Greenback Labor Party
Richard M. Bishop (1812-1893) served as mayor of Cincinnati from 1859-1861 and as governor of Ohio from 1878-1880.
The Greenback Labor Party was formed in the years following the American Civil War. During the Civil War, the federal government issued "greenback" paper money to keep a sufficient amount of currency in circulation. Because this type of money was not backed by gold or silver, inflation resulted and the greenbacks declined in value. By the end of the Civil War, a one-dollar greenback had decreased in value to only forty-six cents.
During the late 1860s and the 1870s, the federal government continued to allow greenbacks to circulate. In the late 1870s, the government announced that it would support all greenbacks with gold. This action stabilized the currency, increased its value and upset many middle and working-class Americans. Many of these people were in debt to various companies. With the currency's value increasing and inflation decreasing, it became more difficult for people to pay their debts.
A number of Americans came together to protest the federal government's ending of the previous greenback policy during the late 1870s. They formed the Greenback Labor Party and sought to elect candidates to office who supported the continued issuance of greenbacks. This political party also called for the end of government corruption, regulation of the railroads and other corporations and the conservation of natural resources. In the elections of 1880 and 1884, the Greenback Labor Party ran a candidate for President. In the first election, James Weaver received more than 300,000 votes of the nine million votes cast. In 1884, Benjamin Butler received almost 200,000 votes of the ten million votes cast. By the late 1880s and the early 1890s, the Populist Party and the Democratic Party, adopted many of the Greenback Labor Party's issues and the party declined.
The Greenback Labor Party played a role in Ohio politics during the late 1870s and the 1880s. In 1877, Democrat Richard M. Bishop was elected Governor of Ohio. Since the Civil War, Republicans had held most state offices. As a result of the economic hardship caused by the Panic of 1873, many Ohioans opposed the Republican Party and its policies. Bishop benefited from their dissatisfaction. Bishop lost support during his administration as the Greenback Labor Party became more popular. The Democrats in Ohio sought the support of the Greenback Labor movement and were successful in their efforts. The Greenback Labor supporters rallied behind the Democrats in the gubernatorial race of 1879 and in the next several elections as well.
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- Richardson, Darcy G. Others: Third Party Politics from the Nation's Founding to the Rise and Fall of the Greenback-Labor Party. New York, NY: IUniverse, Inc., 2004.