||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Sunday, July 03, 2011
The report card on the Edmund J Davis regime
I have now finished with Ramsdell's account of Texas Reconstruction. This ends with the EJ Davis regime and its overthrow. So... how did Davis do? And how did he compare with his successors?
I use the term "regime" with full understanding of its connotations. Davis ruled as a despot and his faction was never, and could never be, majoritarian. Ugh, now I've done it; I'll have to go on to explain the term "despot", too. Davis could not be a populist, so "tyrant" can't work. He wasn't appointed for a fixed term in an emergency, so "dictator" is out too. (Texas had Federally-imposed dictators before Davis, in Governor Pease and the various generals.) "Despot" is the only term which fits.
The oral tradition of white Texans recalls Davis's rule ... unfondly. From that perspective, I found yet another book, "Why The Solid South" (Baltimore: RH Woodward & Co, 1890); one Charles Stewart wrote its Texan chapter (349-382). This was done two decades before Ramsdell. Stewart based some of his account on memory.
As for Stewart's account, I have to give out some warning. We've been using Ramsdell as our base text up to now. Ramsdell had by the point of the Davis section devoted hundreds of pages to the evils of Reconstruction. By the time Ramsdell got to Davis's administration, he could afford to be magnanimous. Stewart has ... biases too. [UPDATE 10/10/2011 - William Archibald Dunning, Reconstruction, political and economic, 1865-1877, 352-3, complained about this book as a whole.] For his part Stewart was an archetype of those Southern-Partisan hypocrites who complain about despotism against whites whilst excusing it against blacks. Stewart's biases dwarf Ramsdell's. In fact Stewart is well-nigh unreadable up to Davis; at least Ramsdell had footnotes, usually adequate. Stewart brings in references only for his summary of 1876-90.
Davis wasn't all that bad. Ramsdell points to Davis's veto of the railroad-subsidy as a merit. Overall, he cannot fault Davis for corruption; which is more than may be said, by anyone, for Davis's Radical parliament. As for Davis's police, the historian Eric Foner tells that it was largely involved in rooting out Klan incursions - Foner's a commie, but here he's right. Even there Davis appears to have enforced discipline upon his own police. If black troops raided your house in the 1870s, it was because Davis ordered them to. In 1865 and 1866 they would raid your house when they felt like it.
I am not a Southern partisan. Also, as a Moldbugger I don't mind a dose of despotism here and there. We just care if the cat catches mice - hell, the whole point of this exercise has been to explore how well Benjamin Hill's argument applies to Texas. In Latin America there have been several dictatorships. Some of them were awful. But they also have Trujillo, and Diaz, (controversially) Fujimori, and (the model) Pinochet. Davis must be judged on his merits. So we should let Stewart talk about promise and results (378f):
And then, "
Can we believe all this? These accounts look much like they have come from the Texas budget and census. What do DuBois, Foner, Loewen, Lemann, and Lane have to say about it all? I mean, other than that math is racist?
I find this "$4,237,730" debt in Ainsworth Rand Spofford, American almanac and treasury of facts (1888), 105; from a report of 31 August, 1887. The almanac's footnote:
As for immigration, I find in the "Texas" slave narratives that many of these (black) men and women had arrived in Texas after Governor Davis. Some might say that this just boosts (un)Reconstructed Texas over Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana at the time. But these negroes could've gone to, say, Detroit. They didn't.
Back to Davis, it seems almost as if the Governor was more interested in being seen to make a difference, and in rewarding his supporters; than in actually educating his citizens to the best of their ability, and in growing the economy at large.
But hey. The Redeemers are the bad guys.
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