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National Farmers Alliance and Industrial Union. National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union. Proceedings of the Farmers and Laborers Union of America, at St. Louis, Mo., December 3-7, 1889 . Washington D.C.: The National Economist Print, 1889. [format: book], [genre: proceedings]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Called to order at 9 a. m., President Jones in the chair.
The following resolution was adopted:
Resolved, That the National Farmers Alliance is hereby cordially invited to visit us in a body, to listen to the address of ex-President C. W. Macune, on the aims and principles of the Farmers and Labors Union of America. Adopted.
Minutes of the proceedings of yesterday were read and approved.
The representatives from the Farmers Mutual Benefit Association and National Farmers Alliance were escorted in and seated.
Brother Macune addressed the joint bodies, after which the meeting adjourned to meet at 2 p. m.
Brethren of the Farmers and Laborers Union of America:
It is the custom when legislative bodies of this character convene for the President to deliver an address setting forth the exact condition of the order, telling what has been accomplished during his administration, and making such suggestions for consideration as he deems best. This has already been done by our worthy President. But this organization, and consequently our President's active administration, is only about two months old, and prior to its formation the same interests were represented by two national organizations. As I had the honor to be President of one of those organizations, the National Farmers Alliance and Co-operative Union of America, not only during the five-sixths of the past year, but from the very first organization of that order in January, 1887, it seems to me appropriate that I too deliver you an address. In fact, so very important do I deem the message that I have to impart to you that I offer no apology for its presentation, believing that my familiarity with all the past methods of the National Alliance will enable me to point out to you the lessons taught by the critical periods in its history, to give a clear and full conception of the writing between the lines in
its present strength and condition, and to suggest certain necessary lines of action worthy of a careful consideration. A further reason for the delivery of this address is that I have up to this time been filling a responsible position as editor of your national official organ, The National Economist, and this position has brought me in direct weekly communication with the whole order, which has forcibly impressed me with many of the necessities of the order and shown the great importance of the consideration by this body of several questions which will be the means of outlining a policy for said official organ to be guided by during the coming year. This body, while discussing the situation and deliberating upon the policy to be pursued, should be thoroughly conversant with the history of the past efforts and the present condition of the order, and possibly suggestions as to the future by those who have filled executive offices may be of service. They are at least offered for consideration.
In 1886 the Alliance movement of the South was confined principally to the State of Texas. The State Alliance of that State had chartered a few sub-Alliances in Indian Territory and a small number in the State of Alabama. The report of the State Secretary at the regular annual meeting of that year showed that the order had grown from about six hundred to over twenty-seven hundred sub-Alliances during the year that ended in August, 1886. As a natural and unavoidable consequence of such rapid organization the principles, objects and methods of the Alliance were very imperfectly understood by the majority of the membership. It was an election year in that State, and partisan feeling ran high. Dissensions within the order were so great that a dissatisfied minority met and organized themselves into an opposition State Alliance, secured a charter from the State of Texas, and elected a corps of State officers. The outlook for the order at that time was indeed unpromising, and utter dissolution seemed imminent and almost certain. I was at the time chairman of the executive committee, and by direction of the President I succeeded in securing a conference between the officers of the State Alliance and the officers of the element that had seceded, the result of which was that the seceders agreed to take no further steps, but hold their charter in abeyance till the neat regular meeting of the State Alliance. Immediately after the conference
the President and vice-president resigned, and by virtue of my office I called a meeting of the State Alliance to convene in January, 1887, for the purpose of filling the vacancies and taking such other action as the necessities of the order demanded. I immediately wrote to Hon. A. J. Streeter, of Illinois, who was then President of the National Farmers Alliance, and Hon. J. Burrows, of Nebraska, who was vice-president of that order, for information in regard to the origin, history, methods and purposes of the National Alliance; also to Bro. J. A. Tetts, of Louisiana, who was prominent in the work of the Louisiana Farmers Union, asking like information in regard to the Union. The Western Rural was at that time published as the official organ of the National Alliance, and its editor, Mr. Milton George, was the national secretary. I received the Western Rural regularly and preserved the published rulings of the national secretary as to qualifications for membership and the rules prevailing in the National Alliance governing charters, etc. The Louisiana Union showed by its constitution that it was practically the same organization then existing in Texas as the Farmers Alliance, and that it differed only in name, and as I had notice that Louisiana would have a called meeting just prior to the called meeting in Texas I appointed Bro. Evan Jones a delegate to visit the Louisiana Union and make overtures in behalf of unity. He was well received and a committee of one from the Union was elected to visit the called meeting of the Texas State Alliance and empowered to act in behalf of the Union in taking steps for the extension of the work into new fields. All this may seem like dry detail, but it is necessary in order to properly understand the exact conditions that surrounded and controlled the formation of the National Farmers Alliance and Co-operative Union of America when there was already in existence a National Farmers Alliance in the States farther North. It is unquestionably very necessary to show that the second National Alliance was not instituted in opposition to or as a rival of the National Alliance then in existence, if such be the case, and I believe it was.
The called meeting of the State Alliance of Texas, held in the city of Waco in January, 1887, is a noted land-mark in the history of the Alliance. At that meeting provision was made for
the organization of the National, and after it was organized its constitution was ratified. There were over four hundred delegates assembled at the meeting, and a more discordant and dissatisfied assemblage of equal size probably never convened; and yet, after a four days' session, a more harmonious and completely unified body of equal size was perhaps never seen. In my address at the opening of the meeting I called attention to the dissensions and dissatisfaction within the order, much of it the result of misunderstanding, and some the result of personal ambition and local prejudices. I took the position that if the order was a good thing, it was our duty to spread the light; that we must be aggressive; that if we considered Texas well enough organized, and concluded to fold our hands and enjoy the expected benefits of the Alliance we would be doomed to disappointment, because dissensions and contentions would soon prove to be effective causes for disintegration and rupture.
The very existence and perpetuation of the order demanded that it must take an aggressive position in favor of an overshading effort for good in be-half of the membership, that would act as a nucleus and rallying cry, and be of so general a character that it would receive the indorsement of the entire membership. Without this the local issues developed by local conditions and successfully met by the order would assume undue proportions, and frequently produce confusion by being mistaken for the chief objects of the order. To prevent a great order that is scattered over a large extent of territory, and embraces people whose habits and occupations have developed a great many different local issues, from breaking up into detachments to each combat a local and fleeting issue, thereby placing it at the mercy of a better organized foe that would decoy each detachment into an ambush where it could be destroyed with ease; to prevent such dire but certain consequences there must be a general issue to which each detachment will return after having sallied out to demolish a local issue, and in support of which all are agreed and united into a solid phalanx, thereby being able to meet either the detached or combined forces of the opposition. The general aggressive issue decided upon at the called meeting was "organization of the Cotton belt of America," and under the purifying and inspiring effects of that philanthropic object local issues and personal prejudices
were crowded to the background, and every man took his place in the ranks of the aggressive, shoulder to shoulder, determined to succeed, and to-day we may note the grand result. Less than three years have elapsed since that day, and yet the entire cotton belt is well organized.
When the question of electing delegates from the Texas State Alliance to meet with delegates from the Louisiana Union for the purpose of organizing a National order was pending, I presented to the body all the information in regard to the National Farmers Alliance that I had received from the columns of the Western Rural and the correspondence with Presidents Streeter and Burrows; a careful consideration of which showed that there were, at that time, at least three reasons why Texas State Alliance was not willing to join itself to that order. The first was, the National Farmers Alliance was an non-secret and very loose organization, with neither fees nor dues, and charters seemed to be sent out by the National Secretary, Mr. George, to anybody who would request them on very little evidence as to the qualifications of those applying. Second, the published rulings as to the qualifications of membership made colored persons eligible; and third, the National Secretary published a ruling that any person raised on a farm was considered a practical farmer, and was therefore eligible regardless of his present occupation.
The membership of the Texas State Alliance and the Louisiana Union were at that time unanimously opposed to each of these three methods, and therefore thought it useless to delay organizing a National body that would conform to the genius of the institution they had so grandly commenced to build. They did not propose to enter the territory of the National Farmers Alliance, nor to oppose it in any way, but they thought it would be a presumption, and perhaps a needless waste of time, to lose a year in order to ask the National Farmers Alliance to modify its methods that they might join it, and therefore they organized their own National in their own territory.
From the date of the organization of the National, the order grew very rapidly, as the reports from the different State organizations at this meeting show. This rapid growth was largely due to the zeal of a membership united in an effort thoroughly understood and indorsed by all, exerted at a time when the masses were ripe for the movement. The
lines of argument that [??] people to join the order are important and should be carefully considered, because they [??] in some degree what they expect the order to accomplish in their behalf and by their assistance.
After a very careful survey of the work, I find myself unable to avoid the conclusion that the leading and principal arguments used, and especially those that have been to any extent effective, have all had for their object, either directly or indirectly, conditions that would render farming more profitable from a financial standpoint. The methods offered for acquiring this desirable state of affairs have been numerous, and often very ingenious, sometimes wild and impracticable. Some have held that organization would render farming profitable and prosperous by the benefits that would naturally flow from the more intimate social exchange of ideas and courtesies at the meeting, where each would learn the methods pursued in the detail of farm work by all the others, and that the dissemination of such practical data would render all more productive, and that as a consequence they would be stepping into the ranks of those who have been eulogized for having been able to make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before. It seems to me that more importance and value has been attached to this sentiment than its merits entitle it to receive. A proof of this is found in the fact that the cereal crops of the United States in 1867 aggregated about a billion and a quarter bushels and brought about a billion and a quarter dollars, and from that time the crop increased till in 1885 it reached the enormous sum of over three billion bushels, and the whole crop sold for less than a billion and a quarter dollars. Others have held that organization could render farming profitable by the introduction of better business methods in which all would unite and cooperate for the purpose of selling our products higher and purchasing such commodities as we are compelled to buy cheaper. Those who have made a special study of this feature of the effort realize that the purely technical effort of improving our methods of farming, by which we may possibly increase the amount of products we make in return for a given amount of labor and expense, although it be praiseworthy, desirable and worthy of encouragement, is not a force or remedy near equal to the emergency, and that the influences that tend to depress agriculture and render the pursuit of that
occupation unprofitable have rapidly gained the ascendency over and neutralized the beneficent effects that should have followed the introduction of wise methods and new and improved machinery in the past whereby the results of productive effort have been increased most wonderfully. It is deemed unwise to depend entirely on a remedy that has proved ineffectual on every occasion. They contend for something more efficient, by advocating a better system of handling and disposing of what we produce, and a more careful and economical method of purchasing supplies. This they expect to accomplish by securing as near as possible a direct sale of our products to those who consume them, thereby gaining the commissions now paid to middlemen that do not appear to be necessary and increasing the price of the produce sold. They will reduce the price of commodities purchased by encouraging cash transactions on a large scale, thereby eliminating the loss and risk that attend the credit business and getting the benefit of wholesale prices. The hope of ultimate success from this line of effort depends upon the ability to enhance the price of what we have to sell and diminish the price of what we have to buy, thereby increasing the gains. The ability to do this, it is argued, depends upon the amount of devotion each member will exercise in favor of the object. This line of argument also holds that if each would be willing to make enough sacrifices of prejudice and time and money they would be certain to succeed. And yet if we admit all that is claimed in this direction we must still realize that there is a limit to the power that can be enforced by these methods. For example, we cannot reduce the price of the commodities we purchase below what it costs to manufacture them, neither can we raise the price of the product we have to sell above a certain limit without a tendency to have the demand supplied from other sources or by substitutes. The probabilities of success, therefore, by the business methods alone will depend upon the power thus wielded being equal to or greater than the tendency to depression that has proved so powerful in the past.
Still another method of advocating organization as a means of increasing the profits of farming is, that by organization a united effort can be brought to bear upon the authorities, that will secure such changes in the regulations that govern the relations between different classes of citizens as are
necessary to secure equal rights, equal privileges and equal chances. Those mentioned as advocating the second or business line of teaching as the remedy seem to have drunk a little deeper at the fountain of thought and wisdom than the first class of teachers mentioned, and those of the third class, now under consideration, seem to have pursued the investigation even further than the second class. They recognize the generally known and universally acknowledged maxim of political economists, that a general rise in prices always attends an increase in the volume of the circulating medium of the country, and a general fall in prices always attends a decrease in its volume, and that the regulations governing the relations between the different classes of citizens in this country empowers a certain specified class to issue over one-half of the circulating medium, and permits them to withdraw from circulation any or all of such money at their own pleasure, thereby allowing said class to regulate as they may choose the volume of circulating medium in the country, subject to a limit of about 40 per cent; that is to say, should they choose to retire all their circulation they would reduce the volume of the circulating medium of the country to 40 per cent of its present volume, and as a necessary and unavoidable consequence reduce the price of everything in nearly the same proportion. There is then absolutely no way of avoiding the conclusion that such class possesses the power to produce a general rise or fall of 50 per cent in prices at pleasure. Those who realize this state of affairs contend that it is a waste of energy for all the farmers in this great land to combine and co-operate to raise the prices of a given product when, if their most sanguine hopes were realized, they would not augment the price over 25 per cent, while at the same time representatives of another class of citizens of this country could receive instructions from one office in a single hour which would depress prices 50 per cent. In fact, owing to the inflexible rigidness of such a system, the fluctuation in general prices is very great between the different seasons of the same year, and for the following reasons: Agriculture presents during the last four months of every year an actual tangible addition to the wealth of the nation equal to five times the gross volume of all the money in actual circulation in the country, and all this agricultural product comes on the market to purchase money for the use of the agriculturist. Now it stands to reason that such
an increase in the demand for money, when there is no increase in the supply, must augment its price, which is its purchasing power, and which means diminished prices for everything else. Now if, in addition to this powerful tendency, a certain class possesses the power to diminish the supply at that season, in the face of the augmented demand, the tendency to a rise in the purchasing power of money becomes certain and irresistible. The experience of every man in the agricultural districts of the West and South has no doubt often shown him a difference of 50 percent or more in the price of an article during the fall season and the spring. And it is universally known that in pursuance of the above phenomena general prices are much lower in the fall than in the spring season. Great respect is due to the teachings of those who contend that the greatest power being exercised to depress agriculture to-day emanates from unjust regulations governing the relations between the different classes of citizens, and if by a united effort we can secure the correction of the evils they point out, we will pave a way for the certain triumph of our business efforts and the enjoyment of more satisfactory and prosperous social relations. It seems to me that there is much good in the teachings of all three of these methods, and that it will be found a duty of this body to encourage the effort to improve in farming from a technical standpoint as a result of the pleasant social reunions enjoyed in the subordinate organization. Also to sustain and assist in every possible manner the efforts made to co-operate for business purposes by the different county and State organizations, and to provide a plain, simple and specific demand on the part of the national organization for the proper, just and equitable regulation of the relations between the different classes of citizens.
These three classes of teachings and modifications of them have been the principal inducements offered people as reasons why they should join our ranks, and the fact that they have joined in such vast numbers indicates the necessity for action in the directions pointed out, and is a pledge that they will assist in carrying out such methods. Of the three different methods, that of relief from the business effort has received the most attention and been by far the most prominent. This is due probably to the fact that the technical and social co-operation seems best adapted to the workings of the subordinate body, while the business efforts have demonstrated the necessity of the wider
range of co-operation to be secured in the county and State organizations, and the co-operation necessary to secure the proper adjustment of economic relations seems peculiarly within the province of the national organization, as it is the very foundation upon which the whole class in all the States must depend. The prominence given to the business effort by the different State organizations has not been without important results, the full detail of which I suppose will be reported to you by the different State delegations. They have in nearly all the States organized their business with a strong capital stock, ranging from fifty to five hundred thousand dollars. Texas has a capital stock of five hundred thousand dollars, divided into individual shares of five dollars each. Several States have their capital stock divided into shares of one hundred dollars each, and issue them to subordinate bodies only. I think this last method has many advantages, and would particularly recommend the plan of the Exchange of Georgia as one that seems to me wisely prepared.
In my message to the last regular session of the N. F. A. and C. F. of A., at Meridian, I pointed out the necessity for great caution in the formation of any national plan of co-operation for business purposes. I now desire to reiterate that caution, and say to those who wish to inaugurate a National Farmers Exchange that there is danger of such an enterprise being so placed that it can not accomplish much, and still, when in existence, the people will expect much of it. There may, perhaps, be some plan formulated by which the different State exchanges can co-operate, but I doubt the wisdom of going any further than that, by organizing a national exchange or of incurring much expense on the part of the national for business purposes. It seems that the co-operation for business purposes in order to be effective and reach its highest development should be more extensive than can be obtained in the subordinate bodies alone, and that it absolutely requires co-operation between the subordinates in the counties and cooperation between the counties in the State; but beyond the State organization there does not seem to be any prominent and conclusive reason for extending so strong and close an organization, in which it would be necessary to lodge so much power and responsibility. Each State is a complete jurisdiction within itself, and usually has different and distinct conditions, customs, usages and issues. It always comprises territory and
business enough to develop all the branches of business, as manufacturers, jobbers, wholesalers, retailers, brokers, commission men, etc. From all these reasons, I conclude that while co-operation between the different State business efforts will probably be necessary and beneficial, stronger reasons than I have yet been able to discover should exist before a national exchange organizational will be able to do much good.
From these considerations it must now be plain to you that the order has by means of the consolidation here to be consummated reached a period of full development that places a responsibility upon it for efficient and aggressive action. The three effective lines of effort above specified that have induced this vast army of brethren to espouse the cause and place their shoulders to the wheel have each a proper field in which to operate. The national organization, by securing a better adjustment of the economic policy of the Government, will insure that the regulations governing the relations between the different classes of citizens shall be just, fair, and equitable, and thereby lay a foundation on which the States in their business efforts will find it possible to reach complete success, but without which they would as now be contending with inevitable defeat, and the success of the business effort rendered certain by the exercise of the great power possessed by the State Alliances when they can be exercised under the just conditions, which it is the province of the national to secure, will augment the social benefits and enjoyments that should result from the subordinate organizations. Each has its special field, and the success of the national renders success in the State effort possible, and the success of these two contribute to the true benefits which must finally flow to the subordinate body.
As we have seen, the order has made a most prodigious growth, and its business efforts have reached a high stage of development and usefulness. Your attention is now called to the genius of the government of the order. It will be found in the highest sense interesting and peculiar. We have had a written law and an unwritten law. Two sets of laws and systems of government have been in force at one and the same time. Every individual member has sustained a dual relation to the order, and yet all have harmonized perfectly, and there has been no conflict or clash. The written law is comprised of the charter from the United States Government, the constitution
and legislative enactments of the national order; the charters, constitutions and legislative enactments of the various State organizations; and the charters, constitutions and legislative enactments of the various county and subordinate bodies. The form of government under the written law was democratic, the subordinate bodies each being a simple democracy in which the individual is the sovereign and all members vote on all questions. The State and national bodies were each a confederated form of republican government, and every step from the people, who are the supreme power, lessened the power of the delegated body. The national only had such powers as were expressly delegated to it by the States, and the States only had such powers as were bestowed upon it by delegates from the subordinate bodies. Its form of government under the written law was modeled after and was very similar to the form of political government under which we live. The unwritten law is the secret work, and, like all other secret orders, it has necessitated and depended upon a form of government closely analogous to a limited monarchy. According to it, all power and authority must emanate from the recognized head and permeate through the various branches to the individual membership. Under this system of law, this is a supreme body, and under the written law the membership of the subordinate were supreme, because, under the written law the membership could, by the exercise of their constitutional privileges, abolish the national body entirely, and under the unwritten law the National could, by the exercise of its power, abolish a subordinate body by revoking its charter. This system of dual sources of power and forms of government, that originate at opposite extremities of the order and encompass it as two parallel bands throughout its entire extent, is wonderfully calculated to add to its strength and efficiency, and furnishes a complete safeguard against any weak point in either system by always having the strength of the other system present and ready to assist and maintain it. The necessity for this full and complete statement of the genius of the government of the order is twofold. First, an imperfect conception of these principles has often been the cause of considerable hesitation and embarrassment on the part of State Presidents when called upon to rule on questions upon which the constitutional law was not very explicit, and second, delegates to the national
frequently seem to think that the only way they have of offering new and necessary regulations to the order is by modifying the constitution or offering a resolution. Now the facts are that resolutions should be offered for nothing but as expressions of sentiment or advisory measures recommended to the order or others; that the constitution should contain nothing but the declaration of purposes of the order, an outline of the different branches of government, an expressed limitation of the powers of each branch and each officer, and such general provisions governing the laws and usages as are of universal application and will be permanent and require no modification and change. Then to provide rules for the conduct of the officers and the carrying out of the provisions of the constitution and render the workings of the order effective and satisfactory, not resolutions, but laws should be passed, the difference being that laws would prescribe certain things while resolutions simply recommended them. Every bill should be refused consideration unless it commence according to an established form, as, "Be it hereby enacted by the Farmers and Laborers Union of America," etc.; each bill should have a caption and be numbered. If the laws of the legislative body were expressed in this way they would soon make a valuable code of statutory laws for the order that would save much of the time now wasted in discussing resolutions that are simply a repetition of what may have been passed many times before, but is not in a shape to be of record. This will also obviate the necessity for making any changes or additions to the national constitution, which is very desirable, as every possible means should be resorted to that will tend to make the national organic law fixed and permanent; let it be too sacred to be modified except in cases of the plainest necessity.
Observation of the workings of the order in the past leads me to make the following suggestions:
1. There should be an efficient and uniform method of securing reports as to the strength, financial condition, etc., from the entire order. The national secretary can not now send out a blank asking for information and get a response that is satisfactory from half of the States because the blanks used by one State secretary are entirely different from those used by another, and consequently the information they have is of a different character. To make statistics of the order valuable they should all be gathered in response to the
same question, and it seems to me that the best way to secure that end would be for this body to provide for a small but competent committee who should call upon each State secretary to send them a copy of what he finds to be the best blank for subs to report to county organizations, and what for county to report to State organizations upon, and give this committee authority to consider all these forms, adopt the best as the standard for all, and get up the reports to the national, State and county bodies in a complete system. They can then be printed from plates in large numbers, and thereby reduce the expense.
2. Independent of the secretaries' reports a system of crop reports should be inaugurated that will be more prompt, accurate and reliable than the estimates made and published every year by the speculators who are interested in depressing prices of our produce. This is of the utmost importance, and yet all efforts made up to this time have been signal failures. I would therefore suggest that the National, State, county and subordinate bodies each elect a crop statistician, to be paid by the body electing him, and who shall be held responsible to make regular reports as required by the officers to whom he is to report, and that the National statistician report monthly to the President of the national body.
3. The National committee on secret work should alone be authorized to print the ritual, and all sub and county charters should emanate from the National, and be issued by the various States.
4. The regular annual meetings of the State bodies should be timed so as to come in rotation, thereby allowing National officers to visit them.
5. All written official documents of the national should bear the impress of the seal, and all printed official documents should have printed on them a fac simile of the seal.
6. The secretary should be required on the first of every month to pay the treasurer all the money he has received, and the treasurer prohibited from paying out any money, except on a warrant drawn by the secretary and approved by the president, and the secretary should be prohibited from drawing a warrant on the treasurer, except upon a voucher or account that is audited and approved by such auditing officer as this body may provide.
7. There seems at present a necessity for a national lecturer, and as that necessity may only exist for a year or two, it might be provided for temporarily; and if it be, the lecturer should be an efficient
officer, with probably a larger salary than any other national officer, and be required to do active work during his term.
8. Since education is one of the most potent agents at our command, the national should impress upon the membership the importance: of every member reading his state and national organ.
9. The president should be authorized at any time to appoint committees to confer with any or all other labor organizations on questions relating to the objects and methods of organized producers, always reserving to this body the right to ratify or reject their action.
With these recommendations as to matters within the order, I will leave that feature of the work and call your attention to the relations of the national order to the government and people of this country at large. Our relations as an organized force with the people of the United States and with the Government have been wonderfully improved during the last year by the establishment and publication of your National organ The National Economist at the National headquarters. It has been the means of presenting the true, just and equitable side of the movement to a class of readers who before never saw anything but misrepresentations of the objects of the order. It has fought for our rights from a high, dignified and indisputable standpoint of right, and as a result we now see leading papers and periodicals in the large cities publishing articles in the interest of the masses that a few years ago they would not allow to come within their doors. In fact, our National organ has been so conducted that the entire order has shown unmistakable evidences of the fact that they are proud of it, and that it has been a wonderful educator and benefit to the membership. Nevertheless, the National organ will never reach its highest development for good until it goes hand in hand with a good, efficient organ in every State, and the State organs of the various States will not reach their highest development for good without a harmony of effort and concentration of forces. I, therefore, submit for your consideration the propriety of authorizing the National and State organs to organize themselves into a newspaper alliance for the purpose of, first, lessening their expenses; second, guaranteeing a uniformity of sentiment, officially indorsed by a National supervising committee; and, third, increasing their usefulness and efficiency; and that this body make its President ex-efficio chairman
of a committee of three, who shall pass upon and, if approved, place their stamp upon every article expressing editorial opinion as to doctrine which emanates from a central editorial bureau for publication in the various papers of such newspaper alliance. A thoroughly reliable and uniform expression of sentiment can in this way be secured in all parts of the country at the same time. Our State organs are at present doing a great work, and accomplishing much more for the order than is generally supposed. In nearly every State in which the order has a State organ it will be found on comparison to be the best farmers' paper in that State, and members who read their State and National organs are always too well posted to waver in their allegiance to the order on account of any of the arguments or false reports of the opposition. With such an alliance as an auxiliary, when the conflict of the National deepens, the full force and influence of twenty or twenty-five of the best papers in the country could be manipulated with great advantage to the true interests of our cause. This will be by far the most potent agent at our command in the impending struggle, since by it we can keep our own ranks thoroughly posted and unified, and at the same time we can meet the opposition at no disadvantage in an effort to secure the influence of the great class that now stands comparatively neutral, but will sympathize with and assist us when convinced that our objects are right and our methods fair.
In considering our relations to the world at large I believe it well to call your attention to what, after a long and careful investigation, I believe to be a fact, and that is, that all the evils which afflict agriculture to-day, and especially all which contribute to the present universal depression, arise either directly or indirectly from unjust regulations or privileges enjoyed by other classes under our financial system, or our system of laws in regard to transportation corporations, or our land system. In the consideration of these prime causes of the many abuses that afflict our class we as a national organization of farmers occupy a peculiar but not unsatisfactory position. It has been the custom for changes in any important feature of governmental regulations to be inserted in partisan platforms, and in this way brought before the masses. We compose at least 50 per cent of the strength of each of the political parties. The two oldest political parties have each had their turn at the administration of affairs, and neither has made a single
move toward these questions that are now of more importance to our class than all others. Evidently we have been derelict in our duty to ourselves, because we have not made our influence felt in the party to which we belong. We have from time to time at our meetings passed resolutions making various and sundry demands of our law makers, but up to the present time there are little or no visible results. I believe we have scattered too much and tried too cover too much ground, and that we should now concentrate upon the one most essential thing and force it through as an entering wedge to secure our rights. A political party is one thing, and we in our organized capacity are entirely different from it. In fact we are the exact opposite. Partisanism is the life of party, and the more bitter it can be made the more solid the party. We by the dissemination of the true principles of economic government set free the strongest influence for neutralizing partisanism, because if all thoroughly understood perfect political economy, and all were honest, all would agree, and therefore there would be no partisanism or party.
We are a complete opposite to a political party. We dissolve prejudices, neutralize partisanism, and appeal to reason and justice for our rights, and are willing to grant to all other classes the same. Party appeals to prejudice and depends on partisan hatred for power to perpetuate itself. The strength of a political party is its platform, which, when constructed with the highest modern art, seeks to pander to the prejudices of every section. It must contain a plank for every question that is agitated or discussed, and be expressed in such equivocal terms as to mean one thing to one man and the opposite to another. Now, since we are the very opposite of a political party, and have for our object not to get control of the chief offices of the Government with all their power and responsibility and do nothing except perpetuate ourselves, but to accomplish some needed reforms in the regulation of the relations between the different classes of citizens, no matter which party furnishes us the servants that may occupy the offices, it must be plain that we would only weaken our cause were we to attempt to construct a platform after the custom of political parties. Our strength lies in an entirely different and opposite direction. We should unite every effort on the accomplishment of the one reform first necessary, and the most important, and rest assured that the accomplishment of that will insure us a development of
strength sufficient to then carry other necessary reforms in their turn. With these thoughts as to the policy to pursue, let us carefully consider which is the most urgent, most important and necessary reform to be dignified as the battle cry of the order temporarily till accomplished.
Convention called to order at 2.30 p. m., President Jones in the chair, and opened for the transaction of business.
Report of committee on the order of business received and adopted, as follows:
1. Calling of the roll.
2. Reading of the minutes.
3. Reading reports of committees.
4. Unfinished business.
5. New business.
6. Reports of officers.
7. Special orders for future consideration.
Resolution offered by Brother Livingston:
That a committee of five be appointed on the monetary system of this country; committee of five on the landed interest of the country; five on transportation; and five on consolidated Alliance Press Association, and that suggestions made by President Jones and brother Macune touching such questions are hereby referred to said committees. Adopted.
Report of committee on President Jones' message was read and adopted:
1. So much of the message as relates to co-operation be referred to a committee on co-operation.
2. So much as relates to the constitution he referred to a committee on constitution.
3. So much as relates to land be referred to the committee on demands.
4. So much as relates to transportation be referred to the committee on transportation.
5. So much as relates to finance be referred to the committee on finance, and that the several committees named not already appointed be appointed by the chair.
The following resolution, by Patty of Mississippi, was adopted:
Resolved, That the committee on credentials be instructed to ascertain and report the number of
votes to which each State is entitled under the constitution, and in what proportion the same shall be cast in cases where State Alliances and State Wheels have not yet effected an organic union.
Resolved, That the roll of States be called at 7.30 p. m., and the delegates from the various States are requested to offer resolutions to be referred to the committee on demands or any other committee. Adopted.
Resolved, That the State of Delaware be permitted to organize under the State organization of the State of Maryland; that the said State of Delaware be permitted to retain its autonomy, and be allowed State representation at national meetings. Adopted.
Resolved, That a committee of five on mileage and per diem be appointed to ascertain and report who are entitled to receive compensation as members of this national convention; the rate and manner in which same shall be paid. Adopted.
Adjourned to meet at 8.30 to-morrow morning.
National Farmers Alliance and Industrial Union. National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union. Proceedings of the Farmers and Laborers Union of America, at St. Louis, Mo., December 3-7, 1889 . Washington D.C.: The National Economist Print, 1889. [format: book], [genre: proceedings]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=farmersalliance.html