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BOOK REVIEWS181 From SZoue South to New South: Public Policy in Nineteenth-Century Georgh. By Peter Wallenstein. (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1987. Pp. xii, 284. $27.50.) In this imaginative work, Peter Wallenstein provides an excellent review of public policy and finance in nineteenth-century Georgia and raises a variety of provocative interpretive points. Dominant themes in the evolving role of Georgia's government included a constant resort to positive government action for the promotion of social and economic well being, a trend toward increased responsibilities for the state, and an ongoing search for a satisfactory means of financing those responsibilities. Georgia's antebellum policies were remarkably successful in promoting economic development and social welfare, a success dependent upon racist white unity, effective policies, the confiscation of Indian lands, and the wealth created by slavery. Initially, income derived from land cession and sales (1817-1821) and federal distribution (1835-1837) enabled the state to promote both transportation and education without increasing taxes. In addition, Georgia utilized its available riches to invest directly in railroads and banks in a search for non-taxed income as well as economic development, and by the 1850s a state-owned railroad was returning more income to the state than taxes. This allowed tax cuts as well as new contributions to elementary and higher education, an insane asylum, schools for the deaf and blind, and a penitentiary. Although slaveowners clearly dominated the state, Wallenstein finds that taxation, while not progressive, was low and reasonably equitable. The great bulk of tax income was paid by slaveowners and merchants, and the antebellum white population as a whole reaped substantial benefits from state expenditures on education, social welfare, and economic development . The Civil War demolished these benefits. During that war, the role of the state and the burden of taxes (especially on the rich) greatly increased to meet not only military needs but also the welfare needs of an impoverished and increasingly disaffected white population . It is one of Wallenstein's key points that it was not radical Reconstruction but the Civil War and Emancipation that constituted the shock and marked the turning point in nineteenth-century Georgia. It was not radical Republicans but the legislators of 1866 and the Redeemers who defined the essence of the state's response to emancipation, federal demands, and the impoverishment and disruption created by emancipation and war. Wallenstein may, however, pursue this very legitimate point so far as to underplay the related importance of the Reconstruction episode itself. In response to the war's aftermath, the legislature of 1866 incurred a large bonded debt, imposed burdensome taxes to service that debt, and initiated a reckless policy of state aid to railroads. Although the new 182CIVIL WAR HISTORY railroad policy sought economic development, it did not, as in the past, seek future state income through careful state investment. Instead it catered to private ambitions and was an invitation to a proliferation of careless projects. Both parties accepted that invitation, and while Republicans also expanded state commitments, it was only Democratic commitments that were honored at the state's expense. In respect to the postwar status of blacks, the author stresses the continuation of Georgia's heritage of social welfare, and its substantial capitulation to the realities of emancipation and federal demands, while minimizing the related impact of radical Republicanism in the state. In any event, postwar Georgia did assume responsibility for the welfare and education of its new black citizenry, within the admittedly severe restraints of racism and segregation. As the state assumed these expanded obligations, however, it could make little progress. The citizenry and state debt had doubled while the tax base had been cut to less than onethird of its former amount. Although taxes were dramatically increased, those taxes went primarily to service the debt. Furthermore, therelative tax burden declined in the former slave counties (where there no longer were slaves to tax), but increased in the heavily white counties at a time when social services were not satisfactorily expanding. The era was a most inauspicious time for Republicans to have made theirbid, although they did succeed in shifting some burdens from the benefits toward the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 181-182
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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