The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 398
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
recalcitrance of holdover employees from previous administrations,
Colquitt and his chief prison official, Ben E. Cabell, encountered formi-
dable obstacles. Nevertheless, the governor and the new Board of Prison
Commissioners attempted to fashion the penal system in accordance
with the new law. Both Colquitt and Cabell sought to improve the treat-
ment of prisoners. Nowhere was this more evident than when Colquitt
halted the whipping of convicts on all prison properties and persuaded
his commissioners to use alternative disciplinary measures instead.
Prison issues emerged in the governor's election of 1912, when
incumbent Colquitt fought off a strong challenge from Judge William
Franklin Ramsey, Campbell's close political ally. The Colquitt-Ramsey
contest, in which both candidates opposed convict whipping and
accused the other of abusing prisoners, also permitted the more colorful
Colquitt to travel across the state and entertain audiences with his fiery
campaign speeches. Deriding his opponent as well as former Governor
Campbell for aiding and abetting atrocities, Colquitt waved a blood-
stained whip or "bat" as he spoke. Despite the vituperative rhetoric the
candidates and their supporters displayed in this campaign, public fig-
ures at the very least contributed to an educational process that called
public attention to some of the most egregious punishment methods in
vogue in the Texas penal system. That both gubernatorial candidates as
well as the state's leading newspapers called for an end to lashing during
the Progressive era attests to heightened sensitivity to the plight of con-
victs and more than a modicum of concern for the well-being of society's
outcasts among at least some state leaders. When journalists, legislators,
and candidates combined to question the humanity of corporal punish-
ment and to counsel the public about modern and less barbaric discipli-
nary tactics, they were embracing national progressive impulses con-
cerned with social justice reform and institutional efficiency.4
From a broader perspective, however, the history of whipping in
Texas prisons provides an excellent case study of what social theorists
Norbert Elias and David Garland regard as changes in public attitudes
or "sensibilities" over time. Influenced by Elias, Garland maintains that
"J. E. Stubblefield to Colquitt, Mar. 23, 1912, Colquitt letter press, Colquitt Governor's
Records (Archives Division, Texas State Library [TSL], Austin, Texas). This collection is here-
after referred to as Colquitt Governor's Records. Also see Ben E. Cabell, "The Texas Penal
System As It Is Now Administered (An Address Before the Society of Correction and Charities in
Session in Waco, April 1912)," Colquitt Governor's Records (1st and 2nd quotations), and
Houston Post, Apr. 21, 1912.
4 Dencil R. Taylor, "The Political Speaking of Oscar Branch Colquitt, 19o6-1913" (Ph.D. diss.,
Louisiana State University and Mechanical College, 1979), 218; Broadside: Bulletn, "Colquitt
Answers Critics of State Prison System," box 1ol B TXC, Colquitt Papers; Broadside: "Colquitt
Spoke to Big Crowd Last Night," box 2E3o4, Colquitt Papers; and Dewey Grantham, Southern
Progresswasm: The Reconcilhation of Progress and Tradition (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press,
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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/m1/466/: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.