The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 235
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Of Rutabagas and Redeemers
What sealed the fate of efforts at the convention to restrict the right to
vote were the concerns of delegates from securely Democratic counties
that a poll tax would unduly burden their own overwhelmingly white, ru-
ral constituents. In the end, these concerns outweighed any impulse they
might have felt to contain the power of African American voters in the
state's relative handful of black-majority counties. But to identify this con-
cern to preserve the franchise of the hardscrabble yeomanry with Grange
delegates exclusively, or even primarily, is problematic in the extreme. A
number of the Democratic delegates central to the scuttling of a poll tax
restriction on the franchise-including the man who introduced the sub-
stitute striking the tax from the suffrage article, and others who argued
passionately against disfranchisement-were not Patrons. In fact, four-
teen non-Grange Democrats opposed the poll tax on the most definitive
vote-as many as supported it. At the same time, while a significant ma-
jority of the Democrats identified as Grangers did indeed vote against the
poll tax, Grangers also made up nearly half (thirteen of twenty-eight) of
the delegates supporting disfranchisement, including two of the men
most active in the cause of suffrage restriction, John Reagan and John
Whitfield. The key to voting on this issue seems not to have been Grange
(or any other economic interest group) affiliation, but instead the size of
the non-Democratic vote in delegates' home districts. The greater ten-
dency of Grange delegates to vote against suffrage restriction is most like-
ly to be attributed to the greater tendency of Grangers to come from se-
curely Democratic, white-majority counties.'
The Texas constitution's affirmation of the state's right to regulate rail-
roads, as well as the regulatory provisions actually written into the docu-
ment, have also often been attributed to the Grangers. However, the rail-
road measures were not introduced by a Granger, the committee majority
that reported them was evenly divided between Patrons and non-Patrons,
and a substantial majority of non-Grange Democrats joined Grangers in
supporting the railroad article.8
cites a fairly convincing contemporary argument against Grange responsibility for the defeat of
the poll tax. McKay, Making the Texas Constztution of 1876, 135.
7The median Republican percentage of the 1873 gubernatorial vote had been 40 percent in
the home counties of Democrats voting for the poll tax but only 21 percent m the home counties
of Democratic delegates opposing it. The Republican median in Grange-represented counties was
about 22 percent, but it was approximately 33 percent m counties represented by non-Grange
Democrats. For convention action on the poll tax, see Journal of the Constitutional Convention of the
State of Texas Begun and Held at the Czty ofAustzn, September 6, 1875 (Galveston: "News" Office, 1875),
29, 6o, 142, 238, 304-310, 328-330, 405-406, 697-698, 785; McKay (ed.), Debates, 167-190. For
the 1873 gubernatorial vote by county, see Mike Kingston, Sam Attlesey, and Mary Crawford, The
Texas Almanac's Political Hzstory of Texas (Austin: Eakm Press, 1992), 58-61.
"Journal of the Constztutzonal Conventzon, 89-90, 376-378, 605, 716, 796-797. On the final pas-
sage of the proposed railroad article, thirty-three Grangers voted for it and only one against, while
eighteen non-Grange Democrats supported it and eight opposed.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/287/: accessed December 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.