When you read the title, Granger laws sound like something right out of a Harry Potter book. But the truth is that they are something a lot of creative than that. Since there is not much knowledge about these laws, let us look into Granger laws’ real meaning.
What are the Granger law and Granger Movement?
In the late 1860s and early 1870s, some laws started to arise in the US to keep an eye on and regulate the increasing crop transport. These laws were put into practice, particularly in Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois. The laws were also made to keep a check on railroads’ storage fees, and the grain elevator companies charged farmers. The Granger laws were coupled with and promoted by the Granger movement.
This movement consisted of a group of farmers belonging to the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. This movement sent waves throughout the US’s entire justice system and led to many crucial supreme court cases because it intensified the situation behind railroad monopolies. Some of these well-known cases include Munn v. Illinois and Wabash v. Illinois.
The Granger movement is still alive today through the National Grange organization. And today, the National Grange remains an integral part of the American farming communities.
The Granger laws, Granger movement, and the Grange stand are all evidence that one needs to see how much the Americans emphasize farming and consider it essential.
Even the word “grange” traces its origins back to Colonial times when the Colonial Americans used the word Grange to refer to farmhouses and similar buildings. The term comes from the Latin word “granum,” and farmers were often called “grangers’ in the British Isles.
The Granger Movement
The Granger movement is described as the period after the American Civil War, during which there was a coalition of farmers in the Midwestern and Southern states. This was immediately after the years following the war. After the Civil War, the farmers went through great loss.
The Civil War had not been an exceptionally smooth ride for them, and even the ones who did manage to get some land or machinery ended up being under outstanding debt. To add to the misery, railroads had become privately owned regional monopolies with little to no regulation.
Consequently, the railroads had full control of how much they could charge the farmers for the transportation of their crops, which were unreasonable and unfair amounts. With almost no income on their hands combined with the war’s tragedies, this particular time left the farming community in a state of depression and confusion.
And then, the breakthrough came in 1866. When the then-president Andrew Johnson decided to contact the official from the US Department of Agriculture official, Olive Hudson Kelley, the reality came forward. Kelley was asked to take note of the situation and assess the progress that farmers had made after the war. The results were shocking, to say the least.
The department was shocked to see the farmers’ lack of knowledge, and they also witness that there were hardly any standard or productive agricultural practices going on. In 1867, Kelley founded the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry to counteract the situation. Kelley felt that this initiative would help bring the Northern and Southern farmers on the same page to start up a more systematic form of farming to modernize the farming practices.
A year later, in 1868, Grange no. 1, the nation’s first Grange was founded in Fredonia, New York. By the mid-1870s, almost all the states had at least one Grange. And the overall Grange membership was up to a total of 800,000. Most farmers decided to join the Grange to get back on track after suffering huge setbacks post-war. As the influence of the Grange grew, by the 1870’s the Grange became active politically.
The Granger Laws
The US Congress, around this time, was not cooperating with the farming community to enact federal antitrust laws that only came into effect in 1890. This is why the Granger movement had to turn to their local legislature to put their needs forward.
They needed their voice to be heard about their concerns regarding the railroad monopoly and pricing practices. And by 1871, due to the intense pressure from the local granges, Illinois had to implement specific laws to regulate the railroads and grain storage companies. The states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa soon followed suit.
When the railroads and grain storage companies saw this happening, they felt a threat towards their profits and feared a loss in income.
So, they challenged these laws in court. And once these cases reached the supreme court, they established precedents that would carry on in years to come, and no one could touch the business and industrial practices in the US. Cases such as Munn v. Illinois and Wabash v. Illinois are all classic examples of this.
Modern Grange today
Today, the National Grange remains an integral part of the American agricultural system and an important part of the community. What started as just a small fight to get back what was rightfully theirs, the farming ended up setting some groundbreaking laws that would change the way people in the US would look at farming and agriculture in many years to come.
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