FARMERS' AND LABORERS' PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION
FARMERS' AND LABORERS' PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION. The Farmers' and Laborers' Protective Association of America, organized in 1915 for the advancement of farming and laboring men and for the cooperative purchase of various kinds of supplies, enlisted several thousand members in north central and northwestern Texas. Members were required to take a binding oath of secrecy under threat of death. Lodge emblems included a strap, which stood for slavery, and a dirk and pistol, emblems of the laborer's self-defense against the capitalist. Evidence indicates that the FLPA was inactive before late 1916 and that its cooperative program never was significant.
Little was known about the FLPA in Texas before mid-1917. In May and June, however, just after the entry of the United States into World War I, more than fifty members of the FLPA were arrested, indicted, and charged with seditious conspiracy to prevent conscription. At least one man was killed during the roundup. Trial followed in September in the United States district court at Abilene. The prosecution charged that leaders urged forcible opposition to conscription, since members were advised to obtain rifles and ammunition, to blow up railroad bridges, to tear up tracks, and to cut telephone and telegraph wires; that the organization denounced the president and Congress; and that FLPA leaders sought amalgamation with the Industrial Workers of the World and the Working Class Union of Oklahoma. Although witnesses subsequently verified that some of the defendants had made intemperate statements, the conspiracy charges were unsubstantiated. Testimony revealed that most FLPA members were of good character and reputation, that most believed the organization was simply a marketing and purchasing cooperative, that in fact the association had a store in operation, that only the organizer, G. T. Bryant, had connections to the International Workers of the World, and that before the passage of conscription legislation, seditious acts were limited to resolutions like the one proposed by Haskell County locals and considered in convention. This resolution, which was not entered into association minutes, declared that the members were peace-loving and opposed to militarism, that they would refuse to invade a foreign country or to shoot another human being at the command of the "capitalist class," and that if war was declared, all who wanted war and every American official, from the president down to the constable, should resign and be forced to fight and leave the American people in peace. Testimony indicated also that the purchase of rifles by the Rotan and Snyder lodges was more the result of hysteria following disclosure of the Plan of San Diego than of FLPA activity. Although the trial was given wide press coverage and the general public believed the FLPA was disloyal, the jury acquitted all defendants except the lodge president, secretary, and organizer.
William Hawley Atwell, Autobiography (Dallas: Warlick Law Printing, 1935). Jim Feagin, Fifty Years Under the Bench in Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1950). E. F. Smith, A Saga of Texas Law (San Antonio: Naylor, 1940).
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Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on September 4, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.