The "New Departure"
MEN, MANNERS, AND EVENTS in the South during those two decades that lie between the restoration of home rule in the early 'seventies and the agrarian revolt of the' nineties have been strangely neglected by historians and men of letters generally. Perhaps it is because Reconstruction, which immediately preceded this period, and the Populist movement, which marked its close, have offered materials so rich in tragic and melodramatic appeal that the interlude has been poorly attended. Perhaps it is because the great circus of the Gilded Age at Washington completely out-shone it in competitive attraction. Be that as it may, the South also had its "Great Barbecue." True, it was somewhat delayed by an ungentlemanly squabble over who should play the host, and its conviviality was unhappily marred by a most un-Southern inhospitality in the matter of invitations, and by a few, a very few, haughty old patricians who contemptuously spurned the invitations and stayed at home to munch cold victuals. But the Barbecue went on.
Out of the almost unanimous silence on this epoch has grown much erroneous thinking about the South and Southern history, particularly about that era in which Watson and the Populists played an important part. To understand the significance of their rôle, one must at least be warned of the more prominent misapprehensions concerning the epoch out of which they arose, which, in fact, produced them.