Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/841

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841
A LESSON IN CO-OPERATION.
A LESSON IN CO-OPERATION.

By CLARENCE N. OUSLEY.

THE commercial method of the times seems to be the merging of competing enterprises into syndicates and trusts under a single management. Naturally enough a similar tendency is becoming manifest among producers as well as among manufacturing and transportation agencies. Various meetings and conventions among farmers of late have suggested the establishing of co-operative stores and exchanges controlled by a central bureau, which shall be the head of a gigantic farmers' pool. Indeed, the first steps to this end have already been taken in several Southern and Western States. In view of the event to which these signs point, it is not amiss at this juncture to interpose a lesson in co-operation furnished by the rise in 1887 and fall in 1889 of a large enterprise of this sort, viz., the Farmers' Alliance Exchange of Texas. It is not the purpose of this paper to discuss the expediency of such commercial ventures. The intention is merely to give an historical account of the particular case under examination, without even pointing a moral further than that which would suggest itself to any thoughtful mind — viz., like causes, operating under like conditions, will produce like effects.

The Farmers' Alliance of the Southern States, which was consolidated with other farmers' organizations at St. Louis in December last into the Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union of America, had its origin in Texas several years ago. One of its original purposes, according to the declaration of its constitution, was "to develop a better state financially" among its members; and in pursuance of this purpose the Farmers' Alliance Exchange of Texas was organized. It was the first extensive business experiment under the Alliance movement, which had meanwhile spread over the South, and was therefore watched with considerable interest. At the annual meeting of the Texas Alliance, at Waco, in August, 1887, the following plan of business was adopted: 1. To incorporate the Farmers' Alliance Exchange of Texas. 2. To sell farmers' produce and to buy farmers' supplies as the farmers' agent, and to erect suitable buildings for conducting the business.

3. The capital stock to be $500,000, divided into twenty-five shares, controlled by twenty-five trustees elected by the State Alliance.

4. To raise the capital stock by assessing each member of the Alliance two dollars, and on receipt of $50,000 to credit each share with ten per cent paid in, and like credit to be made for each subsequent payment of the same amount. The twenty-five trustees were elected, and a State business agency, previously in operation on a small scale, was merged into the new enterprise. From this