South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER LIX
THE END OF THE REFORM PARTY, 1895-1902

FEAR OF RENEWED participation of the Negro in politics had long troubled the lower South, as is evidenced by a number of new State constitutions since 1890. Tillman's demand since 1885 for a new constitution succeeded in securing a referendum in the general election of 1894. Conservatives opposed, for fear of Tillmanism's being grafted into the fundamental law; and many Tillmanites, for fear that illiterate whites would be disfranchised. A change of 940 votes would have turned the referendum against a convention. Guarding the suffrage was rendered more urgent by Haskell's appealing in 1890 to the Negro, supported by a goodly proportion of the upper class, on the theory of preventing the evils feared from the supremacy of the roughly led white masses by substituting control through Negro votes under the frail safeguard of decent white leadership. Another appeal based on belief in the possibility of good government without a good electorate was the call by Dr. Sampson Pope, the Independent candidate for governor in 1894, for a convention of Republicans of all colors to meet on April 14, 1896. The danger thus threatened from both sides; for Dr. Pope had been an active Tillmanite and a champion of the dispensary. Some white Republicans and a few Democratic converts feebly joined in the suggestion for that classic futility, "a respectable Republican party" in South Carolina.

The constitutional convention of 1895 brought the first co-operation between factions and mollified the bitterness that had culminated in Tillman's second administration. The brewings within his own faction, and also the possibility of the Negroes' along with Conservatives' defeating his constitution if the latter were not treated fairly, led Tillman to an agreement for complete white co-operation. Senator Tillman and Governor Evans agreed with two leading Conservatives ( J.C. Hemphill, editor of the News and Courier, and Joseph W. Barnwell) for a joint ticket in each county equally representing both factions. When extremists on both sides scouted the plan, Tillman repudiated it, with the result that the convention contained 40 Conservatives and 114 Tillmanites, or, as they called themselves, Reformers. The Republicans captured the entire Beaufort delegation (five Negroes) and one (a Negro) of the Georgetown delegation.1

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1

The News and Courier named 43 as Conservatives, but on August 26 agreed with

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