Tom Watson, Agrarian Rebel

By C. Vann Woodward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
Henry Grady's Vision

AS THE CURTAIN was rung down on an old era, it had hitched on a quartet of aged figures taking belated curtain calls. Awkwardly they bowed off the stage, one by one: Herschel V. Johnson in 1880, Ben Hill in 1882, Stephens in 1883. General Toombs, confined to his bed and soon to follow them, continued to be heard from only as a discordant rumble off stage. As if to clear the stage drastically of old scenery, the old Kimball House burned to the ground on August 13, 1883, and that same year a new capitol was decreed. A new spirit quickly peopled the scene with new men.

One September morning in 1882 young Wilson was transported out of his lethargy by the sudden appearance at his office of a young man with the face of a poet and the breezy manner of a salesman--Walter Hines Page. They enthusiastically discovered themselves "interested in the same things, with much the same point of view." Both were "men of the New South, impatient with old slogans." Page assumed the rôle f prophet and mentor. He was touring the South for the New York World, which belonged to Jay Gould, and scattering glad tidings-the same tidings Grady broadcasted. A recent interview with Jefferson Davis had moved him to reflect that "Cotton mills and railroads are of more consequence . . . than constitutional questions irrevocably settled." He fascinated Wilson with his talk of Johns Hopkins, where the young lawyer was soon

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