When the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry was first organized in Minnesota in December 1867, its goals were primarily social and educational. The organization spread rapidly throughout the agricultural Midwest, attracting more than 850,000 members by 1875. The Grange’s purpose also expanded—it experimented (unsuccessfully) with cooperatives, and, angered by hard times, tight money, and high railroad shipping rates, moved into politics. Members elected sympathetic state legislators who passed laws (most of them later declared unconstitutional) regulating railroad and grain elevator charges. Some of the anger of the Grangers was reflected in “The Ten Commandments of the Grange,” an 1874 manifesto that revealed their antipathy to railroads, monopolies, lawyers, and merchants. Like many other late nineteenth-century Americans, Grangers particularly blamed stereotypical “Jewish middlemen” for their troubles, when, in fact, few of the financiers and merchants who shaped their fate were Jewish. When agricultural conditions in the Midwest improved in the 1880s, the Grange’s membership dropped to 150,000. The Farmers Alliance (or Populists) soon replaced the Grange as the primary voice of radical agrarianism.
1. Thou shalt love the Grange with all thy heart and with all thy soul and thou shalt love thy brother granger as thyself.
2. Thou shalt not suffer the name of the Grange to be evil spoken of, but shall severely chastise the wretch who speaks of it with contempt.
3. Remember that Saturday is Grange day. On it thou shalt set aside thy hoe and rake, and sewing machine, and wash thy-self, and appear before the Master in the Grange with smiles and songs, and hearty cheer. On the fourth week thou shalt not appear empty handed, but shalt thereby bring a pair of ducks, a turkey roasted by fire, a cake baked in the oven, and pies and fruits in abundance for the Harvest Feast. So shalt thou eat and be merry, and “frights and fears” shall be remembered no more.
4. Honor thy Master, and all who sit in authority over thee, that the days of the Granges may be long in the land which Uncle Sam hath given thee.
5. Thou shalt not go to law[yers].
6. Thou shalt do no business on tick [time]. Pay as thou goest, as much as in thee lieth.
7. Thou shalt not leave thy straw but shalt surely stack it for thy cattle in the winter.
8. Thou shalt support the Granger’s store for thus it becometh thee to fulfill the laws of business.
9. Thou shalt by all means have thy life insured in the Grange Lire Insurance Company, that thy wife and little ones may have friends when thou art cremated and gathered unto thy fathers.
10. Thou shalt have no Jewish middlemen between thy farm and Liverpool to fatten on thy honest toil, but shalt surely charter thine own ships, and sell thine own produce, and use thine own brains. This is the last and best commandment. On this hang all the law, and profits, and if there be any others they are these.
Choke monopolies, break up rings, vote for honest men, fear God and make money. So shalt thou prosper and sorrow and hard times shall flee away.
Source: "The Ten Commandments of the Grange," Oshkosh Weekly Times, 16 December 1874. Reprinted in D. Sven Nordin, Rich Harvest: A History of the Grange, 1876–1900 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1974).