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Henry Watterson and the New South

Henry Watterson and the New South: The Politics of Empire, Free Trade, and Globalization

Daniel S. Margolies
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 352
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    Henry Watterson and the New South
    Book Description:

    Henry Watterson, editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal during the tumultuous decades between the Civil War and World War I, was one of the most influential and widely read journalists in American history. At the height of his fame in the early twentieth century, Watterson was so well known that his name and image were used to sell cigars and whiskey. A major player in American politics for more than fifty years, Watterson personally knew nearly every president from Andrew Jackson to Woodrow Wilson. Though he always refused to run, the renowned editor was frequently touted as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, the Kentucky governor's office, and even the White House. Shortly after his arrival in Louisville in 1868, Watterson merged competing interests and formed the Courier-Journal, quickly establishing it as the paper of record in Kentucky, a central promoter of economic development in the New South, and a prominent voice on the national political stage. An avowed Democrat in an era when newspapers were openly aligned with political parties, Watterson adopted a defiant independence within the Democratic Party and challenged the Democrats' consensus opinions as much as he reinforced them. In the first new study of Watterson's historical significance in more than fifty years, Daniel S. Margolies traces the development of Watterson's political and economic positions and his transformation from a strident Confederate newspaper editor into an admirer of Lincoln, a powerful voice of sectional reconciliation, and the nation's premier advocate of free trade. Henry Watterson and the New South provides the first study of Watterson's unique attempt to guide regional and national discussions of foreign affairs. Margolies details Watterson's quest to solve the sovereignty problems of the 1870s and to quell the economic and social upheavals of the 1890s through an expansive empire of free trade. Watterson's political and editorial contemporaries variously advocated free silverism, protectionism, and isolationism, but he rejected their narrow focus and maintained that the best way to improve the South's fortunes was to expand its economic activities to a truly global scale. Watterson's New Departure in foreign affairs was an often contradictory program of decentralized home rule and overseas imperialism, but he remained steadfast in his vision of a prosperous and independent South within an American economic empire of unfettered free trade. Watterson thus helped to bring about the eventual bipartisan embrace of globalization that came to define America's relationship with the rest of the world in the twentieth century. Margolies' groundbreaking analysis shows how Watterson's authoritative command of the nation's most divisive issues, his rhetorical zeal, and his willingness to stand against the tide of conventional wisdom made him a national icon.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7157-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)

    Colorful, quotable, outrageous, unpredictable, iconoclastic, and inconsistent, Henry Watterson was also fascinating, influential, important, and respected. As the New South editor of the widely readLouisville Courier-Journal, “Marse Henry” became a national symbol of the southern colonel defending party ideals within the state, region, and nation.

    No full and detailed explanation of Watterson’s ideas and significance has appeared for a half century, and Daniel S. Margolies provides a fresh and revealing new interpretation of a key southern and American leader. He stresses Watterson’s place in the emerging discussion of the nation’s role in international and imperial affairs and restores the...

  5. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. Introduction: A New Empire for the New South
    (pp. 1-16)

    Henry Watterson, or “Marse Henry,” as millions affectionately knew him, was the legendary editor of theLouisville Courier-Journaland a central voice of New South iconoclasm from the Civil War through the Great War. Enormously influential in southern political and journalistic circles, Watterson enjoyed a broad national constituency that elevated him to the highest circles of American life. He was as contradictory and complex as the era in which he lived. He embraced change, development, and growth, yet he came to fear modernity and the transformations it brought. Watterson stood as the nation’s premier advocate of free trade in a...

  7. 1 Toward the Star-Eyed Goddess
    (pp. 17-62)

    Henry Watterson’s political outlook was shaped at the center of power from the time of his birth, in 1840, to a wealthy and politically prominent Tennessee family. Despite having only four years of schooling, he matured quickly during his childhood in Washington DC and imbibed the politics of the late Jacksonian era directly at the source. “I was born in a party camp and grew to manhood on a political battlefield,” he wrote. “I have lived through stirring times and in the thick of events.”¹ His grandfather, William S. Watterson, had served under Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812...

  8. 2 Sound Money, Home Rule, and Free Trade
    (pp. 63-88)

    During the free silver contest of 1896, Henry Watterson addressed the most vexing of the political questions at the end of the century: how to reconcile development and growth with stability and order. The depression of the 1890s complicated these questions just as it sparked disorder, political radicalism, and violence across the country. Southerners and northerners alike wondered how to maintain a vibrant and expanding economic system without disrupting the established social order. As part of this decisive movement, Watterson argued that there was only one way to save the Democratic Party and the South from being swallowed by either...

  9. 3 Democracy Unterrified and Undefiled
    (pp. 89-116)

    When he returned to Kentucky at the end of 1896, Watterson had a variety of political goals focused on a single vision of attaining southern prosperity and independence through free trade. His short-term goals complemented this broader project. These goals included healing and reforming the national and state Democratic Party organizations after the silverite fiasco and reaffirming tariff reform as the party’s primary focus. Watterson also had to return theCourier-Journalto prosperity and lead the fight against the protectionist Dingley revision of the tariff. Most of all, he sought utter transformation of the Democracy’s outlook and goals in order...

  10. 4 The Idiosyncrasy of the Market
    (pp. 117-136)

    Before 1898, Henry Watterson believed strongly in isolation from political entanglement with foreign powers, although he embraced international commerce. His conversion to an expansionist program was unorthodox for a southern Democrat but a logical development in his lifelong struggle to establish southern home rule and to expand the global area of free trade. This shift in his thinking displayed his ability to dramatically alter his outlook as political conditions changed. Watterson abandoned his isolationist views only when he realized the advantages expansionism and globalization offered to the South, to the Democratic Party, and to the nation.

    Watterson’s isolationism drew from...

  11. 5 The New New Departure
    (pp. 137-176)

    If one reads Henry Watterson’s editorials on single subjects over a long enough period, excluding the relentless tariff writings, one observes the small contradictions in each eventually blossom into sweeping shifts in his political positions. On the critical issue of recognition of Cuban belligerency, this certainly was the case. In fact, the totality of Watterson’s change of position on Cuba was matched only by the reversal of his opposition to Hawaiian annexation. Both changes reflected his mutable responses to new political conditions, but more important, both revealed his evolving approach to America’s position in the world.

    As he sensed an...

  12. 6 War Has Its Compensations
    (pp. 177-202)

    As soon as it became clear that the Spanish-American War was going to change domestic politics as well as the international stance of the United States, Henry Watterson searched for “The Issue” that the Democrats had to seize to win the White House in 1900. As the war brought forward “new issues and new men,” Watterson called for disregarding all of the old issues in order to dominate these new ones. He sought a single overarching and unifying matter to serve as both the anchor for his party and a suitable foreign policy for the nation during the new century....

  13. 7 We Done Expanded
    (pp. 203-244)

    Henry Watterson desired an American empire, but only an empire of free trade. He lectured national audiences that territorial expansion into island colonies required the complementary extension of a free trade system.¹ Because he thought expansionism necessarily included the triumph of free trade and the opening of badly needed new markets, it also fulfilled his New Departure approach to southern political economy. He therefore admonished the South that only expansion could guarantee home rule, prosperity, stability, and racial peace. He directed the Democratic Party to support his expansionist program as the best means to unify and to win the presidential...

  14. Conclusion: The Compromises of Empire
    (pp. 245-262)

    In a 1901New York Tribunecartoon, “Miss Democracy of 1904” is seen unpacking a trunk of clothing sent to her by Henry Watterson with a note offering her a new “1904 outfit . . . [because] the old ones you have are ‘shopworn.’” Her new wardrobe prominently includes a hat of “expansion” and “progress.”¹ Watterson, of course, equated the two, and he never stopped trying to dress the Democratic Party according to his vision. He designated himself the prophet of expansion and progress and pressed hard for his party and the South to follow his lead. From the Civil...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 263-300)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 301-328)
  17. Index
    (pp. 329-340)