"Donnelly served in the Minnesota Senate and House in the late 1800s and was a founder of the Populist Movement, one of the first third-party movements in the United States" (St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 30, 1999).
"He spoke out against inmate whipping and child labor. He supported interest rate caps, trust busting, civil service reform and inheritance taxes. As a lawmaker, he exposed an insurance scam and a coal distributor's price-fixing scheme, and he revealed how lumber companies had pirated pine and cedar trees from state-owned lands" (Minnesota Lawyer, May 30, 2018).
"In his lifetime Donnelly was too uncompromising and rigidly moralistic to achieve many political victories, but the reforms he advocated -- an eight-hour workday, a graduated income tax, the breaking up of monopolies -- would eventually come to define the nation's Progressive movement" (Minnesota Lawyer, May 30, 2018).
"Donnelly was elected the state's second lieutenant governor in 1860, and in 1863 he became one of the state's first congressmen, serving until 1868 when he was defeated for re-election. He held these offices as a Republican. From 1874-78 he served as a state senator, and in 1886 he was elected to one term as a state representative as an independent. In 1884, he ran again for Congress, and lost, but this time as a Democrat. In 1892, he ran for governor as the Greenback Party candidate, and lost. Finally, in 1900, he was the unsuccessful vice presidential nominee of the national Populist Party" (Casselman, Barry. North Star Rising: Minnesota Politicians on the National Stage. Lakeville, Minn.: Pogo Press, 2008, p. 17.).
In 1857 his "aversion to slavery prompted him to switch political allegiances from the Democratic to the Republican Party" (Session Weekly, February 23, 1996, p. 22). He ran unsuccessfully as the Republican party endorsed candidate for the Minnesota Territorial Council in the 1857 and 1858 elections.
He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota as a Republican in the 1859 election.
"In 1862 Donnelly won the first of his three congressional terms as a Republican" (St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 30, 1999). He resigned as Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota to serve in the United States House of Representatives in 1863.
He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection to the United States House of Representatives in 1868 and an unsuccessful candidate for election to the United States House of Representatives in 1870.
"In 1873, Donnelly joined the Grange, an agrarian-rights group formed in Minnesota in 1868. He helped form the Anti-Monopolist Party, which combined the principles of the Democratic Party and the Grange, and ran successfully for the state Senate in 1873 as a member of the new party. He held that office until 1878 as an anti-monopolist and a 'greenbacker,' one who advocated the use of inconvertible paper money" (Session Weekly, February 23, 1996, p. 24).
"A temporary coalition of union labor and Alliance farmers nominated Donnelly for governor in 1888. He doubted its chances for success and soon withdrew" (MNopedia, April 18, 2016).
In 1892, "he was tapped to write the founding document of the newly formed People's Party" (Minnesota Lawyer, May 30, 2018). He was an unsuccessful candidate for governor on the People's Party ticket in 1892 (MNopedia, April 18, 2016).
He was nominated for Vice President of the United States by the Populist/People's Party in 1900.
He was of Irish and Scottish ancestry.
He moved to Nininger, Dakota County, Minnesota sometime between 1855 to 1857.
He was a best-selling author (Minnesota Lawyer, May 30, 2018).
"He has never been a member of any church, but his friends say that his books show the profoundest respect for Christianity and a most unshaken belief in the immortality of the soul." (Progressive Men of Minnesota, 1897, p. 416)
Religion provided by Progressive Men of Minnesota, 1897.