In the late-nineteenth century, there was a popular and heated debate over what sort of financial system America should have. Behind the discussions over gold versus silver and state versus national banks was a broader dialogue about sectionalism, class relations, and the future course of the American economy and democracy. Professor Ritter contends that there was a distinctive and neglected political tradition in the United States - the antimonopoly tradition - which was championed by nearly every major agricultural and labor group during the period from the Civil War until 1900. The book explains why the antimonopolists (including the National Labor Union, the Greenbackers, the Knights of Labor, and the Populists) saw the financial system as the key to maintaining economic opportunity and democratic control for all classes and regions.
• Deals with an important and neglected late-nineteenth-century national political and economic debate that had substantial consequences for the future course of American politics • Connects substantive dialogue about banks and currency with the broader cultural politics about finance • Examines the role history plays in political development and change
1. The money debate and American political development; 2. Party politics and the financial debate, 1865–1896; 3. Greenbacks versus gold: the contest over finance in the 1870s; 4. The 'people's money': Greenbackism in North Carolina, Illinois and Massachusetts; 5. The battle of the standards: the financial debate of the 1890s; 6. Populism and the politics of finance in North Carolina, Illinois and Massachusetts in the 1890s; 7. Money, history, and American political development; Appendix A. Financial terms of the 1870s and 1890s; Appendix B. Major banking and currency legislation, 1860–1900; Appendix C. An antimonopolist reading of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.