Free Silver Movement
Late-19th-century U.S. political movement that advocated unlimited coinage of silver. Proponents included owners of western silver mines, farmers who wanted higher crop prices, and debtors who believed an expanded currency would allow them easier payment. A depression in the mid-1870s led to an 1878 law requiring the U.S. Treasury to purchase millions of dollars in silver and coin it. After farm prices rose briefly, farm and land prices collapsed in 1887, reviving the demand of farmers for free silver. In 1890 Congress again increased silver purchases, and free silver was an objective of the Populist Movement in the 1892 election. In 1893 the amount of gold in the treasury dropped sharply, precipitating a panic. Congress repealed the act of 1890, angering farmers. In 1896 the Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan for president and backed free silver. The Republican William McKinley narrowly won. In 1900 a Republican Congress enacted the Gold Standard Act.
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