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Greenback party

Greenback party, in U.S. history, political organization formed in the years 1874–76 to promote currency expansion. The members were principally farmers of the West and the South; stricken by the Panic of 1873, they saw salvation in an inflated currency that would wipe out the farm debts contracted in times of high prices. They were opposed by the conservatives, who managed to get the Resumption Act of 1875 passed. The Greenbackers had in 1874 hoped to capture the Democratic party, but the nomination of Samuel J. Tilden killed that hope, and the Greenback party nominated Peter Cooper as its own candidate for President in 1876. The Greenbackers got only 81,737 votes. In 1878, however, certain labor organizations, embittered by the labor troubles in 1877, united with the advocates of cheap money in the Greenback-Labor party, and the combination party polled over 1 million votes and elected 14 Representatives to Congress that year. The Greenbackers' hopes for 1880 were high, and bidding for wider support they broadened their program by endorsement of woman suffrage, federal regulation of interstate commerce, and a graduated income tax. For the presidency in 1880 the party nominated its most notable figure, Gen. James B. Weaver, but the return of prosperity, the passage of the Bland-Allison Act (1878), and the success of the Resumption Act had allayed the discontent on which the party had grown, and the Greenback-Labor vote declined in 1880 to just a little over 300,000. When the candidate in 1884, Gen. Benjamin Franklin Butler (1818–93), did very badly, the party dissolved. Some members joined the Union Labor party in 1888, but more of them went back to the old parties. Later many Greenbackers, among them Weaver and Ignatius Donnelly, became leading figures in the Populist party.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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