The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978 Page: 134
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
against northern plutocracy and refused to admit that the "trend
toward increasing tenancy was fraught with fatal implications" for the
"ideology of populist agrarianism."2
The decline of Populism and the return of prosperity in the early
1goos left the tenant farmer a marginal figure "on the lowest rung of
the economic ladder." He "could well pose as the Forgotten Man,"
C. Vann Woodward writes, because "he shared little of the new pros-
perity and continued a relic of the depressed nineties in the new cen-
tury." In fact, the situation worsened as the boll weevil blight caused
more small farm owners to lose their land and fall into tenancy. At
the same time the growth of absentee ownership and new forms of
land speculation inflated the price of homesteads beyond the means
of those tenant farmers who wanted to own their own places.3
The Farmers' Union, a more moderate form of the Alliance, was
born in Texas around 1902 as the agricultural expression of progres-
sivism. But the "old Populist formula of agrarian solidarity to which
the Farmers' Union appealed was put under increasing strain by the
burden of rising tenancy," Woodward explains. "While the Union
occasionally passed a resolution of sympathy with the tenant, the order
was predominantly of landowner leanings, and there were plenty of
signs that conflict between landless and landed" would not be resolved
in the "new fraternity."'
The most important sign of tenant farmer discontent was the out-
break of night riding that erupted when cotton prices dropped in
1907-1908. The Farmer's Union crop-withholding schemes failed to
bolster the plunging market. In response to the crisis frustrated bands
of renters terrorized farmers who refused to hold their crops from
the market. Following this debacle, the Farmers' Union's member-
ship declined precipitously as did the progressive impulse which it
2Paul W. Gates, Landlords and Tenants on the Prairie Frontier: Studies in American
Land Policy (Ithaca, New York, 1973), 324; C. Vann Woodward, Tom Watson, Agrarian
Rebel (New York, 1938), 404 (second, fourth, and fifth quotations), 405, 406 (third quota-
3C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913; ([Baton Rouge], 1951), 407
(quotations), 408, 410; W. E. Leonard and E. B. Naugle, "The Recent Increase in Tenancy,
Its Causes and Some Suggestions as to Remedies," in Studies in the Land Problem in Texas,
edited by Lewis H. Haney, University of Texas Bulletin No. 39 (Austin, 1915), 12-33; T. J.
Cauley, "Agricultural Land Tenure in Texas," Southwestern Political and Social Science
Quarterly, XI (September, 1930), 144.
4Woodward, Origins of the New South, 413, 415 (quotations). See also Robert Lee Hunt,
A History of Farmer Movements in the Southwest, 1873-1925 ([College Station, Texas,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978, periodical, 1977/1978; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101205/m1/162/: accessed April 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.