The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 240
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
eral, rather than the more restrictive or conventionally agrarian, of the al-
ternatives before it. In suggesting that Grangers were primarily responsi-
ble for its key provisions, the agrarian interpretation misunderstands who
made the constitution. But it also misunderstands the nature of the doc-
ument itself, by misunderstanding the alternatives the convention was
choosing between. As grudging as the constitution seems in retrospect, it
was, in fact, considerably less grudging than some delegates wished to
make it. Important elements of the constitution were shaped by men who,
as compared to their fellow delegates, had the more expansive notions of
what government could and should do.
This is clear, for instance, in the realm of economic development. The
prohibition on the use of public money or credit to subsidize railroad
construction and the offering up of land grants in their place did not rep-
resent the triumph of the delegates most hostile to corporations. The de-
cision the convention had to make with respect to state subsidy of eco-
nomic growth was not between rewarding private companies with public
money or merely with public land, as some historians seem to assume, but
between granting land or nothing at all. No one argued for money subsi-
dies at the convention (and, as noted above, few Democrats were arguing
for them in the broader public arena), while forceful and eloquent voic-
es were heard denouncing the granting even of land to railroads. The
more growth-oriented Democrats took their stand in support of land
grants, and on this issue, the more activist New South position prevailed.
The convention generously provided for laws that would allow all compa-
nies that had built at least ten miles of railroad up to sixteen sections of
public land (i.e., sixteen square miles) for every mile of track laid down.
The convention similarly endorsed other railroad policies long advocated
by growth-oriented Democrats. It carried on the first Redeemer legisla-
tures' practice of regularly granting companies extensions on the con-
struction deadlines written into their charters (an ordinance granting a
blanket extension to all railroads was, in fact, introduced by that notori-
ous Granger, John "Rutabaga"Johnson). In the years immediately follow-
ing, state government would be criticized less for its miserliness towards
corporations (as one might expect from subsequent descriptions of the
constitution's agrarian tendencies) than for being too generous in grant-
ing millions of acres of the public domain to railroad companies rather
than reserving it exclusively for yeoman settlement or public education.'5
Similarly, as shockingly meager as the 1876 constitution's educational
'For the assumption that the provision of land grants rather than money subsidies represent-
ed a defeat for developmentally oriented Democrats, see Perman, Road to Redemptzon, 204-205
Constitution of the State of Texas , Art. XIV, sec. 3; General Laws of the State of Texas Passed at the
Sesszon of the Ffteenth Legislature Begun and Held at the City of Austin, Apnl i8th, 1876 (Galveston:
Shaw and Blaylock, State Printers, 1876), 153-154; Journal of the Constitutional Convention,
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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/m1/292/: accessed December 12, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.