Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

FW: Jewett on Rogers, _The One-Gallused Rebellion: Agrarianism in Alabama, 1865-1896_

Expand Messages
  • A.J. Wright
    fyi..reprint of 1970 ed...aj wright // ajwright@uab.edu ... From: H-Net Reviews [mailto:books@H-NET.MSU.EDU] Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2002 10:20 AM To:
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 30, 2002
    • 0 Attachment
      fyi..reprint of 1970 ed...aj wright // ajwright@...

      -----Original Message-----
      From: H-Net Reviews [mailto:books@...]
      Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2002 10:20 AM
      To: H-REVIEW@...
      Subject: Jewett on Rogers, _The One-Gallused Rebellion_

      Published by H-South@... (January, 2002)

      William Warren Rogers, Sr. _The One-Gallused Rebellion: Agrarianism
      in Alabama, 1865-1896_. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press,
      2001. 376 pp. Maps, illustrations, notes, bibliographical essay,
      and index. $24.95 (paper), ISBN 0-8173-1106-8.

      Reviewed for H-South by Clayton E Jewett <cejewett@...>,
      Department of History, Austin Community College

      The Failure of Political Democracy?

      One-Gallused refers to those dirt-poor southern farmers that
      generally owned only one pair of overalls, held up by two galluses.
      Over time, one of the galluses would wear out, leaving the farmer
      with one gallus to hold up his overalls. Thus, this is the story of
      the poor Alabama farmers, white and black, and their grass-roots
      rebellion that not only transformed their world, but also had a
      lasting impact on southern society and national politics.

      Originally published in 1970, _One-Gallused Rebellion_ is an
      unrevised paperback version with a new introduction by the author.
      Using primary material from newspapers, archival sources, and
      unpublished works, William Warren Rogers, Sr. examines in scrupulous
      detail the agrarian movement in Alabama, discussing the Grange, the
      Agricultural Wheel, the Farmers' Alliance, and the People's Party.
      Rogers argues that the agrarian movement in Alabama initially was a
      non-political revolt against economic oppression. It was only after
      failing to harvest lasting economic relief that the movement turned
      overtly political. It is this journey that Rogers so judiciously
      details. The primary thesis of this monograph, according to the
      author, is that the Alabama agrarian movement represented a
      statement and test of political democracy, especially considering
      the Populist call for free and fair elections. Thus, in his view,
      the Populist movement is both "universal and timeless" (p. xvii).

      Rogers begins the journey through agrarian discontent by aptly
      setting the stage with a discussion of the general economic woes.
      Beginning in the late 1860s, with the falling cotton prices and the
      exodus of black farmers to the cities, land problems emerged in
      Alabama. Many poor whites lost their land to larger landowners and
      many blacks failed to become landowners. Thus, land became
      concentrated in the hands of the few, and the one-gallused
      increasingly struggled to hold on to small tracts of land or drifted
      into share cropping. Not unique to Alabama, the crop lien system
      dominated the economy. Rogers reveals that large landowners desired
      to repeal the crop lien system, giving them greater control over
      labor. Merchants of course favored the law and surprisingly tenant
      farmers and sharecroppers favored the system because it insured them
      a means of obtaining necessary supplies. Rogers also discusses
      economic problems unique to the state, such as the scarcity of good
      fertilizers, the lack of agricultural information, and the theft of
      agricultural products. By thoroughly detailing the intricacies of
      the crop lien system and a myriad of other problems, the author
      reveals that the agrarian movement represented a class struggle that
      would shape the economic and political future of the state.

      Politically, however, Alabama was not like other post-Reconstruction
      southern states; a virtual one party system ruled by the bourbon
      Democrats did not take shape. Instead, party alignments appeared
      somewhat fluid and murky. Rogers though does an excellent job of
      clearing the water by detailing the oppositional roots to the
      Democratic Party. The first significant attempt at organizational
      opposition came in the birth of the Grange movement, a distinctly
      non-political organization throughout the South that appeared most
      prominent at the local levels. The Grange carried the specific goal
      of educating the farmers and providing social benefits. Poor
      farmers became aware on a larger scale of the economic difficulties
      in the state, and educated on improved farming methods, crop
      diversification, and wage labor.

      Nevertheless, the Grange failed to bring about lasting economic
      relief. Rogers attributes its failure to the lack of a distinct
      economic program (it blamed the merchant and retailing middlemen but
      offered no clear solution except going into business itself by
      establishing cooperatives that failed due to mismanagement and
      fraud), its concentration on fairs, and the fact that large
      landowners controlled the organization. The Grange in Alabama, he
      argues, while serving an important function, did not have a strong
      base of support. Nevertheless, the Grange was significant because
      for the first time educational and social benefits were offered to
      the poor farmers and they became cognizant of the large scale
      economic problems and potential solutions.

      The next stage in the process involved the formation of the Alabama
      State Agricultural Society in the early 1880s. It emerged about the
      time the Grange lost ground. Though its leaders were committed
      Democrats, the society was far from being political. It stressed
      scientific agriculture and education, generally focusing on the
      plight of poor white farmers. As the one-gallused clamored for
      political action, partly because the society never really
      represented the average farmer, they lost interest in the society
      and gravitated toward the Agricultural Wheel and Farmers' Alliance.
      Though the society also failed to exact lasting economic relief, its
      significance is found in elevating to prominence a new agrarian
      leader, Reuben F. Kolb, who the author describes as "the single most
      important figure in Alabama's agrarian revolution" (p. 100).

      By the late 1880s, the society gave way to the Agricultural Wheel
      and the Farmers' Alliance. Of the two, the Wheel appeared more
      class conscious, appealing to the small, oppressed farmers and
      railing against monopoly and oppression. It advocated co-operative
      stores and manufacturing. It challenged the railroads, the
      Interstate Commerce Commission and the state legislature for
      economic relief. In addition, the Wheel in Alabama was significant
      because it cut across party and racial lines. Unsuccessful in its
      attempts to remedy the economic woes of the small farmers, though,
      the Wheel merged with the Alliance in 1888. The Alliance had a
      broader appeal; it attracted not only the small farmers and
      sharecroppers, but also large farmers and ministers (especially
      Baptists). Though the Alliance also cut across racial lines, it
      remained weakest in the black belt. Unlike previous organizations,
      however, the failed economic ventures of the Alliance served only to
      strengthen the organization, which alarmed Democrats.

      The enduring strength of county based Alliances, which generally
      adopted the Ocala Platform and hinted at forming a third political
      party, frightened the Democrats. Redeemers viewed political
      opposition as a threat to white supremacy, and feared the emergence
      of "Negro rule" should whites in Alabama become divided between the
      parties. By 1892, the one-gallused masses threw down the gauntlet
      by advocating the formation of a third party. In Alabama, a
      significant step in this process came in the formation of the
      Jeffersonian Democrats, led by Kolb. This attempt at a third party
      did not achieve political success, due primarily to political
      corruption. In their attempt to maintain political control and
      white supremacy, bourbon Democrats resorted to unprecedented
      political fraud. Such methods included stealing ballot boxes,
      stuffing ballot boxes, controlling the black vote through
      intimidation, and blatantly changing the voting returns in several
      counties. Without a constitutional provision to contest elections at
      the state level, Kolb and other Populist politicians could do little
      but swallow defeat and remain determined.

      It is here in the state elections that Rogers is at his best by
      revealing the intricate political loyalties and the political game
      playing. While Jeffersonian Democrats and Populists were separate
      in name, both groups counted on the other for political support in
      specific counties. Rogers also does a superb job of revealing that
      in some areas of Alabama, the Jeffersonian Democrats fused with
      Republican factions to mount a legitimate threat to the bourbon
      Democrats. In addition, many disillusioned bourbon Democrats
      defected to the Jeffersonians or Populists. In this whole process,
      though, political ties were fragile at best; Jeffersonian Democrats,
      Populists, and Republicans all appeared apprehensive about fusion.
      However uneasy these ties might have been, Rogers makes clear that
      Democratic opponents were the victims of fraud and oppression,
      defeated by the corrupt bourbon machinery.

      By 1894, the Jeffersonian Democrats led by Kolb, and the Populists
      in Alabama merged to challenge the Democrats in state elections.
      This did not mean though the Populists were without their troubles.
      Fusion with Republicans alienated many white farmers, Kolb and other
      leaders remained divided on how to best deal with the black belt and
      the black vote, and many questioned accepting the support of free
      silver Democrats. At times, reveals Rogers, the agrarian movement
      seemed unsure of itself.

      Though the Populists mounted a strong campaign for free silver, and
      open and honest elections, again they were outdone by their
      oppressors in the 1896 state and national elections. Rogers reveals
      that the Democrats in Alabama stole Populist principles, nominated
      strong candidates, unfurled the banner of white supremacy, and stole
      black votes. In addition, the split Bryan ticket, and the defection
      of Kolb to support the Democrat's Bryan-Sewall ticket over the
      Populist's Bryan-Watson ticket, left the Alabama agrarian movement
      without a leader. Though in later years the Populists would
      continue to play a small role in Alabama politics, their defeat at
      the state and national level in 1896 signaled the downfall of the
      party and an end to the agrarian movement in Alabama. The
      one-gallused never again threatened the supremacy of the bourbon

      Rogers ends the monograph with a short summation of the enduring
      Populist influence: the income tax, the direct election of senators,
      women's suffrage, governmental regulation of the railroads and
      business, the subtreasury plan, and the resulting "political
      oblivion" for southern blacks (p. 333) We know that the majority of
      Populist goals were met during the Wilson and FDR administrations.
      Furthermore, examining the rhetoric of later political contests, we
      see that politicians continue to make at least a nod to the
      one-gallused masses. Given these results, the Populists do appear
      somewhat timeless. One can only smile and wonder, however, what
      Kolb and the Populists would have thought and done about the
      Kennedy, Nixon, and George W. Bush elections.

      While Rogers provides the most thorough account to date of the
      agrarian movement in Alabama, his analysis is straight out of the
      Progressive school of thought, and thus somewhat dated. In
      addition, we could learn more about the tactics used by the
      Populists to gain black votes, and about politics in the Alabama
      black communities. Nevertheless, this study is an excellent example
      to historians wishing to study the intricacies of political
      alignments and factors influencing state politics; a must read for
      every scholar interested in state politics, economics, and agrarian

      Copyright (c) 2002 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits
      the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit,
      educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the
      author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and
      H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For other uses
      contact the Reviews editorial staff: hbooks@mail.h-net.msu.edu.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.