Road to a Republican Waterloo: The Farmers’ Alliance
and the Election of 1890 in Kansas

by Peter H. Argersinger

Winter, 1967 (Vol. 33, No. 4), pages 443 to 469
Transcribed by Larry Wilgers; digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society.
NOTE: The numbers in brackets are links to endnotes for this text.

     Kansas was proclaimed “the banner state” of the Republican party after the elections of 1888 when that party swept all national, state, and local contests in Kansas and gave a greater majority to Harrison than did any other state. In 1890, just two years later, the November election was “a Waterloo to the Republican party” [1] as the Grand Old Party retained only two of seven congressmen, lost its famous United States senator of 18 years, and was nearly overwhelmed by the opposition in a state legislature previously considered a private club. What success the party was able to achieve in “the most intense and spectacular,” [2] “the most angry and stormy,” [3] campaign in Kansas history was due not to its own merits, but only to the mistakes of the opposition, a new political force in existence only a few months. The fantastic and, to the old order, the disturbing success of the People’s party in Kansas in 1890 was to serve as a prelude to the coming Populist storm on the national scene.


     The Populist movement was rooted in the economic situation of the farmer in the decade which began in 1885, and the self-proclaimed aim of the People’s party was to relieve those conditions which had placed him in such an unfavorable position.

     Kansas in the early 1880’s entered a period of exceptional prosperity based primarily on the high prices for both corn and wheat. The peak prices for both grains in the interval from the Civil War to the end of the century came in 1881. From 1880 to 1885 the Kansas population increased by 37 percent or by more 300,000 individuals, and the value of property more than doubled. Accordingly, it was nearly inevitable that land prices should increase rapidly and that there would be land speculation on the rising markets. The healthy and potentially helpful development thereby deteriorated into a boom, “created and artificially maintained for its effect on land values,” [4] and encouraged and spurred on by the widespread activity of the boomers. Newspapers, railroads, speculators, and even official state agencies joined hands and voices to boom. The Tenth Biennial Report of the State Board of Agriculture (p. vii) admitted that earlier reports of the board had been propaganda instruments intended “to persuade millions of less fortunate strangers that the mere fact of coming hither with unalterable, ready-made views of Kansas people and Kansas agriculture means a life of ease, perpetual June weather, a steady diet of milk and honey.”

     Accompanying the boom was excessive railroad construction. The decade of the 1880’s saw in Kansas an increase in railroad mileage second only to that in Texas, and by 1888 there was one mile of railroad track for every nine and one-third square miles of land or a mile of track for every 181 people in the state. The rapid increase in land prices made it necessary for the new arrival of limited means to borrow in order to purchase a farm. Kansas was unable to provide this credit, but Eastern capital was eager to supply it.

     The boom collapsed in the winter of 1887-1888 due to three general reasons. The boom in the city had been largely based on unwarranted optimism and an artificial demand, and the first sign of wavering in that confidence revealed the shaky character of the entire development. The prosperity in rural areas had resulted from the inflated prices for agricultural products of the first years of the 1880’s, but by 1885 that foundation had broken down. Adverse weather conditions contributed to the collapse in western Kansas. [5]

     The price for farm products declined steadily from 1881 to 1885. Corn sold for 83 cents per bushel in 1881 and 28 cents a bushel in 1890; wheat dropped from $1.19 in 1881 to 49 cents per bushel in 1894. The United States Department of Agriculture reported in 1893 that corn and wheat, among other crops, had for the last 10 years had been selling regularly for less that the cost of production. [6] The sharp drop in prices for agricultural products was such that a readjustment of land values was not only proper but a practical necessity. Moreover, the eight-year period of unusually heavy rainfall was followed after 1886 by a period of unusually dry weather.

     The creation of an overwhelming debt, public and private, was another consequence of the Kansas boom settlement. It was taking an ever increasing amount of the farmer’s products to pay his debts; a mortgage worth 1,000 bushels when contracted now required 2,000 bushels to be retired. Too, with the drop in prices the value of the farm itself fell, and a farm which five years previously was ample security would not now sell for enough to pay the mortgage.

     The census of 1890 reported the total mortgage debt of Kansas to be over 27 percent of the actual value of all Kansas real estate. Sixty percent of the taxed acres of Kansas was mortgaged, a figure unmatched by any other state. The per capita private debt was nearly four times that of the nation as a whole. The state auditor’s Report for the same year set the assessed value of all property in Kansas as $348,459,943 and the total indebtedness, both public and private, at $706,181,627. [7]


     In response to these depressing conditions some political opposition developed, and the third-party vote more than doubled from 16,000 Anti-Monopoly in 1884 to 37,000 Union Labor in 1888. Although it attracted more voters and more disparate groups of voters than had any other third party of the 1880’s, the Union Labor party still received less than 12 percent of the total vote cast in the election of 1888. Twelve percent was valuable, but neither it nor all the appeals and work that had gone into it apparently would ever really accomplish anything. [8] The inertia of a history of Republicanism proved too strong. Moreover, Union Labor was obviously only a repetition of the two decades of the Greenback party. The old call of “The Crime of ‘73” needed to be replaced by newer, more appropriate, and pressing questions. The political base of reform had to be enlarged.

     The Union Labor party had introduced into Kansas in 1888 the secret, oath-bound “National Order of Videttes,” an organization frankly and purely political in nature. However, the ritual of this secret society, an auxiliary to the Union Labor party, was stolen and published by the Republicans, and the society disbanded after the 1888 election. Only in its own demise did this order accomplish something: It appointed an executive committee which was “to select some existing organization, or to organize a new one into whose ranks the reformers and farmers and laborers of Kansas could be enlisted as members.” [9] The executive committee recommended the Farmers’ Alliance, and three committeemen, C. Vincent, J. R. Rodgers, and W. F. Rightmire, left for Texas to be initiated into the secret organization.

     The Farmer’s Alliance had been born in 1874 in Lampasas county, Texas. Its operations were confined to Texas until 1887, when it began to expand rapidly. Only two states, Texas and Louisiana, were represented at its first “national convention,” held at Waco, Tex. Its second, at Shreveport, La., was held October 12, 1887, and attended by delegates from nine states. The third, at Meridian, Miss., on December 5, 1888, had representatives from 12 states. The fourth, at St. Louis in December, 1889, attracted 19 states; and the fifth convention at Ocala, Fla., in December, 1890, recognized delegates from 27 states. Within these four years the Farmer’s Alliance joined with, federated with, or absorbed farmers’ organizations in three-fourths of the states.

     After the three Kansans introduced the alliance to Kansas, the organization spread quickly throughout the state. The conditions resulting from the collapse of the boom after 1887 made of the Farmers’ Alliance “ a messianic call to economic redemption,” and its appeal to the hardpressed farmers of Kansas was virtually irresistible. [10] The progress of organizing the “sub-alliances” in Kansas was such that the presidents of the county alliances called for the first state convention, at Newton, August 14, 1889. Eighty delegates from 27 counties were present and the convention ratified the constitution of the National Farmers and Laborers Union of America. The state secretary reported that 470 suballiances had already been organized with a total membership of 25,000. The amazing growth of the alliance in Kansas in 1889 even included the absorption of the state grange. [11]

     In these early months, entering politics apparently figured little in the alliance plan. In 1882 the Texas alliance had adopted the following resolution as the law of the alliance: “Resolved, that it is contrary to the spirit of the constitution and by-laws of our order to take part in politics; and further, that we will not nominate or support any man or set of men for office as a distinct political party.” [12] Even before the formation of the state alliance, the directors of the Kansas State Alliance Exchange Company, the business branch of the many-sided Farmers’ Alliance, adopted and proclaimed on October 2, 1889, a resolution

that we earnestly entreat our brethren of the Alliance to avoid all political action or discussion of partisan politics within the Alliance, as we regard such action as valueless to us politically, a certain element of discord in our order, which would prove ruinous to the most promising organization of farmers the world has ever known. [13]

     On November 16, 1889, the presidents of the county alliances met in Newton again and organized the state alliance. Benjamin H. Clover, a former Greenbacker, was elected state president. The Southern Farmers’ Alliance had for its plan of action to agree upon a needed reform and then attempt to convince each political party to aid by supporting appropriate legislation. Accordingly, the first action of the newly formed state alliance was to send a circular letter to each of the suballiances of the state suggesting that they submit the alliance platform, drawn up at the Newton meeting, to their individual representative in congress, requesting an answer of approval or disapproval. Most of the members of the congressional delegation, being veterans of several terms and originally elected long before the alliance entered Kansas, were hardly sympathetic to the alliance program, and were “unable to adjust themselves to the new conditions.” [14] All but Sen. Preston B. Plumb, who wholeheartedly approved of the program, were evasive in their replies. Sen. John J. Ingalls, after great delay, said through his secretary that he would present his position in a speech shortly. That speech was never given.

     The second step taken by the alliance after the November meeting at Newton was to submit the platform to William A. Peffer, the editor of the Kansas Farmer. He then wrote the pamphlet, “The Way Out,” and became a traveling lecturer supporting the principles of the alliance. This was but another stimulus to the growth of the alliance in Kansas and by March 6, 1890, the Farmers’ Advocate claimed a membership for the alliance in Kansas of 100,000. Moreover, it stated that from 25 to 50 new organizations were being established each week by the 52 alliance organizers. [15]

     The increasing strength of the alliance in nonpartisan political circles was augmented when on March 5, 1890, committees of the Farmers’ Alliance, the Grange, the Farmers’ Mutual Benefit Association, and the Knights of Labor adopted mutual political platforms at Emporia. Of these, however, only the alliance had a strong following in Kansas, but when Benjamin H. Clover was interviewed in Topeka on March 13, 1890, he said that the Kansas alliance had doubled its membership since the St. Louis national convention just two months earlier, and he admitted that even with two assistants he was unable to send out supplies to the newly formed suballiances as fast as they were formed.

     Clover assured the interviewer that the alliance would not enter politics “as an order,” but would merely support the best men nominated “on the various tickets.” [16] This statement was supported but expressed more forcibly by the resolutions of the County Farmers’ Alliance and Industrial Union of Atchison county, organized by the farmers on March 18, 1890. It declared that it would support no one for congress or the legislature who did not pledge himself to uphold the principles of the alliance platform. [17]

     The growth of the alliance in an election year was bound to cause some political speculation. The very fact that Clover denied the possible entrance of the alliance into the arena of political parties indicates that the possibility had occurred to some. One widespread rumor was that the alliance lecturer, William A. Peffer, would seek the senate seat held by John J. Ingalls. Finally, the editor of the Kansas Farmer denied that he would be a candidate for the senate in opposition to Ingalls. To the Republican Lawrence Daily Journal “such generous refusing of the unattainable savors of vainglory. . . . [Peffer] does not belong to the class of men who get such plums.” Peffer, the Journal surmised, would apparently consider himself the candidate of the farmers, but, as with all “farmer politicians,” he would be unable to secure the full support of the Kansas farmers. The conservative editor declared any senatorial ambitions on Peffer’s part to be absurd, and closed by stating flatly that “Mr. Peffer will never be a senator from Kansas.” [18]

     Two days later, state alliance President Clover called for a state convention of the presidents of the Kansas county alliances to meet in Topeka on March 25, 1890, just over four months after the organization of the state alliance, to consider the affairs of that body. The short period before the March convention was to become of crucial significance in the campaign of 1890.

     W. L. Jennings, the state organizer for the alliance, completed a trip through the state in the middle of March. Nearly every county in the state was organized, and nearly every farmer in each county was an alliance member. There was a central organization in the county seat of each county and township alliances were subordinate to this. The county central organization, in turn, was instructed from the state alliance headquarters. The Wilson county alliance, for example, met with high attendance in Fredonia beginning March 20. State Lecturer Van B. Prather was present and President Clover was scheduled to speak at an open public meeting in Fredonia in conjunction with the alliance meeting. The Wilson county organizer, George H. Anthony, reported that there were 40 suballiances with a total membership of 2,000 in the county. [19]

     This thorough organization made the alliance stronger than its membership lists, no small consideration in themselves, indicated. On the local level most alliances had already decided “to support only those candidates who coincide with their views and adopt their principles.” [20] But for the alliance to function only as a pressure group, making independent endorsements, would create suicidal splits in the organization, composed of Republicans, Democrats, and old third-party men. As the realization of the doubtful success of the nonpartisan method of seeking its ends grew among the alliance leaders, it was only natural that a movement to create a separate political party founded on alliance support should attract interest and consideration among the same men. The idea appealed particularly to the old third-party men, many active in the alliance since its introduction into Kansas at their possible instigation, and, since the Emporia convention earlier in the month, becoming increasingly influential.

     The shift toward more active participation in politics can be seen in the March meetings of the two county alliances of Douglas and Shawnee counties. The first meeting, that of the Douglas county farmers, was held at the courthouse in Lawrence on the first Saturday of the month. The first topic discussed was that of the possibility of withholding their products from market until the prices were better. A committee was formed to investigate the matter. Then the special report for the month was given. J. M. Shepherd indicated by market reports that the prices received by the county farmers for both corn and cattle were well below their cost of production. As the meeting progressed and the accounts of economic injustices mounted, the resentment of the farmers did likewise. By the end of the meeting the Douglas county farmers declared themselves in earnest and determined to discover the reasons for the great depression in the profession and “to find out and apply the remedy.” [21] Judge Peffer was then announced to be the speaker at the next meeting. Thus, the meeting of a county suballiance, like the development of the alliance in Kansas, began with concern strictly for economic circumstances and moved toward a wider sphere of action.

     The March meeting of the Shawnee county farmers discussed at great length the political situation in which they found themselves. The unanimous decision of the group was that the farmer was being slighted by the legislator, who used him only as a voting tool so that he, the politician, could serve the interests of other classes. The principal speaker said that it was the fault of the farmers themselves for allowing the wrong kind of men to be placed in positions of such influence, and he criticized the farmers’ inattention to machine politics.

     It was admitted that there must be careful watching to undo the harmful legislation and to nominate the right men to protect the farmers’ interests. As Annie L. Diggs, later second only to Mary E. Lease in female Populist notoriety, wrote in her “Farmers’ Alliance Department” of the Lawrence Daily Journal in describing the meeting, “It is more than probable that there will be little cause in the future to complain of the over trustfulness or gullibility of the farmer. He is awake and there is a good many of them.” [22]

     This change in the alliance outlook was becoming increasingly widespread and apparent in a very short period of time. Not much more than a week after its editor derided “Senator Peffer,” the Lawrence Daily Journal admitted that the Farmers’ Alliance had grown so rapidly as to become a “disturbing faction” in politics, and that “indications of the determination of the alliance to enter politics, are troubling the politicians and they are becoming decidedly nervous.” [23] The Atchison Weekly Times declared that “the old political shysters who have been running the affairs of the city and county to suit themselves for years are ‘skeered,’ . . . the farmers in the county have them . . . trembling in their boots,” and promptly announced its support of the alliance movement. [24]

     The meeting of the presidents of the county alliances began on March 25, 1890, in Representative hall in Topeka. Sixty-two counties were represented in the convention, and, although the transactions of the first day were temporarily secret, the Lawrence Daily Journal “learned that they devoted the time largely to the discussion of political matters.” [25]

     The convention asked Republican Gov. Lyman Humphrey to call a special session of the legislature to enact laws giving more time for the farmers to pay mortgages and forcing the railroads to reduce rates. [26] A second resolution passed was the demand that farmers be represented on the Board of Railroad Commissioners. It was suggested that P. B. Maxson of Emporia replace Commissioner Greene. These or similar resolutions had been expected and had become a characteristic of any meeting of farmers. The final two resolutions dropped the bombshell. By a vote of 44 to 19 the convention adopted the following:

     Notwithstanding the fact that John J. Ingalls has represented Kansas for eighteen years in the United States senate, it is a difficult matter for his constituents to point to a single measure he has ever championed in the interests of the great agricultural and laboring element of Kansas; and we will not support by our votes or influence any candidate for the legislature who favors his reelection to the United States senate. [27]

     Formulating other propositions as “demands,” the convention called for the direct election of U. S. senators and railroad commissioners, the exemption of homesteads from taxation, a congressional investigation on a word change revising U. S. bonds, and the application of the old “rule of three” to farm mortgages: mortgages should be shrunk in proportion to the shrinkage of the farm value. [28] The adoption of the final resolution anticipated some form of direct political action: “Resolved, that we will no longer divide on party lines, and will only cast our votes for candidates of the people, for the people, and by the people.” [29]

     The Lawrence Daily Journal acknowledged that the alliance convention was generally concerned with methods of political work, but attempted to reassure its Republican readers by adding that the discussion was carried out “not with a view of organizing a political party, but to determine the best methods of influencing political sentiment.” [30] In the same issue the Daily Journal declared that in the Republican state convention, probably to be held in June, only the offices of state treasurer, auditor, and printer would be contested, while the present (Republican) governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, and adjutant general would be renominated, “and consequently re-elected.”

     In a very real sense, the campaign of 1890 had begun. From the sudden flurry of alliance activity just preceding the March convention until the polls closed in November there was no true letup in the political struggle between the Republicans and the recalcitrant farmers.

     On the day the convention in Topeka, the farmers of Scott county met in Scott City and organized a branch of the Farmers' Alliance. [31] Three days later in Fort Scott a convention of the Farmers' Alliance, the Farmers' Mutual Benefit Association, and the Knights of Labor met and discussed politics "with more than usual interest," declaring their intention to support "only such candidates as will represent our interest." [32]

     The following day, March 29, 1890, "was a gala day for Osborne," as some 3,000 Osborne county alliance members assembled to listen to speeches by Benjamin Clover and William Peffer. In the morning the procession of farmers with their families was "fully 200 wagons," each carrying appropriate banners and signs. The Fort Scott Daily Monitor, certainly not friendly to the alliance cause, declared that Osborne county "is now thoroughly organized, and the farmers are presenting a solid and determined front." [33]

     As the political activity of the farmer increased, the heavily Republican Kansas press leaped to the attack. It was reported that President Clover had informed the Kansas delegation in congress, in a none too polite or refined letter, that the farmers were suffering a depression "due to vicious legislation." [34] Benjamin Clover, interviewed at the Topeka convention in March, denounced the alleged letter as a "miserable fake," originating "in the imagination of an irresponsible newspaper correspondent." [35]

     A second rumor, more pernicious that the first, linked Clover in particular and the alliance in general with the movement to resubmit the state liquor prohibitory amendment to the people, a movement with a certain minority following and limited future in the dry state. The "official" alliance newspaper, the Farmers' Advocate, declared this attempt to associate "Brother" B. H. Clover with the resubmission movement was aimed to divert the attention of the people from the real and pressing issues of the time. The rumor was "as conscienceless as Satan" and "too absurd to be dignified by a denial." [36] The joint convention in Fort Scott adopted a resolution that "this convention of farmers and laborers assembled, look upon the question of resubmission that is now being agitated as being for the purpose of misdirecting the minds of the people from what is more importance." [37]

     The Daily Monitor, a newspaper that was to prove a master of smear and innuendo tactics in this election year, editorialized after the resolutions of the Topeka March convention were announced that the Monitor was in sympathy with the alliance as long as that organization was "content" to discuss

the best methods of raising cabbage . . . how many rows of corn should be on a cob. . . . But when the farmer transcends that sphere of action and undertakes to discuss economic questions, [e. g.] the causes that lead to the price of farm products which are now below the cost of production, . . .then the Monitor will denounce the farmers' organization as breeding discontent and treason to the republican party." [38]

     Such newspaper attacks hit the alliance movement in its vulnerable spot, old party loyalties. With the monthly suballiance meetings in April came a small wave of disagreement with the Topeka convention in March, despite the alliance's constitutional provision for majority rule. [39] The Jackson County Farmers' Alliance met in Holton on April 10, 1890, and, even with Judge Peffer present, denounced "as partisan and out of order" the resolution condemning Ingalls. [40]

     The following day the Haskell County Farmers' Alliance repudiated the anti-Ingalls resolution and the Dickinson County Farmers' Alliance, meeting at Abilene, censured the action of the Topeka convention in opposing Ingalls, after a lengthy discussion of politics. [41] A week later the Pottawatomie County Alliance rebelled against the anti-Ingalls resolution. [42]

     The Farmers’ Alliance of Logan township, Smith county, went one step further in its next meeting, denouncing on May 24 the anti-Ingalls resolution, and resolving “to vigorously oppose the alliance party movement by all legitimate means within our power.” [43]

     On the other hand, there were some suballiances which felt that the Topeka meeting had not gone far enough. The Leavenworth County Alliance, meeting in Tonganoxie, declared that none of its members would support anyone for congress who was either an officer of any bank or a lawyer. Notice of this example of increasing dissatisfaction was given to both the Republican and Democratic parties. [44]

     The relatively sudden shift in the alliance’s apparent destination seemingly caught the older parties unprepared. It was unusual to open the political guns so early in an election year, and this tradition, like others, was hard to overcome. The Republican state central committee, however, did meet in late spring in Topeka at the Copeland hotel, and there was a large attendance. It was decided to hold the state convention in Topeka on September 3, 1890. [45] The already mentioned feeling that the convention would merely be a rubber stamp for renomination of Republican state officials apparently was one reason for the late date. A second reason was expressed by the Daily Monitor: While the farmers comprise two-thirds of the state’s voters, most are Republican and will do little that might hurt Republican candidates on state and congressional tickets. “The politicians express great confidence in the re-election of Senator Ingalls [for example]. . . . The movement against him among farmers is limited and scattered.” [46] The Democratic state central committee met in Leavenworth in late April to consult with a committee of the resubmissionists “with a view to uniting upon a state ticket for the coming campaign.” [47] The apparent sentiment, however, among the 17 members of the Democratic committee who were present was against fusion and in favor of a straight Democratic ticket.

     The resubmissionists, mainly from Wichita, then met in Topeka in May. Governor Humphrey refused to appear before the convention, and the group adjourned after doing little.

     These early stirrings of the older parties passed nearly unnoticed as “the Farmers’ Alliances are holding daily demonstrations throughout the state.” [48] The demonstrations were semipolitical in character and resulted in demands for the support of the movement in the interests of the farmers and laborers. It was at last becoming apparent to all, even to the Daily Monitor, that the farmers were opposed to both old parties and in favor of breaking from them.

     On June 3, 1890, the Farmers’ Alliance of Barber county declared its intention to vote only for farmers for the office of judge. On June 4 a meeting at St. Mary’s attracted 5,000 farmers “in parade” who were addressed by William Peffer. The joint meeting of the alliance and the Farmers’ Mutual Benefit Association decided to put forth a full farmers’ ticket, and then voted to have a full alliance ticket for both state and congressional offices.

     The same day Farmers’ Alliance meetings in Harper and Johnson counties nominated entire county tickets and resolved to vote against John J. Ingalls. The Harper County Alliance even required a pledge from its nominees certifying their opposition to Senator Ingalls. The Rosevale Alliance of Clay county followed suit the next day, resolving not to support any candidate for the state legislature who favored the reelection of Ingalls. On June 6, the Farmers’ Alliance at Augusta placed a full county ticked in the field and adopted the national platform. On June 10, the Farmers’ Alliance of Sedgwick county met in convention at Wichita with the Union Labor members and, after President Clover addressed the meeting briefly, selected a full county ticket. [49]


     By early summer, then, the majority of the alliance membership had decided that the benefits to be gained outweighed the risks involved in entering politics as a separate party. Peffer, earlier one of the more cautious souls, wrote that the alliance had concluded that the farmers were entitled to “at least a fair share in the benefits of legislation.” However, it was found that the machinery of the present political parties was controlled by town-dwellers and connected to the railroads or corporations lending Eastern money. These, moreover, were interested in matters “directly and continually and powerfully in opposition to the interests of farmers.” The natural conclusion to which the alliance men came was that “the best way out of their troubles was through an independent political movement.” [50]

     Accordingly, Benjamin Clover, the state president of the alliance, after some consultation called for another meeting at Topeka on June 12, 1890, of all reform organizations to determine the appropriate action to follow in the political campaign. The response to the call was excellent and the alliance proposition was supported by several district elements. [51]

     The older farm protest organizations, although they had declined in strength and importance during the 1880’s, had retained a hardcore strength and formed a basic element in the convention. The Grange felt committed to its older and more conservative program and never merged with the alliance, but it did cooperate and did vote the alliance ticket straight down the line at the decisive time.

     The “single-taxers” added to the “solid reform front” by their presence in the movement although they were never numerous. The ideas of Edward Bellamy and his “nationalist” followers were also expressed in the June convention at Topeka.

     More important as a contributor of both men and ideas was the Knights of Labor. This organization had gained strength in the late 1880’s among the miners and railroad men of Kansas, partially as a result of the desire to offset the direct competition of imported Italian contract laborers as well as the wage and mine safety disputes. Moreover, the Knights favored land reform, antimonopoly, inflationist policies, and believed that primary producers, whether agricultural or mechanical, had the same basic interests. The Knights also had a considerable rural membership.

     The Union Labor and Greenback element had been totally absorbed into the alliance movement even before it became a political vehicle. W. H. T. Wakefield, the Union Labor vice-presidential candidate in 1888; W. F. Rightmire, the former Union Labor candidate for state attorney general; and Union Labor presidential electors John Davis, Cyrus Corning, J. L. Shinn, and P. B. Maxson early became prominent alliance men.

     The June, 1890, Topeka convention was composed of 41 alliance men, 28 Knights of Labor, 10 members of the Farmers’ Mutual Benefit Association, seven Patrons of Husbandry, and four single taxers. [52] The Federation of Labor may also have been represented. [53] The assembled delegates unanimously decided that full state and congressional tickets, supporting the principles of the St. Louis platform, should be nominated. Moreover the suballiances should lead in nominating legislative and county tickets responsive to their interests. The convention, however, decided that it would be better to create a separate organization from the Farmers’ Alliance in order to avoid the transformation of the alliance directly into a partisan organization. Still, to the new organization all good alliance men would naturally give their support, and in effect, the membership of the two groups came to be practically identical. It was decided that the name of their new party should be the “People’s party” and a state nominating convention was called to meet in Topeka on August 13, 1890.

     The platform adopted was, in effect, the national alliance’s St. Louis platform of December, 1889. The seven principal demands were the following: (1) the abolition of national banks and the substitution of legal tender notes, (2) legislation to suppress speculators in grain futures, (3) “free and unlimited coinage of silver,” (4) the prohibition of alien ownership of and railroad restrictions on land, (5) equal taxation, (6) the issuance of fractional paper currency, and (7) government ownership of “the means of communication and transportation.” [54]

     The convention itself was secret, and newsmen were excluded by the use of secret grips and passwords. A committee of one from each congressional district was appointed “to issue an address to the people of the state.” J. F. Willits of Jefferson county was selected as president of the committee and S. W. Chase of Cowley became secretary. The subsequent campaign for the People’s party was managed by this committee: “Campaign material, including songs, will be scattered broadcast, and a great effort be made to enthuse the people and preserve a strongly centralized and effective organization.” [55]

     The first district convention held by the People’s party was at Hill City in the Sixth congressional district. Newsmen were excluded and a guard was stationed at the door. An informal ballot taken to determine the candidates for the congressional position was followed by 10-minute speeches by each aspirant concerning his position on the issues of the day. A formal ballot was then taken. A former Republican, William Baker, a farmer and preacher, was chosen as the nominee, the first time he ever ran for any political office. This procedure, with the exception of the exclusion of the newsmen, was typical of the early conventions of the People’s party. [56]

     On July 17, 1890, Albert F. Allen, a resident of Vinland and Douglas county for 12 years, was nominated candidate for the People’s party in the Second district. Seventy-five delegates composed the voting convention but 500 alliance members were present at the Ottawa meeting. Allen, a graduate of the Michigan agricultural college, was a life-long Republican until just nine months before his nomination. Since that time of conversion he had been a lecturer for the Douglas County Alliance. [57]

     The Seventh district convention was held at Great Bend on July 22, 1890. After some confusion due to lack of planning, Jerry Simpson of Medicine Lodge, Barber county, was nominated for the congressional office. His only previous office was the nonelective one of city marshal of Medicine Lodge, which he had held for the last six months, after he had failed as a farmer due to the hard times. [58]

     The People’s party, now popularly called the Populists, also nominated L. C. Clark for the First district congressional position, Benjamin Clover for the Third, J. G. Otis for the Fourth, and John Davis the Fifth.

     The practical transference of the Farmers’ Alliance into the People’s party did, of course, cause some stir in some of the suballiances of the state. However, there were no wholesale repudiations. Bradford Miller and Thomas Buckman, two life-long Republicans, after being voted down in the July meeting concerning political action of the Shawnee County Farmers’ Alliance and Knights of Labor, declared that they “would no longer affiliate with an organization which was officered by southern brigadiers and run in the interest of the democratic party.” [59] There were few such individual desertions, however, and a more common news story was the announcement of a suballiance voting overwhelmingly for separate political action.

     Indeed, there were also many Kansans who lived in the towns who expressed a desire to join the new party. The Farmers’ Alliance, however, required its members to be rural residents of Kansas, [60] and the popular equating of the alliance with the People’s party led to the formation of a new organization composed of these sympathetic town-dwellers. Although begun only at about the time of the formation of the People’s party, the Citizens’ Alliance, a supplementary movement to the Farmers’ Alliance, had 10,000 members when it met in Topeka August 12, 1890, to create a state organization. Delegations were sent from Johnson, Kingman, Chase, Shawnee, McPherson, Wyandotte, Jewell, Pottawatomie, Phillips, Lyon, Logan, and Osage counties. J. F. Willits, the chairman of the Populist central committee, assisted with the organization of the convention. Delegates from the Citizens’ Alliance were admitted to the nominating convention of the People’s party the following day in Topeka. [61]

     Willits called the state nominating convention to order in the morning. There were 250 delegates from the Farmers’ Alliance, Citizens’ Alliance, Union Labor party, Knights of Labor, and other groups present. Most were farmers. Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Lease of Wichita spoke to the convention for half an hour urging both prohibitionists and resubmissionists to unite “to stamp out this unhealthy monster, the money power. Forget party affiliations of the past, forget moral issues of the present, in this great struggle for our homes. Let the old political parties know that the raid is over and that monopolists, trusts and combines shall be relegated to hades.” [62]

     Despite this plea the convention was something “less than harmonious.” [63] Elements of the radical prohibitionist, women’s suffragist, nonfusionist, Greenback thought on one side was arrayed against the more moderate and practical group on the other. In general, the moderate viewpoint had been adopted in regard to the platform--the prohibition question had been side-stepped--but the alliance doctrine that the office should seek the man and not the converse stopped the attempt to nominate the well-known and popular ex-Governor Charles Robinson of Lawrence who publicly called for resubmission. Although he apparently had done nothing other than indicate that he would accept the nomination were it offered, his candidacy had been promoted since late spring by the non-Republican elements of the press as the logical gubernatorial choice of the new party, and this was enough to defeat his chances in the August convention.

     It was widely known that the Democrats would nominate Robinson for governor and the radical nonfusionists objected to surrendering “bag and baggage to the democrats,” [64] and were “determined to go it alone and avoid all bargaining.” [65] With the growing sentiment against Robinson because of his strong antiprohibition views, this guaranteed the nomination of Willits, a prohibitionist, for governor for there was “no definite strength worked up for any other person for any . . . office.” [66] The nomination of Willits, a former Republican farmer, destroyed the possibility of a statewide fusion with the Democrats against the Republicans as well as the hope for the support of all the Germans. [67]

     In addition to Willits, the Populist ticket included A. C. Shinn, a farmer of Franklin county, for lieutenant governor; Capt. R. S. Osborn, a farmer of Rooks county, for secretary of state; W. H. Biddle, a Butler county farmer, for state treasurer; the Rev. B. F. Foster, pastor of Lincoln Street Congregation church of Topeka, for auditor; Fannie McCormick, a school teacher of Barton county, for superintendent of schools; John N. Ives for attorney general; and W. F. Rightmire for chief justice.

     The ticket was not particularly strong: the nominees were not well known, one having lived in the state less than a year. A measure of their obscurity was given in a newspaper article reporting on the nominating convention. In the short article, the name of John Willits--the head of the ticket!--was given as Willetts, Willet, and Willets: [68] three different spellings in one article and not even one of them correct. The Emporia Republican, in like manner, corrupted Rightmire into Wrightman. [69] The candidates, moreover, were to demonstrate an inability to create a following and to conduct an effective campaign. Moreover, it is significant to note that not one of these 1890 candidates led the Populists in subsequent campaigns.

     As the campaign moved through late summer the other parties began to pick up their own tempo. The third party Prohibitionists had held their state convention in McPherson on July 5, 1890. They denounced the resubmission movement as “a scheme of brewers” and called for rigid enforcement of the prohibitory laws. It had been expected that this year the prohibitionists would endorse the ticket of the officially “dry” Republican party, but the convention, to the chagrin of the Republicans, nominated a full ticket, headed by the Rev. A. M. Richardson and Prof. E. Leonardson. [70]

     When the Republican state convention met in Topeka in early September, virtually the same ticket which had carried Kansas by 80,000 votes only two years previously was renominated. Gov. Lyman U. Humphrey of Independence, Lt. Gov. A. J. Felt of Seneca, Secretary of State William Higgins, Topeka, Attorney General L. B. Kellogg, Emporia, Chief Justice Albert H. Horton, and Superintendent of Public Instruction G. W. Winans of Junction City, were nominated by acclimation, an action which did not surprise Humphrey. [71] It took another day to nominate C. M. Hovey of Thomas county for auditor, and S. G. Stover of Republic county was not nominated for state treasurer until after a long and hard struggle.

     By this time the Republican congressional candidates had already been nominated in their districts. The Sixth district convention met at Colby to nominate Webb McNall and, on August 5, 124 Republican delegates of the Second congressional district met in Kansas City and unanimously renominated E. H. Funston for congress while endorsing the reelection of Senator Ingalls. [72] The other districts nominated Case Broderick (First), Bishop Perkins (Third), H. Kelly (Fourth), William Phillips (5), and J. R. Hollowell (Seventh).

     The Democratic state convention was held in Wichita on September 9, 1890, and the resubmission Republicans, meeting simultaneously, joined with the Democrats in a coalition ticket described by the Republican press as a “conglomeration of disgruntled politicians.” [73] The ticket included John Ives as the nominee for attorney general, but this was the only instance of fusion with the Populists on the state level. As expected, Charles Robinson of Lawrence headed the ticket as the nominee for governor. The Democrats selected candidates for only four congressional districts--Thomas Moonlight (First), J. B. Chapman (Second), P. S. Warren (Fifth), and Tully Scott (Sixth)--but had high hopes of electing some of them as well as their gubernatorial candidate. For county offices and especially for members of the state legislature the Democrats made no nominations in most counties or else publicly supported the candidates of the People’s party. [74]

     The platforms of the three major parties were substantially the same, for the Republicans drafted a platform nearly as radical on economic issues as that of the Populists. [75] The principal differences occurred over prohibition and John J. Ingalls. The Populists sidestepped the question of prohibition, the Republicans endorsed prohibition, and the Democrats called for resubmission. The Republicans commended the work of Ingalls in the senate and endorsed his reelection. The Democratic platform asked Kansas to repudiate at the polls the Ingalls who had denounced reform in politics as an “iridescent dream.” A principal demand of the Populists, too, was the removal of the hated John J. Ingalls from the U. S. senate. Despite the surface similarities in the rest of the three platforms “everyone know which as the radical party and which party was tied to the Harrison administration and the old guard.” [76]

     The party lines and campaign tactics were founded on three principal issues. The Democrats revived their old issue of resubmission of the constitutional amendment on prohibition and counted on the personal popularity of Robinson. The Republicans in “a stodginess born of fear” reverted to the tariff and the waving of the bloody-shirt type of campaign in an effort to split the opposition. The Populists struck hard with the appeal of their three-fold economic position on land, transportation, and money, and turned aside only slightly to denounce Ingalls.

     The specific strategy of the Populists seems to have been to get out the large crowd by any means and then harangue it with such speakers as “Sockless Jerry” and “Mary Yellin’.” Not uncommonly, speakers from outside Kansas were brought in through the influence of the Farmers’ Alliance. Ben Terrell of Texas and R. Beaumont of New York addressed in July what was probably “the largest crowd ever assembled in [Marion] county” despite the fact the alliance meeting was held during a rainstorm. [77]

     Perhaps the most famous of these “outside” speakers was L. L. Polk, the president of the national Farmers’ Alliance. He came from North Carolina to Kansas to campaign for the Populist party in the summer and stayed through the autumn. The production at Emporia in early July was typical of a meeting at which Polk spoke. The Emporia Republican reported that the Farmers’ Alliance and “kindred organizations” staged one of the grandest demonstrations ever seen in Emporia. L. L. Polk delivered a speech to 20,000 people; the streets were literally blockaded. Never before had such a turnout been witnessed in the area. Bands and banners were present and prominent. A parade five miles long was held with the best position to watch being the rooftops: “When the head of the procession was under the equator the tail was coming around the north pole.” [78]

     Another favorite practice was to hold a picnic or fair. These continued well into the fall to keep up the interest of the farmers. An alliance picnic was held at Salina on September 20, 1890. A 600-team procession led the way to Oakdale Park where Willits, Rightmire, and Davis spoke. About 5,000 men, women and children were present and many carried banners and signs “throwing slurs” on Ingalls, Humphrey, and others. [79] Popular songs rewritten with alliance words stimulated “crowd participation.”

     At such meetings Ingalls was the most obvious target of the Populist speakers. After “savagely” attacking the senator verbally at Beloit, Annie L. Diggs, a mere mite of a woman who never let her size interfere with her ambition to speak, concluded that “I do not speak of John J. Ingalls in a personal manner; I will not deal in personalities. I regard John J. Ingalls as I do Washington, Lincoln or--Benedict Arnold.” [80]

     Another characteristic of the Populist campaign was hard work. They got away from the post first and ran hard all the way. W. F. Rightmire, the Populist candidate for chief justice, delivered his 187th speech of the campaign in Atchison on election eve. [81]

     The planning of the People’s party was not in vain. Cosmopolitan Magazine reported all the trained “stump speakers” were lecturing for the old parties, but on the old party issues and to small crowds; while farmers, mechanics, and laborers met by the thousands to hear the “new gospel” taught and to discuss the new and pressing issues. [82] The rabble-rousing speakers were most in demand, and their styles were a favorite topic of the Topeka Daily Capital: Mr. Polk “threatened,” Mrs. Lease “raved,” and Jerry Simpson “ranted.”

     In forcing the fight from the beginning, the Populists surprisingly had an efficient party press. Many country editors enthusiastically supported the new party and others, in all likelihood, had to follow suit to retain their subscribers. The following practice was not uncommon: “The Butler County Alliance has passed a resolution refusing to patronize any and all papers that do not support the principles of the Farmers’ Alliance in their editorial columns. Other alliances are doing the same and demanding that the home papers come out on the side of right instead of party.” [83]

     If a party paper were lacking in an area, it cost little to establish one at the time if a few hundred subscribers and some advertising patronage could be found. Thus as late as September, the Alliance Gazette of Hutchinson and the Farmers’ Vindicator of Valley Falls issued volume 1, number 1.

     The newspapers were an integral part of the Republican campaign also. Earlier, many Republican papers had been sympathetic to the alliance and its demands for reform, but after the movement took political form in the Populist party these papers rapidly changed their positions. The Chase County Leader, Cottonwood Falls, even declared (October 16, 1890) “there is not only a difference between the Farmers’ Alliance and the People’s party, but in principle they are antagonistic.” [84] As the campaign approached its climax, it became increasingly bitter. The Topeka Daily Capital, strongly anti-Populist, denounced L. L. Polk after he gave the quasi-endorsement of the national Farmers’ Alliance to the Populist political movement. Under the headline “Who Is Polk?” appearing daily, the paper answered that he was the chief of the “calamity howlers,” an outsider who had come to Kansas to dictate to the inhabitants of the state. Making the old soldier campaign pitch which had always before proved so effective, the Capital pictured Polk as a former officer in the confederacy during the Civil War. [85] The Fort Scott Daily Monitor chimed in with the assertion that “Mr. Polk has the distinguished honor . . . of having murdered in cold blood a number of [unarmed Union] prisoners of war.” [86]

     Earlier the Monitor had reprinted with approval an editorial of the Emporia Republican:

     Lyman U. Humphrey is the only one of the several candidates for governor of Kansas who went to the defense of his country in the hour of its peril. The others were all old enough, but for some reason thy did not answer the call . . . the old soldier[s] will march to the polls in November in solid phalanx and cast their ballots for Comrade Humphrey regardless alike of party and party issues. [87]

     An important element in the use of the Republican press was a bitter and dirty newspaper attack against Willits shortly before the election. It was claimed that it had been shown records and affidavits of Jefferson county district court and Mrs. Lincicum, Willits’ sister, that the Populist candidate for governor was a perjurer, swindler, confidence man, defaulter, and “personally dishonest and corrupt” and “controlled by selfish greed.” [88]

     The Republican newspapers also devoted time to the Democratic opposition although, realizing the true opposition had become the Populists, the news attack on the Democracy was not as extensive as that on the People’s party. There was an attempt in the last week of the campaign to associate the Democrats and resubmissionists with the National Liquor Dealers Association in an effort to buy votes. The hope of the Democrats, a news release said, was in boodle and the divisive effect of the Farmers’ Alliance. The conclusion, however, was that the attempt “to buy Kansas” would fail, for money can’t buy people of principle and, moreover, the alliance was a success only so long as it remained a social organization. [89]

     The political campaign proper of the Republicans was planned by the state central committee meeting in Topeka on September 12, 1890. The program for the state campaign was devised to open in each of the seven congressional districts on September 20, 1890, when each of the candidates delivered a speech. Attorney General Kellogg was at Holton; Lieutenant Governor Felt at Fort Scott; Higgins, Hovey, and Humphrey at Eureka; Webb McNall at Logan; and J. R. Burton at Hutchinson. The committee arranged speaking engagements 10 days in advance, beginning with about 30 speakers slated to talk.

     The Republicans, too, welcomed speakers from outside the state. Pres. Benjamin Harrison arrived in Atchison on October 10, 1890. Governor Humphrey and Chief Justice Horton served as the President’s escort from St. Joseph to Topeka. At Atchison, Harrison spoke from the train expressing his pleasure to be at last in Kansas and in the home of the distinguished Senator Ingalls. Brief stops were made at Nortonville and Valley Falls before the campaign train reached Topeka. At Topeka Harrison spoke to 20,000 people and reviewed a parade of 7,000 soldiers.

     The Republican press sought to make political hay by inflating the figures to 75,000 from 30,000. [90] Ingalls accompanied the President and the same article described him as “quite as much the object of popular ovation as the president.” A second news release from Topeka declared that the Republican campaign had ceased in the past week so that their candidates and speakers could attend the grand reunion of old Union soldiers in Topeka. With the bloody shirt waving wildly, it was noted that Willits and Robinson were conspicuously absent. “They probably felt they had no business there, having quietly folded their arms during the ‘late unpleasantness’ and remained at home, although it is a well known fact that both were in perfect health and of suitable age.” Doubtless, neither had any sympathy with such reunions either. [91]

     The Presidential train moved through Lecompton, Lawrence, and Kansas City before leaving the state. Ingalls then undertook a whirlwind campaign through Kansas in the closing days of the campaign. He spoke in Ottawa on October 21, 1890, Pittsburg on October 22, Hutchinson on October 23, Salina on October 27, Clay Center on the 28th, Beloit on the 29th, and Fort Scott on November 1.

     Senator Plumb, “a power on the stump,” arrived in Kansas on October 22, and the Republican state central committee, waiting for his arrival “with considerable impatience,” had already scheduled him for several speeches. He was to provide fresh energy to the Republican campaign at this important stage. [92]

     All three parties forecast victory for their gubernatorial candidates in the last week of October. Chairman Chase of the People’s party estimated after a careful poll that Willits would receive 107,000 votes. Republican Chairman Buchan reported a “wonderful change” in favor of his party since the publication of “Willits’ record.” He estimated Humphrey’s plurality as at least 30,000 votes. [93]

     Two days late the Chicago Tribune’s special from Topeka said that “the re-election of Senator John J. Ingalls is a foregone conclusion.” Of the 40 state senators, all holdovers, 39 were Republicans. Of the 125 members of the lower house to be elected, the Republicans needed to elect only 44 to assure Ingalls’ reelection. The Republicans, wrote the Tribune, were claiming 65 and were certain of 50. To defeat Ingalls the opposition would have to elect 82 members of the house and unite behind another candidate. Such a result did not seem to be among the possibilities. [94]

     The Republicans expressed optimism, and even the late withdrawal of Tully Scott did not greatly dampen their spirits. Scott, the Democratic candidate for congress from the Sixth district, considered his election an impossibility and withdrew so as to not hurt the chances of the Populist Baker against Republican McNall. [95]


     “The election in Kansas has been a Waterloo to the Republican party.” So wrote the Kansas City Star on Wednesday, November 5, 1890. Even the Topeka Daily Capital, after having predicted an overwhelming Republican victory, was forced to admit that “the landslide has slid.” [96] The Democrats had already conceded Robinson’s defeat and the election of Willits. Apparently three and perhaps five Populist congressmen had been elected, and the Republicans clearly would not elect more than 30 legislators. Plumb’s own county of Lyon had been carried by the Populists with a 300-vote majority.

     The Republicans staggered under the blows of such headlines and were only slightly relieved when the final results at last trickled in on November 19, 1890. The Republicans, in fact, did reelect their state ticket with the exception of Attorney General Kellogg, but their 80,000 vote plurality of just two years ago was down to barely a 10th of that figure.

     The People’s party had become the other major party in Kansas, doubling the vote of the Democrats and nearly matching that of the Republicans. On its own it might have elected three or four congressmen and a strong faction in the lower house of the Kansas legislature. When joined with the Democrats, however, it swept all before it. John Ives, their joint candidate for attorney general, was elected by 48,000 votes even though Kellogg led the Republican ticket. The rest of the Populist state ticket lost by from 5,000 to 9,000 votes. Five congressmen were elected: Clover (Third District), Otis (Fourth), Baker (Sixth), and Simpson (Seventh).

     The People’s party elected 91 members of the legislature, the Republicans 26, and the Democrats 8. The imminent retirement of Ingalls was ensured and his successor was to be none other than William A. Peffer of Topeka.

     Peffer himself wrote that “the political complexion of the State was changed in six months to the extent of 100,000 votes.” [97] Had the Populists nominated the well-known Robinson rather than Willits, it is likely that they would have captured the governor’s mansion. Robinson ran ahead of his party by more than 15,000 votes; Willits ran about 9,000 behind his party and only 8,000 behind Humphrey.

     The labor counties in southeast Kansas and elsewhere strongly supported the Populists, but the great strength of the new party was in the central counties of the state, “where mortgage pressure and Alliance activity were greatest.” [98]

     Because of the close agreement between Populist vote and alliance membership--200 of the 521 delegates in the first People’s party state convention were old soldiers--the tariff and bloody shirt had lost some of their appeal as campaign issues. Straight-forward economic issues appeared likely to dominate Kansas politics in the near future.

     Many of the Populists talked only of the 90 percent drop in the Republican margin of victory. The more thoughtful reviewed the results of the gubernatorial race. It was also seen that fusion congressional candidates had won while Republican candidates received pluralities in the three-ticket districts. The inducements to and advantages of fusion became increasingly obvious to the leaders of both the Democrats and Populists. The lessons learned in this initial foray into Kansas politics were to come to fruition in the future battle plan of the People’s party.

Peter H. Argersinger, born in Ohio, but long a resident of Lawrence, was graduated from the University of Kansas in 1965. He is now a graduate student in history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
1.  Kansas City (Mo.) Star, November 5, 1890.

2.  W. P. Harrington, “The Populist Party in Kansas,” Kansas Historical Collections, v. 16, p. 411.

3.  D. O. McCray, “The Administrations of Lyman U. Humphrey,” ibid., v. 9, p. 424.

4.  Raymond C. Miller, “The Background of Populism in Kansas,” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, v. 11, p. 470.

5.  Ibid., p. 475.

6.  Harrington, loc. cit., p. 408. Harrington mentions that this same condition prevailed for cotton and livestock; in fact, for “all farm products.”

7.  Miller, loc. cit., p. 478, and Harrington, loc. cit., p. 408.

8.  Walter T. K. Nugent, The Tolerant Populists (Chicago, 1963), p. 53.

9.  Quoted in Harrington, loc. cit., pp. 405, 406. This is based on an account of W. F. Rightmire, which, later in the narrative, is open to some question.

10.  Nugent, op. cit., p. 58.

11.  Fred E. Haynes, Third Party Movements Since the Civil War (Iowa City, 1916), p. 240. This belief of Haynes can be accepted in only a limited sense.

12.  Quoted in W. F. Rightmire, “The Alliance Movement in Kansas,” Kansas Historical Collections, v. 9, p. 2. Rightmire, in fact, states that, despite this resolution, the Kansas Alliance was organized “for a distinct political purpose.” This might have been in the minds of a few organizations, but certainly was not widely held at first among Alliance members. Moreover, in The Constitution for Subordinate Alliances, sec. 4, p. 6, it was stated that “there shall not be any political or religious test for membership.” Rightmire’s assertion is also doubtful in light of future happenings among certain suballiances and individual members.

13.  Quoted in Harrington, loc. cit., p. 407.

14.  Ibid., p. 409.

15.  See S. M. Scott, The Champion Organizer of the Northwest (McPherson, 1890) for full examples of this interesting and often humorous process of organizing a suballiance. Discounting Scott’s personal vanity, it is still significant to note the tempo of his action through the covered period. The 100,000 member March estimate of Farmers’ Alliance indicated a total membership in July, 1890, of 1,269,500 in 22 states, and Kansas was credited with 100,000 members. The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, of March 14, 1890, quoted Benjamin H. Clover as saying there were 70,000 alliance men in Kansas in 1,800 suballiances.

16.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, March 14, 1890.

17.  Ibid., March 19, 1890. The platform decided upon demanded the abolition of national banks; free silver coinage; free sugar, lumber and coal; government ownership of the railroads and telegraph; and objected to all taxation that promoted the interests of one class at the expense of another.

18.  Lawrence Daily Journal, March 11, 1890. On March 16, 1890 the Lawrence Daily Journal quoted the Atchison Globe with approval: “They now say that Peffer will succeed Ingalls in the senate. Who in the hello is Peffer?”

19.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, March 21, 1890.

20.  Lawrence Daily Journal, March 19, 1890.

21.  Ibid., March 4, 1890.

22.  Ibid., March 7, 1890.

23.  Ibid., March 19, 1890.

24.  Atchison Weekly Times, March 22, 1890.

25.  Lawrence Daily Journal, March 26, 1890.

26.  The Annals of Kansas, 1886-1925, v. 1, p. 103. The farmers had already (January 16, 1890) petitioned Kansas railroads for an emergency rate in order to move the corn crop; the existing rate had been determined when corn sold for 2 and 1/2 times more than it did in January.--Ibid., p. 92. The Interstate Commerce Commission in hearings in Topeka on March 20, 1890, claimed to have found “no great dissatisfaction” with freight rates to Eastern markets.--Ibid., p. 94.

27.  Quoted in Harrington, loc. cit., p. 410.

28.  Lawrence Daily Journal, March 28, 1890.

29.  Quoted by Rightmire, loc. cit., p. 5. John D. Hicks, The Populist Revolt (Minneapolis, 1931), p. 155, has the last two phrases reversed.

30.  Lawrence Daily Journal, March 27, 1890.

31.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, March 26, 1890.

32.  Ibid., March 29, 1890. This convention in all likelihood was merely a county convention.

33.  Ibid., March 30, 1890.

34.  Lawrence Daily Journal, March 19, 1890.

35.  Ibid., March 27, 1890.

36.  Quoted in The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, March 26, 1890.

37.  Ibid., March 29, 1890.

38.  Ibid., April 2, 1890.

39.  By-Law No. 3: “A majority of all members present entitled to vote shall decide any question before any Alliance unless otherwise specified.”--The Constitution for Sub-ordinate Alliances, p. 10.

40.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, April 12, 1890.

41.  Ibid., April 13, 1890.

42.  Ibid., April 19, 1890.

43.  Ibid., June 6, 1890.

44.  Ibid., May 27, 1890.

45.  Ibid., May 28, 1890.

46.  Ibid., June 6, 1890.

47.  Ibid., April 25, 1890.

48.  Ibid., June 6, 1890.

49.  Ibid., June 6-10, 1890, and The Annals, v. 1, p. 105.

50.  William A. Peffer, The Farmer’s Side, His Troubles and Their Remedy (New York, 1891), pp. 156, 157.

51.  The following discussion is based primarily on Nugent, op. cit., pp. 65-70.

52.  Hicks, op. cit., p. 156.

53.  At least according to Peffer, op. cit., p. 157. The Fort Scott Daily Monitor, June 13, 1890, mentioned the presence of delegates from the “Industrial Union,” and the “Industrial Grange.”

54.  Hicks. op. cit., pp. 427, 428.

55.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, June 13, 1890.

56.  Harrington, loc. cit., p. 411.

57.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, July 18, 1890.

58.  Ibid., July 23, 1890, and Harrington, loc. cit., p. 412.

59.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, July 13, 1890.

60.  To become a member of the Farmers’ Alliance, one must have been a citizen of Kansas for at least the last six months, and be “a farmer, a farm laborer, mechanic, country school teacher, county physician, or country minister of the gospel.”--The Constitution for Sub-ordinate Alliances, p. 6.

61.  Topeka Daily Capital, August 13, 1890.

62.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, August 14, 1890.

63.  Nugent, op. cit., p. 73.

64.  As the Topeka Daily Capital, August 12, 1890, phrased it. The paper claimed there was a “deal” in the making between the Democrats and Populists whereby both were to nominate Robinson for governor; for this the Democrats supposedly were to refrain from making a nomination in the Third Congressional district and to support B. H. Clover. The Democrats, as it developed, did not nominate anyone to oppose Clover. As the Populist convention opened, the Daily Capital, August 13, 1896, said that the Democrats “manipulate the People’s party” and the nomination of Robinson was “cut and dried.”

65.  Harrington, loc. cit., p. 413. Harrington also quoted (p. 411) a resolution passed by the Populists in June as a hindrance to fusion: “We will not support for office any member of our organizations who will accept a nomination from either of the old parties, but will consider such member a traitor to our cause.”

66.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, August 14, 1890.

67.  Nugent, op. cit., p. 73. The Germans, by and large, were politically “wet.”

68.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, August 14, 1890.

69.  Quoted in ibid., August 20, 1890.

70.  Ibid., July 6, 1890.

71.  Ibid., September 4, 1890.

72.  Ibid., August 7, 1890.

73.  Ibid., September 10, 1890.

74.  Harrington, loc. cit., p. 413.

75.  The Republicans demanded in their platform the free coinage of silver, the free ballot, and increased volume of currency, the prohibition of alien ownership of large blocs of land, antigrain speculation legislation, and the election of railroad commissioners by the vote of the people.--The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, September 5, 6, 1890. The Democratic platform deplored paternalism in government and ecclesiasticism in public affairs; and favored the free coinage of silver and the regulation of the railroads.--Ibid., September 10, 1890.

76.  Nugent, op. cit., p. 74. This point, however obvious, was essential: “When the party platforms and candidates were all before the people in the late summer of 1890, clear choices on the basis of merit were not easy. All promised about the same thing and the tickets exhibited a mixture of men, ranging from ability to incompetence in proportions too nearly equal for any safely to make charges against the other.”--James C. Malin, A Concern About Humanity: Notes on Reform (Lawrence, 1964), p. 38.

77.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, July 16, 1890.

78.  Quoted in Ibid., July 6, 1890.

79.  Ibid., September 30, 1890.

80.  Ibid., October 2, 1890.

81.  Kansas City Star, November 3, 1890.

82.  Quoted in Peffer, op. cit., p. 159.

83.  Quoted in Harrington, loc. cit., p. 413. The Olathe Citizens’ Alliance resolved “to not support any newspaper that will not publish the report of our proceedings when requested to do [so] by any of its officers and that does not show a tolerant spirit towards us in our demands for all classes of depressed laborers.”--Topeka Daily Capital, June 12, 1890.

84.  Quoted in Malin, op. cit., p. 194.

85.  Harrington, loc. cit., p. 414, and Topeka Daily Capital, October 1, 1890.

86.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, October 16, 1890.

87.  Quoted in Ibid., October 4, 1890.

88.  Supplement in Ibid., October 21, 23, 1890.

89.  Ibid., November 1, 1890.

90.  Ibid., October 11, 1890. The Annal of Kansas, 1886-1925, p. 109.

91.  The Daily Monitor, Fort Scott, October 16, 1890.

92.  Kansas City Star, October 23, 1890.

93.  Ibid., October 30, 1890. Willits did, in fact, receive 106,972 votes--startling evidence of the extent of the Alliance-Populist organization.

94.  Quoted in the Kansas City Star, November 1, 1890.

95.  Kansas City Star, October 30, 1890.

96.  Topeka Daily Capital, November 6, 1890.

97.  Peffer, op. cit., p. 157. The Republicans had a 42,000 vote majority over all opposition combined in 1888, and were some 60,000 votes short of achieving a majority in 1890. Peffer determined from the election results that the People’s party consisted of 45,000 normally Republican voters; 35,000 Democrats; 33,000 Union-Labor men; and 2,000 Prohibitionists.

98.  Nugent, op. cit., p.92.

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