Tom Watson, Agrarian Rebel

By C. Vann Woodward | Go to book overview

Preface

AFTER READING THIS BOOK in manuscript, a friend of mine, a man of excellent instincts and sympathies, offered what might have seemed a strange criticism, had I not known his predilections and half anticipated his reaction. "As I look back," he writes, "I feel a little unhappy over having come through those [latter] chapters with so kindly a feeling toward Watson." Believing that Watson, in some phases of his later life, became the embodiment of much that was detestable, my friend felt that his own better instincts had been betrayed into a false alignment of sympathies. Granting the damaging character of certain chapters, were they, after all, "sufficiently damning"? Were not the splendid battles of Watson's early days overshadowed in importance by his later career, and should he not therefore be blamed for certain aspects of Southern society that both my friend and I deplore and condemn? The criticism started an exchange of philosophies, historical and literary, that led to a result somewhat rare in such transactions--an agreement. Only after I had explained my position in some detail, however, was my friend willing to withdraw his criticism and agree with me. In view of this fact we decided that I had best anticipate similar questions among readers of like mind. Readers of another class deserve an explanation. I refer to those whose impressions of Watson were fixed by the last ten or fifteen years of his career. They will likely

-vii-

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