Cleburne Platform (1886)

During a meeting in August 1886, delegates of the Grand State Farmers’ Alliance of Texas developed 16 political planks, later known as the “Cleburne Demands” or the “Cleburne Platform.” In these demands, the Texans requested that the government nationalize the railroads, eradicate public debt, regulate banking, and enact legislation more favorable to farmers and labor.

Cleburne, Texas, a small community about 29 miles south of Fort Worth, has been a center for agricultural commerce, including stockyards, since the mid-nineteenth century. Cleburne's population grew from 683 in 1870 to 3,727 in 1890. By 1886, both cattle syndicates and the railroads had decreased the land available for settlement. The federal and state governments had granted the railroads ownership of more than 179 million acres. During meetings on August 3–7, 1886, at Lee's Academy in Cleburne, 240 delegates of the Grand State Farmers’ Alliance of Texas chose as their official journal the weekly Dallas Mercury, known for its antimonopoly stance. This later became the Southern Mercury. These delegates then developed 16 political planks resulting in the Cleburne Platform. These demands resembled earlier reform philosophies dating back to informal coalitions in 1872. Five pertained to labor, three sought to remedy the monopolies of the railroads, two referred to monetary issues, and six were agricultural in nature. These were followed by a resolution for action. The delegates at Cleburne also demanded that land held for speculation be taxed or, in the case of railroad land, be surrendered to the government for sale to settlers.

We, the delegates to the Grand State Farmers’ Alliance of Texas, in convention assembled at Cleburne, Johnson County, Texas, A. D. 1886, do hereby recommend and demand of our State and National governments, according as the same shall come under the jurisdiction of the one or the other, such legislation as shall secure to our people freedom from the onerous and shameful abuses that the industrial classes are now suffering at the hands of arrogant capitalists and powerful corporations. We demand:

Resolved, [17] That the president of the Grand State Alliance be, and he is hereby, directed to appoint a committee of three to press these demands upon the attention of the legislators of the State and Nation, and report progress at the next meeting of the Grand State Alliance. That newspapers be furnished copies of these demands for publication. That the president of the Grand State Alliance have fifty thousand copies of these demands and resolutions printed and distributed to the Sub-Alliances, through the respective county secretaries. That each delegate to this State Alliance present a copy of these demands and resolutions as early as possible to each candidate for a legislative office, State or National, and endeavor to secure his endorsement and assistance in carrying them to a successful issue (Winkler 1916 ).

This document was signed by members of the Committee on Demands and Good of the Order of Farmers’ Grand State Alliance: W. M. Mathes, J. M. Pardue, H. T. Clark, B. F. Rogers, E. B. Warren, J. H. Morrow, and Geo. H. Stovall. The document was submitted by Andrew Dunlap, president.

Two factions emerged from the Cleburne convention; one faction advocated both economic and political actions, while the other desired a “purely business organization” (Barnes 1984 ). The final vote showed 92 in favor and 75 against the 16 demands. A minority protest, signed by B. M. Camp and others, issued a statement of “dissociation” and led to the organization of a rival Farmers’ Alliance of Texas.

The Cleburne Demands were modified at the St. Louis Meeting of Alliances (1889) and subsequently at meetings in Ocala, Florida (1890), and Indianapolis, Indiana (1891).

Ralph M Hartsock

See also: Bourbon Democracy ; Greenback Party ; Interstate Commerce Act (ICA) (1887) ; Macune, Dr. C. W. (1851–1940) ; Ocala Convention (1890) ; The Press and Populism ; Railroad Regulation ; Texas, Populism in


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Winkler, Ernest William. “Platforms of Political Parties in Texas.” Bulletin of the University of Texas, no. 53 (Sept. 20, 1916). .