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22 A T I M E OF R E A D J U S T M E N T HE CREATION OF numerous small farms was one of the most obvious legacies of the Civil War. As a primarily rural state, North Carolina continued for many decades to be concerned with the resultant problems. Farmers themselves, ofcourse, felt that the buyersoftheir cotton, tobacco, corn, and other crops took advantage of them, because at harvest time they had to accept whatever the buyeroffered. The opening of new land in the West aswellas increased production in Canada, Australia, South America, and elsewhere contributed to lower agricultural pricesworldwide. Financial depression in the 18705 and 18905 only added further distress to an already burdened segment of the population. As previously noted, when farmers had to purchase anything—seed, fertilizer , or tools—they either paid whatever the merchant demanded or put up their unharvested crop as security. They also realized that legislators, congressmen, and other elected officials did little or nothing to improve their lot. While they valued their freedom from bosses in "public work," as they called employment for wages, their independence had disadvantages. During most of the year farmers worked longer hours than cotton mill employees did. Money wasscarce, the country was on the gold standard, and the amount of money in circulation was closely tied to the national debt. When it wasnecessary to borrow money, interest washigh. A farmer unable to meet his mortgage or to payhis taxes wasliable to lose his land, tools, livestock, and any crops he might have on hand or growing in the field. The Democratic party, in control of the state's political affairs, was dominated bymen of a conservativebent; they were called "Bourbons" because it was believed that they, like the former ruling French monarchs, were tied to the past and were not progressive. Many of them, nevertheless, were closely allied to the railroad and manufacturing interests. These businessmen were powerful in the realms of both finance and politics, and they supported legislators who favored them. The General Assembly declined to alter tax lawswhich pleased business. And they ignored the pleas offarmers who wanted freight and interest rates regu4 -22 T 423 A Time of Readjustment Leonidas L. Polk (1837-92), a native of Anson County, wasa leader of the agrarianmovement both in North Carolina and nationwide. At the time ofhisdeath, the Populist party was seriously considering him as a candidate for president of the United States. (North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Raleigh) lated, and who sought support for a program that would put more money into circulation. Farmers' Organizations In adesperate, but fruitless, effort to unite in order to gain some relief, many farmers joined the Patrons of Husbandry, or the Grange, as it waswidely called after its incorporation in North Carolina in 1875. This national organization was begun in 1869 with socialaswell aseconomic aims. More than five hundred local "lodges" were formed in the state, but asawhole the Grange wasnot successful. The members were unable to provide the financial support necessary to carry out an effective program, and after ten years it declined rapidly, although it still exists in North Carolina. Leonidas L. Polk, a native of Anson County, was a practical farmer who in 1877 became the state's first commissioner of agriculture. He was concerned enough about the plight of farmers that he began publishing a weekly news- 4-24North Carolina through Four Centuries paper, the Progressive Farmer^ in Winston in 1886. After about ayear it changed to a magazine format. It soon was widely read and became an influential means of expressing the needs of rural North Carolinians. Among other things, the magazine introduced farmers to new crops and stressed better methods of tilling the soil. Features for women and children increased its popularity. In 1887 Polk organized the North Carolina Farmers' Association, which flourished for about a year before the National Farmers' Alliance began a membership drive in the state. Members of Folk's group soon transferred to the Alliance, and very quickly nearly100,000 North Carolinians were enrolled. In 1887 two conventions of the Farmers' Association, attended by an enormous number of delegates, were held in Raleigh. At the first convention, in January, farmers acted on one of Folk's suggestions made earlierin the Progressive Farmer— that the funds granted to the University of North Carolina under the Federal Morrill Land Grant Act be transferred to a new institution to teach "practical" subjects. In response to their...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781469604466
Related ISBN
9780807818466
MARC Record
OCLC
966898551
Pages
670
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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