IN OCTOBER 1892 J. HENDRIX MCLANE, SOUTH CAROLINA'S MOST SUCcessful proponent of interracial agrarian radicalism, left a People's Party rally exhilarated by "great speeches" and a "righteous movement." But McLane did not spend the rest of the night planning strategy with South Carolina's other Populist leaders. For one thing, he was not a Populist: a decade earlier, the biracial agrarian coalition that McLane had led against the state's Democratic Party had been destroyed before it won a single office, and by 1892 McLane identified himself as a reform Republican. For another, South Carolina Populists were as dejected as they were scarce. Although only a few weeks remained before the November elections, the state lacked even a slate of People's Party candidates; instead, the mantle of agrarian rebellion in South Carolina had been seized by Benjamin R. Tillman, a wealthy planter, terrorist, and anti-Populist Democrat. But more to the point, McLane had taken up a role common to southern dissidents--that of exile. After listening to other men's speeches at Tremont Temple that October night, McLane made his way home through the streets of Boston.(1)
Like other frustrated white radicals, McLane had been unable to contend with southern white men's "fear of Negro domination" and had given up on biracial political action.(2) Tillman's white supremacy had triumphed. But a close analysis of McLane's defeat and Tillman's ascendancy suggests that not simply race, but a racialized conception of manhood, shaped the fate of each man's efforts. Both Tillman and McLane, like their counterparts in other states, drew on their common experiences and expectations in appealing for political support. But while McLane and other radicals urged white men to think beyond their racial identity and build political coalitions on the basis of economic interest, Tillman used the history and language of white manhood to suggest that only white male producers were entitled to govern.
McLane and his white allies failed to rebut this presumption. They failed in part because of the brutal violence committed by Tillman and other white supremacist Democrats, but the radicals were not defeated by armed force alone. Time and again, as McLane and men like him urged other white men to join their biracial movement--and, later, as they sought explanations for their failure--they spoke the same language of white manhood that Tillman and others had been using against them, a language of citizenship, productivity, and self-assertion that drew its power from southern white men's historically rooted expectations of political, economic, and social primacy. Beginning in the 1880s Tillman forged a white supremacy movement that rested on the racialized notion of manhood as much as on the enforcement of racial hierarchy; his radical opponents, however, proved unable to imagine or articulate a vision of manhood that was not also defined and delimited by race. Understanding white manhood in terms strikingly similar to those used by their opponents, they could not persuasively rebut the charge that their efforts would put that precious legacy at risk.
For generations, political, economic, and social authority in the South had been the almost exclusive province of white men. Most slaveholding and non-slaveholding white men shared a system of law, custom, and metaphor: as the master of a small farm household--or of a vast "family, black and white"--a white man was an independent citizen, soldier, and voter; normatively, white women and children, and black men, women, and children existed only in various states of dependence on particular white men.(3) This was, of course, more an ideal than a uniform social reality. A significant minority of white men lacked economic independence and a political voice. Men of modest means had fought for decades to achieve even the nominal equality of citizenship and in some respects still remained politically disadvantaged. White men engaged in heated party, sectional, and personal conflicts rooted in differences of class, culture, and political outlook; however, real or rumored slave insurrections or abolitionist incursions united white men in defense of their shared power and authority. Although the coercion deployed during secession tested the limits of this solidarity, the mobilization of the Confederate armies marked the triumph of antebellum white malte cohesion.
Emancipation and postbellum poverty caused a social and economic crisis for white male authority, and Reconstruction legislation gave black men the right to vote and expanded women's rights of property and contract.(4) Some white men (especially in historically underrepresented upland and mountain regions) made coalitions of interest or expediency with black men in the Republican Party. But most white men were threatened, economically and psychologically, by black officeholding, black men's and women's claims to social respectability, and racial intermarriage. New roles, and new contexts for racial interaction, frightened and angered many white southerners.(5)
To suggest the existence of a "masculinity crisis" among southern white men during the postbellum years would be to give gender relations and identities a life separate and distinct from racial, economic, and political experience; it is perhaps more helpful to suggest that white men believed that their power as men and as whites had come under attack at the same time and by the same forces.(6) White men's sense that their losses were linked to black people's gains encouraged a renewed white male solidarity and underlay planters' success in rallying many white men to the Ku Klux Klan and the Democratic Party.(7) By rallying white men as white men, political and paramilitary insurgents overthrew Reconstruction governments throughout the South. In South Carolina, armed bands called "Red Shirts" evoked the martial solidarity of the insurrection scare, the militia muster, and the Civil War--physical displays of white male power against challenges to their authority. They threatened and murdered local black and white Republican leaders and made a mockery of the election of 1876, creating Democratic majorities out of stolen ballots and thin air.(8) The violent backlash, though led by planter-class men such as Ben Tillman, incorporated white men from all strata of society--including a young white farmer named Hendrix McLane--rallying in murderous defense of their worlds.(9) They dubbed their victory "Redemption."
But it was not long before some white men repudiated the backlash and sought to establish relationships of common economic and political interest with black men. These white radicals understood the need to pierce the slogans of white supremacy and expose its racial demagoguery, but they underestimated the power of the expectations that made white supremacist demagoguery effective. Agrarian radicals proudly declared themselves opposed to monopoly in all its forms; indeed, a true interracial alliance required southern white men to surrender their own monopoly on power. This placed white radicals at a political and rhetorical disadvantage: while enemies like Tillman unapologetically championed the racialized manhood that had conferred social authority in the slave South, proponents of biracial agrarianism seemed to be undermining the meaning of white manhood itself. White male privilege had already been threatened by Reconstruction and postbellum poverty; to call for a political and economic alliance with black men could more easily be presented as a surrender of polity and household--women, children, and all--than as the first step toward peace and prosperity.(10)
Furthermore, white men's shared history did more than complicate white southern radicals' efforts to recruit followers and to defend themselves from attack; that history also shaped and limited their critique of southern society. Populists (and proto-Populists like McLane) celebrated "the farmers," making invidious distinctions between men who were agricultural producers and those who were beholden to corporate, financial, and other nonproductive interests. But this ideal of producerist manhood, rooted in patriarchal slaveholding republicanism, did not encourage class-conscious or color-blind understandings of what made a man "a farmer." Linking virtue and interest to occupation obscured the differences between former planters--by the 1880s large landowning employers--and the hard-pressed white yeomanry; a wealthy man like Ben Tillman could claim the mantle of "farmer" as easily as could an impoverished tenant. This form of producerist manhood also implied racial distinctions. Indeed, Tillman took control of the Democratic Party in the name of "the farmers" while explicitly disavowing biracial politics of any sort and deriding black southerners as inferior.
In the end, the muddled meaning of "the farmers" bespoke a deeper contradiction within white radicals' efforts. They sought to include black men as producers and voters, but the dead weight of slavery, war, and Reconstruction shaped how they saw and described the world, reaffirming--even when they did not intend to do so--their racialized conceptions of manhood as self-assertion and citizenship. Radicals like McLane attacked white supremacy as an elite ploy and, simultaneously, likened their struggle to white men's participation in the Confederate Army and the overthrow of Reconstruction. By contrast, men such as Tillman were able to make full and extravagant use of the shared language and experience, hopes and fears, of most white southern men. To understand the languages with which these combatants opposed one another is not the whole story of Tillman's triumph and McLane's defeat, but the simultaneously raced and gendered rhetoric of the political combatants reveals the shared sense of privilege that all too few white men could bear to surrender and helps to explain the collapse of southern Populism. White male supremacy overwhelmed radical possibilities from within as well as without.(11)
Any study resting primarily on a single state is vulnerable to the charge of exceptionalism. The expansion of cotton and slavery during the early nineteenth century left South Carolina without the substantial upland "white belt" that sustained Unionist opposition (and later white Republicanism) elsewhere; this peculiarity, it is held, left the state's political leadership outside the second party system, deprived the planter class of a political counterweight, and led to secession in 1860.(12) But South Carolina was quickly joined by less "exceptional" neighbors, as the black-belt Secessionist leadership overwhelmed the bastions of dissidence in ten more states. Radical dissidents of the post-Reconstruction era, seeking: to create biracial coalitions, faced a comparable challenge. White men still controlled most of the land and most of the guns, and the fate of radical movements therefore depended in large measure on how white men interpreted their legacy, individually and collectively, and on how many of them could be induced to abandon the old common sense en route to a new commonwealth.(13) Such movements would be doomed to failure in statewide contests unless they could take hold in the black belt, where the radicals' struggle for white men's hearts, minds, and votes faced its most severe challenge. The struggle of South Carolina's radicals against white supremacy therefore provides a particularly clear view of the dynamics that were also at work (in somewhat lesser degrees) throughout the southern states. Tillman and his allies overmatched McLane decisively, and similar contests took place throughout the South during the 1880s and 1890s, with similar results. The dramatic failure of biracial agrarianism in South Carolina sheds light on the weakness--and the eventual failure--of similar movements throughout the late-nineteenth-century South.(14)
South Carolina's Redeemers showed little interest in helping farmers get out from under the crushing debt that typified the postbellum cotton economy.(15) The ruling Democrats could enact laws, but they could not resolve the state's political-economic crisis; indeed, such actions as they took sometimes sparked dramatic opposition from white as well as black men. The efforts of regional elites to require that stock owners fence in their animals met with strong opposition from the poor and landless, including vigilante fence-burning bands of "stock law Kuklux."(16) Stock laws helped drive many black South Carolinians out of the state in 1881 and 1882, but despite continuing Democratic intimidation, violence, and fraud by Red-shirt forces, numerous black Republicans voted in the elections of 1878 and 1880.(17) The legislature responded with restrictive new registration and residency laws and the creation of a single, gerrymandered "black district." These steps were designed, according to the Greenville News, to "keep the State in the hands of white men."(18) But the new election laws also bore heavily on poor white men. The new "8-box law" specified separate ballots and boxes for eight categories of offices and, in hostile hands, amounted to a humiliating literacy test of dissident white men. Little wonder, then, that between the elections of 1880 and 1882 the number of votes cast for the Democratic gubernatorial nominee plummeted from more than 117,000 to just 67,000.(19)
In early 1882 a Democratic editor in far-upcountry Oconee County acknowledged that the stock law, the election laws, and other policies such as appropriations for elite colleges might have given some white men cause to "believe and feel that the present government is no better than that of the Radicals...."(20) The editor's worry that non-elite whites might perceive the Democratic leadership as an alien regime serving hostile interests was not idle speculation: disgruntlement and disaffection were indeed growing among white Democrats. The previous autumn, a white Edgefield yeoman had written to his local weekly, contrasting "honest white men" with another type--the kind of white man who employed black agricultural labor--whom the writer dubbed "big Mr. Negro farmer" and whose dependence on black labor undermined his honesty and independence. Although he complained that poor black and white men conspired to steal and sell his seed cotton, according to the writer, he was afraid to prosecute thieves for fear of being unable to hire hands to work his fields. Comparing him to the black thieves he purportedly sheltered, the writer asked "What is the difference between the two?" While others ran their farms and businesses on their own labor and credit, "big Mr. Negro farmer"--with his inordinate needs for supplies and credit--was "always draining some provision store, always twirling and turning and screwing, trying to get out of paying some honest debt that he has contracted." He took unmanly advantage of the new laws regarding women's property: when called to account for an outstanding debt that he could not pay, he shielded resources in his wife's name, seeking shelter "behind his wife's petticoat." Rhetorically identified with black laborers, relying for protection on a white woman, incapable of managing his affairs without taking advantage of other white men, "big Mr. Negro farmer" lacked the honor of a real white man, an honest farmer, or a responsible citizen.(21)
This bitter correspondent spoke for white men struggling to retain the independence to which they felt entitled. It was only a matter of time before they mounted a serious challenge to a regime that sought their allegiance while offering them little in return. Throughout the South, similar tangles of class tensions strained white male solidarity along class lines and opened up space for independent challenges to Democratic rule. Despite the evident assumptions of white supremacy in such complaints, the real villains were white capitalists, men who did not act as men should. And for at least some of the men who shared these sentiments, fealty to the wealthy whites who were their traditional leaders came to seem more abhorrent than alliance with black workers.
In the early 1880s such alliances briefly flourished and occasionally succeeded, inspiring J. Hendrix McLane.(22) Too young to have fought in the Civil War, McLane had become active in Fairfield County Democratic politics in the 1870s and had supported the overthrow of Reconstruction in 1876. But he had quickly grown disenchanted with the Redeemer government. He believed that Republican Reconstruction rule had been a failure not because of black citizenship but because of official misconduct and a flawed financial system. In an 1879 manifesto entitled "Labor and Finance," which he delivered before his local Grange, McLane denounced the "money power" and called for greenback dollars and equitable taxation. By the next year, he had helped form a South Carolina chapter of the producerist and inflationist Greenback-Labor Party. Demanding free and fair elections and an end to racial and partisan discrimination, McLane sought the support of the state's black majority.(23)
In 1880 this party met with little success. But over the next two years, as the agricultural economy failed to improve, the stock law and election laws passed, and national Republicans threw their support to white independent candidates throughout the South, the Greenbackers' prospects brightened considerably.(24) Some white men clearly thought that Redemption had promised a future where white farmers could prosper, not just one in which they were white. Some, such as McLane, appeared willing to trade the "wages of whiteness" for a more tangible, less exclusive prosperity.(25) In mass meetings and conventions in 1882, Greenbackers denounced the stock law, the election law, and state expenditures that benefited only an elite few, such as appropriations for the state's colleges.(26) Most significant, however, was the growing cooperation with the state Republican leadership: though the two parties retained separate platforms, Greenback gubernatorial and congressional candidates received the state Republican party's endorsement.(27) Greenback clubs in various parts of the state included both white and black members. Even the Democratic leadership's foremost newspaper, the Charleston News and Courier, was forced to admit that "some good and intelligent men are joining the Greenback party...."(28)
Greenbackers argued that economic interest, not race, should guide men's political choices. They attacked "white supremacy" as a blind behind which Democrats passed "class legislation." As Greenback state chairman W. W. Russell put it shortly before the 1882 election, the Democrats' election law favored the literate and "intelligent classes" over the poor men of either race. "The prejudices that could deprive the colored man of his vote," Russell declared, "cover the contempt of the fortunate classes for those less favored."(29) McLane similarly accused elite Democrats of "foster[ing] prejudice between the two races" so as to be able to "run the state government for their own benefit to the injury of both the white and colored taxpayers of the state."(30)
But South Carolina's Populist moment faced daunting obstacles, for the Greenback-Republican fusion was a coalition of disaffection and expediency. Unlike Virginia's Readjusters, who rallied to protect an existing system of public education, South Carolina's Greenbackers and Republicans were united primarily by their dislike of Democratic policies and leaders.(31) Republicans and Greenbackers retained separate organizations and centers of power. And Greenback candidates included wealthy white men who had supported the Democrats' violent policies, joining the opposition only when their personal ambitions had been stymied. One, the infamous duelist Col. E. B. C. Cash, included the "persecution of the negroes by Lynch Law" and their "assassination for political opinion" in his litany of charges against the Democrats. But Cash also appeared to assume that his audience was composed of white employers of black labor; his bill of indictment against the Democratic leadership included "Running the negro out of the state & no substitute."(32) Like the Redeemer leaders who had once been his colleagues, Cash offered less an alliance of equals than a landowning employer's promise of paternalist protection.
Democratic spokesmen argued that their opponents' willingness to surrender the white male monopoly in politics undermined their status as white men. For generations, most white southern men had understood racial power as a zero-sum system in which either one race or the other would be in control; if black men sought political power--traditionally the exclusive province of white men--it followed that their goal was domination. South Carolina's black majority, and the large number of black men elected during Reconstruction, gave this regional dynamic even greater force. Democratic newspapers represented the biracial coalition as an effort to "Africanize the State."(33)
Democrats pushed their rhetoric even further, suggesting that Greenbackers' efforts would leave white women vulnerable to black men's sexual advances. Here, Democrats found a chord that resonated powerfully with South Carolina's history of white male authority and black subordination. If the racial order in politics were upset, they suggested, why should black men's aspirations take them through the doors of the courthouses and statehouses, but not white men's households. Such distinctions were illogical: it was, after all, white men's mastery over one exclusive province (their households) that made them fit for another (politics). Black men's movement into the traditionally white male sphere of politics could therefore, in a tortured telescoping, suggest designs on white men's wives and daughters. For some white men, this fearsome reversal of historic patterns of white men's sexual abuse of black women was freighted with personal or familial guilt; for others, it simply represented the utter failure of white men to protect their dependents from the people who represented social degradation. In either case, when white supremacists declared that political equality was "synonymous with social equality," they suggested that the Greenbackers were encouraging black men to fulfill sexual as well as political hopes. When they accused Greenbackers of being "political miscegenationists," they made the connection even more explicit.(34) This rhetoric was hardly unique to South Carolina: by 1883, accusations that Virginia's Readjusters placed white girls at the mercy of black teachers were instrumental in fragmenting the interracial coalition.(35) A movement like South Carolina's, lacking the Readjusters' record of political success and institution-building, was extremely vulnerable to such corrosive attacks.
Democrats marshaled real as well as rhetorical violence, turning the 1882 campaign into a bloody reprise of 1876.(36) After Cash held a biracial rally in Lancaster, at which he denounced the "persecution of negroes" and "assassination for political opinion," Red Shirts murdered four black participants.(37) On July 4, parties unknown (or at least unprosecuted) assassinated a leading white Greenbacker. Democrat rifle clubs arrived armed and mounted to disrupt Greenback rallies, and in September Red Shirts mobbed McLane, the Greenback gubernatorial nominee, treating him to [he kind of intimidation and near-death experience administered to white Republicans in 1876.(38)
Violence, intimidation, and fraud earned the Democrats a four-to-one victory over the Greenback-Republicans in 1882. McLane's totals reflected the fragmented and unstable basis of his radical challenge: he won only lowcountry Beaufort County, where a disciplined Republican machine gave him 80 percent of the vote; he earned about half that proportion in two other lowcountry counties. He did poorly throughout the piedmont, where white Democratic loyalty, intimidation, and fraud met little local resistance or quickly dispatched its opposition; not a single vote was counted in his column in upcountry Anderson County, suggesting the hazards of assuming that the official election results reflected a fair sampling of the actual or potential electorate.(39)
By 1884 the Greenback-Republican coalition had fractured and collapsed, but the issues that had threatened to split the Democrats in 1882 had not disappeared.(40) Indeed, in the absence of a credible opposition these issues took on renewed importance. As the primarily lowcountry leadership of the party proved unable to appease or appeal to these disaffected white men, Ben Tillman began to formulate a solution.(41) He understood that the Greenbackers' racial politics had made them vulnerable to Democratic terror; indeed, he had risen to the captaincy of his local rifle club during the campaign against the independents. But he had also learned that the Democratic triumph of 1882 had not addressed the economic grievances of poor white men any more than had the victory of 1876. The son of a wealthy planter family and the largest landowner in his Edgefield township, Tillman seemed an unlikely advocate for poor and disfranchised white men: in fact, he first entered post-Reconstruction political debate as a proponent of closing the range. But he claimed that a brush with financial disaster during the early 1880s led him to a political-economic epiphany.(42) In 1884 the rifle club leader and rising Democratic politician began a movement for "agricultural reform" that would seek to absorb and direct white men's discontent.(43)
The central trope in Tillman's campaign was his fight on behalf of "the farmers."(44) Tillman's definition of farmer excluded black men and all women; it evaded questions of class difference, flattening hierarchical relationships of class and social power into a white male consensus at the top of an organic social order. His oratory evoked a world where white male farmers dominated their society in the same way that they did their dependent households of wives, children, and laborers. In an agricultural commonwealth such as South Carolina, he argued, nonfarmers owed their livelihoods to the men who produced the society's real wealth. Townspeople, merchants, artisans, and lawyers were, at best, adjuncts to the agricultural economy; at worst, they were simply another species of dependent, with no legitimate claim to political authority.
As C. Vann Woodward has noted, "the word `farmer' is laden with ambiguities that have made it a convenient disguise for a variety of interests."(45) Although the great majority of South Carolina's white men participated directly in agriculture, the notion that this created an identity of interest among all South Carolinians would not have borne close scrutiny. "Farmer," like "white," was invoked in order to smooth over the conflicts that existed between small tenants and great landowners; it was, in effect, a slogan. And there were tensions in his rhetoric. In true Jeffersonian republican fashion, Tillman could not imagine civic virtue that did not rest on a foundation of economic autonomy; despite the relative (and often absolute) poverty of many white men, before the war and since, he recalled the antebellum era as time when "the land-owning farmers were the salt of the earth and called no man master."(46) But such tensions could be managed. Growing landlessness among white men did not mean that they were not entitled to rule; rather, their landlessness was the evidence that something was seriously amiss.
Tillman saw enemies everywhere in the post-Reconstruction world. In his view, the Republican-controlled federal government coveted authority over state and local affairs such as education and voting rights. Corporate capital deployed private armies against an increasingly helpless white work force; by means of bribery, it controlled state and federal legislatures, particularly (though not exclusively) through Republican politicians. Worst of all, merchants' demand for a marketable crop was coercive in the credit-starved southern economy, leading to too much cotton and, subsequently, too much debt. Tillman complained that farmers became trapped in a cycle of debt and dependence on merchant credit, until "like `the opium eater, [they could] not quit if they would." This was humiliating: farmers without capital were forced "to run to the merchants with their hats in their hands and ask, `Is the Lien Law opened yet?'," thereby slipping into "hopeless servitude" to their creditors.(47) Addiction was a bad fate for a white man; slavery was even worse.
The line between agricultural and merchant capital was not, of course, so neatly drawn: throughout the post-Reconstruction decades, planters were becoming merchants and merchants planters. But Tillman perpetuated increasingly archaic economic distinctions, differentiating between farmers who were also merchants like his factional opponent, state senator Lawrence W. Youmans, and "true" farmers like himself. Youmans's mercantile activity, Tillman suggested, made him a parasite on actual farmers: with his store, he could "make money whether it rains or not" and profit from cotton crops that he had not himself grown. "I had rather a thousand times go down with my brother farmers than fatten at their expense," Tillman declared. In one stroke, Tillman challenged a political enemy's socioeconomic identity, allied himself rhetorically with poor white men, and reinforced a definition of farmer that reduced Tillman's own substantial wealth to a relatively minor matter.(48)
Tillman also fit the politics of white male agricultural identity into the tradition of upcountry resentment of lowcountry political domination. The lowcountry men who had controlled the state government since 1876 had done nothing to bolster white farmers' independence, he claimed. The state's Reconstruction constitution apportioned legislative seats by total population; the vast black majorities of the lowcountry, whether effectively disfranchised or allied with local Democrats in "fusion" agreements, continued to underwrite the legislative dominance of the region's relatively small white population. By Tillman's reckoning, a legislator from Edgefield represented nine thousand people, where one from Charleston or Richland represented five or six thousand, "mostly negroes." "One white man in Spartanburg or Edgefield should certainly be equal to one negro in Charleston or Columbia," Tillman complained, transforming the apportionment debate from a sectional conflict among white men into a struggle between legitimate white male voters and black usurpers.(49)
The failings of the lowcountry leadership called both their whiteness and their masculinity into question. Tillman noted that many of these men had cooperated with Reconstruction Republicans and hesitated to support the movement to abandon fusion with Republicans in favor of an independent Democratic (or "Straightout") ticket in 1876.(50) On the coast, they continued to engage in fusion arrangements with black and white Republicans, splitting local offices in order to preserve local political and economic peace.(51) He implied that their white masculinity was undermined by accommodation and that the "Bourbons" and "fogies" of Columbia and the lowcountry had become an effete urban aristocracy.(52) Tillman charged that these feeble, arrogant men, "broken-down politicians and old superannuated Bourbon aristocrats, who are thoroughly incompetent ... boldly assume to govern us by divine right."(53) He also suggested that these men had grown negligent and even corrupt. Summoning up language usually reserved for descriptions of "Black Republican misrule," Tillman accused state officials of "ignorance, extravagance and laziness."(54) Lawyers, bankers, and professional politicians, they had become an anti-republican "ring" with "allies and minions in every county."(55) Like the Greenbackers before him, he compared the leadership's expenditures to "Radical" excesses and corruption.(56) In a direct attack on the manliness of the lowcountry leaders and their cherished institutions, Tillman dismissed The Citadel in Charleston as a "military dude factory" and suggested provocatively that this bastion of the manly arts would be more useful as a training school for white women.(57)
Tillman urged white farmers to emancipate themselves by drawing on their reservoir of masculine independence. "Dependence upon others to cure a disease of which they are ignorant is neither wise nor manly," Tillman warned. Farmers must "Organize! Organize! Organize!" or--in language that his audience would have found anything but abstract--"remain slaves."(58) Between 1885 and 1890, Tillman practiced what he preached, forming a quasi-political network of "Farmers' Association" clubs. His movement attracted many former Red Shirts and their sons; as a member of that counter-revolutionary army--and of the rifle clubs that were its direct descendants--Tillman could credibly claim to represent white supremacist reform on behalf of white farmers.(59)
As he set about organizing his movement, Tillman had an apparently unlikely admirer--Hendrix McLane. In an 1886 speech to his stalwarts at the Feasterville Grange, McLane endorsed Tillman as a worthy successor in fighting the Redeemer "Bourbons." "The members of this Grange since 1878 have been where Mr. B. R. Tillman of Edgefield now stands," McLane declared, "he is aiming for the same port for which years ago you set sail." McLane understood that "honest farmers" could not by themselves bring about true reform--not because of class differences among "the farmers," but because Bourbon institutions would stymie and corrupt unwary officeholders. In his sympathy with Tillman's rhetoric, he had been duped by the political sleight-of-hand in which Tillman, a wealthy landowner, claimed to represent the interests of impoverished white men. McLane also endorsed what had become the normative white supremacist view of Reconstruction as a struggle between "the farmers and other honest tax-payers" and "the rule of the `stranger,"' abetted by "bourbo-lawyer" elements who only claimed the name Democrat. He held up the bloody campaign of 1876 as a model for a new farmers' liberation movement. Four years after his coalition had gone down to electoral defeat, McLane spoke the Tillmanite vernacular of Redemption, challenging neither its violence and fraud nor its implications of racialized manhood and its elision of class distinctions among white farmers.(60) McLane's allies and relatives sympathetically compared Tillman's speeches and McLane's, suggesting that many former Greenbackers were giving Tillman a long, hard look.(61)
Tillman became a fixture in state political life, calling for the reorganization of the department of agriculture and the establishment of an agricultural college for white men. Though his movement initially failed to break the hold of the Democratic Party leadership, it was re-energized in 1888--first by the success of long-laid plans to secure a private bequest for an agricultural college and shortly thereafter by the arrival of the Farmers' Alliance in South Carolina.(62) The Farmers' Alliance looked toward a world of manly, independent producers, cooperating for mutual benefit--a world without corporate monopolies and unproductive middlemen. As the Alliance spread north and east from its origins in Texas, agricultural progressives and debt-troubled farmers organized to market farmers' products and purchase supplies cooperatively.(63) Through local sub-alliances, members rallied behind regional and national antimonopoly activities; though technically a nonpolitical organization, the Alliance for a time dominated reform politics in many southern, plains, and mountain states.(64) It was a segregated movement, and black Alliancemen had their own organization, the Colored Farmers' Alliance.
The South Carolina Farmers Alliance grew explosively between 1886 and the early 1890s, but Tillman had shaped the political and social field in which the state's Alliance operated. Many Tillman stalwarts became prominent Alliance leaders, and Tillman finally joined the organization in 1889.(65) As this suggested, the Alliance much more closely resembled the Democratic Party than it did a radical alternative. In local Democratic party clubs (with which sub-alliances frequently overlapped), leadership tended to fall to men who were relatively wealthy, well-connected, and politically skilled, and the same was true of sub-alliances; in short, although 30 percent of South Carolina Alliancemen were landless, the leadership was dominated by the well-to-do.(66) It remained unclear what the political consequences would be when the interests of wealthy and impoverished Alliancemen diverged.
As former Greenbackers flocked to the Alliance, and as black farmers joined the state's Colored Farmers' Alliance, some Democrats accused Tillman of disloyalty to white unity, and even of seeking to mobilize both white and black Alliances in a biracial independent movement.(67) These suspicions abounded in 1890 as Tillman and his lieutenants organized to solidify their support among Alliancemen, preempt the Democratic nominating process, and gain control of the state Democratic Party.(68) Conservatives blamed Tillman for raising political hopes and causing Republicans to register black voters; they also pointed to the former Greenbackers now attempting to lead the state's Republican Party. McLane moved back and forth between Massachusetts and South Carolina, attempting with northern financial backing to establish a "reform" Republican newspaper in South Carolina.(69) W. W. Russell, a Greenbacker-turned-Republican, boasted that he would help elect Tillman; Russell had apparently attended a farmer's movement convention, and the Conservative press thought that Russell and Tillman would make natural allies.(70)
Whatever Democrats feared or black Alliancemen hoped, Tillman remained committed to white male supremacy. For him, Redemption remained the ultimate good and Reconstruction the ultimate evil. He denounced the Lodge Elections Bill as an attempt "to Reconstruct us.... to make the pyramid stand on its apex and give us back again the negro as a ruler," and he promised not to bolt the Democratic Party if he lost the party's gubernatorial nomination.(71) His challenge to the party leadership was not an attempt to destroy Redemption, he said, but to save it from the "aristocratic oligarchy" that had long dominated the state. Implicitly questioning the authenticity of his opponents' white manhood, he called "for the common people who redeemed the State from Radical rule to take charge of it ... [a]s real Democrats and white men ... inside the Democratic party." White supremacy could apparently distinguish not only between white and black, but between "real" whites and those--merchant-farmers and Bourbon aristocrats--whose partisan and racial identities were only cosmetic.(72) Tillman's own commitment to martial, violent white supremacy was rarely in doubt. He boasted openly of his deeds: "I have a little record of 1876, and I know something about ... riots, and have had a little to do with managing elections."(73) Eugene Gary, Tillman's running mate in the 1890 campaign, spoke frequently about the need to protect white women from the sexual threat allegedly posed by black men. Gary advocated the segregation of railroad cars, demanding to know "[w]hat white man wants his wife or sister sandwiched between a big bully buck and a saucy wench." Tillman's white opponents even worded about being outflanked as proponents of this protective, manly white supremacy: a white anti-Tillman audience in Columbia responded to Gary's speech by shouting, "Come off that Tillman ticket.... You ought to be with us."(74)
Despite Tillman's history and Gary's rhetoric, black Alliancemen engaged in heated debate over the proper stance toward Tillman's campaign. One orator responded to Gary's attacks with his own statement of patriarchal authority and protection of black womanhood, declaring that "if his wife was ever subjected to any indignity on the train he would kill the man that attempted it."(75) Others thought that Tillman's movement would ultimately benefit both black and white farmers and that sooner or later the schism within the Democratic Party would make black votes "a factor." The black Alliance's state convention, however, refused to support either Democratic faction.(76) And Tillman did not encourage potential black supporters.(77)
Neither did the South Carolina Farmers' Alliance. Conservative fears of a black-white alliance to the contrary, the relationship between white men and black men in the Alliance movement were poisoned by class differences and racial violence, which re-inscribed expectations of white male authority and black subordination far more than they challenged them.(78) Both Alliances had many members who were clinging to self-sufficiency and economic independence, but this represented very different things for black and white farmers. Most white Alliancemen owned their own land; few black Alliancemen could say the same.(79) Likewise, few white Alliancemen worked for the wages or the shares that were the lot of many--perhaps most--black Alliancemen. This economic gap separating black and white South Carolinians created different, sometimes thoroughly incompatible, needs and goals.(80) In particular, the significant fraction of white Alliancemen who were not only landowners but also employers regarded the Colored Alliance with deep suspicion. Although both black and white Alliances stressed cooperative economics, black Alliancemen also called for higher wages and lower rents, demands that set them in direct confrontation with many of their white Alliance "brethren," who were also their employers. Black Alliancemen who boycotted landowners who enforced stock laws and threatened black laborers who worked for such owners were arrested. In Edgefield, the white Democratic newspaper claimed that a black Alliance was planning to strike for higher wages and lower rents.(81) Real, imagined, or fabricated, such reports of grassroots organization for economic betterment could antagonize white men whose economic aspirations required subordinating both middlemen and laborers. When confronted with such organization, employers responded with force: In 1891, after the Colored Alliance tried to call a national strike by cotton-pickers for higher wages, a massacre of Arkansas strikers effectively destroyed the organization.(82)
Lacking evidence to show that Tillman sought a biracial coalition, his Democratic enemies tried to establish that, as a champion of the downtrodden white farmer, Tillman was a fraud.(83) Tillman, they said, portrayed himself "as a clodhopper--the poor farmer boy, and the one-gallused boy," but "this is only when he is seeking to get the farmers' vote."(84) And indeed, though his unpretentious and frequently profane style provided a clear contrast with the aristocratic Democratic leadership, Tillman was by any standard a wealthy man. But his opponents' dismissive descriptions of ordinary whites may well have backfired, undercutting their more telling attacks on Tillman's conduct as a planter. They alleged that Tillman's hostility to the lien law indicated a desire to "reduce the tenants, the renters and others who are unable to procure supplies except by liens to the level of hired hands for wages."(85) A Conservative former legislator claimed that during the mid-1880s Tillman had asked him to help repeal the lien law. When he had refused on the grounds that it would deprive his poor white constituents of the money they needed to raise crops, Tillman had replied, "Well, put them to work for wages, and you can control them."(86) Here was a Ben Tillman who was conscious of his own class interest and dismissive of poor white men's entitlement to economic independence. However, these attacks--used against Tillman by men widely perceived as arrogant elitists--may have carried less weight than they merited.(87)
After Tillman won the Democratic nomination for governor, some lowcountry and urban elites bolted the party and appealed to black voters for support.(88) This was a squarely reactionary move, promising not equality or reform but paternalist protection. And some of those white men who made it inadvertently highlighted the difference between Tillman's rhetoric of white male equality and their own naked expectation of class privilege. "[I]t seems to me," wrote one, that "a good, honest negro ... would be better for Governor than a white Black Guard and his ignorant & malicious followers; who are not farmers but rowdies."(89) Expedient "fusion" arrangements between Democrats and Republicans had been tolerated in the heavily black lowcountry, but it required deliberate ignorance of the previous decade's events--or a deeply contrarian spirit--to believe that many whites would support this Conservative-led biracial coalition.(90) Even A. C. Haskell, the leader of the bolters and their nominee for governor, acknowledged that he would be charged with "folly or madness."(91) One prominent Democrat, disavowing rumors that he had endorsed Haskell, implied that those who appealed to black voters invited retaliation by the Red Shirts: "such men," he declared, "are not to be dealt with by an appeal to the ballot-box or by arguments."(92)
When Haskell won majorities only in two heavily black lowcountry counties, delighted white Democratic voters placed the bolters in the same category as previous enemies of white supremacy and "the farmers."(93) As one Democrat put it after the election, "I did not put on very largely of Tillmanism, until Haskellism took the field ... I have never sucked the radical [Republican] paps, nor gloated on Greenback hopes, nor endorsed Haskellism (nor Independantism) [sic] and I never will do either because I am a Democrat."(94) Some Democrats, feeling the Haskellites had forfeited their racial status, even derided them as "white negroes."(95) Redemption itself had been redeemed from unworthy custodians and placed in the hands of the state's real white men.
Because Ben Tillman became governor of South Carolina with Alliance support and claimed to speak for "the farmers" against merchants, lawyers, and corporations, he was often mistaken for a Populist. Local as well as national observers counted his victory in 1890 as an Alliance victory, and many Alliancemen expected him to support the new third party.(96) But if Populism meant establishing a third party, encouraging economic change through federal intervention, and forming interracial political alliances toward those ends, Tillman was no sort of Populist at all. By these standards, South Carolina's Populists had been the Greenback-Republicans of a decade earlier. Tillman was not opposed to gross inequality of wealth and power; he was, after all, a planter. Though the nature of planter wealth had changed, the imperatives of leadership from that position had not: Tillman sought to persuade white agricultural men of all classes that anything that threatened his particular form of wealth and power also threatened theirs. He sought to portray the war against the "money power" as a sequel to Secession and Redemption, as the latest uprising of independent white men against federal tyranny and African American equality. To see either of those implacable foes as potential allies was, for Tillman, a dangerous delusion.
Tillman therefore rejected the Populists' key proposal to transform the agricultural economy, the sub-treasury. This was to be a network of government-owned warehouses in which farmers could deposit their crops and receive loans of 80 percent of their crops' market value.(97) The sub-treasury's producerism appeared to harmonize with Tillman's, but he argued that the sub-treasury, like the proposed nationalization of the railroads, would "concentrate the business of the people in the hands of a centralized power at Washington."(98) Moreover, the subtreasury would create "an army of political hirelings," guaranteeing "the perpetuation in power of the party by which it was established"--in the early 1890s, the Republicans.(99) For once, Tillman and his conservative opponents openly agreed: at a stump meeting in Tillman's home county, white farmers were warned that "a mulatto would probably govern your sub-treasury here," linking the proposed institution to Reconstruction-era black male officeholding--that is, to "Negro Domination."(100)
But the majority of the state's active white Alliancemen were not convinced. National Alliance Lecturer Ben Terrell bested Tillman in a debate before Alliancemen. The state Alliance convention rebuked Tillman and endorsed the sub-treasury; Populist state and national periodicals accused Tillman of seeking the Alliance's "destruction."(101) Such rebukes and accusations frightened Tillman first into tactical passivity, then finally into a belated acceptance of the sub-treasury--a reversal celebrated by white Alliancemen who considered Tillman to be their representative.(102) But having made this tactical concession, Tillman sought to ensure that the dissatisfied members of his party would not lead a third-party bolt against Grover Cleveland, the hard-money Democratic candidate in the 1892 presidential campaign.(103) Tillman picked up the banner of "free silver" and used it to triangulate between more ambitious Populist proposals and Cleveland's conservative insistence on the gold standard.(104) Attacking the "goldbug" in the same way he had attacked "aristocratic oligarchs," Tillman led the delegates to vote almost unanimously against the party's presidential nominee, but he kept them from bolting the convention.(105)
Biracial Populism's pursuit of white men's hearts and minds proved to be a frustrating chase over badly broken ground. At an open meeting of an Abbeville sub-alliance, Patrick Henry Adams, a white South Carolina Allianceman, called for a united front of "Tillmanite or Anti Tillmanite, ... Democratic, or Republican, or Third-Partyite, ... White or Colored" in the war against the "money power." But despite his appeal for support across the color line, Adams unwittingly expressed the white supremacy that had been enforced and reinforced throughout his adult life. In his analysis, the poverty of southern tanners had begun when "the negro was set free," an act that "stripped the South of a large, perhaps the largest part of its property." It did not occur to Adams that a majority of South Carolina's agricultural workers--"Colored," but in his own words no less thereby a part of "the body politic"--might regard emancipation rather differently. Likewise, Adams urged his audience to resist the efforts of the "Northern capitalist ... to crush us to death." To give up that struggle would not "comport well with Southern manhood and Southern heroism." In the sectional context of his remarks, these final phrases could suggest only arms-bearing white men; they would not have been understood to include black men, whose sectional "heroism" had almost universally been exhibited while wearing uniforms of northern blue. Black manhood, far from being understood as "southern" or "heroic," by the early 1890s appeared in white public discourse primarily in the form of the black rapist, the antithesis of white manhood and the enemy of white womanhood. Adams did not make these connections and accusations--his speech was astonishingly free of intentional racial antagonism--but when he sought a language of manly resistance adequate to the coming fight, he could find only the idiom of white manhood common to slaveholding, secession, war, and Redemption. The possibility of a race-neutral language of manhood and citizenship had been undermined and finally destroyed during the 1870s and 1880s. What remained was the language of "the farmers," a language common to Democrats and Populists, a language that implied whiteness and masculinity even when it laid claim to universality, a language that made real discussion of class divisions among white farmers next to impossible.(106)
Thus Populism met its fate in South Carolina and throughout the region. Among its peers in the former Confederate states, South Carolina's party was alone in being tardy in selecting representatives to the National Committee of the People's Party.(107) Less than six weeks before the 1892 general election, a Tillmanite official crowed that "while the Third Party is being pushed forward in several states, in South Carolina it has no foothold at all."(108) The Alliance newspaper's editor finally announced a third-party ticket just two weeks before the November election.(109) At the polls nationwide, the Populists' ticket won over a million votes but nc southern electors. South Carolina was one of a few southern states where Populism was reduced to insignificance: its nominee garnered barely 2,400 votes and was trounced not only by the Democratic victor but also by the Republican candidate.(110)
"You cannot divide without bringing ruin," Tillman had told audiences of white men, and divide they did not--at least not in the casting and counting of ballots.(111) After living with slavery, secession, war, Reconstruction, and paramilitary terror, few white men could articulate a critique of the social order that was not vulnerable to co-optation by the state's reigning agrarian rebel, a man who successfully cast the Populists as the latest incarnation of "radical misrule," "Bourbon" incompetence, and "Negro domination." Southern radicals may have understood Tillman to be a "transparent charlatan," as Lawrence Goodwyn argues, but many of the men whom those radicals sought as constituents did not agree.(112) Tillman was able to pass himself off as an authentic representative of white farmers because he understood their shared experiences and expectations.
By the election of 1892, Tillman's success had persuaded even J. Hendrix McLane that the fight could not be won. For more than a decade, with indisputable courage, McLane fought against Democratic violence, fraud, and intimidation; as late as the spring of 1892 he asserted his right to speak publicly as a dissident in his native state.(113) He knew that a self-respecting man seeking the respect and votes of his fellow citizens could do no less. But McLane came to a disheartening conclusion: although upholding the right of black men to vote and to hold public office was essential in forming a biracial agrarian coalition, attempting to guarantee those rights would backfire politically. Federal legislative efforts to protect black voting rights sustained "the fear of Negro domination" among southern whites and "help[ed] to make the South more surely solid." Though McLane did not make the sharp turn into violent racial hatred like Ben Tillman or (later) Tom Watson, he confessed his inability to compete with--or indeed, to understand--this fear of "Negro domination." His vision of the "political emancipation of both races" would have to wait, he thought, until southern whites developed "more kindly" feelings and "the Negro was at peace with his white neighbor."(114) Unable to fathom the forces that had beaten him, McLane gave up. He died in 1894, a few months before Ben Tillman began the first of his four terms in the U. S. Senate.
The surviving language of white men's discontent belonged to white supremacists like Tillman, for whom protest consisted not of grassroots mobilization but of symbolic politics. He claimed that the disfranchisement of black voters would allow whites to disagree politically without endangering white supremacy; but meaningful political participation was limited to the Democratic primary, and local coteries of white men continued to dominate state politics. They did not prevent women from gaining the right to vote, though they tried, but they did establish the law of Jim Crow. The grinding poverty of the next half-century demonstrated that as long as black and white workers could be set against one another in the region's mills and mines, both groups were vulnerable to exploitation. In the segregated realms of politics and work, as well as in the murderous white male solidarity of the lynch mob, white men continued to enact the vision of white manhood promoted by Ben Tillman and his successors. That vision worked powerfully in the resistance to and backlash against the civil rights revolution, and it still works wherever Americans continue to shore up the battered foundations of white supremacy--wherever dissent is met with violence, wherever white men are the only first-class citizens, wherever "populism" signifies little more than cranky discontent inflected with white supremacy.(115) Until Ben Tillman's white supremacist victory is understood as the triumph of a particular vision of white manhood, the latter-day foes of that vision will continue to meet the same fate as Hendrix McLane, and the common memory of Populism will remain as impoverished as the practice of democracy.
(1) Diary, October 13, 1892, and Essay by "Pacific" [ca. 1892], John Augustus Hendrix McLane Papers (Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, New Haven, Conn.).
(2) Essay by "Pacific," McLane Papers.
(3) The literature exploring the limits of democracy, independence, and social solidarity among southern white men has long been concerned[ with questions of slaveholding and economic and political power. Three critical works on this topic are Eugene D. Genovese, "Yeoman Farmers in a Slaveholders' Democracy," Agricultural History, LXIX (April 1975), 331-42; Steven Hahn, The Roots of Southern Populism: Yeoman Farmers and the Transformation of the Georgia Upcountry, 1850-1890 (New York and Oxford, 1983); and Lacy K. Ford Jr., Origins of Southern Radicalism: The South Carolina Upcountry, 1800-1860 (New York and Oxford, 1988). Stephanie McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, and the Political Culture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country (New York and Oxford, 1995), builds on and transforms this historiography by making gender central to her analysis of antebellum political life and the secession crisis. See Eugene D. Genovese, "`Our Family, White and Black': Family and Household in the Southern Slaveholders' World View," in Carol Bleser, ed., In Joy and in Sorrow: Women, Family, and Marriage in the Victorian South, 1830-1900 (New York, 1991), 69-87.
(4) Suzanne D. Lebsock, "Radical Reconstruction and the Property Rights of Southern Women," Journal of Southern History, XLIII (May 1977), 195-216; and Peter W. Bardaglio, Reconstructing the Household: Families, Sex, and the Law in the Nineteenth-Century South (Chapel Hill and London, 1995), 134-36.
(5) See Jane Dailey, "Deference and Violence in the Postbellum Urban South: Manners and Massacres in Danville, Virginia," Journal of Southern History, LXIII (August 1997), 553-90.
(6) On "crisis" interpretations see Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (Chicago and London, 1995), especially page 11.
(7) Allen W. Trelease, White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction (Baton Rouge and London, 1971); J. C. A. Stagg, "The Problem of Klan Violence: The South Carolina Up-Country, 1868-1871," Journal of American Studies, VIII (December 1974), 303-18; Herbert Shapiro, "The Ku Klux Klan During Reconstruction: The South Carolina Episode," Journal of Negro History, LXIX (January 1964), 34-55; and Richard Zuczek, State of Rebellion: Reconstruction in South Carolina (Columbia, S.C., 1996), 55-134.
(8) On electoral violence and fraud see Senate Miscellaneous Documents, 44 Cong., 2 Sess., No. 48: Testimony as to the Denial of the Elective Franchise of South Carolina at the Elections of 1875 and 1876 ... (3 vols.; Serial 1729, Washington, 1877); Tillman, "My Childhood Days," typescript, Benjamin Ryan Tillman Papers (South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia); and Tillman, Struggles of 1876, How South Carolina was Delivered from Carpet-bag and Negro Rule. Speech at the Red-Shirt Reunion at Anderson ... (n.p., n.d ).
(9) Typescript of article, n.d. , from Boston Herald, McLane Papers. For a persuasive interpretation of Redemption in South Carolina as a paramilitary campaign led by ex-Confederate officers see Zuczek, State of Rebellion.
(10) Surprisingly few analyses of southern agrarianism have paid attention to questions of gender. See Julie Roy Jeffrey, "Women in the Southern Farmers' Alliance: A Reconsideration of the Role and Status of Women in the Late Nineteenth-Century South," Feminist Studies, III (Fall 1975), 72-91; and Marion K. Barthelme, ed., Women in the Texas Populist Movement: Letters to the Southern Mercury (College Station, Texas, 1997). For an investigation of ideologies of gender in white-supremacist agrarianism see LeeAnn Whites, "Rebecca Latimer Felton and the Wife's Farm: The Class and Racial Politics of Gender Reform," Georgia Historical Quarterly, LXXVI (Summer 1992), 354-72. Of related interest is Nancy MacLean, "The Leo Frank Case Reconsidered: Gender and Sexual Politics in the Making of Reactionary Populism," Journal of American History, LXXVIII (December 1991), 917-48.
(11) As one historian notes, "None of the Southern Populists escaped their history." Bruce Palmer, "Man over Money": The Southern Populist Critique of American Capitalism (Chapel Hill, 1980), 50. For the historiographical debate over the nature and limits of biracial agrarianism in the late-nineteenth-century South see C. Vann Woodward, Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel (New York, 1938) and Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913 ([Baton Rouge], 1951); also those skeptical of Woodward's interpretation, including Charles Crowe, "Tom Watson, Populists, and Blacks Reconsidered," Journal of Negro History, LV (April 1970), 99-116, and Barton C. Shaw, The Wool-Hat Boys: Georgia's Populist Party (Baton Rouge and London, 1984). For other perspectives, focused on Texan rather than Georgian experiences, see Lawrence Goodwyn, "Populist Dreams and Negro Rights: East Texas as a Case Study," American Historical Review, LXXVI (December 1971), 1435-56; and Gregg Cantrell, Kenneth and John B. Rayner and the Limits of Southern Dissent (Urbana and Chicago, 1993).
(12) Discussion of South Carolina's peculiarities can lead the unwary to imagine that some other (always unnamed) southern state experienced a "typical" or "normal" history. See James M. Banner Jr., "The Problem of South Carolina" in Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, eds., The Hofstadter Aegis: A Memorial (New York, 1974), 60-93. For an insightful discussion of the "problem" literature see Ford, Origins, Chap. 3. See also McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, especially pages 239-304.
(13) Shawn Everett Kantor and J. Morgan Kousser, "Common Sense or Commonwealth? The Fence Law and Institutional Change in the Postbellum South," Journal of Southern History, LIX (May 1993), 201-42; Steven Hahn, "A Response: Common Cents or Historical Sense?" ibid., 243-58; and Kantor and Kousser, "A Rejoinder: Two Visions of History," ibid., 259-66.
(14) My purpose here is not to hold white southern radical agrarians or their analyses up to an arbitrary and ahistorical standard of perfection, but rather to show how the circumstances and contexts of their struggle--particularly their shared history as white men--rendered them vulnerable to violent coercion and rhetorical co-optation by white supremacist Democrats. That they required such energetic co-optation is testament to the radical challenge such men posed to the post-Reconstruction order.
(15) On the South Carolina Redeemers see William J. Cooper Jr., The Conservative Regime: South Carolina, 1877-1890 (Baltimore, 1968). On the economic transformations of the state during the postbellum decades see Harold Woodman, New South--New Law: The Legal Foundations of Credit and Labor Relations in the Postbellum Agricultural South (Baton Rouge and London, 1995), 48-51; and Lacy K. Ford, "Rednecks and Merchants: Economic Development and Social Tensions in the South Carolina Upcountry, 1865-1900," Journal of American History, LXXI (September 1984), 294-318; David L. Carlton, Mill and Town in South Carolina, 1880-1920 (Baton Rouge and London, 1982), Chap. 1; and Randolph Dennis Werner, "Hegemony and Conflict: The Political Economy of a Southern Region, Augusta, Georgia, 1865-1895" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1977), which thoroughly investigates economic developments in Tillman's home county of Edgefield, part of Augusta's hinterland.
(16) R. Ben Brown "The Southern Range: A Study in Nineteenth Century Law and Society" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1993), 247-72; Edgefield Chronicle, September 14, October 19, 26, 1881, January 4, 11, 18, March 29, and April 5, 1882; Edgefield Advertiser, October 26, 1882; Charleston News and Courier, March 28, 1882, p. 1, c. 4 and March 31, 1882, p. 1, c. 6 (quoted phrase in both issues of News and Courier).
(17) Edgefield Chronicle, January 25, February 22, 1882; see also George A. Devlin, South Carolina and Black Migration, 1865-1940: In Search of the Promised Land (New York and London, 1989). In 1878, over 50,000 votes were counted for Republican congressional candidates, including several black men. In 1881), Republican presidential electors received about 58,000 votes. Although these figures represented substantial declines from the heights of Reconstruction Republican voting, they made up about one third of all votes cast in each of those years. S. C. General Assembly, Reports and Resolutions of the General Assembly of ... South Carolina (Columbia, 1878), 440-44 (state serial set hereinafter cited as Reports and Resolutions); and Reports and Resolutions (Columbia, 1880), 549-51.
(18) Charleston News and Courier, July 4, 1882, p. 1, c. 4 (quoted phrase); Greenville News quoted in the Edgefield Chronicle, March 29, 1882; S.C. Acts and Joint Resolutions, 1881-82, pp. 1110-22; and Cooper, Conservative Regime, 103-5.
(19) J. Morgan Kousser, The Shaping of Southern Politics: Suffrage Restriction and the Establishment of the One-Party South. 1880-1910 (New Haven and London, 1974), 84-92; Reports and Resolutions (Columbia, 1880), 560; and Reports and Resolutions (Columbia, 1882), 1719.
(20) Walhalla (S.C.) Keowee Courier, May 11, 1882, p. 2, c. 1.
(21) Edgefield Advertiser, October 20, 1881.
(22) On the Virginia Readjuster party see. Dailey, "Deference and Violence"; and Dailey, "Race, Sex, and Citizenship: Biracial Democracy in Readjuster Virginia, 1879-1883" (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1994). On independent challenges to the Democrats elsewhere see Michael R. Hyman, The Anti-Redeemers: Hill-Country Political Dissenters in the Lower South from Redemption to Populism (Baton Rouge and London, 1990).
(23) Washington (D.C.) National View, October 28, 1882, typescript in McLane Papers. On the southern Greenbackers: Goodwyn, Democratic Promise, and Hyman, The Anti-Redeemers. Also: Irwin Unger, The Greenback Era: A Social and Political History of American Finance, 1865-1879 (Princeton, 1964), 68-119; Max Silverman, "A Political and Intellectual History of the Silver Movement in the United States, 1888-1896," (Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1986), 21-24; and "Labor and Finance," McLane Papers.
(24) Vincent P. De Santis, Republicans Face the Southern Question: The New Departure Years, 1877-1897 (Baltimore, 1959), Chap. 4.
(25) W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (New York, 1935; rpt., 1990), especially p. 700; and David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (London and New York, 1990), 13.
(26) Charleston News and Courier, August 5 (p. 1, c. 6), 14 (p. 1, c. 8), 18 (p. 1, c. 6), September 5 (p. 1, c. 2), and 27 (p. 1, c. 1), 1882.
(27) Ibid., September 12 (p. 1, c. 6), 13 (p. 1, c. 5), October 2 (p. 1, c. 3), and 3, 1882.
(28) Ibid., July 27 (p. 1, c. 5), August 14 (quotation, p. 1, c. 8) 1882; also Walhalla (S.C.) Keowee Courier, September 14, 1882 (p. 1, c. 5).
(29) Washington (D.C.) National View, October 28, 1882, typescript in McLane Papers.
(30) Ibid., October 14, 1882, typescript in McLane Papers.
(31) Dailey, "Race, Sex, and Citizenship."
(32) "Preliminary Remarks" and "1876-1882" , Ellerbe Boggan Crawford Cash Papers (South Caroliniana Library).
(33) Charleston News and Courier, September 28 (p. 1, c. 2), and October 2 (quoted phrase on p. 1, c. 2), 1882.
(34) "The Philosophy of Straightout Democracy," written by "Saxon," undated clipping from Abbeville Medium [ca. 1880-1882] in Fitz William McMaster and Mary Jane Macfie McMaster Papers (South Caroliniana Library) (first quoted phrase); Charleston News and Courier, September 25, 1882 (second quoted phrase), and September 22, 1884. See Nell Irvin Painter, "`Social Equality,' Miscegenation, Labor, and Power," in Numan V. Bartley, ed., The Evolution of Southern Culture (Athens and London, 1988), 47-67.
(35) Dailey, "Deference and Violence" and "Race, Sex, and Citizenship."
(36) Charleston News and Courier, August 14 (p. 1, c. 8), October 10, 1882; Edgefield Chronicle, October 26, 1882; and Walhalla (S.C.) Keowee Courier, July 27, 1882 (p. 1, c. 5).
(37) "Preliminary Remarks," Cash Papers; and Charleston News and Courier, September 29, 1882 (p. 1, c. 3).
(38) Charleston News and Courier, August 18, October 4, 25, November 1 (p. 1, c. 6), and 4 (p. 1, c. 6), 1882; Walhalla (S.C.) Keowee Courier, October 5, 1882 (p. 1, c. 3); and Washington (D.C.) National View, October 7, 1882, clipping in McLane Papers.
(39) Reports and Resolutions (Columbia. 1882), 1719-22.
(40) Charleston News and Courier, October 5, 10, and 31, 1884.
(41) For a detailed account of Tillman's thought and action in this period see Stephen Kantrowitz, Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy (Chapel Hill and London, 2000), 108-47. Earlier biographical interpretations include Francis Butler Simkins, Pitchfork Ben Tillman: South Carolinian (Baton Rouge, 1944); Cooper, Conservative Regime; Diane Neal, "Benjamin Ryan Tillman: The South Carolina Years, 1847-1894" (Ph.D. dissertation, Kent State University, 1976); and Werner, "Hegemony and Conflict."
(42) On Tillman's elevation to captain see Edgefield Chronicle, May 7, 1884; on the stock law see Edgefield Chronicle, August 17, 31, September 7, October 5, 1881. For his experience in the early 1880s see Charleston News and Courier, April 30, 1886; and Simkins, Pitchfork Ben Tillman, 88-90. Real estate documents from this period in the Edgefield County Archives (at the Edgefield County Clerk's Office and in the Probate Judge's vault, Edgefield, S.C.) do not document any threat to Tillman's position as a large landowner; he seems never to have owned fewer than several hundred acres. In 1890 Tillman owned over seventeen hundred acres of land valued at over ten thousand dollars, as well as forty head of cattle and substantial personal property. Charleston News and Courier, July 6, 1890. Records show that from the early 1880s until his death in 1918, other people worked his lands. The records of liens given for advances for supplies (frequently in amounts as small as twenty dollars) give indirect evidence that these were not prosperous, independent tenants. See Lien Index Books, Edgefield County Records (stored in the attic above the County Administration Building, Edgefield, S.C.). South Carolina's Redemption-era laws did not require that liens for rent be recorded; this, combined with the destruction of the 1890 manuscript census, makes it difficult to assess whether the people working Tillman's land during this period were sharecroppers or renters. On the state's lien laws see Woodman, New South--New Law, 48-51.
(43) Edgefield Chronicle, June 11, July 23, 1884.
(44) Tillman speech in Edgefield Chronicle, June 24, and July 1, 1885. See also ibid., August 6, September 3, 17, 1884, and June 24, 1885; Advertiser, July 9, 1885 (clipping in Tillman Papers, Special Collections, Clemson University Library, Clemson, S.C.) (hereinafter cited as Tillman Papers, Clemson).
(45) Woodward, Origins, 192.
(46) Charleston News and Courier, January 18, 1886.
(47) Bennettsville speech, August 5, 1885, Tillman Papers, Clemson.
(48) Ibid. and Charleston News and Courier, January 6, and March 30, 1887.
(49) Charleston News and Courier, May 5, 1890.
(50) Ibid., January 26, 1888. For evidence that Tillman's charges had merit see E. Culpepper Clark, Francis Warrington Dawson and the Politics of Restoration: South Carolina, 1874-1889 (Tuscaloosa, Ala., 1980), 53-69.
(51) Charleston brews and Courier., April 4 (p. 1, c. 8), July 15 (p. 1, c. 4), August 10 (p. 1, c. 8), and 16 (p. 1, c. 3), 1882; and Edgefield Chronicle, August 30, 1882.
(52) Charleston News and Courier, November 10, 1886.
(53) Ibid.; see also Tillman to F. W. Dawson, May 17, and December 23, 1886, F. W. Dawson Papers (Special Collections, William F. Perkins Library, Duke University, Durham, N.C.).
(54) Bennettsville speech, August 5, 1885, Tillman Papers, Clemson.
(55) Charleston News and Courier, January 28, 1886.
(56) Charleston News and Courier, November 30, December 7, 1885; Edgefield Chronicle, November 24, 1885; Bennettsville Speech, August 5, 1885, Tillman Papers, Clemson. Independents frequently accused Democratic governments of fraud. See Hyman, Anti-Redeemers, 133-35.
(57) Charleston News and Courier, April 30, May 1, 1886.
(58) Charleston News and Courier, August 11, January 18, 1886.
(59) Tillman discussed his organizing efforts in numerous letters. See Tillman Papers, part 1, Clemson. A short-lived alliance with F. W. Dawson, editor of the Charleston News and Courier, also produced a revealing correspondence, May 1886-May 1888, Frances Warrington Dawson Letters (South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston). For the perspective of two Tillman lieutenants see Rodger Emerson Stroup, "John L. McLaurin: A Political Biography" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of South Carolina, 1980), 11-13; and, Carlanna L. Hendrick, "John Gary Evans: A Political Biography" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of South Carolina, 1966).
(60) "Speech Delivered Before Feasterville Grange," McLane Papers.
(61) J. M. McCrory to McLane, August 10, 1886, James McLane to J. H. McLane, August 18, 1886, and W. W. Russell to McLane, November 19, 1887, all in McLane Papers.
(62) See, e.g., Charleston News and Courier, July 6, 10, 19, 21, 1886; and Edgefield Advertiser, July 8, 22, 1886. For the agricultural college see "The Origins of Clemson College," January 18, 1912, Tillman Papers, Clemson; Tillman to Dawson, April 24, May 5, 1888, Dawson Letters; Manifesto of Executive Committee of Farmers' Association, April 21, 1888, in Francis Butler Simkins Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill); and Jno. Bratton to Davis, May 2, 1888, Robert Means Davis Papers (South Caroliniana Library). For the Farmers' Alliance see "Farewell Speech," Charleston News and Courier, January 26, 1888.
(63) On cooperatives see Lawrence Goodwyn, Democratic Promise: The Populist Moment in America (New York, 1976), 36-149; and Robert C. McMath Jr., Populist Vanguard: A History of the Southern Farmers' Alliance (Chapel Hill, 1975).
(64) For an excellent summary of the history of the Farmers' Alliance and People's Party see Robert C. McMath Jr., American Populism: A Social History, 1877-1898 (New York, 1993).
(65) Joseph Church, "The Farmers Alliance and the Populist Movement in South Carolina, 1887-1896" (M.A. thesis, University of South Carolina, 1953). Manuscript sources include Farmers' State Alliance Records, minutes and lists of sub-alliances (1936 typescript, WPA); Farmers' State Alliance of Kershaw County records; Farmers' Alliance Exchange of S. C. papers; S. C. Farmers' State Alliance, Rejection Book; Farmers' Alliance of Edgefield County, minutes (all in South Caroliniana Library); and Minutes, Anderson County Farmers Alliance, Anderson County Records (South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia). Between 1888 and 1889, the Alliance grew from 3,000 to 20,000 members. This growth continued into 1890. Minutes, July 11, 1888, July 24, 1889, and July 23, 1890, Farmers' State Alliance of S.C.; Tillman to Polk, June 1, 1886, February 28, 1887, Leonidas LaFayette Polk Papers (Southern Historical Collection); Charleston News and Courier, July 8, 12, August 29, and October 8, 1889; and Farmers' Alliance of Edgefield County, minutes, August 26, 1889.
(66) National Economist, I (May 25, 1889).
(67) S. W. Halls to Tillman, May 18, 1891, Governor Tillman Letters (South Carolina Department of Archives and History) (hereinafter Gov. Tillman Letters, DAH); Charleston News and Courier, March 23, 25, April 11, 25, November 10, 1889, and March 21, 22, 28, August 6, 23, 24, and December 3, 8, 1890.
(68) G. W. Shell to Tillman, October 14, 1889, Tillman Papers, Clemson.
(69) McLane Diary, July-September 1888, January-March 1889, March 29, April 12, May 7, October 13, and November 9, 1892; W. H. Duncan to McLane, August 21, 1887, W. W. Russell to McLane, November 19, 1887, McLane to Elmer H. Capen, November 18, 23, 1887, McLane Papers.
(70) Charleston News and Courier, July 28,1890; see also June 26, July 10, August 2, 1890.
(71) Ibid., August 17, 1891 (quotation), and January 23, 1890.
(72) Ibid., January 23, 1890.
(73) Ibid., June 28, 1890.
(74) Ibid., June 26, 1890.
(75) Ibid., August 6, 1890.
(76) Ibid., August 6, 24, 1890.
(77) On Tillman's continuing commitment to white-only politics, see Charleston News and Courier, June 27, 28, July 3, 9,11, and 17, 1890; and Neal, "Benjamin Ryan Tillman," 199-200.
(78) Beaufort's white suballiance reported one black member, and it invited local black sub-alliances to attend its lectures. Columbia Conon Plant, January 28, 1893; and Minutes, July 23, 1891, and July 26, 1893, Farmers' State Alliance of S.C. In 1892 the state president of the white Alliance suggested that members of the black Alliance be allowed to join the State Exchange. Ibid., July 27, 1892.
(79) National Economist, I (May 25, 1889)
(80) See Goodwyn, Democratic Promise, especially pages 276-306.
(81) Charleston News and Courier, March 23, 25, September 16 (quoting the Edgefield newspaper), 1889.
(82) William F. Holmes, "The Arkansas Cotton Pickers Strike of 1891 and the Demise of the Colored Farmer's Alliance," Arkansas Historical Quarterly, XXXII (Summer 1973), 107-19, and Holmes, "The Demise of the Colored Farmers' Alliance," Journal of Southern History, XLI (May 1975), 187-200. South Carolina's black Alliances may have organized for the strike, but no work stoppage was reported; Charleston News and Courier, September 8, 10, 16, 1891.
(83) J. C. Hemphill to Tillman, March 28, 1890, Tillman Papers, Clemson; J. P. Richardson to Courtenay, May 12, 1890, William A. Courtenay Papers (South Caroliniana Library); Claude E. Sawyer to J. H. Morgan, April 28, June 25, 1890, Alexander Samuel Salley Papers (South Caroliniana Library); Charleston News and Courier, May 12, 15, 17, 22, and 28, 1890, and the newspaper's coverage of campaign meetings throughout June and July 1890.
(84) Charleston News and Courier, June 20, 1890.
(86) Ibid., July 13, 1890.
(87) Tillman's early support for the stock law came back to haunt him in 1892; some supporters, unable to reconcile Tillman's current rhetoric with what was understood to be a rich man's position, seemed convinced that such reports were slanders invented by Tillman's political opponents. C. H. Barnhill to Tillman, August 9, 1892, Gov. Tillman Letters, DAH.
(88) Charleston News and Courier, August 14, 1890; and circular letter, June 30, 1890, Joseph W. Barnwell Papers (South Carolina Historical Society).
(89) Chas. Hanckel to Joseph W. Barnwell, August 9, 1890, Barnwell Papers.
(90) Alfred Aldrich to Joseph W. Barnwell, October 12, 1890, Barnwell Papers; Columbia Register, October 1, 1890; and Charleston News and Courier, October 1, 1890.
(91) Charleston News and Courier, September 12, 15, October 1 (quoted phrase), 1890; "Beware of Frauds at the Polls," Broadside, William Haynesworth Lyles Papers (South Caroliniana Library); see correspondence throughout October 1890 in the Barnwell Papers.
(92) Charleston News and Courier, August 15, September 11 (quotation), 1890.
(93) The final tally was Tillman, 59,159; and Haskell, 14,828. Reports and Resolutions (Columbia, 1890), 604. William J. Cooper Jr., "Economics or Race: An Analysis of the Gubernatorial Election of 1890 in South Carolina," South Carolina Historical Magazine, LXXIII (October 1972), 209-19, concludes that the evidence "strongly suggests that the bulk of Haskell votes came from Negro citizens" (p. 218).
(94) S. M. Kemmershin to Tillman, November 29, 1890, Gov. Tillman Letters, DAH.
(95) Edward S. Joynes to William A. Courtenay, October 19, 1890, Courtenay Papers; W. [?] Daggett to Tillman, December 21, 1890, Gov. Tillman Letters, DAH (quoted phrase); also W. J. Willoughby to Tillman, November 16, 1892, ibid.
(96) National Economist, IV (November 15, 1890).
(97) George Brown Tindall, ed., A Populist Reader (New York, 1966), 80-87.
(98) Charleston News and Courier, July 25, 1892 (2d ed.).
(99) Atlanta Journal, April 30, 1891, quoted in Charleston News and Courier, May 5, 1891.
(100) Charleston News and Courier, July 31, 1891; also September 11, 1891.
(101) Thos. E. Watson to R. K. Charles, Jane 11, 1892, Charles Family Papers (South Caroliniana Library); Wm. C. Wolfe to Tillman, July 7, 1891, Gov. Tillman Letters, DAH; Minutes, July 22-24, 1891, Farmers' State Alliance of S.C.; National Economist, V (August 1, 8, 1891); and Charleston News and Courier, September 11, and July 25, 1891.
(102) Tillman to J. William Stokes, May 30, 1892, Tillman to Charles Crosland, August 26, 1891, both in Tillman Papers, Clemson; J. L. M. Irby to Evans, February 8, 1892, John Gary Evans Papers (South Caroliniana Library); and Charleston News and Courier, May 20, 1892.
(103) Early in the year, several far-upcountry Democratic county conventions seemed poised for a third-party bolt. See Charleston News and Courier, May 19, 1892. For Anderson County see ibid., May 4, 1892, and for Oconee see ibid., May 20, 1892.
(104) Charleston News and Courier, June 27, 1890, August 17, 1891, February 29, 1892. On the silver movement see Silverman, "Political and Intellectual History of the Silver Movement"; and Goodwyn, Democratic Promise, 387-401.
(105) Charleston News and Courier, June 24-25, 1892.
(106) Undated manuscript (ca. fall 1890), Patrick Henry Adams Papers (South Caroliniana Library).
(107) Charleston News and Courier, July 5, 1892.
(108) Ibid., September 22, 1892.
(109) Columbia State, October 20, 1892; Charleston News and Courier, October 21, 1892. The party reportedly rejected last-minute offers of cooperation from the Republican party; Charleston News and Courier, October 30, 31, 1892: I. W. Earle to Tillman, October 25, 1892, Gov. Tillman Letters, DAH.
(110) Charleston News and Courier, November 10, 11, 21, 1892, and January 11, 1893; and Columbia State, November 9, 1892.
(111) Charleston News and Courier, September 9, 1891. See also July 25, 1892 (2d ed.); Tillman to A. C. Latimer, March 2, September 1, 1892, and D. H. Tompkins to John L. McLaurin, November 1, 1892, both in Tillman Papers, Clemson.
(112) Goodwyn, Democratic Promise, 248.
(113) Diary, May 7, 1892, McLane Papers.
(114) Ibid., October 13, 1892.
(115) The Populists' effort to formulate a more inclusive vision of southern life was "more than white Southerners, or most of the rest of the country for that matter, would be willing to consider for at least a couple of generations." Palmer, "Man over Money," 66. To make Populism bear the rhetorical responsibility for the white male supremacist politics championed most ardently by its enemies is therefore to flatten the complexity of white southern men's political lives in precisely the way that Democratic white supremacy intended.
MR. KANTROWITZ is an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.…