How successful were farmers in changing American society to fit their needs in the late nineteenth century?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One could say that farmers were relatively successful in changing American society to fit their needs in the late nineteenth century, as many of the policies they advocated ultimately changed the United States in many different ways.

Although many of the demands made by American farmers were initially not met,...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

One could say that farmers were relatively successful in changing American society to fit their needs in the late nineteenth century, as many of the policies they advocated ultimately changed the United States in many different ways.

Although many of the demands made by American farmers were initially not met, or in some cases even ignored, they provided a catalyst for change that would transform American society forever. To a large extent, this was because the demands of farmers corresponded closely with the kind of policies the Progressive movement wished to see enacted.

For instance, agrarian groups had long been firm advocates of policies such as the direct election of senators and the introduction of a graduated income tax. Initially, such policies were resisted by the political establishment but were eventually adopted during the Progressive Era. This is simply one of many ways that American farmers had a major impact on society.

As they did by inspiring other Progressive pieces of legislation such as the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which arose, to a large extent, out of long-standing grievances among farmers concerning what they perceived as the unfair practices of the railroad industry when it came to charging for the transport of agricultural produce.

Cattle farmers in the Midwest were also instrumental in getting the Sherman Antitrust Act passed. They had complained for many years about the unfair business practices of the big meat-packing firms in Chicago, whom they accused of conspiring to keep cattle prices at an artificially low level.

Though it may have been unintentional, the agitation of farmers for their interests set in train a process whereby the growing regulation of business by the federal government came to be seen as acceptable by more and more people. In that sense, the farmers' movement of the late nineteenth century helped to lay the groundwork for the radical interventionist policies of the New Deal in the 1930s, which would have a significant impact on American society for many decades to come.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on