Greenbackers, Knights of Labor, and Populists: Farmer-Labor Insurgency in the Late-Nineteenth-Century South

By Matthew Hild | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Agrarian Discontent and
Political Dissent in the South,
1872–1882

In June 1873 the Macon Telegraph and Messenger, a Black Belt Georgia newspaper, reported that a new farmers’ organization, the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry (or the Grange), was rapidly establishing local chapters throughout the state. By the Fourth of July, the newspaper noted, “as many as one hundred granges” would “be in successful operation.” The Telegraph and Messenger approved of this development. “The cash system, combined credit, special rates of transportation, dealing by wholesale at headquarters with pork-packers and produce dealers, and a reduction in the ruinous rates of interest,” the newspaper reported, “are the grand results which are to be accomplished.” The Telegraph and Messenger understood that southern farmers were facing a variety of financial difficulties and seemed to place some hope in the Grange as a means of their deliverance. “Surely if the Patrons of Husbandry can do aught to relieve the distress and burdens of their brethren,” the newspaper editorialized, “they should be hailed as benefactors of the human race.”1

The Telegraph and Messenger saw other possible ramifications in the Grange movement, however, than concerted efforts at economic self-help by farmers. “From the present outlook,” the newspaper prophesied, “this new order is destined also to be a political power in the land.” Accordingly, the Democratic organ warned “politicians and old party managers” that their political survival might well depend upon how effectively they could “bend to the blast, and fraternize with, and attempt to lead and rule this crusade of the masses.” So seriously did the Telegraph and Messenger perceive the Grange as a political threat that it declared, “We should not

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