South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER LVIII
AGRARIANISM AND DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION, 1886-1894

JOHN C. SHEPPARD of Edgefield, who filled out the last five months of Thompson's second term, was defeated for the 1886 nomination by John P. Richardson of Clarendon. Governor Richardson, of the Manning- Richardson group of six governors, was the son of one Governor, the nephew by marriage of another, the grandnephew of another, and the first cousin of another. It was his misfortune to assume office just when the regime which he represented was to encounter in a peculiarly violent form its share of an almost nation-wide agrarian and democratic upheaval which neither his aristocratic antecedents nor his moderate talents fitted him to meet.

Following the laws of 1882 eliminating the Negro vote, men were freer to vent their grievances. Primary elections were held in 1876 in Fairfield, Pickens, and Abbeville and were recommended by the State executive committee in 1878 for all county officers. This was in effect a revival of our ante-bellum custom, explained the Winnsboro News and Herald, for, as South Carolina had been a one-party State, every voter had had in the general election his full and free share in choosing officers. Only the necessity of organizing in conventions during Reconstruction had deprived the voter of this right, which was now to be rescued from convention rule and caucuses. Every county had the primary before 1890 for local officers and legislators. When the low country in 1882 rejected the "Greenville idea" of representation in the State convention on the basis of Democratic voters instead of the total population of each county, the tendency toward a State-wide primary was greatly strengthened. This disproportionate power of the white minority in the low country in the legislature and party conventions still exists on account of its large silent Negro population.

Tillman Organizes the Farmers' Movement. --The economic distress of the eighties made agitation easy. Tillmanism was the South Carolina aspect of a movement sweeping the South and West for righting the farmer's and the poor man's wrongs. It was propelled by the hopes and indignation of men who had been taught by the Grange that government could relieve their ills, the brooding resentments of the devotees

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