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M.A.D Times

Wednesday, November 5, 1896, NC

Agrarian to Urban

A Change in Political Campaigning  

       This dramatic and complex election was a political battle fought between William McKinley (Republican)  and  William Jennings Bryan (Democrat). For the first time in political campaigning, money had a very important role. With Bryan raising $600,000, it couldn't even compare to McKinley's $3 million, mostly earned from business interests. This was a colossal increase in campaigning spending. With this much participation the numbers of votes also increased to 79.3% of eligible  voters who voted. Bryan won 176 electoral votes and 47.7% of the popular vote. This was mostly from the western states, however it was not enough to defeat McKinley who had 217 electoral votes and 51% of the popular vote, taking most of the northern states. On November 3, 1896 McKinley was announced the 25th president of the United States.

       With the victory of McKinley, this was the last election where the White House tried to be won by mostly agrarian votes. The number of Americans living on farms was declining rapidly. Near the middle of 1896 the number of farmers dropped down to only 1/3 of Americans living the agriculture life. Eventually this led to a shift in the American life; from agrarian and farming life to urbanization where the cities were growing up.

Gold or Silver?
Urban or Agrarian?

       Economical issues such as bimetallism, Gold Standard, Free Silver and tariffs affected this election. With McKinley wanting gold and Bryan wanting silver there was some controversy. The populist and democrats wanted silver, the farmers. The republicans wanted the gold, the wealthier people.

       Another issue concerning the election was the change in the American life, to stay agrarian or to advance and move up the society and urbanize. With McKinley winning this election it resulted in the change of the everyday life. Urbanization was becoming the more popular life and people started moving closer towards the city.

      The debate in this election was between gold or silver and urban or agrarian. The result was posted on November 3, 1896 that gold and urbanization would be coming up in the near future.

       The southern farmers felt the rest of the country was trying to control them, by taking away the silver that they used as a currency. But the Republicans need that if you had bimetallism the worth of the currency would go down, the more money you have the less it is worth. Besides the bimetallism problem, the republicans wanted to move the country in a more industrial era, more people were beginning to work in factories and their was less farming. Republicans wanted to continue to move the country forward but where would that leave the south and there economy. They were already in trouble because of the civil war, and their crops did not bring in that much profit because of the other countries competing. William Bryan wanted to make life easier for the farmers.  South believed if McKinley won they would loss more money.


During the time of the 1896 election, the country was divided into two categories. Agrarian people who have tried to gain momentum ever since the Civil War ended and the people who wanted the country to move into a more industrial state.

Besides modernizing America, another concern that worried the country was a currency issue. Republicans wanted to have one metal material for their money, gold. The Populist wanted to have silver and gold, bimetallism. The Populist and Democratic candidate William J Bryan actually wanted to give away free silver to the people thinking that it would have improved their economy (which was horrible after the Panic of 1893). Having one currency was the more beneficial plan because if they would have given away free silver, than anyone could have had it, and it would be close to worthless. Taking away the silver that is already used for currency would harm the economy, but having less is better than having more.

The Republicans should have won the election because they had a plan that was more profitable than the Populist. Republicans were thinking about the whole country and the Populist were only concerned about themselves.

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