Populist Party Platform, 1896
From James P. Boyd. Parties, Problems, and Leaders of 1896: An Impartial Presentation of Living National Questions. [Philadelphia, Penn.]: Publishers' Union, 1896. 599-604.
We recognize that through the connivance of the present and preceding administrations, the country has reached a crisis in its National life as predicted in our declaration four years ago, and that prompt and politic action is the supreme duty of the hour.
We realize that while we have political independence, our financial and industrial independence is yet to be attained by restoring our country the Constitutional control and exercise of the functions necessary to a people's government, which functions have been basely surrendered by our public servants to corporate monopolies. The influence of European money-changers has been more potent in shaping legislation than the voice of the American people. Executive power and patronage have been used to corrupt our Legislatures and defeat the will of the people, and plutocracy has been enthroned upon the ruins of Democracy.
To restore the government intended by the fathers, and for the welfare and prosperity of this and future generations, we demand the establishment of an economic and financial system which shall make us masters of our own affairs, and independent of European control by the adoption of the following Declaration of Principles:--
First.--We demand a National money, safe and sound, issued by the general Government only, without the intervention of banks of issue, to be a full legal tender for all debts, public and private. . . .
Second.--We demand the free and unrestricted coinage of silver and gold at the present legal ratio of 16 to 1, without waiting for the consent of foreign nations.
Third.--We demand the volume of circulating medium be speedily increased to an amount sufficient to meet the demands of the business population of this country, and to restore the just level of prices of labor and production. . . .
Seventh.--We demand a graduated income tax, to the end that aggregated wealth shall bear its just proportion of taxation; . . .
Transportation being a means of exchange and public necessity, the Government should own and operate the railroads in the interest of the people, and on nonpartisan basis, to the end that all may be accorded the same treatment in transportation, and that the tyranny and political power now exercised by the great railroad corporations, which result in the impairment, if not the destruction of the political rights and personal liberties of the citizen, may be destroyed. . . .
First.--The true policy demands that the National and State legislation shall be such as will ultimately enable every prudent and industrious citizen to secure a home, and, therefore, the land should not be monopolized for speculative purposes.
All lands now held by railroads and other corporations in excess of their actual needs should, by lawful means, be reclaimed by the Government and held for actual settlers only; and private land monopoly, as well as alien ownership, should be prohibited. . . .
Third.--We demand that bonafide settlers on all public lands be granted free homes, as provided in the National Homestead Law, and that no exception be made in the case of Indian reservations when opened for settlement. . . .
We favor a system of direct legislation through the initiative and referendum, under proper Constitutional safeguards.
First.--We demand the election of President, Vice-President and United States Senators by a direct vote of the people.
Second.--We tender to the patriotic people of Cuba our deepest sympathy in their heroic struggle for political freedom and independence, and we believe the time has come when the United States, the great republic of the world, should recognize that Cuba is and of right ought to be a free and independent state. . . . .
Fifth.--In times of great industrial depression, idle labor should be employed on public works as far as practicable. . . .
Eighth.--Believing that the election franchise and untrammeled ballot are essential to a Government of, for and by the people, the People's Party condemn the wholesale system of disfranchisement adopted in some States as unrepublican and undemocratic, and we declare it to be the duty of the several State Legislatures to take such action as will secure a full, free and fair ballot, and an honest count.
Ninth.--While the foregoing propositions constitute the platform upon which our party stands, . . . we recognize that the great and pressing issue of the pending campaign . . . is the financial question, and, upon this great and specific issue between the parties, we cordially invite the aid and co-operation of all organizations and citizens agreeing with us upon this vital question.
Houghton Mifflin Company