William Goebel – a Martyr of Great Ideas

Populism in the USA

As pointed out by Goodwyn, insurgent movements that occur as protests to the existing political system are rarely successful and most often can be recognized as awkward because they tend to resist the entire system that makes such movements possible (n.p.). As a result, such movements are often rather superficial. Populism in the United States originated as a populist movement that formed out of several alliances created by farmers of the Midwestern and Southern areas of the country. Eventually, the movement led to the initiation of Populist Party, the political party founded to represent the interests of the people; namely, of the agrarian population of farmers and laborers who demanded economic equality with other businesses and manufacturers alongside a range of other requirements concerning taxation and tariffs for farming operations (“Populist Movement”).

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Due to its focus on the needs of the people included in it, the populist political movement is recognized as a democratic one. This movement is said to be the most challenging and powerful protest movement that existed in the United States history since the times of the Civil War (“Populist Movement”).

William Goebel

William Goebel is a well-known American political figure of the second half of the 1800s; he served as the 34th Governor of Kentucky, and some of the outstanding facts about his biography include his never being married in his life and his assassination (“William Goebel—1900”). In 1877, Goebel graduated from the School of Law under the University of Cincinnati and began to work in the field of law forming connections with outstanding political authorities of the time (“William Goebel”). With the help of his ties in the field of politics, Goebel managed to create a regional political organization of urban class that was based in Kenton City and eventually helped him to become elected to the Senate of Kentucky and soon be supported as President Pro-Tem in the Senate (“William Goebel—1900”). Goebel’s political career developed rather rapidly as he became Governor of KY just one decade after graduating from university.

Goebel’s Stand that Made Him a Populist

As a politician, William Goebel was oriented at helping the people and alleviating some of the challenges the average farmers and laborers faced daily. For example, Goebel used his position as a State Senator to address the issues with railroad regulations regarded to the limitations concerning toll roads. In general, expanding the range of rights of laborers and labor were some of the specific subjects on which Goebel focused his political career.

The care for simple laborers and the desire to address the problems that were the common complaints among urban and agrarian communities characterized Goebel as a populist – a politician the vast majority of whose efforts are dedicated to the people.

However, it is important to mention that Goebel is known as one of the most controversial political leaders in the US history due to his multiple conflicts with the other politicians such as the representatives of Democratic Party in the state of Kentucky and an influential banker John Sanford whom the Senator shot in the middle of the day in the street before many witnesses for a suspected attempt of assassination (“William Goebel—1900”). Apart from a lengthy and very intense conflict with Sanford, Goebel also had clashes with Democrats based on his political stand that supported regulations of railroad commission and business, silver policy, and labor policy (“William Goebel—1900”). As a politician, Goebel was known to be a very disciplined organizer; however, his strictness and unbent and passionate spirit made many of his contemporaries to characterize him as fond of bossism. At the same time, Goebel was supported by many of his peers, such as William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic Presidential Candidate who launched a campaign on behalf of Goebel.

Goebel’s Activities and Success

Unfortunately, Goebel’s term as a Governor of Kentucky ended before it could begin. To be more precise, a day before he was pronounced a Governor, the politician fell victim of an assassination attack of which he had been warned. Bravely, Goebel decided to disregard the rumors about a possible assassination attempt and walked under the protection of only two bodyguards near the capitol Hotel where he was shot in the chest (“William Goebel—1900”).

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Before his assassination, Goebel managed to leave a massive footprint in American history due to his activities as a politician. One of the features that made this leader stand out was his unlikely political position as a Populist in a community that was mainly in favor of Union (Young). Coming from Kentucky, Goebel promoted the rights of women and minorities such as African-Americans and was majorly opposed by large businesses and corporations.

Goebel was massively supported by the common laborers and many of his peers who helped him take back the position of Governor that initially was given to another candidate, Taylor. His loyalty to the common people is said to have remained with him till his last breath as his final words were relayed as an encouragement for his peers and fellows to remain brave and serve the people (Young).

Even though Goebel was sworn as a Governor on his death bed, there still was one act that he had accomplished in his new position – he ordered for the militia organized by his predecessor Taylor to leave the streets of the city because the presence of the law enforcement representatives limited the rights of the common citizens (“William Goebel—1900”). However, this order was never fulfilled.

Goebel’s Significance to American Society and Politics

Goebel’s never-ending fight, passion, and deliberation shaped his image as a hero for the common people, as a protector of the rights of women and African-Americans, and as a person with a very strong set of values that was unique to the place where he grew up. Moreover, the tragic death of William Goebel made him a martyr for the Populist Party and added significance to the ideas for which he was murdered.

The history of this politician is rather short is not filled with too many great achievements and changes that he fostered. However, he is a true example of how the dedicated servants of the people who attempt to go against the pressing old-fashioned system are often brutally stopped. This tendency can be observed as a noticeable trend that existed in the United States for a long time. One could simply follow the list of names of the American politicians who had been assassinated and find their many reformers and innovative visionaries who were determined to bring about significant change for the American people.

Works Cited

Goodwyn, Lawrence. The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America. Oxford University Press, 1978.

“Populist Movement.” Britannica, 2007, Web.

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“William Goebel.” Spartacus Educational. 2014, Web.

“William Goebel—1900.” History of Kentucky Governors, 2011, Web.

Young, Andrew. “Our Rich History: Kentucky Governor-elect William Goebel is nation’s only assassinated governor.” Northern Kentucky Tribune, Web.

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