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a nice history of 19th century social movements in agriculture

Posted: October 23 2012

Check it out HERE.
A snippet:
Three movements to build public life
The Grange

  • Initially a movement to improve agriculture. Travelling speakers would speak about the latest scientific agricultural techniques, and the operations of the commercial economy. An offshoot of the Morrill Act which established land grant universities (like the University of Maryland) to advance agriculture.
  • The speakers were the knowledgeable who educated the farmers. The Grange Hall provided a successor to the lyceum and chatauqua where farmers came to hear lectures. They heard about crop rotation, hybridized seed, and other scientific advancements. They also learned the language of commercial activity: markets, supply and demand, borrowing capital, investment strategies, and so on. Thus, science, business, and education (training) were brought to agriculture.
  • Had good and bad effects. The Grange provided a rhetoric which commercialized agriculture. Commercialization left the farmers at the mercy of the bankers and railroads they so detested. The Grange also introduced the rhetoric of "success" that had come to dominate the rhetoric of entrepreurialism. In the process, farming was transformed into a public activity.
  • By mid-1870s, the Grange was breaking apart over the question of whether it should become involved in politics. One side of this split believed that the Grange should remain an educational organization transforming farming into agriculture. The other side believed that only political action could address the farmer's grievences. The government provided farmers a political identity apart from the dominant government controlled by the railroads. By 1876, the Grange had evolved the Greenback Party.
  • The style of its political rhetoric:
    • knowledgable. The fact-based rhetoric had its roots in the early Grange rhetoric of educating the farmers. It stressed that "simple farmers" actually possessed a "sophisticated knowledge" of their situation.
    • depicted the farmer within an economic system. It embraced the new rhetoric of statistics, the market, and economic sophistication. The rhetoric depicted a life within a system rather than being transcendant.
    • accusatory. Rhetoric featured a blame of business and the railroad for the farmers problems. The polemic rhetoric was the direct descendant of the ungenteel rhetoric of the earlier frontier. In its name-calling and devilment of its enemies it expressed an extreme opposition. Its logical extension was violence, but this movement spawned little violence.

Some Grange rhetoric
more HERE!

red hook, new york