The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 243
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Of Rutabagas and Redeemers
serve of state-controlled land seemed to promise to many constitution-
makers that they could mimic the language of other state constitutions of
their day in restricting governmental activity, expenditure, and develop-
mental aid without stunting their young state's growth. Public resources
in the form of land, rather than tax revenue or the proceeds of bond
sales, might be invested in development and welfare. Instead of imposing
politically unpalatable fiscal burdens on taxpayers to promote internal
improvements, build schools, or attract immigrants, Democrats could
grant land to railroad companies, reserve the proceeds of state land sales
for education, and offer enticing homestead opportunities to would-be
settlers-all on a much greater scale than other states, none of which pos-
sessed anything remotely approaching the amount of land that Texas had
to do with what it wished.18
This prospect of accomplishing public ends by means of land grants
and revenue from land sales, rather than through tax hikes or running
up the state debt, meant that Democrats committed to promoting
growth-and not simply agrarians or "Bourbons" dedicated to a govern-
ment that governed least-could partake in the creation of a constitution
sparing in the extreme when it came to public spending and officials'
powers. Texas Redeemers could, in fact, take parsimony to greater
lengths than other southern Democrats because many assumed their vast
lands would do much of the work that other states had to accomplish
through taxation or deficit spending. Some post-Reconstruction regimes
established bureaus of immigration in this period (though such bodies
generally remained underfunded or even unfunded). Some encouraged
development by exempting at least some manufacturing and mining
concerns from state taxation. Texas's 1876 constitution prohibited the
state from doing either."
The latitude that abundant public land allowed Democrats in in-
'" Outside of Texas, only in the original thirteen states-and parts thereof later constituted as
states in their own right--did the federal government not exercise ultimate control over the pub-
hc domain. Texas entered the Union with almost 182 milhon acres of unappropriated public
land. As Reconstruction collapsed in 1873, it still had some 84 milhon unappropriated acres as
well as a great deal of land already set aside for the benefit of public schools, the state university,
and state asylums. Aldon Lang, Financial Hstory of the Publzc Lands in Texas, Baylor Bulletin, vol. 35,
no 3 (Waco- Baylor University, 1932), 203, 250; Reuben McKitrick, The Public Land System of
Texas, 1823-1910, Umversity of Wisconsin Bulletin, no 9o5 (Madison: University of Wisconsin,
1918), 7-9; Paul W. Gates, Hstory of Publc Land Laws Development (Washington, D.C.: Government
Printing Office, 1968), 804-805; Benamin H Hibbard, A Hstory of the Publzc Land Policzes (New
York: Macmillan, 1924), 171-197, 228-245, 264, 266-288, 309-346.
"' Perman, Road to Redempton, 219-220o, 257-258; Woodward, Ongans of the New South, 60;James
Tice Moore, "Redeemers Reconsidered. Change and Continuity in the Democratic South,
1870-1900," Journal of Southern History, 44 (August, 1978), 368. The question of promoting im-
migration occasioned considerable debate at the 1875 constitutional convention, but the prohi-
bition of tax exemptions for corporations and corporate property encountered httle opposition.
Journal of the Constitutional Conventzon, 44, 240-241, 274-275, 288-290, 300-302, 353-354,
356-357, 401-403, 423, 510, McKay (ed.), Debates, 239-242, 272-286, 295-301, 372-373-
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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/m1/295/: accessed May 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.