The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 247
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Of Rutabagas and Redeemers
quantity at fifty cents an acre. A second law allowed purchase of the pub-
lic land that had been reserved for the benefit of public education in lots
of up to 640 acres if arable, and up to 1920 acres if suitable only for graz-
ing, instead of in plots of not more than 160 acres as had formerly been
the rule. The minimum price of this school land was also cut. Roberts
pushed through this legislation so that revenue derived from land sales
could bear a larger portion of public expense and revenue from property
taxes an accordingly smaller one. Yet the new laws drew howls of protest
from those (including many Democrats and even the state's land com-
missioner) who thought that rather than serving farmers' interests, they
betrayed them. Critics complained that these laws would allow the state's
most important resource to be transferred to the absentee land barons,
cattlemen, and corporations who could afford to buy. Public land should
instead be reserved primarily for homesteading and for purchase in small
plots by the yeomanry.25
These Texans who insisted that the state continue to provide abundant
opportunities for small farmers to settle on public land were not neces-
sarily any more authentic spokesmen for the agricultural population than
those who, like Roberts, were most intent on reducing the taxes modest
landowners had to pay. Instead, the point that bears repeating is that in
post-Reconstruction Texas the divisions among politicians who might en-
joy a roughly equal claim to being termed agrarian were of at least as
much political consequence as the differences between agrarian and cos-
mopolitan or Bourbon and New South Democrats. The governor found
some of his most formidable opponents among the Texas Greenback Par-
ty, whose sizable farm contingent apparently felt its best interests might
be served by aggressive action on the part of the federal government, a no-
tion that was all but anathema to the old secessionist leader Roberts. At
the same time as would-be representatives of the agricultural interest
struggled among themselves, other high profile contests occurring within
the Democratic Party, such as the competition for the 1878 gubernatori-
al nomination or the 1881 U.S. Senate seat, pitted politicians identified
with railroad development against one another.26
'" Governors' Messages, Coke to Ross, 221-224, 293, 411-413; General Laws of the State of Texas,
Passed at the Special Session of the Sixteenth Legislature, Convened at the City of Austin, June ioth, 1879,
and Adjourned July 9th, 1879 (Galveston: A. H. Belo & Co, State Printers, 1879), 23-27, 48-49;
"Memories of a Texas Land Commissioner, W. C. Walsh," SHQ 44 (Apr., 1941), 487, 495; [W. C.
Walsh], Report of the Commisszoner of the General Land Office of the State of Texas, For the Fscal Year End-
ing August 31, x88o (Galveston: Galveston News, 1880), 4-5; [W. C. Walsh], Special Report of the
Commissioner of the General Land Office of the State of Texas, From August 31, 188x, to March I, 1882
(Galveston: A. H. Belo, 1882), 3-4, 6-1o; [W. C. Walsh], Bzennial Report of the Commisszoner of the
General Land Office of the State of Texas, from August 31, i88o, to August 3, x882 (Austin: E. W.
Swindells, State Printer, 1883), 4-8; Ernest Wallace, Charles DeMorse Pioneer Editor and Statesman
(Lubbock: Texas Tech, 1943), 202-207, 210-211.
' Barr, Reconstruction to Reform, 39-42, 43-62, 6o-61; Roscoe Martin, "The Greenback Party in
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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/m1/299/: accessed August 15, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.