The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997

EdmundJ. Davis in the Coke-Davis Election
Dispute of 1874:
A Reassessment of Character
CARL H. MONEYHON*
EDMUNDJ. DAVIS, GOVERNOR FROM 1869 TO 1874, HAS LONG HELD THE
worst reputation of any chief executive of the state of Texas. He is a
man whose character has been seen as practically irredeemable. The
scholarly assessment of his administration has been the object of recent
historical revision, but it is safe to say that Davis himself has continued to
be perceived as dogmatic, uncompromising, and vengeful despite revi-
sionist efforts. Charles W. Ramsdell set the interpretive tone in his 1910
study of Reconstruction in Texas, portraying Davis as "arbitrary," "self-
willed," "obstinate," and "pig-headed." Although Ramsdell concluded
that Davis was personally honest, he ultimately found him to be an "in-
tense and narrow partisan," a "martinet," and that he had "no regard for
the popular will, he consulted no desires but his own, and he was ab-
solutely devoid of tact."'
* Carl Moneyhon teaches in the Department of History at the University of Arkansas at Little
Rock.
' Charles W. Ramsdell, Reconstruction in Texas (New York: Columbia University Press, 1910),
314-315, 317-318. Even though Ramsdell's Interpretation remains the most commonly held
view of Davis, revisionist historians of the last two decades have provided a reassessment of Re-
construction that undercuts this traditional view of the governor. The only full-scale revisionist
effort at reassessing Davis is Ronald N. Gray, "Edmund J. Davis: Radical Republican and Recon-
struction Governor of Texas" (Ph.D. diss., Texas Tech University, 1976), which began the
process of reassessing Davis, although it does not examine the Coke-Davis conflict.
Barry A. Crouch, "'Unmanacling' Texas Reconstruction. A Twenty-Year Perspective," South-
western Historical Quarterly, XCIII (Jan., 1990), 275-302 (cited hereafter as SHQ), provides an
overview of recent revisionist studies of the Davis administration that provide a framework for a
reconsideration of the governor. Among the revisionist works that deal directly with Davis and
his administration and provide the framework for a reinterpretation of Davis as governor see
Ann Patton Baenziger, "The Texas State Police during Reconstruction: A Reexamination," SHQ,
LXXII (Apr., 1969), 470-491; James A. Baggett, "Beginnings of Radical Rule in Texas: The Spe-
cial Legislative Session of 1870," Southwestern Journal of Social Education, II (Spring-Summer,
1972), 28-39; James A. Baggett, "Birth of the Texas Republican Party," SHQ, LXXVIII (July,
1974), 1-2o; James A. Baggett, "Origins of Early Texas Repubhcan Party Leadership," Journal of

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/. Accessed April 18, 2014.