- Formation and growth of Farmers Alliances SOURCE: Wikipedia
The Farmers' Alliance grew out of the Grange movement, which formed social organizations among farmers and which had flourished the Midwest and had spread in popularity to the South. Members were known as "Alliancemen". The movement comprised two separate organizations: the National Farmers' Alliance (Northern Alliance) in the Great Plains states, and the National Farmers' Alliance & Industrial Union (Southern Alliance) centered in Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. In the South Alliance included separate �Colored Alliance� chapters for African-American farmers, but overall, it was arguably the only biracial organization at the time the South.
The Alliance was formed in response to monetary deflation and falling commodity prices after the American Civil War. Deflation resulted in wide-spread debt among farmers, and many lost their lands because they were not able to obtain high enough prices on their goods.
The new Alliance was initially designed to be purely economic, rather than political. The economic premise behind the Alliance was that individual farmer, through voluntary cooperation, could form agricultural cartels to eliminate middlemen and to market their goods at higher prices to larger commodity brokers. The Grange movement had attempted limited influence in politics, notably in urging the legislatures of several Midwestern states to regulate railroads to break the monopoly of individual rail lines. The Granger movement was successful in several cases in forcing railroads to compete, but the railroad corporations successfully lobbied the United States Supreme Court to overturn these laws as unconstitutional. The failure of the political arm of the Grange movement left many farmers with the attitude that political action was futile in the face of large corporations.
The Alliance grew only slowly during its first ten years. At the Texas convention In 1883, only thirty of the almost 100 local alliances sent representatives. Alliance president W. L. Garvin appointed S. O. Daws a full-time, salaried lecturer and commissioned him to revitalize the alliance. Daws inspired growing interest in the Alliance by a series of lectures among Alliance chapters that blamed the farm crisis on "the capitalist [who] holds your confidence in one hand, while with the other he rifles your pocket." Daws's lectures successfully revitalized the movement, and, in 1885, more than 600 delegates attended the Texas state alliance convention.
The deepening crisis in farm prices prompted a fast growth of the movement through the South and Great Plains in the 1880s. By 1888, the Alliance had over 250,000 members. In the South, the movement was particularly strong, and included thousands of suballiances that supported a network of cooperatives, as well as traveling lecturers, and newspapers that promoted solidarity among Alliancemen.
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