Tom Watson, Agrarian Rebel

By C. Vann Woodward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
Reform and Reaction

As HE CAMPAIGNED the South in the forlorn crusade of 1904, Watson was confronted in state after state with a revival of the Democratic dialectic of the 'nineties. It varied not at all. An editor in Houston, Texas, saw behind Populism "the ominous shadow of negro domination," and an editor in Augusta, Georgia, saw the same apparition and described it in exactly the same words. "The argument against the independent political movement in the South," wrote Watson in 1892, "may be boiled down to one word--nigger."1 If twelve years had worked no change upon his Nemesis, they had had their effect upon Tom Watson.

In Atlanta he threw before the Democrats a challenge and a promise. He was "not at all afraid of any negro domination in the South," and never had been. Furthermore, he believed that "the cry that we are in danger from 'the nigger' is the most hypocritical that unscrupulous leadership could invent." What could the Negro do? He had been disfranchised in nearly every state in the South except Georgia. There he had been "white primaried." If the Democrats were honest in their fears, why did they not write the principle of the white primary into the state constitution, as other states had done? He would tell them: "In Georgia they do not dare to disfranchise him [the Negro], because the men who control the democratic machine in Georgia

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1
P. P. P., Aug. 26, 1892.

-370-

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