The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 242
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
the party had used the issue of public spending as a club with which to
batter the Reconstruction regime. With no real prospect of "negro rule"
existing through that large part of the state in which white people consti-
tuted an overwhelming majority, Texas Democrats had often focused
their denunciations of Reconstruction less on racial than on fiscal is-
sues-specifically the significantly greater tax burden and increased debt
imposed by a Republican state government that, in fact, was constructing
a school system and law enforcement establishment where next to noth-
ing had existed before. Given the state's tradition of minimal taxation,
these critiques had found a receptive audience. As the Democrats took
power, even the more developmentally oriented party members found
themselves rhetorically committed to cutting taxes, spending, and the
public debt and, thus, required to abjure money subsidies to railroads, a
generously funded educational system, and deficit spending, whatever
their rapidly growing frontier state might lack in terms of economic, so-
cial, and governmental infrastructure. The language of retrenchment
and reform was in many more than just farmers' mouths."
This atmosphere undoubtedly pressed even those Democrats interest-
ed in accelerating their state's growth toward tightfisted constitution-mak-
ing. Yet it did not require them to entirely concede the field to advocates
of only the most minimal government. What one finds in the proceedings
of the constitutional convention of 1875 is more than just Democrats' re-
morseless paring of the power of government in response to the per-
ceived excesses of the Reconstruction regime (though there was plenty of
that going on). One finds many Democrats energetically seeking to rec-
oncile the political imperative of retrenchment with their interest in pro-
moting Texan development and welfare. A legacy of Texas's distinctive
history gave these Democrats reason to think they might succeed. Under
the terms of its annexation, Texas-and not the U.S. government-con-
trolled the public land within its borders (other states did receive grants
of public land from the federal government, but usually with strings at-
tached that required the states to direct proceeds of its sale to specific
purposes). As late as 1875, Texas still had tens of millions of acres of that
land to do with what it pleased. This unique and uniquely abundant re-
7 Texans during Reconstruction still paid proportionately less than many of their contempo-
raries, but tax rates had risen sharply since the end of the Civil War. Between 1869 and 1872
alone, the assessment m Harrison County on $1ooo of taxable real property had climbed from
$3.75 to $16.oo. Larry Earl Adams, "Economic Development in Texas during Reconstruction"
(Ph D diss., North Texas State University, 198o), 43-48; Randolph Campbell, A Southern Commu-
nity in Crisis: Harmson County, Texas, 185o-188o (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1983),
333, Randolph Campbell, Grass-Roots Reconstruction in Texas, i865-I88o (Baton Rouge. Louisiana
State University Press, 1997), 49, 94-95, 16o, 190, 218, Edmund T. Miller, A Fnanczal History of
Texas, University of Texas Bulletin, no. 37 (Austin: University of Texas, 1916), 165-172. For an ex-
ample of the fiscal critique of the Reconstruction regime, see Winkler (ed.), Platforms of Politzcal
Parties in Texas, 136-139.
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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/m1/294/: accessed March 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.