How did agrarian discontent influenced American political life in the years 1866-1896?
Agrarian discontent during this time had a significant impact on American political life. Most importantly, it led to the rise of populism and to the importance of "free silver" as a political issue.
Farmers during this time period often tended to have a hard time economically. They were often in debt to an extent that made it hard to stay solvent. For this reason, farmers pushed hard for "free silver" and the inflation that would be caused by this. They felt this inflation would help them pay off their debts.
These economic problems also led to the rise of populism. Populists wanted to regulate the big businesses (particularly the railroads) that the farmers blamed for their economic difficulties. Populism was very important as a political force in the late 1800s.
Causes of Agrarian Discontent were that they believed railroads were using discriminatory rates to exploit farmers. They believed that big business used high tariffs to exploit farmers. They believed that a deflationary monetary policy based on gold hurt farmers. They also believed that corporations changed exorbitant prices for fertilizers and farm machinery. They way that this had a significant impact on political life was the rise of populism. The populist party (people's party) attempted to unite discontented farmers. It attempted to improve economic problems. They increased the money supply with the free and unlimited coinage of silver and gold at the legal ration of 16 to 1. They also used Interstate Commerce act of 1887 to regulate railroads and prevent discrimination against small customers. They also supported candidacy of William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 presidential election.