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sections of the country as if by magic; and thousands of mechanics, sewing-girls, and washerwomen invested in them their scanty earnings. But the mysterious methods of the scheme and the losses resulting to many members finally led the New York legislature to appoint a committee of three to investigate the 124 associations then doing business in the State ; and this committee reported in favor of revoking the charters of all, without distinction or reserve. This was never done, however.
The associations became especially popular at the same time in Connecticut, but their methods caused the same results. A searching investigation was made by the legislature; and in 1860 savings and building associations were forbidden to receive deposits after Jan. 1, 1862. In 1865, they were required to return all deposits on or before July 1, 1886, which practically wound them up, and repealed the law authorizing them. This phase of the history of the co-operative savings bank movement in New York and other States will surely be repeated, unless the States, by acts of legislature, prevent it, as Massachusetts has done. The dangers which beset the system in every State except Massachusetts are that the organizers of associations either copy the general mistakes of the system, or else evolve brilliant financial theories, which are placed attractively before the public by advertisement, inviting people to deposit their savings with the prospects of large returns in the “sweet by and by."
The three leading dangers which menace this plan of banking in all the States to-day are those which brought it into disrepute thirty years ago; namely,
1. Permitting a single member to hold a large number of shares of stock and borrow on them. This leads to speculation, to stultification of the spirit of co-operation by the well-to-do and more venturesome members, who absorb the money, erect tenement houses to rent, and crowd out modest borrowers who want homes. This condition of affairs leads to the final taxing of the capital stock, as in Illinois and in New York in 1886, thereby preventing organization.
2. The plan in general use of deducting the bonus bid from the sum borrowed. This results in the borrower paying interest on money he does not receive, the holding of “inflated” mortgages by the association, the yearly bankrupting of the concern by the declaration of profits not earned, and the robbing thereby of members who remain until the termination of the association of their legitimate profit by those who withdraw at an early period.
MR. SOUTHARD. — DANGEROUS SIDE OF BUILDING ASSOCIATIONS
3. The almost utter lack of knowledge by the directors of the simple principles governing finance and a criminal carelessness in the matter of informing themselves in reference to the same.
The last and perhaps most dangerous fact attending the popularity of this form of co-operation is the fungus growth which attaches itself to the spread of the system, properly known under the terms “real estate and money brokerage,” which bids for and secures the hard-earned money of hundreds of poor people daily under the specious guise of “co-operative banking."
This meagre outline of facts will on investigation be found the prominent and ruling spirit of this magnificent system of co-operation everywhere. It is a pity it is so, because results show that, with all the evil, there has come unmea
easured good. It is a simple matter to prevent or reduce to a minimum the evils of the system by having each State prevent, as near as may be, the uneducated, unthinking citizen from financial suicide, the selfish from taking advantage of the less fortunate by speculation, the unwitting injustices practised by erroneous methods, and the depredations of financial man-eaters, by enacting a single statute defining the limits and methods of an association, under which no other alleged mutual co-operative financial association could organize.
This is the dangerous side of the grandest, simplest, and most successful plan of co-operation ever made practical in the two hemispheres; and, after a century of development, the wonder is there should be any dangerous side. It remains for earnest, warmhearted people, who recognize that every human being is capable of appreciating a plan of benefit which does not pauperize, patronize, or belittle in any way, to strive for the elimination of the errors, and encourage, even to the extent of self-sacrifice, a system which will continue to dot the land with homes. Homes that may be extremely modest, perhaps, in size or architecture, in their influences will be as far reaching for good to the individual, the nation, and the world as those called palaces.
7. NOTES ON PROVIDENT INSTITUTIONS IN ARKAN
SAS, TENNESSEE, AND TEXAS.
BY PROF. ROBERT T. HILL, OF AUSTIN, TEXAS.
A greater diversity of natural conditions, and consequently of cultural ones, can be found in these three States than in any other area of similar size in the United States. Eastern Arkansas, North-eastern Texas, and much of West Tennessee are situated in the low, humid, forest-covered cotton belt, in which the unconsolidated substructure, and the great proportion of overflowed bottom lands to uplands, prevent density and continuity of settlements, and, at seasons, retard travel, transportation, and social intercourse. In other words, they are regions dearthful of industries, and usually dependent on one agricultural pursuit. Much of the trans-Pecos region of Texas, of Western Central Arkansas and East Tennessee, upon the other extreme, is mountainous, sterile, and therefore unadapted to social gregariousness, except in rare cases of mining localities. North-western Arkansas, Central Texas, and Middle Tennessee, although differing from each other in many respects, each present superb natural conditions of structure, soil, etc., for superior populations of diversified occupation and great density. In the first regions mentioned (the cotton belt proper), the one industry is conducted either by landlords of large holdings, who own the most fertile and extensive tracts, and rent or “share crop” their lands to a largely nomadic tenantry, or else by small holders, who usually possess poorer and more sterile lands, which are frequently abandoned in a few years, after clearing and exhaustive cultivation. The cities and towns of this region are not large, and are dependent almost exclusively upon merchandising
Owing to the absence of much needed statistics on the subject, I can only state as a matter of personal observation that provident institutions, of any kind whatever, are almost unknown among the cotton producers; but, on the contrary, nearly every farmer annually mortgages all his property, both real and personal, together with the prospective crop, for inferior and exorbitantly
priced supplies wherewith to grow it. The appended statement, made in March, 1888, by a committee of the order of Knights of Labor in Arkansas, accompanying their demand for a State Bureau of Statistics, does not greatly exaggerate the industrial condition of the region :
We are told that in Arkansas, where extensive mills, factories, and mines do not exist, to oppress the laborer or grind the faces of the poor, as in the East,- that in this “western wild," with its rich and undeveloped resources, we need no such Bureau. But is it true? Let us see. Our principal export is cotton. is sold before it is planted in the soil. We find that most of the lands are owned in immense tracts, and farmed out to tenants at the most extortionate prices. From $4 to $12 per acre, or from 80 to 100 pounds of lint cotton per acre, are, as a rule, exacted from the poor fellow who cultivates the soil; the average for our best lands reaching no less than from $6 to $8 per acre rent. The tenant, in the miserable hovel furnished by his landlord, exists upon the roughest and most meagre diet, - corn meal and fat bacon,- the latter, and frequently the former, imported from the East. During the most flourishing season of the year, when the crop is wont to be pushed, a little coffee, a few potatoes, and the like, are added to the scanty fare of the tenant; but he pays for it by going hungry between the “laying by” and the gathering season, being told to root and hustle for himself during this dull period. His clothing is as scanty as his food; and his children, dragged and driven into the cotton field in tender years, from necessity and want, are reared in ignorance and rags. His home is about as well provided with comforts and influences of moral refinement as the average wigwam of the Comanche on the far western plains.
And this is the condition where cotton is king. Do you ask why the cotton crop is not abandoned, and a more profitable one substituted? You well know the tenant is not allowed this privilege. “This is the only crop you can sell for money," is the cry; and, through the favorite anaconda mortgage system of Shylock, the pound of Aesh that is not extracted by extortionate land-rents the landlord or syndicate is doubly sure of in the "furnishing of supplies.” There are good old mules in Arkansas to-day, to which the original owner has undisputed title (having been sold from year to year to the unfortunate tenants, who failed at the last moment to meet the little balance due on the animals), that have brought $1,000 in actual cash.
In making this statement, we have confined ourselves to the facts before us; and the picture is not overdrawn. We make it for the purpose of arresting the evils which threaten us as a people, and hinder our progress and prosperity as a State, and of prevailing upon the patriotic citizen of Arkansas - be he landlord, tenant, or landlord-and-tenant — to call a halt. Reduce the outrageous prices of land-rents and supplies, and be humane, if not generous, manly, if not Christian. We make this appeal to you in behalf of the tenants, both white and colored, who produce the fleecy staple that adds so materially to the comfort and happiness of others, but to misery and want in the tiller of the soil. And, in the mean time, we hope that the importance of establishing a Bureau of Labor Statistics for Arkansas will not be overlooked or underestimated.
(Signed) T. O. MilHOLLIN, Chairman. G. W. Bell, Secretary.
By order S. E. B. Knights of Labor.
It is hardly necessary to state that in this region, where people have no earnings, there are neither Savings Banks, Building and Loan Associations, nor other ordinary provident institutions. The great prosperity that has of late years affected nearly every other industry in the South has not touched the cotton-grower. But the region is not entirely dormant upon this question; and numerous organizations, such as the “Farmers' Alliance," the “ Agricultural Wheel," and the Knights of Labor (who in this region are mostly farmers) are agitating technical education, the abolition of the crop-mortgage system, and the organizing in every community of co-operative stores.
If the industrial condition, upon which the prosperity of provident institutions is dependent, is at a low status in the portion of these States within the cotton belt, it is refreshing to record a directly opposite and better condition of affairs in the more diversified agricultural and manufacturing cities that skirt the interior or coast borders of the cotton belt, such as Knoxville, Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Little Rock, Denison, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Waco, Galveston, Houston, San Antonio, and other places. In these there are numerous and prosperous building and loan associations, with large capital. It has been impossible for me to procure accurate statistics on the subject; but the following data from Nashville and Chattanooga, Tenn., Houston, Tex., and Little Rock, Ark., will show the rapid hold which these institutions are gaining upon popular favor.
Nashville.— Four Building and Loan Associations send data from this place, while we are assured of the existence of seven or eight more. The total assessment of the four associations reporting aggregates $423,130, while the total savings thus invested in the city cannot be less than $1,000,000. Three Savings Banks