Downward Migration DBQ

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Following the Civil War, westward migration increased rapidly; this was mainly due to acts such as the Homestead Act, which provided 160 acres of land for anyone who settled on it for a period of five years, the Morrill Act, and the Transcontinental Railroad, which ignited the transportation revolution. Nevertheless, life was difficult for farmers in the west, as they faced droughts, severe weather, and loneliness, leading many to leave their Western homesteads. However, often the greatest difficulty for farmers was competing with industrial farming, large corporations, and the global economy. As production increased and global prices decreased, many farmers fell into poverty, burned with debt they could not pay off due to deflation. As farmers…show more content…
In a popular rallying song of the 1890s called “The Farmer Is the Man”, westerners declared that “The middleman’s the one who gets it all / ...They forget that it’s the farmer who feeds them all,” (Doc H). Farmers viewed themselves as invaluable to American society; though the “middleman” is the person who made the most profit, it was often at the expense of farmers, who saw themselves as the great providers. This common outrage shared by farmers caused them to unite with one another in order to advance their common interests. This is demonstrated in the formation of the National Grange Movement, an organization that was important in the economics and politics of frontier life. As westerners began to unite with one another and take collective action, it was clear that farmers were dedicated in their pursuit of changing the pro-corporation system that existed in the West. In a testimony at the Chicago Conference of Trusts, Aaron Jones, head of the Grangers, said that, “Every citizen of this Republic should be free to use his labor as will best contribute to his benefit of happiness,” (Doc C). It’s clear that farmers and westerners were not only enraged by the actions of corporations and monopolies, but were also outraged by their loss of security of life and property. Their way of life was being significantly altered by big business, and many westerners…show more content…
Many westerners fought for political actions as solutions to their problems, as notably demonstrated by the Interstate Commerce Act. Furthermore, westerners formed groups such as the Granger Movement and Farmer’s Alliances in order to promote the protection of their way of life and right to their property, which aided in shaping democracy and helped farmers find a role in society. Finally, the Populist Movement was widespread across the West and was viewed by many as a revolution, demonstrating the importance of it in shaping American government and society. Overall, the Populist and Granger Movements had a major impact not only on American democracy and politics, but also the development of the Western

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