Tom Watson, Agrarian Rebel

By C. Vann Woodward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
The Silver Panacea

HENRY DEMAREST LLOYD, like other advanced intellectual leaders of his day, hoped for great things from the Populist movement. He identified himself with it, fought for it passionately and courageously, and suffered at its collapse a despair that was more than the fret of disappointment. Aside from partisanship, however, he viewed his party as analytically and intelligently as he viewed the chaotic capitalism of his time. After a preliminary autopsy upon the defunct Populism, he wrote:

The free silver movement is a fake. Free silver is the cowbird of the reform movement. It waited until the nest had been built by the sacrifices and labors of others and then it laid its eggs in it, pushing out the others which lie smashed on the ground.1

Looking to Populism for genuine, fundamental reform along the lines of extensive government ownership and control, Lloyd deprecated the tendency of right-wing Populists to rely on "spinning-wheel and ox-team remedies" in a dynamo age. He hoped for the nomination of Eugene V. Debs in 1896. He knew that the rank-and-file majority of genuine Populists believed free silver was "only the most trifling installment of reform," or "no reform at all." It was in them, not in the leaders, he placed his faith. If there must be a split between free-silver right and anti-

____________________
1
Caro Lloyd, Henry Demarest Lloyd, Vol. I, p. 263.

-278-

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