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The Age of Acquiescence
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Liquid capital cash or assets readily converted into cash consequently accumulated on Wall Street, piped there from the prairies. While railroads opened up new markets for agriculturalists here and abroad, they charged discriminatory rates for hauling farm goods long distances to urban markets.
ISBN 13: 9780316185431
This accelerated the rate of capital accumulation for the roads by eating away at the spare resources sustaining the independent homesteader. Tariffs, levied mainly on industrial goods from abroad, exacerbated this cannibalizing of rural America; the west and South were compelled to buy their manufactured goods from high-priced domestic suppliers while selling their wares into low-priced global free markets.
Growers were dependent on storage facilities—such as grain elevators for cereals—that were usually controlled by eastern business interests and exacerbated the precarious position of freeholders. To make matters worse, new commodity exchanges allowed for well-organized speculation in the value of agricultural goods.
Paradoxically, those exchanges could regularize the flow of capital and credit into and out of wheat and corn and sorghum and cotton or pig and sheep raising… but they could also leave Nebraska wheat growers and Alabama cotton farmers at the mercy of wildly fluctuating prices that could turn all their careful husbandry to dust in a moment. Any downturn in prices or any disaster flood, insects, drought, plant disease produced a new crop of foreclosures, tax sales, and evictions.
So, for example, there was a great grasshopper plague in ; a blizzard out west in that devastated homesteaders, leaving behind absentee investor-owned ranches in the Dakotas and Montana; a drought in Kansas in ; a grasshopper infestation there and in eastern Colorado in ; flooding of the Mississippi three years in a row — ; a punishing blizzard on the prairies in ; and, in the South, a boll weevil invasion beginning in , aggravated by a freeze in Florida in and a scorching heat wave enveloping the whole region in One might accept all these as acts of God and leave it at that.
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The Age of Acquiescence | American Empire Project
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