The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 244
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
dulging the politics of retrenchment might be highlighted by contrasting
Texas's Redeemer constitution with that of Arkansas, another growing
southwestern state with similar developmental needs. Facing politically
insupportable levels of tax and debt as Reconstruction ended, Arkansas
Democrats also had to write a restrictive state constitution, paring the
powers of state government and prohibiting the lending of state credit or
the issuing of interest-bearing bonds except to accommodate existing
debt. But without the option of unrestricted land subsidy, the constitution
had to be somewhat more liberal than Texas's when it came both to taxa-
tion and to promoting economic development. In contrast to Texas,
Arkansas allowed tax exemptions for mining and manufacturing enter-
prises and established an immigration bureau.20
In the end, Texas's public domain could not bear the extravagant ex-
pectations placed upon it. Redeemer Democrats would in a few short
years exhaust the public land available for developmental purposes. Still,
one cannot accurately gauge constitution-makers' disposition toward eco-
nomic development or social welfare without grasping their expectation
that state land would offer a politically feasible means of investing public
wealth in worthy pursuits. They could write what seemed to many con-
temporaries and later historians to be the kind of retrenchment-oriented
document thought to be favored by farmers, but believe at the same time
that they were not sacrificing the benefits of publicly supported develop-
The agrarian pedigree of the Texas constitution, then, seems shaky on
a number of grounds: the divisions among Grangers at the convention;
delegates' opting in important instances for the more generous rather
than the more stingy of the politically feasible alternatives before them;
the participation of developmentally oriented Democrats in the curtail-
ing of public spending and authority. It is vitiated all the more by the fact
that it is well-nigh impossible to locate an agrarian interest, ideology, or
political coalition in post-Reconstruction Texas sufficiently cohesive to
have had its way with the convention.
In his landmark study of late-nineteenth-century Texas, Alwyn Barr
gave ample attention to the complexity of Democratic politics after Re-
construction and the varying agenda of different farm populations. Given
the currency the term "agrarian" has retained as an instrument of politi-
cal analysis, however, Barr's point bears amplification. Cultivators of the
20 Carl H. Moneyhon, Arkansas and the New South, x874-1929 (Fayetteville: University of
Arkansas Press, '997), 19, 23-25; Perman, Road to Redemption, 196-197; The Constitution of the State
of Arkansas, Framed and Adopted by the Conventzon which Assembled at Little Rock, July x4th, 1874 and
Ratified by the People of the State, at the Election Held Oct. 13, 1874, ed. James Pomeroy (Little Rock: P.
A. Ladue, 1876), Art. X, sec. 3, Art. XVI, sec. 8, 9.
21 Wilhams, "Redeemer Democrats," 441-456.
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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/m1/296/: accessed December 10, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.