The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970 Page: 510
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
the effects of their own idleness."' Consequently the reformers began
with the wrong assumption: reliance on cotton produced poverty. Ac-
tually, it was the other way around: poverty produced reliance on
The crop-lien system developed as a way to provide the sharecropper
with the necessary supplies. Landlords and lienholders demanded that
their debtors plant cotton, the only commercial crop to guarantee some
return on their investment. One way to wed labor and the land and
to produce the mythical happy yeoman, many Texans thought, would
be to eliminate the no longer needed crop-lien and sharecropping
systems and to destroy the single crop economy.'
Agricultural reformers blamed other villains for the Texas farmers'
plight, too. A handy one, of course, was the ubiquitous "furnishing"
merchant, whose store seemed to exist at every crossroads, whose wealth
seemed to be claiming all the land, and to whom most crop-liens were
owed. They sympathized, too, with the farmers' charges that the mer-
chant not only marked the price of his goods too high, but that he
falsified his account books so that his debtors were cheated. Few re-
formers realized, as later scholars demonstrated, that the merchant
lost a great deal of his profits to those who defaulted on their debts;
that he paid interest in turn to wholesale houses which extended
credit to his store; and that illiterate farmers who kept no books never
knew how much credit they actually used."
Instead reformers charged that the merchant bought cotton at the
cheapest price, encouraged credit to increase profits, and used crop
liens to maintain the sharecropper system and to hold the farmer in
bondage. When Texas Grangers told farmers that "There are an Army
of intermediate nonproducers . . . that stand between the producers
and consumers that are unnecessary links in the chain of trade and
should be dispensed with," they spoke of the furnishing merchant.'
'M. B. Hammond, The Cotton Industry (New York, 1897), 225.
5Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Session of the Texas State Grange (Austin, 1886),
42-43; Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Session of the Texas State Grange (Dallas,
1889), 6, 24; Journal of Proceedings of the Twentieth Annual Session of the Texas State
Grange (Belton, 1894), 19-2o; Spratt, Road to Spindletop, 4, 67-69, 162-163.
'Thomas D. Clark, Pills, Petticoats and Plows: The Southern Country Store (Norman,
1964), 258-291; C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913 (Baton Rouge,
1951), 184-185; Harold Woodman, King Cotton and His Retainers (Lexington, Ky., 1968),
270, 272-273, 275, 284, 299-300.
'Undated notebook, 19, Box A13/xo6, Archibald J. Rose Papers (Archives, University
of Texas Library, Austin).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970, periodical, 1970; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117147/m1/556/: accessed July 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.