The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978 Page: 361
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Only once, with John D. Hicks's pioneering The Populist Revolt,
published in 1931, has anyone attempted a comprehensive study of
that rending struggle. In his Democratic Promise Richard Goodwyn
has, by the breadth of his research and the dramatic sweep of his writ-
ing, replaced Hicks as the standard authority.
A brief review cannot do justice to the diversity of scholarship and
the powerful interpretations of Democratic Promise. Briefly stated,
the author reveals with clarity the overwhelming importance of the
"radical" South in the movement. He devotes considerable space to
the unique contributions of Texas and Texas Alliancemen and Pop-
ulists. The writer sees bankers and the American banking system as
the chief villains who thwarted the realization of American democracy.
To him, adoption of the subtreasury system would have made possible,
even if it would not have guaranteed, that promise.
The criticism mounted against the agrarians by recent scholars-
sometimes as guarded reservations and at other times as strident attacks
-is parried effectively with convincing logic, sound interpretations,
and solid documentation. Goodwyn considers the agrarians (he sees
the pristine Farmers' Alliance as being more significant than the diluted
Populist party) as the last hope for America before the capitulation to
the twentieth-century corporate state. It is difficult to fault him.
Like C. Vann Woodward and other historians-not exclusively, but
mainly, southern scholars-Goodwyn dismisses the emphasis on free
silver by pseudo-Populists as a harmful "shadow movement." Without
pushing his point too far, the author shows also how the Populists,
overall, were far more sympathetic toward blacks than Democrats or
Republicans. He brilliantly discusses the Reform Press and the contri-
butions of the independent, iconoclastic Alliance and Populist editors.
This book will be quarreled with, but it will not be ignored. The
writer's sympathies with Populism and its tenets are obvious, and even
his style smacks of the best efforts of Joseph C. Manning. But Goodwyn
is never uncritical. For example, this reviewer thinks he deals a bit
harshly with Reuben F. Kolb of Alabama.
Relatively few errors of fact or of typography appear, and there is
a particularly useful critical essay on authorities. The book answers
a long felt need and will be a lasting contribution to American
Florida State University
WILLIAM WARREN ROGERS
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978, periodical, 1977/1978; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101205/m1/401/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.