Big Tax Strike Plans Rumored Among Midwest Farmers

From the Brooklyn Standard Union:

Farmers of West Facing Bankruptcy

General Revolt Brewing Against Starving Conditions of Agriculture.

Threaten Big Tax Strike.

No Money to Pay and Willing to Have Farms Seized.

 — A general revolt is brewing among farmers of the Middle West against the starving conditions of agriculture, according to reports reaching Congressional circles to-day.

The threatened outburst of farmer wrath, it was said, may assume the proportions of a non-co-operative revolution, similar to the famous Gandhi revolt of India. Facing the winter practically penniless, large groups of farmers are reported planning desperate measures to focus the attention of the nation on their plight.

One faction already has advocated a general “tax strike” among farmers of one State, and their leaders are seeking converts to the cause in other States. If the movement becomes general the farmers would refuse to pay all Federal, State and local taxes, permit their farms to be seized, repudiate debts and throw themselves on the mercy of their communities. While not likely to become general, the plan has already gained a foothold.

I’m noticing a conspicuous lack of details. No quotes from or names of these “leaders” and “converts.” There are quotes around “tax strike” but the words are just attributed to a “faction.” In fact, the only quotes and names in the whole article are those of Washington politicians.

A second movement has been started to use the technical machinery of the law to evade taxes and wipe out their debts. This plan, involving declarations of bankruptcy, which are almost unheard of among farmers, has won rapid support. In one State — North Dakota — it was learned 143 farmers had become bankrupt in one week .

…Whether [farmers] will join a general “tax strike” rests solely on the leaders of their co-operative organizations. Some are reported in favor of the revolt.

If attempted, the Government would immediately seize the properties of all refusing to pay taxes. Advocates of the plan declare, however, the farms are mortgaged “to the hilt,” and the farmers would lose but little if the farms were seized. The ultimate result, it was said, would be intervention by Congress, which is exactly what the farmers require. Consequently, such action would in effect put the finishing touches of success on the purpose of revolution.

On the other hand, the bankruptcy movement has gained hundreds of converts. It is spreading rapidly through the Dakotas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and Montana, according to reliable reports. It may also gain a foothold in Indiana, Missouri, Kansas and Illinois among farmers, and has broken out in Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona among cottongrowers.

“I wouldn’t be surprised by a general tax strike,” said Senator Norris, of Nebraska. “Conditions are frightful among farmers, and they are up against the last straw. I don’t see how thousands of them will survive the winter.”

[“]Farmers in the Middle West are complaining of high taxes,” Senator Walsh, of Montana, declared. “Thousands say they cannot and will not pay their taxes. I don’t know what step they are likely to take but nothing would surprise me.”

This sounds like a reporter taking dictation at a press conference to me, and like politicians trying to start a crisis to get more tax dollars routed to their states. I haven’t found much evidence of this alleged movement with its factions and its leaders and its plans.

There’s one allusion in the Manufacturers’ Record of to there being “talk now in some of the states of a ‘tax strike’ ” over agricultural commodity prices, but no additional details, which makes me suspect the source for this was the same press release.