Arkansas Politics & Government: Do the People Rule?

By Diane D. Blair | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Some Socioeconomic, Cultural, and Political Explanations

If the plantation system engendered the habit of command, the Arkansas frontier encouraged the rejection of all authority and an every man for himself attitude.

Michael B. Dougan, Confederate Arkansas, 1982

One thing that they taught me was that politicians are the source of all disillusionment.

Shirley Abbott, Womenfolks, 1983


THE SOCIOECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT

When Arkansas was admitted to the Union in 1836, its territory consisted of 53,335 square miles, much of it densely forested, little of it easily accessible. On its eastern border, separated by the Mississippi River from Tennessee and Mississippi, lay a vast flood plain, almost impassable in the rainy season, its swamps a known breeding ground for malaria and other dread diseases. The Ozark Mountains straddled two-thirds of the state's northern border with Missouri, and its entire western border fronted on Indian Territory, legally closed to white migration and settlement. The southern border, coming up the Red and Ouachita rivers from Louisiana, was more easily penetrable, but these rivers were highly unpredictable, ranging from trickle to flood, and the Red River route was further complicated by a hundred-mile logjam known as the Great Raft. The most popular path into

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