Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5 v. (lvi, 2731 p., [228] leaves of plates) : ill., maps (some fold.), ports. ; 27 cm.

1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS The Populist Uprising Part 2




The attempts of the people to wrest control of the means of livelihood from the hands of corporate power began to take political form in 1870. This movement took different names at each successive stage of its development, and in different localities, yet having but one object in view, that of equality of opportunity. These different manifestations of the will of the people must be considered as one and the same, and any political propaganda having economic readjustment as its aim should be considered as a part of the third party movement. It espouses the people's cause and is the people's party.

The first records of the Third Party in Kansas is an account of a meeting held in the State House, February 9, 1870, for the purpose of organizing a Workingman's party. W. V. Barr made a speech in which he favored the distribution of public lands in small tracts to the people, instead of granting them in large tracts to corporations. He was promptly denounced as a red handed anarchist, but evidently others were thinking the same thing, for the Liberal Republican party which had its rise in Missouri in 1870, and nominated Horace Greeley for President, in 1872, made this one of its main principles.

A labor convention was held at Leavenworth, July 20, 1870. Amos Sanford and F. P. Baker were sent as delegates to the National Labor Congress. The officers of this convention were: Hugh Cameron, W. V. Barr, B. F. Sylvis, H. B. Carter, W. R. Loughlin, John C. Ketche son, A. R. Johnson, and S. Markham. These same men were interested in the Workingman's Party.

The National Labor Congress met at Cincinnati, in August, and analyzed conditions as follows:

The wrongs of the laboring class are inflicted through monopolies.

  1. Banking and money monopolies which is the great central source through which all other monopolies exist and operate.
  2. Transportation monopolies.
  3. Manufacturing monopolies.
  4. Land monopolies.
  5. Commercial and grain monopolies.

For these evils they recommended the following measures:

  1. The establishment of a monetary system adapted to the exigencies of legitimate commerce.
  2. The payment of national debt and no funding.
  3. Preservation of the public domain for actual settlers and tillers of the soil.
  4. Tariff for revenue only.
  5. Requiring in all future wars the money to be collected from the wealth of the country and not entailed on the future earnings of labor.
  6. Holding legislators more accountable' by requiring fundamental laws to be submitted to a vote of the people.
  7. A Board of Management of currency and revenue.

The National Reform party was the outgrowth of this Labor Congress. When the Workingman's Party of Kansas held its state convention in Topeka, September 22d, it endorsed the platform of the National Reform Party, favored a tax exemption of $1,000 to each householder, instead of $200, declared that every human being was born with a natural right to land, and that no legislative enactment should be allowed to become a law until passed upon by the people. This was probably the first time the referendum was advocated in Kansas. A full state ticket was nominated, led by W. R. Loughlin, who polled only 108 votes.

This labor movement was lost to view in the excitement of the Greeley campaign of 1872. The Labor Reform party put up a national ticket, the nominees of which declined the honor. The platform was an elaboration of the principles of the Labor Congress and is important because it advanced for the first time a number of the planks on which the people were to make their stand in the reform movement of the next twenty years. The preamble asserted the right of the individual to the use and enjoyment of the fruits of his labor and talents and declared against the granting of special privileges. The body of the platform was as follows:

  1. A national circulating medium, based on the faith and resources of the nation, legal tender for all debts, and issued directly to the people without the intervention of any system of banking corporations.
  2. Payment of the national debt according to the original contract without mortgaging the property of the people or the future exigencies of labor to enrich a few capitalists at home and abroad.
  3. The burdens of government should bear equal on all classes, and the exemption from taxation of government bonds bearing extravagant rates of interest is a violation of all just principles of revenue laws.
  4. Public lands should neither be granted nor sold in amounts exceeding one hundred and sixty acres.
  5. Modification of tariff laws to admit free all articles of common use which we cannot produce, and to lay duties on luxuries and articles of which we have the raw materials.
  6. Prohibition of the importation by capitalists of Chinese labor.
  7. Eight hour law for all mechanics and day-laborers in the employ of the government or of states or municipalities.
  8. Abolition of contract prison labor.
  9. Money for prosecuting wars should be assessed upon the wealth of the country and not entailed as a burden upon posterity.
  10. Government control over railroads and telegraph corporations in order that they shall not be privileged to exact such rates of freight, transportation or charges by whatever name, as may bear unequally upon producer or consumer.
  11. Civil service reform to remove all partisan influence.
  12. Occupancy of presidential chair limited to one term.

The tenets of this platform were ahead of the time even for Kansas. The reform forces of this state united under the Liberal Republican banner and voted for Greeley in 1872. The Democrats fused with the Liberals here as they did all over the country, even in the South, adopting the platform and candidates of the reformers. The nominating convention met in Topeka, September 11th, and was opened by Charles Robinson, of Lawrence. Addresses were made by Col. S. N. Wood, Rev. Pardee Butler, Hon. Marcus J. Parrott, and W. R. Loughlin. The Hon. Thaddeus Walker was nominated for governor; W. R. Loughlin and S. A. Riggs for Congress; Pardee Butler, William Larimer and Alois Thoman for Presidential Electors; V. S. Osborne for Auditor; C. H. Pratt for Treasurer; and L. J. Sawyer for Superintendent of Public Instruction. The other nominations were made by the Democrats. John Martin, whom the Populists sent to the United States Senate in 1893, was largely instrumental in bringing about the fusion of the Liberal Republicans and Democrats in Kansas. The Liberal party elected two State Senators and fourteen members of the House, and cut the Republican majority down from 40,000 to about 30,000.

The Liberals did not meet the needs of the West. They touched on reform but did not strike deep. Aside from the public land plank there was little of interest in their platform except a protest against corruption and extravagance in public office, and inequalities in taxation.



Prior to their final amalgamation in 1890, the laborers and the farmers took turn about at playing politics in Kansas. The defeat of Horace Greeley by an overwhelming majority put an end to the Liberal Republican movement into which the labor movement had merged, but a propaganda was already under way among the farmers. A Farmers' State Convention was held in Topeka, March 26, 1873. Alfred Gray, then Secretary of Agriculture, and J. K. Hudson, who so bitterly opposed the farmers a few years later, were among the leaders at this time. The resolutions adopted at this meeting show that the farmers understood their economic situation as well in 1873 as they did in 1893, although the knowledge was probably not as widespread. They were briefly as follows:

Whereas, Agriculture in its various departments is the basis of all material prosperity; and

Whereas, The burdens and impositions under which it lies having become intolerable, therefore the farmers of Kansas in convention assembled, do put forth this declaration of our desires and purposes and state:

Farmers desire to unite in clubs, unions or stock associations for the purpose of controlling the prices of their products through their own boards of trade or appointed agents, so that nothing need be thrown upon the market for less than the cost of production and a reasonable profit. They desire to unite for the purpose of getting their supplies at cost with a reasonable percent added for collecting and distributing, and the use of capital; for the purpose of securing a reduction in freights, and breaking the blockade between the different parts of the country, by argument, by legislative enactment, and by means of the courts. They desire tax reforms, the abolition of sinecure offices, reduction in freights, and breaking the blockade between the different parts of the country, by argument, by legislative enactment, and by means of the courts. They desire tax reform, the abolition of sinecure offices, reduction of salaries, rigid economy in public expenditures, the repeal of our present iniquitous tax-penalties, home manufactories to keep our money in the state, and that the public domain should be kept forever sacred to actual settlement; therefore be it resolved:

That we recommend every farmer in the State to become a member of some farmer's club.

That, the taxes assessed and charged upon the people by both national, State and local governments are oppressive and unjust, and vast sums of money are collected far beyond the needs of an economical administration of government.

That we earnestly request the legislature of our State at its next session to enact a law regulating freights and fares on our railroads upon a basis of justice, and that we further request our members of Congress to urge the favorable action of that body to the same end, and if need be to construct national highways at the expense of the Government.

That the act passed by the legislature exempting bonds, notes, mortgages and judgments from taxation is unjust, oppressive and a palpable violation of our State Constitution, and we call upon all assessors and the county boards to see that said securities are taxed at their fair value.

That the practice of voting municipal bond is pernicious in its effect, and will inevitably bring bankruptcy and ruin on the people, and we therefore are opposed to all laws allowing the issuance of such bonds.

That giving banks a monopoly of the national currency, thereby compelling the people to pay them such interest therefor as they may choose to impose, seven-tenths of which interest we believe is collected from the farmers, is but little less than legalized robbery of the agricultural classes.

This document set forth clearly the "cause of action" which was behind the agricultural organizations which were beginning to be formed all over the country. The largest of these at this time was the Patrons of Husbandry, popularly known as the Grange. It originated in Washington, D. C., in 1867, and was brought to Kansas in 1872, the first organization being formed at Hiawatha in April of that year. It had a very rapid growth. The order favored railroad legislation, opposed the mortgage system and had as its object the promotion of co-operative buying and selling. It was soon discovered, however, that the mortgage system had been forced upon the farmers by law, the railroad and manufacturing monopolies were entrenched behind the same bulwark, and that they elected men who favored them and secured laws in their own interests. The farmers concluded that their interests had been overlooked by the statesmen and the Granger movement issued in political action all over the West. In Minnesota the Granger party was known as Anti-Monopoly. Its platform was not broad in the sense that those of later parties were. It declared against free passes, pooling, and discrimination in freights, and bribery and extravagance in public office, and favored laws governing freight rates. All the planks referred to one subject, monopoly and corporations. The same movement was called the Reform party in Wisconsin, where the main issue was railroads. In Kansas the party was called Independent Reform, following the lead of Illinois where the Farmers' Declaration of Independence created a sensation at a large gathering on July 4, 1873. There was no State ticket of the Independent Reform party in Kansas that year, but by means of local efforts enough members were elected to the lower House of the Legislature to give the opposition twenty votes more than the Republicans had, and ex-Governor James M. Harvey, a farmer and an Independent, was elected to the Senate.

With this much to the good, the farmers went on enthusiastically with their organization. In the year 1874, Grange lodges were chartered in the State at the rate of two or three thousand per month. Every school district was organized, and these lodges went over in a body to the Independent Party, which gradually came to be known as the Greenback Party because it was opposed to doing away with this form of currency. It made the money question the main issue, and advocated an adequate national medium of exchange. The Kansas State Convention of this party was held at Topeka, August 5th. In their platform they asked for the payment of the public debt according to the terms under which it was contracted, for the repeal of the tariff on necessities (mentioning lumber specifically, probably because there were no forests in Kansas), and for the restoration of income taxes. They demanded state and national legislation to protect the industrial and producing interests of the country against all forms of corporate monopoly and extortion, and declared that the railroads should be made subservient to the public good. The act of the Legislature, of March 1, 1866, dividing 500,000 acres of the school lands among four railroad companies was condemned, and some measure for the recovery of this property was advocated. Sympathy was extended to the settlers on the Osage lands, whose titles to their homes were being contested by the railroad corporations, and every honest means of aid was pledged. James C. Cusey was nominated for Governor, E. Harrington for Lieutenant-Governor, George P. Smith for Auditor, Nelson Abbott for Secretary of State, James E. Watson for State Treasurer, J. R. Hallowell for Attorney General, W. P. Douthitt for Associate Justice, and Marcus J. Parrott for Congressman from the first district.

The first mention of the People's Party was in the Kansas press of that year. The ticket put up by the Independent Party was referred to as the People's ticket, and was printed under that heading by some of the newspapers. It was also called the Grange ticket in some localities. After the fall election it was found to be the second party instead of the third, having polled about 30,000 votes in the State.

Centennial year was one of great political excitement in Kansas. Resumption of specie payments was worrying the farmers, and the attitude of the farmers was worrying the Republican leaders. The Reformers began their campaign early with a meeting of the State Central Committee at Topeka, February 25th. The committee refused an offer of co-operation extended by the Democratic State Committee, and issued a call for a Greenback Convention May 4, showing that they were becoming reconciled to the use of that name.

The convention of May 4 was held at Topeka. Delegates were sent to the National Convention to be held at Indianapolis and the following resolution passed:

Resolved that we earnestly recommend to the friends of the Independent movement to take immediate, prompt and efficient measures for the organization of the party in their several counties and townships by forming' Greenback clubs and circulating documents, books and newspapers, in the full conviction that the truth once fairly presented to the minds of the people will become invincible.

The platforms, both State and National, were rather narrow, referring exclusively to the money question, and especially to the resumption of specie payments. The Kansas platform was adopted at the State nominating convention held in Topeka, July 27th. It opposed all banks of issue and demanded that the act of Congress creating the National Banking System be repealed, and that the paper currency of the Government of the United States be substituted for the national bank notes, such paper currency to be made legal tender for the payment of all debts including duties on imports. The unconditional repeal of the resumption act was demanded, the immediate restoration of silver as a standard of value and a legal tender, and a tax on incomes of more than $1,500 per year. The retirement of the legal tender greenback and the substitution of the inferior currency of the national banks was declared to be a fraud and an outrage, as was also the demonetization of silver, which, they claimed, had added twenty per cent to the aggregate of public and private indebtedness.

The State ticket was headed by M. E. Hudson, of Bourbon County, J. K. Hudson, editor of the Topeka Daily Capital, and Samuel J. Crawford, its owner, were among the leaders of reform at this time, but they bitterly opposed the same principles later in the Populist movement. Owing to the fact that the Democratic State Convention took exactly the same stand that the Greenback party did on the money question, and that the Republicans took up the public land plank, the Greenback vote in Kansas in 1876 was very small. Many of the reform adherents had gone back to the Republican party to do missionary work. Among these was Col. S. N. Wood. He was among the forty-two farmers who were elected to the Legislature that fall. That he had not lost sight of reform principles is shown by the following letter dated January 22, 1877, signed by S. N. Wood and Welcome Wells, and sent to James M. Harvey, W. A. Phillips, Thomas A. Osborn, T. C. Sears and Preston B. Plumb, candidates for United States Senate. The letter read:

Honorable Sir: If you are elected to the United States Senate will you vote to repeal the resumption act? Will you vote to repeal the national banking law? Will you favor a law providing that all paper money shall be issued directly by the Government, based on Government credit? Will you, if elected, vote to build up the productive interests of the West and against the money power of the East?

Every one of the five gentlemen declared themselves in favor of the principles embodied in the letter. Preston B. Plumb was the successful candidate and proved a worthy champion of the cause of the people of his State. The national ticket headed by Peter Cooper polled 81,740 votes.

The platform of the Kansas Greenback party was somewhat broadened in 1877. It made the startling revelation that the laws of Kansas required the collection of 50% interest on delinquent taxes, and asked that the rate be lowered to 25%. It advocated a money deposit system in connection with the Postoffices, on the order of our present postal savings banks. It demanded a law of Congress providing for the arbitration of labor difficulties, and a law making the issuing of "watered stock" a penal offense. A protest was registered against the Government granting any further subsidies to corporations in bonds or lands. The money question was covered in the same way as in the platform of the previous years. Only a few offices were voted for and no important results were achieved.

The climax of the Greenback movement was in 1878 when it fused with the Labor Reform movement all over the country and polled an aggregate of 1,000,365 votes in the different states. The leader of the ticket in Kansas was D. P. Mitchell, who polled 27,057 votes. The platform of the State Convention held at Emporia was very comprehensive in its delineation of the conditions and needs of the country. It was briefly as follows:

Whereas, The Republican and Democratic parties have squandered the public money, impoverished the country, and neglected national legislation for the purpose of investigating their own corruption and perpetuating their power and party organizations, destroying industry, paralyzing trade, inflicting on the poor and industrial classes bankruptcy, suffering and crime; who have shrunk agricultural and mechanical values by the contraction of currency; who have changed a non-interest into an interest bearing debt; who have increased their own salaries, incomes and purchasing power of money; and,

Whereas, The administration of national, state, county and city governments have been so extravagant, expensive and corrupt as to destroy the profits and value of frugal industry; therefore,

Resolved, That we heartily endorse the union between the Greenback party and the labor organizations, and cordially invite all patriotic citizens to abandon the old parties and unite with us in the National Greenback-Labor party-the party of the people - to deliver this country from slavery to money and corporate despotism, revive industry, restore prosperity, reward labor, remove the burdens of excessive taxation, inaugurate a system of American absolute money, and secure the people the blessing; of a free government. We proclaim the following platform of principles:

  1. Money is a creation of law, a convenience of trade and commerce, and it is the duty of the Government to provide all the money needed by the people - a full legal tender paper money, based on the power, perpetuity and credit of the Government, needing no other redemption than that it be received by the Government in full payment for all debts and taxes, including duties on imports.
  2. All expenses and debts of the Government should be paid in greenbacks, made a full legal tender, and the Government, national and state, should be forever prohibited from issuing interest bearing bonds.
  3. As usury is the means whereby accumulated wealth robs industry, it should be prohibited by law, and the government should issue money directly to the people.
  4. The claims of humanity should be considered first, and the claims of property second; labor is the active and productive capital of the country and should be protected and fostered rather than idle money.
  5. We condemn the unfair discrimination between the wages of laboring men and the fees and salaries of office holders and professional men.
  6. We are opposed to selling the homes of the people or dooming them to perpetual serfdom for the purpose of securing the payment of fraudulent municipal bonds.
  7. We demand laws such as will permit a reasonable time for the redemption of property sold under execution.
  8. That each sex shall receive equal pay for equal work.
  9. Tax on all incomes exceeding $1,000 per year.
  10. Tax on government bonds.
  11. Repeal of the specie-resumption act, the national banking law and increase instead of contraction of currency.
  12. Improvement of navigable rivers, government control of the channels of commerce in order to prevent the robbery of the people by transportations and corporations.
  13. We are opposed to granting our public lands to corporations, and any further subsidies of money or public credit.
  14. Equivalent for equivalent is the natural law of exchange, and we are hostile to any form of communism which seeks to appropriate the wealth of others without giving an equivalent, whether it be at once and with violence, or gradually at a rate of ten to twenty percent a year - both modes are violations of natural and moral law.

Such was the platform of the party of the people in 1878, and it so remained in all its essential particulars as long as the movement lasted - until the defeat of Populism in 1894. It was often elaborated upon and new features were added, or new methods of obtaining a desired end were advanced, but this platform was the groundwork of the people's movement as regards both laboring and farming classes. That it did not draw a larger vote may have been due to the fact that the masses had not entirely lost hope in the Republican party. The platform drawn up by the Kansas Republicans in the same year is worthy of meditative perusal, as are also the public utterances of John J. Ingalls, in the light of what these people had to say about the same principles a few years later. The Republican platform contained the following sentences:

Experience has shown the greenback currency to be admirably adapted to the wants of trade, and we favor the withdrawal of the national bank notes, substituting therefor greenback currency issued directly by the Government. We demand that it be issued in sufficient volume to fully meet the wants of business without depreciating its value; and that it shall be received in payment of all debts and dues, public and private.

We believe a double standard of values is preferable to a single standard, and are in favor of placing the coinage of gold and silver on an equality.

Railways are creatures, and exist by the breath of legislative enactment. As servants of the people they should be compelled to do their bidding, and obey the wholesome requirements and restrictions of law; and we demand of the Legislature the establishment of such passenger and freight tariffs as shall advance the interests and promote the industries of the people.

We condemn the policy of granting subsidies at the public expense to either individuals or corporations for their private use.

Other planks in the platform covered economy in public office and the election of honest men. It will be noticed that the Republican party saw the necessity of trying to catch up with the procession. These planks were a superficial endorsement of the Greenback articles of faith. The speech of Ingalls referred to was made February 15, 1878, and contained the following summary of the economic and political situation:

The people are arraying themselves on one side or the other of a portentous contest. On one side is capital, formidably entrenched in privilege, arrogant from continued triumph, conservative, tenacious of old theories, demanding new concessions, enriched by domestic levy and foreign commerce, and struggling to adjust all values to its own standard. On the other hand is labor, asking for employment, striving to develop domestic industries, battling with the forces of nature, and subduing the wilderness; labor, striving and sullen in the cities, resolutely determined to overthrow a system under which the rich are growing richer and the poor are growing poorer; a system which has given Vanderbilt the possession of wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, and condemns the poor to poverty which has no refuge from starvation except the prison or the grave.

John J. Ingalls


[Copy by Willard, Topeka]

[Of Ingalls it was said: "He knew language as the devout Moslem knows his Koran. All the deeps and shallows of the sea of words were sounded and surveyed by him and duly marked upon the chart of his great mentality. in the' presence of an audience he was a magician; under the power of his magic, syllables became scorpions-an inflection became an indictment. And with words he builded temples of thought that excited at first the wonder and at all times the admiration of the world of literature and statesmanship. He was emperor in the realm of expression."]

Thirteen years later, after having been elected twice to the Senate, Mr. Ingalls said: "So it happens, Mr. President, that our society is becoming rapidly stratified, almost hopelessly stratified, into a condition of superfluously rich and hopelessly poor. We are accustomed to speak of this as the land of the free and the home of the brave. It will soon be the home of the rich and land of the slave." Ingalls was a Republican, he went down with the Republican ship in 1892 and lived and died a Republican, yet his utterances concerning conditions of the country and in condemnation of the policy of the Government have never been outdone by the most fanatical of reformers.

The Republican party having become Greenback, that party began to subside after 1878. In the national election of 1880 the ticket was led by James G. Weaver, the great Populist who became the presidential candidate of that party in 1892. He received 308,578 votes, of which Kansas cast 19,581. The new planks in the State platform condemned the action of the Legislature in abolishing the one mill school tax as a blow struck at the people's colleges; favored the taxing of the mortgages of non-residents and the lowering of the legal rate of interest and declared for woman suffrage. The State ticket was led by H. P. Vrooman, of Greenwood County.

In 1882 Charles Robinson was the candidate of the Greenback party for Governor and polled 20,933 votes. The Democratic platform was very extensive, covering practically all the principles advanced by the Greenback party, and some of those later incorporated by the Populists, including the election of President, Vice-President, United States Senators and Postmasters by direct vote of the people. The ticket was headed by George W. Glick who was elected. Two years later these doctrines permeated the Democratic national platform, and Grover Cleveland was elected President on the strength of them. The State Democratic platform in 1884 called attention to the things accomplished by the Glick administration, which we may justly credit to the political action of the third party. They were in brief:

One million two hundred and fifty-nine thousand acres of land have been reclaimed to the State and are now open for settlement. Large amounts of railroad lands which have hitherto escaped county and state taxation, have been placed upon the tax rolls of the various counties. The rates of fare and freight have been reduced on all lines of railroads within our State. The cattle disease which threatened to paralyze the stock industry of our State was promptly checked. The stream of immigration which had been turned from our borders during a former administration has again been restored, and two hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants added to our population.

However, the Democrats made the blunder of opposing probibition and the Republicans elected their ticket. The Greenback party was headed by H. L. Phillips for Governor and John W. Breidenthal, later a prominent Populist, for Lieutenant Governor. Breidenthal led his ticket in the election, polling 14,325 votes.

In 1886, the force of the Independent or Greenback movement was practically spent. No new issues were raised and no state ticket was placed in the field, and there was a lull in the activity of the third party forces.

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans , written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 1998.