MISSION OF THE POPULIST PARTY
THE Populist Party
is an organized demand that the functions of government shall be exercised
only for the mutual benefit of all the people. It asserts that government
is useful only to the extent that it serves to advance the common
weal. Believing that the public good is paramount to private interests,
it protests against the delegation of sovereign powers to private
agencies. Its motto is: "Equal rights to all; special privileges to
none." Its creed is written in a single line of the Declaration of
Independence--"All men are created equal." Devoted to the objects
for which the constitution of the United States was adopted, it proposes
to "form a more perfect union" by cultivating a national sentiment
among the people; to "insure domestic tranquility" by securing to
every man and woman what they earn; to "establish justice" by procuring
an equitable distribution of the products and profits of labor; to
"provide for the common defence" by interesting every citizen in the
ownership of his home; to "promote the general welfare" by abolishing
class legislation and limiting the government to its proper functions;
and to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity"
by protecting the producing masses against the spoliation of speculators
The Populist claims
that the mission of his party is to emancipate labor. He believes
that men are not only created equal, but that they are equally entitled
to the use of natural resources in procuring means of subsistence
and comfort. He believes that an equitable distribution of the products
and profits of labor is essential to the highest form of civilization;
that taxation should only be for public purposes, and that all moneys
raised by taxes should go into the public treasury; that public
needs should be  supplied by public agencies, and that the people
should be served equally and alike.
The party believes
in popular government. Its demands may be summarized fairly to be--
exclusively national currency in amount amply sufficient for all the
uses for which money is needed by the people, to consist of gold and
silver coined on equal terms, and government paper, each and all legal
tender in payment of debts of whatever nature or amount, receivable
for taxes and all public dues.
It is charged against
Populists that they favor paternalism in government. This is an error.
They only demand that public functions shall be exercised by public
agents, and that sovereign powers shall not be delegated to private
persons or corporations having only private interests to serve. They
would popularize government to the end that it may accomplish the work
for which it was established--to serve the people, all the people, not
only a few.
If it be paternalism
to require the government to look after any of the private interests
of the people, why do we not drive from our grounds as a tramp the postman
who delivers our mail? If it be paternalism to bring our transportation
business under public control, why do we not repeal the inter-State
commerce law and restore the carrying trade to private citizens from
whose rapacity the people were partially released some years ago? It
it be paternalism to establish government agencies to supply currency
to the people, what means the national bank act whose title reads: "An
act to provide a national currency secured by a pledge of United States
bonds, and to provide for the circulation and redemption thereof?"
All there is in the
charge of paternalism lies in the fact that Populists believe that,
as to these particular matters, the people would be served, more equitably
and at greatly reduced expense, by public agents working on fixed salaries,
than by private persons who use their business for private ends. 
It will be observed
that the party deals with live issues only, and they are those chiefly
which relate to the use of natural resources of subsistence and to the
distribution of property and property values. This is the only party
that clearly expresses a well-defined position on the "money question."
It states the kind of money the party wants--gold, silver and paper;
it demands that the metals be coined freely, in unlimited quantities,
at a ratio of 16 to 1; that the currency shall be issued by the general
government only--not by banks--and that it shall be a full legal tender.
2. That rates
of interest for the use of money be reduced to the level of average
net profits in productive industries.
3. That the
means of public transportation be brought under public control,
to the end that carriage shall not cost more than it is reasonably
worth, and that charges may be made uniform.
4. That large
private land-holdings be discouraged by law.
 Rapid accumulation
of wealth by a few citizens, as we have seen it in the United States
during the last thirty years, is evidence of morbidly abnormal conditions.
It is inconsistent with free institutions. It is breeding anarchy and
trouble. No man can honestly take to himself what he does not earn;
and if he does no more than that, riches will come to him slowly. It
is only when he gets what he does not earn that his "success" attracts
attention. Fortunes running into millions of dollars must be made up
of property and profits mostly produced and earned by persons other
than those who claim them.
No man ever earned
a million dollars. If he was moved to  great undertakings, nature's
God inspired him. And if, in the play of his ambition he marshalled
effective forces, his equipment cost him little. To a great mind success
is compensation. The value of its labor cannot be measured with money.
A strong man's intellect moves as easily as a blacksmith's arm. Both
The best men are
content with little. Vast enterprises which move the world are maintained
by contributions from the labor of the poor. Leaders do but organize
and direct; the rank and file do all the rest. Apply the "iron law of
wages" equally to all that work and you scale down the salaries of many
useless people. If the Republic is to endure we must encourage
the average man.
American Review (December 1893), 665-678. Paragraph numbers have
been added, and the original pagination appears in brackets. The asterisks
mark a significant section about monetary policy that has been omitted.