers during that period was primarily a product of the independent and rugged nature of the work required to establish and maintain a profitable business.  To that degree, the politics of cattle ranchers throughout the Plains, including Nebraska, tilted heavily towards a preference for a very limited role for government.  In fact, government supported homesteading posed a significant threat to the ability of cattle ranchers to control the vast acreage needed to support thousands of head of cattle.  An interesting passage in the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains listed the main threats to the ranchers’ way of life:

"Of the different types of agricultural operations in the Plains, ranching has changed the least in the last century. While, in essence, it remains a straightforward method of producing food, the adjustments and techniques needed to maintain an efficient and environmentally sustainable outfit are more complex than before. Ranchers must contend with drought, cattle diseases, predators, and government intervention, just as in the past."  [Emphasis added] [http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.ag.019]

Similarly, another source on the history of the Great Plains and the role of cattle ranchers, homesteaders, and others included this notation regarding the kinds of people who took to ranching during the post-Civil War era:

“It admired tough and independent characters, gamblers who took chances and won, people who knew how to fight for and keep what was theirs. It admired a tough lawman but was suspicious of government.” [http://www.jrank.org/encyclopedia/pages/cm7l11kf68/Western-frontier-life.html]

To this day, the regions where cattle ranching was most prominent remain politically conservative, although demographic changes over the decades have transformed some of those areas to a degree. 

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