What caused the rise of industrial and agricultural conflict in the 1880s and 1890s? 

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the 1880s and 1890s, conflict arose between the industrial and agricultural segments of our economy. There were reasons for this conflict.

The farmers began to suffer significantly in the 1880s. The farmers had many concerns. Farmers were suffering because the prices for their crops were dropping. Due to new technology and improved farming methods, too many farm products were being produced. Farmers wanted the government to increase the money supply by going to a bi-metallic money supply based on gold and silver. They believed this would help raise the price of their crops. Farmers were also concerned about unequal treatment by the railroad companies. The railroad companies refused to give rebates to farmers. The farmers felt this was unfair because the railroad companies gave rebates to other businesses. Farmers also believed the banks charged them higher interest rates than they charged other businesses.

The industrial or business section of the economy had needs that were different than the needs of the farmers. Businesses invested money, or in the case of banks, loaned money. Because inflation hurts investors and creditors, businesses and bankers were against the concept of a bi-metallic money supply. They wanted to maintain a money supply based only on gold. When inflation occurs, the purchasing power of money drops. Thus, businesses and banks that invested or loaned money would be able to buy less when they got their money back. Businesses suggested there would be layoff if the Democrats won the election in 1896 and implemented a bi-metallic money supply.

Businesses were also interested in reducing competition. Through various techniques such as horizontal integration, vertical integration, and trusts, businesses were able to reduce competition and in some cases form monopolies. This was not good for consumers who might have to pay higher prices or might have fewer choices.

Thus, there were significant differences between the industrial and agricultural segments of our economy in the 1880s and 1890s. The needs of each segment were very different.