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Not Now

The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Believing that the major parties had betrayed the people, Populists demanded
that the federal government cease its paternalism of big business. They demand-
ed that government redirect its focus to produce happiness in society within the
spirit of the Declaration of Independence. Populists supported the income tax,
congressional respect to the representatives from Coxey's Army, work relief for
needy American laborers, and literacy tests for immigrants.
Clanton maintains that the election of 1892 and Cleveland's support of the
gold standard caused more people to favor inflation than Populist proposals.
Once the author had accepted Henry Littlefield's interpretation that Frank
Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" symbolized pro-silver Populism, but
Clanton changed his mind when he discovered that Baum had voted a pro-
McKinley, hard money ticket. Now gold formed the basis for the nation's mone-
tary policy, and Populism served merely as "speed bumps on the yellow brick
road" (p. 184). He argues that the Democratic platform of 1896 and Bryan's
nomination kept the Democratic Party from becoming a third party.
Clanton's reasons for McKinley's victory and the role of Populist congressmen
in the election of i896 disappointed this reviewer. Yet, the author logically spec-
ulates that, had Bryan won the presidency, he would have been less sympathetic
to empire-building and big business than McKinley and as liberal as Woodrow
Wilson in domestic affairs.
Clanton reveals the dilemma that Populism encountered with the Spanish-
American War. Believing in the equality of people, most legislators favored war,
but not '"Jerry" Simpson, a proclaimer of peace. Unfortunately for the Populists,
the war accelerated economic recovery, which reduced the reform appeal of the
Populists. Their opposition to the annexation of Hawaii and the Philippines failed.
For Clanton, the "Populists" played a significant educational role in the
nation's history. Meaningful to the general public were their accomplishments
of rural mail delivery and the creation of Labor Day. The book closes with the
prediction that Populism "will likely continue to have a high degree of rele-
vance for humanity, while at the same time becoming increasingly more remote
and unattainable in the modern world" (p. 170). Readers would have received
more value if those ideas had been developed with greater depth in the epi-
logue, as would an appendix showing the major legislative votes and the
Populist response.
We need historical studies of Congress. In regard to the Populists, Gene
Clanton has made a significant contribution.
Bhnn College at Bryan IRVIN M. MAY JR.
Capitol Women: Texas Female Legislators, I923-1999. By Nancy Baker Jones and
Ruthe Winegarten. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000. Pp. xiv+327.
Preface, biographies, snapshots, appendices. ISBN 0-292-74063-8. $22.95,
Nancy Baker Jones and Ruthe Winegarten have written an interesting exami-
nation of Texas female legislators from 1923 to 1999. They combine their



Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 4, 2016.

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