Annotation: Founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, in May 1891, the Populist party sought a graduated income tax, public ownership of utilities, the voter initiative and referendum, the eight-hour workday, immigration restrictions, and government control of currency. It also called for a commodity credit system that would allow farmers to store their crop in a federal warehouse to await favorable market prices and meanwhile borrow up to 80 percent of the current market price. In August 1891, Populists in Texas issued their own platform.
Document: …we do hereby charge that these parties [the Democratic and Republican parties] have fastened a system of finance on the nation which is sapping the vitals of our institutions and enslaving our people. They have extended every aid…to corporate enterprises…and at the same time have, and do now, refuse to aid or assist the laborers, producers, and business men, by just and wholesome laws, to maintain their rights and interests and reap the full rewards of their own efforts, but do still assist the banks and sharks of Wall Street…in controlling the volume of money, bringing down prices, and bringing panics in business and stagnation to industry to fill their coffers by using foreclosure and speculation….
They have denied the country an income tax law, while the taxes of the country should be collected from each man in proportion to his ability to support the government. They have suffered abuses in railway transportation and telegraph corporations to continue and to grow more aggravated and intense…. They have refused to amend our organic law so as to make United States Senators and the president elective by direct vote of the people. While fraud and misrepresentation has run rampant in the selection of our chief executives, the United States sensate has become a den of millionaires, who are infinitely a more terrible menace to free government than the dreaded house of lords of Great Britain….
(1) …we demand that legal tender treasury notes be issued in sufficient volume to transact the business of the country on a cash basis…and such notes when demanded by the people shall be loaned to them at not more than 2 per cent per annum upon non-perishable products…and also upon real estate….
(2) We demand the free and unlimited coinage of silver.
(3) We demand the passage of laws prohibiting alien ownership of land, and that congress shall take prompt action to devise some plan to obtain all lands now owned by alien and foreign syndicates, and that all land held by railroads and other corporations in excess of such as is actually used and needed by them be reclaimed by the government and held for actual settlers only. (6) We demand a just and equitable system of graduated tax on income.
(7) We demand the most rigid, honest, and just national control and supervision of the means of public communication and transportation, and if this control and supervision does not remove the abuses now existing, we demand the government ownership of such means of communication and transportation.
(8) We demand the election of president, vice-president, and United States senators by direct vote of the people.
We also recommend….
1. All the public lands of Texas…should be reserved as homesteads for actual settlers. All lands heretofore granted to individuals or corporations, in which the grantees have not complied with the conditions of the grant, should be forfeited to the State for homestead purposes….
3. We favor an effective system of public free schools for six months in each year, in which the nature and effects of alcohol on the human system be taught.
4. We demand the adoption of a uniform series of textbooks for the public schools of this state, and that they be published at the expense of the State, the use of which shall be furnished to the children in the schools free….
6. We favor eight hours as the working day upon state and municipal work….
8. We demand a reformation in the punishment of convicts; that convict labor be taken out of competition with citizen labor, that convicts be given intellectual and moral instructions, and that the earnings of the convict, above the expense of his keeping, shall go to his family….
11. We demand fair elections and an honest count of votes, under either the Australian or some similar system of voting.