The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997 Page: 132
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
No single event in the Davis administration appeared to provide
stronger support for Ramsdell's assessment of the governor than Davis's
apparent role in the Coke-Davis election dispute of 1874. The basic out-
line of the clash is well known. In January 1874, the state supreme court
caused an electoral crisis when it delivered the controversial ex parte Ro-
driguez decision, finding that the general election held earlier that
month was unconstitutional because it did not strictly adhere to the for-
mula provided in the constitution. The presence of a semicolon between
two clauses became the key to the court's decision. A month later, Gov-
ernor Davis attempted to prevent the successful candidates in that elec-
tion, including new governor Richard Coke, from taking office by
blocking the meeting of the Fourteenth Legislature. The Democratic
victors went ahead anyway, and in January 1874 organized the legislature,
inaugurated Coke as governor, and virtually threw Davis out of office.
The interpretation of the events in December and January that be-
came the basis for later scholarly studies and ultimately the negative
characterizations of Davis was developed in 1898 by Oran M. Roberts in
his chapter of Dudley Wooten's A Comprehensive History of Texas. Roberts
contended that Davis, as he had throughout Reconstruction, intended
and attempted to disrupt public affairs and provoke violence that would
bring about federal intervention. Only the patience and strength of theb
Democratic leadership, "disinterested gentlemen," according to Roberts,
averted the catastrophe Davis would have brought about. Here was final
proof of the illegitimacy of the Republican regime and clear evidence of
the type of man that Davis was. "Perhaps the most charitable explana-
tion of [Davis's] conduct," wrote Roberts, "is that he resorted to force
blindly, under his habitual belief that it was the proper and only avail-
able mode of accomplishing any object he desired."2 Although a partici-
pant in the events, Roberts had established himself as the state's premier
Southern History, XL (Aug, 1974), 441-454; John M. Brockman, "Railroads, Radicals, and the
Militia Bill: A New Interpretation of the Quorum-Breaking Incident of 1870," SHQ LXXXIII
(Oct., 1979), 105-122; Randolph B. Campbell, "Scalawag District Judges: The E. J. Davis Ap-
pointees, 1870-1873," Houston Review: History and Culture of the Gulf Coast, XIV (1992), 75-88;
Randolph B. Campbell, "Carpetbagger Rule in Reconstruction Texas: An Enduring Myth," SHQ
XCVII (Apr., 1994), 587-596; John P. Carrier, "A Political History of Texas during Reconstruc-
tion, 1865-1874" (Ph.D. diss., Vanderbilt University, 1971); William T. Field, "The Texas State
Police, 1870-1873," Texas Military History, V (Fall, 1965), 136-141; William T. Hopper, "Gover-
nor EdmundJ. Davis, Ezra Cornell, and the A&M College of Texas," SHQ LXXVIII (Jan., 1975),
307-312; Carl H. Moneyhon, Republicanism in Reconstruction Texas (Austin: University of Texas
Press, 1980); Carl H. Moneyhon, "Public Education and Texas Reconstruction Politics,
1871-1874," SHQ XCII (Jan., 1989), 393-416; BettyJ. Sandlin, "The Texas Reconstruction
Constitutional Convention of 1868-1869" (Ph.D. diss., Texas Tech University, 1970).
2 Oran M. Roberts, "Political, Legislative, andJudicial History of Texas," in Dudley G. Wooten
(ed.), A Comprehensive History of Texas, 1865-1897 (2 vols.; Dallas: William G. Scarff, 1898), II,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997, periodical, 1997; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/m1/182/: accessed July 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.