Tom Watson, Agrarian Rebel

By C. Vann Woodward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
Année Terrible

THE TWELVE MONTHS THAT BEGAN in the middle of the year 1894 have been well named "the année terrible of American history between Reconstruction and the World War."1 As the national depression reached its nadir, a new record was attained in unemployment, in the intensity of organized labor's struggle for existence, in the brutality of capitalist repression of labor, and in the distress of the agricultural masses. When the paralysis the farming sections had suffered so long finally gripped the vitals of the industrial East, it called forth an expression of new radicalism which, joined to the older agrarian radicalism, formed a flood of discontent, protest, exposure, and some astute analysis of a corrupt capitalist economy.

If his library2 is any indication, Watson was an enthusiastic and constant reader, particularly of history, but also of current radical reform literature. He was plainly influenced by the novels of Bellamy, and by Henry Demarest Lloyd's superb exposure of the methods of the great capitalist barons of oil, meat, coal, sugar, and tobacco, Wealth Against Commonwealth, which appeared in 1894. In his own publications he reflected the new spirit, and revitalized his agrarian radicalism at the same time.

In June he began a long series of articles on "The RailroadQuestion."

____________________
1
Allan Nevins, Grover Cleveland, p. 649.
2
In the possession of Judge Uly O. Thompson, Miami, Florida.

-259-

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