No student of American agrarian history in the third quarter of the nineteenth century will neglect the Patrons of Husbandry. From a number of well-documented accounts he may learn how in 1867, in Washington, D.C., their Order was founded to enrich the cultural life of farmers and their wives, and how their association in Granges moved them instead to express the chronic discontents of agricultural producers as a body. Even better-known is the ground of those discontents, which temporarily united the cotton, sugar and tobacco farmers of the South with the corn raisers of Kansas and Nebraska and with the wheat producers of Minnesota and the Dakotas. In a physically depleted land, and under a system subservient to the business needs of the victorious north and east, the farmer of the Mississippi Valley found himself in thrall to the distant manufacturer and to the local merchant by credit arrangements frequently entailing a crop-lien system. In order to rid himself of this bondage, to put himself instead upon a firm basis of cash buying and selling, and to develop a more diversified agriculture, the farmer required – as the Patrons repeatedly insisted – an alternative source of capital to the eastern banker.
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