Leading historians of late- nineteenth-centuryGeorgia have expressed no doubts about its social policies, especially programs that took funds from the state treasury. They have characterized those policies as miserly and the progenitors of unfortunate twentieth-century patterns. In a general statement on the post-Reconstruction South C. Vann Woodward wrote of "the Redeemers' policy of retrenchment" that "Measured in terms of ignorance and suffering the results of the Redeemers' neglect of social responsibilities were grave." Focusing on Georgia in the Bourbon years 1872 through 1890, Judson C. Ward, Jr., echoed that assessment: "Perhaps the greatest condemnation of the advocates of the New Departure," Ward wrote in the 1950s, "is the heritage they left Georgia of . . . a weak, parsimonious government unwilling to support in adequate fashion the state's public services. Georgia suffers from this heritage to the present day." Yet the Bourbons themselves inherited whatever legacy of neglect that they passed on to the twentieth century.
Measured by mid- or late- twentieth-century standards, Georgia's state government may not have accomplished much in the 1880s; but it did much more, not less, than ever before regarding elementary schooling, higher education, and other social welfare functions. At several earlier times -- in 1817-21, 183537, and 1856-59 -- the state had assumed new responsibilities, and expenditures for social welfare soared. In the sweep of an entire century, from 1815 to 1915, the Bourbon period takes on a new look. Reconstruction fades as a watershed in state spending on education and welfare functions, and the years of the late 1880s take their place among those earlier times of growth in state responsibility and spending. Initiatives of the late 1880s launched the changes that are associated with the Progressive period.
In the decades before the Civil War, citizens of Georgia wanted such public services as elementary schooling. They wanted those services very much. Yet one thing they wanted even more was freedom from the taxes that might have