The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976 Page: 109
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Republicans in Kansas between I900oo and 1916 is the kind of detailed,
focused state study from which students of early twentieth-century reform
can derive much profit. In their concern with such issues as railroad regu-
lation, prohibition, and the tariff, Kansans like William Allen White,
Joseph L. Bristow, and Victor Murdock responded to the same economic
and political forces affecting fellow Republicans in Iowa or Wisconsin and
Democrats in Alabama and Texas. "Without fully realizing it," concludes
La Forte, "these state politicians, these progressive Republicans, helped
create the modern political regulatory state" (p. 262).
One of the strengths of this monograph is the author's balanced view
of his actors. He is aware of the mixed motives of both progressives and
conservatives and does not simply accept contemporary descriptions as
sufficient explanations of complex events. Reform in Kansas had roots in
Republican factionalism as well as moralism; it reflected the desire of
aggrieved middle-class capitalists to redirect economic benefits their way,
and flowered for only about half a dozen years after 19o6. La Forte has
some perceptive and pointed remarks about the activities of White, Bris-
tow, and Murdock in addition to the customary strictures on their con-
The author's findings also point the way for further research. The prob-
lems that Kansas Republicans had with prohibition indicate again that the
subject of the G.O.P. and liquor in this period merits the same scrutiny
that the Democrats have received. Rather than reform awakening the
electorate, it seems, on La Forte's information about voter turnout, to have
driven them away from the polls. Finally, the analysis of the troubles of
the Progressive Party in Kansas reinforces doubts about Theodore Roose-
velt's skill as a politician in nonelectoral settings.
This book rests on extensive manuscript research in Kansas and at the
Library of Congress, but the exclusion of the Theodore Roosevelt Papers
is surprising. Roosevelt's published letters are not a substitute for work in
his extensive correspondence with Republican state leaders. James Holt's
study of the Congressional Insurgents and James Penick's examination of
the Ballinger-Pinchot affair are notable omissions from the bibliography.
Many portions of La Forte's narrative are well-written and fascinating.
Others suffer from a surplus of extraneous names and events and the as-
sumption that the reader is as familiar with Kansas as the author is.
Nonetheless, this interesting, well-executed, and expert study is a welcome
contribution to the expanding roster of state histories on public life in the
University of Texas at Austin
LEWIs L. GOULD
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976, periodical, 1975/1976; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101203/m1/127/: accessed June 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.