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4066A THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-RECONSTRUCTION PERIOD.

with great rapidity. The value of farm

lands also began to fall, and as a result of

this deflation investors in high-priced lands

presently found themselves financially embarrassed if not totally ruined.

The same process of deflation affected

other industries but not always to the same

disastrous extent. Manufacturers were often

able to curtail production to accord with

demand, and, to a certain extent at least,

cooperated to control prices. But farmers,

as a class, are extremely individualistic,

and, except in the case of producers of a

few crops, have displayed little ability to

cooperate with each other. Wheat growers,

for example, are prone to dump a large part

of the crop upon the market at threshing

time, thereby lowering the price and rendering it easy for grain speculators to reap

great profits at the expense both of farmers

and of the general public. A notable feature

of the situation was that even after the

prices of grain, hogs, and cattle had fallen

to comparatively low figures, the prices of

bread, meat, and other articles of food remained far above pre-war levels.

The bad economic situation in which

farmers found themselves produced agrarian

movements that reminded the historian of

similar movements in the last three decades

of the nineteenth century. Individual

farmers and farmers' organizations began to

demand governmental assistance. A farmers'

bloc developed in Congress, and in the

northwest a separate political organization,

the Non-Partisan League, made much

headway. Metropolitan newspapers and

many dwellers in cities were inclined to

make satirical comments upon these movements and upon alleged bucolic distress;

the fact was, however, that the position of

American farmers was, upon the whole,

difficult and unsatisfactory. The prices

they received for their products continued

low, while the prices of labor and of the

articles they must buy continued to be

relatively high. The purchasing power of

the farming class declined, and this reacted

unfavorably upon the whole country.

As already related, certain measures

designed to aid the farmer were passed

under the Harding Administration. Among

these were higher duties on certain farm

products, and acts making it possible for

the farming class to borrow money at

relatively low rates of interest. Such

measures at best, however, proved only

partly successful. Some critics of the

Administration contended that the new

tariff act, as a whole, injured the farmer

far more than it aided him; that the protection given most of his products was

fictitious, that other duties on goods the

farmer must buy cost him far more than

what he gained. One group of political

leaders, of whom Senator LaFollette was

the most conspicuous, contended that the

farmers and others of the plain people were

ground down under "a monopoly power in

industry," and that certain groups controlling certain great lines of production,

such as iron, coal, oil, sugar, lumber,

meats, and clothing, were manipulating

prices and preying upon the farmers. In

an address made in July, 1923, Senator

LaFollette said:

"The Progressives in the next Congress

propose to repeal the Cummins-Esch railroad law and reduce the ruinous existing

freight rates; to reduce the burden of taxation on the common people-the consumers; to enact and enforce absolute

publicity of all income tax returns and stop

dishonest tax dodging by trusts and millionaires; to deal firmly with the monopolies in

oil, coal, steel, lumber, sugar, meats and

other necessaries of life; to call the gambling

organizations to account and insure fair

prices in grain and other farm products; to

curb militarism and imperialism-the twin

iniquities which overwhelm the people with

taxation, beget foreign complications, and

inevitably breed foreign wars; and to mete

out merited punishment to the profiteers

and grafters."

Other students of the farmers' problems

held that the remedies for existing economic

troubles did not lie in the field of politics but

rather in the application of scientific

methods of cooperative buying and selling,

and in the cultivation of more diversified

crops.

Dissatisfaction on the part of farmers

was mainly responsible for the strength