West Virginia, the Mountain State

By Charles H. Ambler; Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

Chapter XXVIII
The Republican Regime 1897-1933

EXCEPT DURING BRIEF INTERVALS, West Virginia was controlled by the Republicans from 1897 to 1933. However, owing to the fact that Republican administrations shared places on administrative boards and commissions with the Democratic minority, much of the partisanship of the previous period was dissipated. More than previously political spoils were economic, having to do with the location of state institutions, franchises for internal improvements, road-building projects, and industrial programs involving capital and labor. Moreover, during this period the voting public remained predominantly rural but increasingly eager to attract non-resident capital for the development of the state's natural resources. So in one election after another the electorate endorsed Republican policies, particularly the protective tariff and state economy programs.

Nor was there a voice in the state, with the possible exception of organized labor, disposed or prepared to challenge this regime. As under previous Democratic rule, institutions of higher learning, notably the University, were lacking in both the interest and the means sufficient to support a program of research in the social sciences. For example, it was not until 1929 that a department of political science was established in the University, while history, economics, and sociology were limited largely to introductory courses. Consequently, the Progressive movement, which successfully sponsored liberal expenditures and social reforms in other states, was effectively sidetracked in West Virginia. The changing situation did, however, necessitate reforms in taxation and administration, but these were, with few exceptions, effected under the compulsion of necessity rather than the promptings of reform.

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